BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Mike Stephens

Minolta MAXXUM 5- AUTO v. Manual

Although I was a big camera buff and user in the 70's, I just got back into it again and purchased a Minolta MAxxum-5 SLR 298-100 which I LOVE!! My question for other users is Can I reliably TRUST all the auto features (AF, DOF, F-stop, etc) on these newer cameras or IN GENERAL, are pics better doing things manually?
Maybe a dumb question, but what the heck!
Also, if I'm taking a pic of a sunset through a large wheat field and the sun is still above the horizon but low, what's the best way (or your suggestion) to capture this shot and maintain the "view" **I** see visually and capture it on film? Also, 400 or 800?

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6/1/2005 11:56:42 AM

Kerry L. Walker   In general, you can trust the auto features. Autofocus may not be the best choice in all instances but, for most shots, it works fine. Autoexposure is just like trusting your meter to read the light correctly. It's just that the camera is setting things for you. I do not like program mode though. I prefer to use AP automation and let the camera select the shutter speed. Let the camera determine the exposure and you can concentrate on composition. Of course, there are times when you need to override the camera of go manual when you know it won't read correctly.

For the sunset, I would suggest using a graduated neutral density filter, unless you want a silhouette of the field. There are too many stops exposure difference between the field and the sun for the latitude of the film to handle. A 2 stop grad ND should get you much closer to the correct exposure. After setting the filter, use the setting the camera has selected and bracket a couple of stops each way.

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6/1/2005 12:13:34 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Mike, I am going to disagree with Kerry - which is really odd, since most of the time I really agree with what he writes! However, as someone who is fairly new to serious photography I am learning that the more I do for myself, as in the less I let the camera decide, the better the results. Generally I use aperture priority (as Kerry mentions he does) but when I am attempting to capture something where the exposure is critical - such as a sunrise/sunset I usually go manual. I will start with what the TTL meter says but I know that it is often fooled by the high contrast of a sunrise. Kerry's suggestion of a ND filter is excellent. Although I have found that some sunrises and sunsets the contrast is so extreme that even a 3 step filter will not help. Then you have to make a choice as to what part of the shot is most important to capture and set your exposure accordingly. By the way, a handy hint that I learned in Brian Peterson’s exposure class on this site; take your meter readings from an area of the sky that does not include the sun. Of-course, you don’t want an area that is totally dark, but an area that has light but not the sun itself. The sun will trick the meter almost every time. I am also learning that many times what the TTL meter sees and what my eyes see are too different things. I know, for example, that I sometimes have to set exposure compensation for scenes that are either very light or very dark. The camera cannot tell you this. In my case, as my knowledge increases I find that I am much more comfortable setting exposure myself rather than letting the camera make these decisions for me. It is actually more rewarding and more fun when I do it myself.

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6/1/2005 3:30:26 PM

Kerry L. Walker   Irene, you aren't disagreeing with me as much as you think. This is one of those situations where I was saying to override the meter. My suggestion was based on the assumption that he would not point the lens straight at the sun (can damage your eyes) to get the reading. I must admit that you did a much better job of explaining how to get a proper reading than I did. Thanks for the help. It is folks like you that make this such a great site.

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6/1/2005 8:23:07 PM

Mike Stephens   Thank you---BOTH!! It is b/c of people like EACH of you that this site is invaluable.


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6/1/2005 9:41:11 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  welcome mike,
great to hear from a minolta fan.i have an xtsi and a htsi-plus,very similar.
i use 400 speed a lot,you don't need fast film in that much light.if you plan on making enlargments you might want to use a pro 100 speed film,a little better color and a little less grain.but I use fuji superia 400 because it can cover just about anything,inside,outside,flash,kids.
i've gotten good results on full auto,by focusing on a grey to red cloud close to the sun.tripod,remote shutter release,always.
the best light is hot,hazy,humid,and when the clouds begin to break up after a storm right at sunset.
if you want a better manual for your camera,get the magic lantern guide,it will explain the camera a lot better and it's full potential.
kerry and irene explained how to best get the whole scene to be properly exposed,i'm still letting that sink in.
don't forget to post some pics afterwards so you can get more help if needed.

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6/3/2005 4:44:08 PM

Mike Stephens   Thanks, Sam =) I appreciate your time.
I'm going to ask a few "newbie"/dumb questions again! I just started a new job and am not very secure money wise! I take my film to Walmart for one hour developing. I wonder if anyone knows if Walmart's film developing process (or chemicals/machines) smetimes "hurt" my pics? I just got a few more rols back (still trying to experiment). Is there any plave on here where I can post a few of my pictures for opinions other than the contessts? My biggest issue with the latest pics is woth a few where I took a pic from the edge of a lake standing with some nice foilage in the foreground and a sunset over the lake in the background. While taking these pics, I was in the darker area that is wooded. If I do NOT use a flash, the leaves (that I WANT in the pic)to give the impression of "peeking" though to capture the sunset and sunset refection on the still lake) are almost black. If I use a flash, the leaves are too green or a almost washed out. I tried playing with SS but couldn't seem to get the right speed. I was using 400 Fugo Film. Any feedback would, as ALWAYS, be warmly accepted.

