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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. 

My Canon Rebel 2000 is not giving accurate color. There is always too much color or less color. Sometimes it is too yellowish or bluish. Pictures taken at the same location at the same time differ in color.


It sounds like a problem with your lab rather than a problem with your camera. Yellow can be a result of using daylight film under tungsten lighting (light bulbs) and blue photos can be from the lab overcorrecting for tungsten light. I'm especially suspicious when you say that the colors differ in images taken at the same time at the same location.

Over and under exposure can also cause problems with color rendition. Have you inspected the negatives for exposure problems? If your exposure look OK on the negatives try another lab and see if the problem goes away.

What 35MM film brand and speed would you recommend for portraits? Indoors and outdoors? 


Kodak and Fuji both have some great portrait films in their pro lines. The Kodak Portra series has two speeds that work great for portraits, 160 and 400. Both are available in natural color (NC) and vivid color (VC) versions.

Fuji has NPC 160 (similar to Portra 160 VC) and NPS 160 (similar to Portra 160 NC). In the 400 ISO films, Fuji has NPH 400 which has neutral tones similar to Portra 400 NC.

Which is best? Film choices are something personal depending on your tastes.

I have a Minolta STSi. I have had it for about 2 years. In the last couple months, I have gone to use my camera and when I go to take pictures (this has happened twice), the camera will take one picture and then the film will rewind. Is this something wrong with my camera or is it just the film? I have been told that it could be a battery problem, but it hasn't been too long since I replaced the battery. Can you help me? 

Thank you, 

When this problem occurs I have usually found the problem was caused by the way the film was loaded and it happens with many auto-load/auto-rewind cameras. If the film leader is pulled too far into the camera when loading it can cause extra tension on the take-up side and kick the rewind on early. This usually happens somewhere around the third to seventh frame depending on the camera and how sensitive the rewind system is.

When loading your camera don't "push" the film down into the camera. If you notice there is an indicator to show where to position the film tip. I tell most people to just touch the inside edge of the camera with the film tip and let it drop onto the take-up spool.

I think this should solve the problem. If not you should have the camera checked out by a Minolta service center.

I bought a Canon Elan 7e a while back. I now want to buy a flash for the camera, and yes I know that the Canon EX 420 would be the best one for the camera, but the cost is very high (in South Africa), how does the Vivitar 850 AF flash compare to the Cannon flash, and do you have any other suggestions

Nico Coetzee

The Canon Speedlight 420 EX is best suited for the Elan 7e, but that doesn't mean you don't have other options. The Vivitar 850 AF will work well but you will loose some features. The Canon 420 EX can be used as a slave flash when used in conjunction with certain other Canon flashes. A handy feature if you think you might want to expand into a multiple flash system down the road. The other main difference is that the 420 EX has a zoom head to adjust the light coverage from 24mm lenses to 105mm lenses. The Vivitar will only cover 28mm to 85mm.

Another possible flash to consider is the Sunpak PZ5000AF. It has a 28-135mm zoom head and has a higher flash range than the Vivitar or the Canon.

Could you explain to me how the autofocus of a camera works.

I have had trouble focusing on a subject where there was little contrast or in low light situations (e.g. yellow flowers). It seems the camera cannot determine what to focus on, it keeps on trying to focus or it settles but the focus is still off. What could I do to operate the autofocus more accurately? Now I usually set the camera to manual focus and use the magnification button to manually focus the camera but this is rather time consuming and sometimes my subject has disappeared before I was able to focus. I have a Minolta Dimage 7i. 


Autofocus cameras use contrast to focus, and in low light contrast is reduced. If you are photographing a subject that has one color (or similar tones) filling the frame you're creating a low contrast situation that makes it difficult for the camera to focus.

A simple way around this would be to try to find a slightly different angle where the camera may see enough contrasting detail that it can focus. Some times adding a reflector card just outside the camera's view may add enough light to allow the camera to focus.

Hope this helps.

I am new into photography and I would like to buy a larger lens, I have a 70-300mm zoom. Ritz has two Quantaray 500mm lenses, both are f8 fixed, one is reflective and one is refractive, $129.00. Are these lenses worth investing the money in, and will I be happy with the quality of the photos? 


These lenses are inexpensive options to pro level tele-photos. The biggest difference is the construction. The mirror lens has a fixed f/8 aperture as you stated the other lens is not fixed at f/8 but f/8 is the widest aperture available (this lens stops down to f/32). Both lenses are manual focus. Neither will couple to Program modes. They will work only in manual exposure and shutter priority.

Mirror lenses record a reflected image off of a mirror. This design allows the lens to be made smaller than the normal designs.

Straight lens are longer and larger built yield better sharpness and detail - important if you are going to enlarge your photos. Both of these lenses will require a T-mount adapter to mount the lens on the camera.

As far as whether or not you will like the quality of the images, it depends on how particular you are. Many people feel that the few times they need to use a magnification this high, the quality is fine when compared to how much a brand name lens would cost.

One nice thing about Ritz is that they have a 30-day return policy. If you decide you want to try one out, you can buy one take a couple shots with it to see the results. If you keep your receipt, all the packaging, and keep the lens in original condition, you can return it if you're not satisfied.

I currently shoot with a Nikon N80 usually with slide film so I can have good resolution and color saturation. I am looking into buying a digital SLR (probably another Nikon) but I'm not up to date on all the megapixel info. What megapixel rating would I need to create calendar and poster sized prints with the same resolution as creating them from slides? 

Jason Herman

To digitally compliment your N80, I would recommend the Nikon D-100 or D1x. Either will deliver the image quality you need, will work with your existing lenses and have control layouts that will be familiar. Of the two the D1X is the more rugged pro body. 

For poster sized prints you'll need to scale your images. The best tool we've found for that task is Genuine Fractals.

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