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Beginner Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 15 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 am looking for the manual for my Canon 420EX Flash attachment. I use it with my Canon G5 Digital Camera. Will this months article on this flash help me. I ordered the manual from Canon 2 weeks ago. It arrived Friday. A big disappointment. It was a copy of very poor quality, very black and some pages were printed backwards. 

Thanks for any help, 

The article won't be a replacement for the manual. I would start by contacting Canon and complaining about the poor quality of the reproduction. See if they'll provide you with a better quality copy. It's not exactly rocket science after all.

If you don't get anywhere with Canon try the folks at Camera Docs. They have a Canon 420-EX manual in stock for $15. You can find them at, just type in "420-EX" in the search field and you'll get a listing for the manual.

Please explain how someone can bring in any of the foreign languages to read translated pages of Vividlight material.

Joseph Polevoi

We used to offer a service that translated the magazine into nine languages in addition to English. These languages included Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Russian. The translations were done by computer and sometimes led to some odd turns of a phrase (to put it mildly). Unfortunately that service no longer exists. 

I went to Google and typed in "Translation" and got 16 million hits. That's not a typo. 

The first several pages were filled with translation services, some of which claim to be free services. My experience with any translation service is that you need to try before you buy. The quality can vary greatly from service to service and even from language to language within the same service.

I Need some expert advise on purchasing an Olympus E-1 Digital SLR

Would you say this camera would be a one time purchase for a beginner. I have the E-10 and love it...but the E-1.... nice package with the lenses...I've had the E-10 since it came out and now I want the E-1... in two more years will there be another E series that's waterproof that I will have to buy as well????

James Ardolina

Who knows what the future will hold? Every year there will be new digital cameras with new features. That doesn't mean the E-1 you buy today will be obsolete. It will continue to take the same quality images as the day you purchased it for many years to come.

If underwater photography is something you want to do with the E-1 take a look at some of the underwater housings that are available. The E-1 is still relatively new so it may be summer before housings are available. It also may be possible to adapt a housing from another SLR of a similar size to work with the E-1.

I have a Nikon N65 camera and a Quantaray 28-90 zoom lens. Halfway through my first roll of film, during which I had no problem zooming in on my subjects, the lens will not zoom in. Instead of starting at "normal" and zooming in to a subject, it starts at "normal" and pans backwards to a panorama view (which I didn't even know it was capable of). I've tried taking it off and starting over, but I can't seem to fix it.

Please help. 
Marcia Johnson

It sounds like there may be a problem with the lens. I would suggest that you stop in to your local dealer with the lens and let them look at it. It sounds like you just purchased it so I would also take your receipt and boxes and they may exchange it for you.

I'm curious as to when I should be using a tripod with a zoom lense. It's a 70-300mm lense.


A tripod should be used any time that you are using long shutter speeds. The general rule has always been to keep your shutter speed at or above a speed equal to your focal length. This means that if you're using a 300mm lens, you would want to keep your shutter speeds faster than 1/300th, a 200mm lens above 1/200th etc. At any shutter speed slower than this rule you should use a tripod to get sharp images. Obviously, the longer the shutter speed gets, the more important the tripod will become.

But everyone has their own limits and some can handhold longer shutter speeds than others. With experience you'll learn your limits. For tips on handholding long shutter speeds check out Long Handheld Exposures, Getting Past Fear of Failure. 

I have a Minolta QTSI Maxxum AF/M. I haven't used it much I got it a couple years ago but I keep very good care of my cameras so I know it hasn't been abused.

What I was wondering is why does error come up after I take a picture. It never did it before and I am using the same film as I did before. I even put in a new roll thinking it would make a difference but it didn't. It also has new batteries in it please help as I love taking pictures and really want to use my Minolta camera more now as I am a grandmother. I also love to take pictures of the outdoors I cant figure out why it started to do this. It hasn't been used hardly at all.


I hate to say this but it sounds like there is a problem that would require a repair. My experience tells me that it could be a damaged shutter, or an electronic failure in one of the camera's circuits. Unfortunately electronic equipment can sometimes quit without warning, even when it's been taken care of. I would let your local camera dealer take a look at it. If it needs repair, get an estimate first. Camera prices have come down a lot in the last several months and you may be able to replace it with the latest version of the camera for about the same price as the repair. The latest version of your camera is the Maxxum 3.

I just started using a SLR camera (I was using a point and shoot). This might sound stupid but here it goes.

I am confused about the Aperture setting. I know if you select smaller apertures, depth of field will be greater; the larger apertures tend to blur the background.

But I am confused because they say a small aperture has a large F-number, and a large aperture one has a small F-number.

Could you please explain this to me and tell me if the aperture number that is displayed on my camera, lets say a small number is actually a small aperture and what is this F number

Thanks, it will be very helpful 

The aperture numbers can be a bit confusing at first. Apertures are represented by the letter "f" followed by a number (f/16, f/22, f/4, etc) and you were correct when you said that f/22 provides the greatest depth of field on most lenses (some lenses can go to f/45!), while a smaller f-stop of f/4 would give little depth of field and blur the background. The reason f/4 is a larger aperture than f/22 is that f-stops are fractions. f/4 is larger than f/22 just as 1/4th is larger than 1/22nd. Another important thing to remember is that since f/22 is a smaller aperture, or smaller opening of the lens, less light makes it into the camera and that means that a setting of f/22 requires more time to let in enough light for a proper exposure - a longer shutter speed.


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