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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
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.

This is probably a dumb question but how do you pick a camera? I've been to three shops and been told that three different cameras are the best one for me.


We get this question a lot. Check out our article on How to Buy Your First Camera at

I have a Tamron 70-300 zoom lens and I'd like to know if I'd have a big quality loss if I put a 2x Teleconverter or if it's even OK.


The quality of the teleconverter you are using will ultimately decide the quality loss. While using the Tamron 70-300 (or similar lens) at 300mm, that has a speed of f/5.6, your auto focus may struggle or not work at all on some cameras. This is due to the amount of light that is lost using a teleconverter. When using a 2x converter you will reduce the light reaching the camera by two stops. You may have to increase your film speed or use longer exposures as a result.

I have recently purchased a Nikon F55 SLR along with a Sigma 70-300mm Macro lens. This is my first experience with photography.

I would like to know the following -

a. Can you recommend any book on the basics of photography .I have bought Lee
Frosts "A-Z of Creative Photography" and some of my friends have suggested
a book by Ansel Adams. There are so many books that I am confused.

b. Is it possible for you to email me the previous issues of your on line magazine (which has good articles for beginners)

c. Lastly how would you rate F55 as a camera?

Nilesh Mazumdar

An excellent book we've reviewed is "The Kodak Guide to 35mm Photography" (Eastman Kodak; ISBN: 087985801X). To read this review, go to Also, check out "Mastering the Basics of Photography" by Susan McCartney (Allworth Press; ISBN: 1581150547). Another great book to help with learning composition is "Learning to See Creatively" by Bryan F. Peterson (paperback June 1988, Amphoto; ISBN: 0817441778). A good way to choose a book to learn photography is to visit a good book store and skim through the books. Avoid books that are collections of photos by some famous photographer. These books rarely teach you anything as a beginner, but are great for inspiration after you've mastered the basics.

We've done quite a few articles geared toward beginners and all of our previous issues are available online. Just click on "Back Issues" on the banner at the top of any page to go to the index of all our past issues. If there is a specific topic you are looking for, try the search function, which is also at the top of every page.

The Nikon F55 (N55) is not a bad place to start. You can see our review on it at

I have recently been interested in purchasing a camera for taking landscape photos. I have been looking at the Minolta Maxxum QTsi camera kit and I was also going to buy a 70-210mm zoom lens along with it. I was wondering if this was a good beginner camera to buy and if you had heard anything positive or negative about it. I have never owned a SLR camera and I haven't got a clue as to what cameras are good and what ones are not. If you could let me know, I would appreciate it.

Thank you,
Jeremy Triplett

The Minolta QTsi is a good camera but it is limited. If you want to control any aspects of your exposure manually you can't do it with this camera. It is basically a "point and shoot" SLR.

If you want to work with Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority (both modes will help with your landscapes) I would spend a little extra money and go for the more current Maxxum 4, or if you can still find one the STsi. Both of these models allow for program, aperture and shutter priorities, as well as full manual mode.

Nikon offers two comparable models: the N55 and N65. Canon has their Rebel 2000 and the new Rebel Ti. Any of these cameras can provide great images and help you learn about photography.

With the prices of lenses coming down dramatically over the last couple of years, I would spend a little more money and go for a 70-300mm lens to get more flexibility.

Check out our article on choosing the right camera at

Hi! I recently purchased a Palm Pilot and was wondering if there are any photography programs available on the web that can be downloaded? Any help would be appreciated! Love the magazine....keep up the great work!!


None that we know of. How 'bout it folks? If you know of any programs for the Palm Pilot email us and we'll pass the info on to Marcie.

I can't use my wide-angle lens with the built-in flash of my Sony-Cybershot and am missing out on a lot of indoor family and church wedding pictures. The wide angle creates a semi-circle shadow on the corner of my shots. Is there any way around this?

My camera is the Sony DSC-S50 and it doesn't accept exterior flash connections.

Sunpack and Vivitar (as well as a few other companies) are making slave flashes designed to work with digital cameras. These are triggered by the flash on the camera and do not require a connection to the camera. They usually come with a stand to set the flash up near the spot that you need it.

I've started shooting a few slides and I'd like to know how you could get a print out of the processed slides for enlargement?

