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Beginner Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 12 years of retail and professional experience Chuck thought he'd heard it all - until he took this job.

Send us your questions for either the Beginner or Advanced columns by clicking HERE.  Please include as much detail about the technique, camera, lens, or film as you can so Chuck can answer your questions.

I have a NIPPON KOGAKU NIKKOR-Tele 1:4 85/48 lens. I haven't been able to find any information about this lens. Someone gave it to me and it seems to be a nice piece. I would be thankful if you tell me about it and about it's value. Is it good for 35mm camera (MINOLTA X-700)? 


I haven't been able to locate specific information on that particular lens, however, my experience with Nippon Kogaku has been positive.

Nippon Kogaku originated as an optical manufacturer in July of 1917. They produced a wide variety of products including microscopes, telescopes, surveying equipment, and optical measuring devices for use in industry and science. By the 1930's, they were manufacturing photographic lenses from 50mm to 700mm (mostly for plate back cameras). It was with these lenses that the term "Nikkor" was first used. By mid-1937, they developed a series of 50mm lenses (f4.5, 3.5, and 2.0) which were available as original equipment on Canon screw mount cameras! These Nikkor lenses were available on the Canon screw mounts up until mid-1947. 

In early 1946, they decided to create a camera of their own. By September of that year, they completed design of a 35mm, interchangeable lens, coupled rangefinder. It was given the name "Nikon" and the rest, as they say, is history.

If the lens you have is a screw mount, you should be able to get a T-adapter to mount it onto the MD mount of your Minolta. Keep in mind, your program mode will not work with this set-up. If the lens has a bayonet mount, it would be the Nikon F mount, and it is not be compatible with your camera.

I am starting to scan my slides for printing purposes. The prints I intend to make will be no larger than 8 x 10. I have a HP photo smart S20 scanner, and hp 940c printer. At what resolution should I scan my slides, and in what format should I save them for printing? I have Photoshop Elements, and Photo Suite image editing programs. 


Most PC photo quality printers produce their best images at an output resolution of 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Not to be confused with the printers resolution of either 1440 or 2880 dpi (dots per inch). The latter refers to the fact that more than one ink droplet or dot is used to represent each pixel - yielding smoother, more evenly toned images.

That said, if your target image resolution is 300 ppi for an 8x10 image, the math says that your target resolution would be 2400 x 3000 pixels. But like many things in the digital world that number is not absolute. I would recommend scanning and printing several images at both 2400x3000 and at half that resolution. Compare the prints and see if the difference is visible with the naked eye. If not, you might consider the lower resolution to save on disk space and scan times - it's your call.

As for the best storage format, the two most widely used formats are TIFF and JPEG. The tradeoff here is that TIFF is the most accurate because it does the least amount of image compression. However that means that TIFF files are much larger than corresponding JPEG files. Another drawback with JPEG files is that every time you change and save a JPEG file it is compressed all over again - meaning that every time you save the file you lose a little more data, and pick up a little more noise. However, this problem has been overstated in many places and is far more noticeable with small low resolution files than with files in the range you're looking at.

I have read where a lot of companies ask for digital in the Mac format. Does this mean I need a Mac to convert my shots or can I do it from a PC?

Nope. This is a common misconception. Whether you're using a Mac or PC, there are two file formats that are universal: TIFF and JPEG. See the preceding question for a discussion of the pros and cons of each.

This is a moot point however if you're submitting images for publication. In that case always ask in advance which format the editor prefers.

Sir - I've one Canon EOS88 camera. I want to use a high output flash gun in it. Can I use a Vivitar 285? According to me the guide number should be at least more than 100. Is there any other option? Please advise.


The Vivitar 285 can be used on the Canon EOS88. The camera will need to be used in manual or aperture priority mode using the auto thyrister mode of the flash. Any similar manual flash can also be used in the  same manner.

If you want a flash that will work in program as well as any other mode in the camera, you will need one that is dedicated to the EOS system. Compatible Canon speedlights include the 380EX, 540EZ, and the 550EX. Other companies like Sunpak and Metz also manufacture high powered flashes dedicated to the EOS system.

What is your advice for shooting in low-light indoor situations? Specifically, I want to shoot bands in small venue clubs where there isn't a very significant amount of light, usually just moderate stage lighting.

I've tried using flash but the results usually come out uneven across the stage with respect to the light hitting each member of the band.

Would a stronger flash do it? What speed film would you recommend?

I'm shooting with a Canon Rebel X with a normal 35-80mm lens, but am looking into buying a good wide angle lens to get better stage shots (recommendations?)

Thanks for all of your great input.
Robert Groves

Shooting indoor situations like small clubs can be a challenge. High speed films are definite must. I would start at least with Fuji 800 or 1600 Press. See our film cross reference chart for other choices and possibilities.

Metering is also going to be tricky. Try to include as little background as possible. The backgrounds are normally very dark and will cause the camera to go for a longer exposure if the dark areas are more dominant than the bright areas.

As far as using the flash, if you're trying to illuminate the entire band in one shot, be sure to be shooting straight on. If you are shooting across the stage, the light hitting the members closest to you will be much brighter than the ones farther away. Flash can also be used successfully when shooting more isolated shots of individual members or when several members are near each other.

Shooting with a wide angle lens would be good if you are trying to get close and keep as much in as possible. I prefer to use a longer range lens such as my 80-200mm for shooting concerts. This will help get the tight isolated shots where its usually easier to get good exposures as well as producing more dramatic shots. For tips on shooting concerts check out the article Shooting Outdoor Concerts in our March issue. While that article is slanted toward shooting in outdoor venues it will give you some tips on composition and working in a crowd.

I received a Quantaray 70-300mm lens. I am not sure what the macro feature is for. Please explain it to me and tell me how and when to use it. Also, please tell me how much light I need and if I need to use a tripod to hold the camera still.


The macro feature in a zoom lens is used to take close-up photographs of objects closer than the normal minimum focus distance for the lens. This feature would normally be used when you fill the frame with a close-up of a flower or other small object.

In order to use the macro feature on that lens, set the zoom to 300mm and move the switch on the lens to macro. Auto-focus will still work so you will not have to focus manually - unless you want to control exacty what part of the image is sharp. When you are done with the macro feature, make sure the focusing ring is not in the macro range and then turn the macro switch back to normal.

Until you are used to handling a particular lens and camera combination, I would recommend not letting your shutter speed drop lower than 1/60th of a second.

For shooting close-ups, camera movement is much more dramatic because of the short camera to subject distance. I would recommend not shooting slower than 1/125th of a second unless you are on a tripod.

For more tips on macro, see my article titled "Close-up Photography" in our April issue.

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