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6/3/2005 10:12:13 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Mike,

About having Wal-Mart develop your film: the short answer is that, yes, it is possible for a developer to "hurt" your film. Stores such as Wal-Mart are not known for having people who really know how to properly handle film. It may be more expensive, but you would be better off finding a good camera store that will take due care in handling your film. In my area the cost difference between the drug store/super store development prices and a good camera shop is only a few cents per frame. This said, it is common, particularly when you are new to photography (as I am still pretty much a novice, I have close memories of this time!) to blame the developer for errors that you make while shooting. The most common one is that you think you properly exposed a scene when you really did not. Look at your negatives (assuming you are shooting print film) and see if they match your final print. If not, you should always ask the shop to reprint the “off” frames. I recently had a local camera store – one that I use all the time – print a batch of film for me. Most of the rolls were good, but one roll came back with an odd red tint to every frame. I knew that the tint was not there when I shot that roll. After checking my negatives I went back to the store, spoke to the manager and he reprinted that roll – at no cost – and it came back without the tint.

You may post photos to this Q&A forum or to the discussion forums and people will gladly critique them for you. I am sure that if the problem appears to be in development people will let you know! On your sunset picture, which I hope you post, the problem is likely that of too great a contrast between foreground – the leaves – and background – the sunset. Exposing for the leaves will cause the sunset to be improperly exposed. You can try using a graduated neutral density filter to hold back the light of the sunset, but this may be a little ahead of where you are right now in know-how. (no offense meant, we all start out as newbies!) A ND filter is designed to help balance contrast between a brights and darks.

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6/4/2005 5:25:59 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  mike, you can get your own free gallery right here on bp.then you can upload up to 30 pics so people can see them.if you've noticed under each persons name is a gallery listing,click on that and you can view their pictures.
as far as the leaves,you may have to settle for a sillhouette,i haven't figured it out yet.

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6/4/2005 12:57:36 PM

Mike Stephens   Thank you both =)
I JUST added 3 pics to my gallery and would like HONEST HARDBALL comments!!
Thank you.

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6/4/2005 2:31:21 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  i like the fountain,the water looks good enough to drink.and i'm thirsty.keep up the good work mike,talk later.

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6/4/2005 3:46:55 PM

Anita Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/19/2001
  Hi, Mike---welcome to Betterphoto! This is an awesome site as you seem to have found out. I also have a Maxxum 5 and have had it for about a year. I do some of my shots manually and sometimes I use the A or S mode. If I want a particular depth of field(f-stop) I use the "A" mode and the camera sets the shutter speed. It works the same for "S" for shutter speed (camera picks the f-stop). In addition to using those, I also take a few more shots with different settings and check them out when I get them back to see what I like best. This camera is really wonderful and I think you will really enjoy it.
Your pictures are all really good. What did you use for setting for them? Your own or programmed? I think the first one of your son is really great although I would move him from the middle of the frame. I also like the sunset--beautiful colors. I would've included more on the bottom though. The water fountain is really cool! me some ideas! Of course, just practice, practice, practice! I have a 10 and 8 year old(both boys) and they really make good models :) If you have any questions, you can email me, I will be glad to help with whatever I can!

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6/4/2005 6:49:22 PM

Mike Stephens   Thx Anita and Sam!
The pics of my one son were just taken casually and with no intent on posting them. It was before I found this site.
The water fountain was tricky for me! I had to use my knee to keep it on (I was alone)and the lighting was from sunlight behind be. I used AF but almost gave up on it b/c the camera didn't want to keep focus on the stream of water that was constantly changing! That shot took me about 15 minutes and my legs and shoes were SOAKED! I was waiting for some thirsty child to sart screaming at me but the park was pretty quiet!
I know...I should have went lower with that sunset pic. My "mind" wanted the sun setting into the bottom of the picture as opposed to the landscape and that's why I snapped it that way.
THANK YOU for all of you feedback! I just took a new roll to a professional camera store for developing. (Ritz Camera Shop).

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6/4/2005 7:12:21 PM

Kerry L. Walker   Mike, in the first place, there are no dumb questions.
In regard to the water fountain picture, this is one time you should switch to manual focus, set the focus and then fire away. Sorry it took so long to get the picture but it was worth it. Good shot.
Regarding the sunset with the leaves: You are asking the film to do something it can't. The lighting for the leaves and the background are just too far apart. Doesn't matter though. You have a really good picture. You got what you really wanted, the background framed by the leaves. You did a great job and got a great shot.
Why should you have gone lower on the sunset pic.? It seems to me you got exactly what you wanted and that is all that really matters. Again, you got a good photo. I like it like it is.
You have some nice photos in your gallery.

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6/6/2005 6:40:21 AM

Mike Stephens   Thank you, Kerry! Your words mean a lot to me! I guess it goes without saying that for each pic I posted in the gallery, about 8 others were stinko!
I like many of the photos in YOUR gallery. The church shot is perfectly centered and I LOVE the b/w with that! I think my favorite if the girl in the church. I just love the way you shot the hallway. The shiny floor augments the picture! GREAT SHOTS!!

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6/6/2005 6:46:52 PM

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