Edwin Arceo

Getting slides printed is relatively easy. Many photo labs have equipment that can scan your slide and print them on high quality photo paper. These can be silver halide paper (traditional photo paper that your pictures are normally printed on) or dye sublimation (a very high photo quality digital print). If the labs in your area can't do this for you, they should be able to send them out to a commercial lab and have them printed for you directly from the slide.

I have been thinking about buying a zoom lens for my Minolta Dynax 5. After I have read your review of the Sigma 50-500 I have decided that could be a good choice. I want to know before buying it, if this lens is compatible with my camera and if the lack of the HSM for Minolta cameras is an issue for focusing speed.

I also had in mind the Minolta 100-300 4.5-5.6 APO. Which one do you think is the best (technically talking quality of image and sharpness, money is not an issue in this aspect).

Thank you,
Jose Vicente

The lack of the HSM in the Minolta version will have some effect on the focusing speed; it will be a little slower. Is this a big deal? It can be if you are planning on shooting sports with it. If the majority of your shooting is going to be stills and scenics, then the speed wouldn't be much of an issue.

I personally have not been able to work with the Minolta lens. I have heard a lot of great things about it, and I am sure it does a good job as well.

I would also look into the size and weight aspects of these two lenses. The Sigma is a great lens, but I would not want to keep it in my bag all of the time because it's so heavy. The Minolta will be more portable. Maybe the real answer is to buy both!

How do you take close-up pictures of jewelry with a digital camera? My lighting seems to be off and the pictures come out blurry and out of focus. I am a novice and have no idea how to do this.

Can you help?
Joni Schwartz

There are a couple of problems trying to take close-up pictures with the digitals. One is getting too close. All cameras have a minimum distance that they can focus at (even in a macro setting). Check the minimum focusing distance for your camera (it should be in the manual). Also, if you have a macro mode, make sure it is on.

Another possible reason for the blurry images is you were using the camera in low light without a flash. The problem is that with the lower light levels the camera is going to select longer shutter speeds increasing the possibility of camera movement during the exposure.

To avoid this, try to have as much light as possible. If you can, shoot outdoors in a well-lit area, but not in direct sun. You can try using your flash but in a lot of macro shots, the built in flash will either cause too much wash out, or it will provide uneven lighting.

The other problem is that when you get very close to your subject any movement is exaggerated so even the slightest movement seems pretty extreme. If possible mount the camera on a tripod or set it on a steady surface when shooting and carefully squeeze the shutter release to take the shot. Or better yet, use the self-timer so you're not touching the camera when it takes the picture.

I enjoy reading your magazine every month. I'm very interested in to photography and I've done it for 3 years in common life (Family,...).
Now, it seems that I could have enough time to learn it classical.
Would you please help me by sending ,if you have any computer file (PDF, HTML,...) about fundamental and basic points of this knowledge.

Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.

Ali Ipakchi

I do not have computer files for photography, however if you click on back issues on the banner of each page of an issue, it will give you a list of each issue as well as the articles in each one. There is a lot of great information there. You can also try searching for a specific topic by using the search function, also on the banner on each page.

I found your Web Site by accident ! Boy am I glad I did. I was looking for the Gary Stanley who wrote the book How to make Moose Run. I am a serious amateur photographer, Canon AE1 Program (no squeak LOL). I loved your site and will be trying to figure out a schedule to attend one of Gary's fall-winter seminars. I can only learn so much by reading and such.

I have a problem and everywhere I turn I get no answer or help. I currently have my photographs put on Kodak Picture CD. I Hate it. (did I say hate)? Oh Yeah I do ! I just want my Photographs on CD. I do not want an editing program that takes up a lot of useless space (Kodak's). I have ADOBE for that. Is there a company where I can send my film to be developed, get standard prints and just a simple run.exe program? I do not care if the pictures are stored in my computer in jpeg or whatever format, or if I have to choose a photo from a the run-program.

I am very grateful for your time, and appreciate any help you can give.

Wayne Deaton Jr.

You can try any independent custom lab. There are quite a few that can scan your images to CD without adding any programs. Many of these labs are even willing to make adjustments to get better scans than a Kodak Picture CD.

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