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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 been shooting slides for a couple of years now and would like to know where other photographers have slides made into prints. I know the process is expensive and can vary from company to company. Portland Color has printed a couple of my slides and done a very good job but the process is not cheap. Is this cost just something I am going to have to deal with? What is a fair price for a quality print made from a slide? I know the digital route is available but I am not interested in going digital just yet.

Any help is appreciated. 
Sean Depuydt

Getting good high quality prints from slides used to be a very expensive undertaking back when our only choices were the Ilfochrome and Cibachrome processes. Today with the new digital printers available at many photo labs you can get good quality silver halide prints at reasonable prices. I've had a lot of high quality prints done on Fuji Crystal Archive paper through a Fuji Frontier printer. The Fuji Frontier is a state-of-the-art digital printer that can print from negatives, slides and digital media. This machine even provides the operator with controls for cropping, density and color adjustments. It can even remove red-eye. Most labs that own these machines charge prices similar to what they charge for normal color printing.

Hi, I'm using a Canon EOS88. I read your answer last month regarding an external flash. Can I use the Sunpak or Metz model? And also, is it OK to max out the battery life? Will the CR123 continue giving the needed "push" for the Auto-focus?

Thanks a lot! 

It is fine to run the batteries out as long as the camera is still performing the way you need it. Some functions in the camera will slow down (i.e. flash recycling) as the batteries get closer to being exhausted.

There are several flash units from both Sunpack and Metz that will work on your camera. One of the first things you need to take in consideration when choosing a flash is it's power. The greater the distance to your subject the more power you need in a flash. You can check out the flashes on the Metz and Sunpack Web sites. If you are trying to do something specific and need further information, let me know.

I was curious as to what type of scanner is good for all around use. I am pretty much computer Illiterate so all the help I could get would be appreciated. I have recently jumped from print film over to slide and would dearly love to put them on a Web site. I would prefer something with ability but with a fair price for feature ratio. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Walter Bonczek

The key phrase in your question is "pretty much computer Illiterate". Most scanners are going to require you to go through a fair learning curve as do most image editing programs. If you tackle both at once, plus improving your general computer skills as you go, you'll be horribly frustrated and want to throw the whole works out the window.

An easy and far less expensive way to get started is to have your images scanned to a CD when they're processed. More and more labs are offering this service. It's usually not all that expensive and you can take old negatives and slides in for scanning as well. But be forewarned that the quality of the scans will vary from lab to lab and sometimes from roll to roll at the same lab. But by doing it this way you can concentrate on learning your image editor and what you can do with those images as far as putting them on a Web site and printing them.

Once you feel comfortable with the computer side of things buy the best film scanner you can comfortably afford. There are big jumps in quality as the price goes up. Avoid flatbed scanners with "film scanner attachments" like the plague. Unless you're willing to pay for a VERY high-end scanner they just don't do a very good job.

Finally if you have a flatbed scanner with your computer you can experiment with scanning your 4" prints on the flatbed and working on them in your image editor. You can get surprisingly good 8x10's from your printer this way.

I am new to medium format photography, and have purchased a used Mamiya RB 67 Pro-S, and would like to add a flash unit to the outfit. I am looking for a good, general purpose flash unit and I would like to be able to move the flash off the camera so I have been looking at hand held units.

To be more specific, I have been considering Metz hand held units the 45 CL-4 (which I can afford now) and the 60 CT-4 (which I would have to wait on due to the high cost), but I don't want to overspend, as I am not a pro, however, I am hoping to use this outfit to learn enough to eventually do some portraits and such to try and make some money with a hobby that I love.

I shoot mostly slow speed black & white, and color slides, and my lenses are the Mamiya 90 and 180 mm C.

Any help or suggestions on this would be greatly appreciated. 

The Metz 45CL-4 would be a good flash to start with. The 60CT-4 does have a higher guide number, which could be important when shooting with slow speed films, especially if you are going to be shooting at greater distances where you want to maintain depth of field.

The 60CT-4 is more of a system flash. By that I mean you have a selection of accessories that you can add to the flash, allowing you to use it in more and different situations down the road. This is an important factor to consider if you want to get into doing some paid shooting.

Hi. Just read your piece that mentioned film aging. Question: If kept constantly under refrigeration (38-40 degrees), approximately how far past the printed expiration can one expect no deterioration? I have several rolls of Reala 100, 100F, 400F, and Velvia that are in this predicament.

Thanks if you have time to reply. And, I enjoy your site. 

The amount of time that film can be kept refrigerated past its expiration date without noticeable loss varies from film to film. My experience is that slower speed films will age slower than faster films. I have heard of color films that have been kept for one to two years without any noticeable shifts in color or exposure. If you have several rolls of a film in this situation, I would definitely shoot a test and have it processed before trusting it with something important. After all, the manufacturer won't guarantee the results after the expiration, so you don't want to chance it without trying it first.

I'm trying to find a very good quality SLR camera, which is fairly light but doesn't necessarily have any autofocus settings. Do you have any advice on makes, etc. I was thinking of the Nikon F65 with twin lens kit (28-100mm and 75-300mm), but it's pretty expensive. Please give me any ideas.


When buying an SLR today, I do recommend getting one of the many autofocus cameras (which can be focused manually if you want to). Cameras such as the Nikon F55 or the equivalents from Canon and Minolta are great to start with. The problem with manual cameras is that there are not very many new ones being made today and the selection of lenses is slim compared to the autofocus lenses. Nikon is the only manufacturer whose autofocus lenses work with their manual cameras. The other thing to consider is that the price difference between manual and autofocus cameras is not all that significant and and autofocus camera will provide you more flexibility.

I am from Bosnia and there is no such magazines or people I can ask lot of questions of. I hope you will help me. I've got a Nikon F601M with a 52mm Nikkor lens. Could you tell me more of this camera? Is it good for the beginner? Which lens is good to use? I can't buy expensive lenses. Are there any good alternatives?

Thanks in advance, 

The Nikon F601M is a great camera to learn on. It is a manual focus camera with Program, Aperture and Shutter Priorities, as well as manual exposures. It also allows you to choose the metering style you want (matrix, center-weighted, and spot). There are many lenses from Nikon, as well as good independent manufactures such as Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, etc, that have reasonably priced lenses that will fit that camera and couple to the metering system on the camera - though I'm not sure about local availability in Bosnia. One online mail order source you might try is Jessops. Jessops is based in the U.K. and they have a huge selection of equipment and supplies. 

I submitted a photo to a contest at a camera club and won second prize for a photo taken last summer at the local minor league park of the mascot and a couple of kids. Later on I found out that the camera club sold the image back to the team. I can't seem to find out how much they sold it for and they've told me on two separate occasions that once a photo is entered in their contest they own it and that the money will be used to buy supplies for the club.

I feel taken advantage of and I feel like I should have gotten paid for the image.

David W.

There's no doubt that someone at the club handled this poorly.

Here's one way to look at it. If the camera club hadn't gone after the sale chances are the team would have never known about the image and would never have purchased it anyway. If the team uses the image you've now been published - something that many amateur photographers strive for but never achieve. It's something to be proud of.

That said someone at the club should have explained what they were doing from the beginning. That would have averted any disagreements later. If it turns out that the image sold for a substantial sum, something I doubt given the circumstances, you have the option of legal action against the club. But you'll have to talk to an attorney for legal advice - we only give photo advice.

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