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Photography Question 
David J. Varela
 

Sync help!!!!!


I have a MInolta Maxxum 5, And a JTL versalight J-110. I dont have a sync cord to connect them but when my Minoltas flash fires, it sets off the JTL aswell as my small JTL slave. Cool! I thought. but when I take my indoor shots, everything looks like crap.All flashes are firing but I need to know what to set my camera at so that it syncs up. can this be done correctly or do I have to go a buy a sync cord? tell me, what setting and film to use PLEASE...please.... thanks


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9/29/2003 12:23:54 AM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  David,
How are you setting exposure? When used with studio monolights or strobes, using an auto-exposure or program mode does not work unless there is a very special linkage to the lights that allows the camera to control light output (and it requires very special lights to accomplish this). The camera is operated in complete manual exposure mode. Shutter speed is manually set to its flash sync speed, or slower, to ensure the shutter is fully open when the flash fires. Lens aperture is manually set based on light output from the lights. This is typically metered using a flash meter, in incident mode aimed at the camera from the subject position (usually preferred), or in reflective mode aimed at the subject from the camera direction (desirable with some types of unusual lighting techniques). Film speed is one of the settings on the flash meter. Once a studio is set up, if a light power settings, light locations and subject position remain the same, the the same exposure setting (lens aperture) can be used with confidence. Indeed, most studios set up various lighting types/styles, meter them and then record the aperture settings to use for the film speeds being used. This allows more efficient setups for the studio sittings. Exposure (lens aperture) is based nearly entirely on light and subject locations, not on camera distance, although a significantly different camera angle (but not distance) may need some change in exposure setting.

I've used quite a bit of different films in a studio setting . . .

B&W negative:
Kodak Plus-X Pan (ISO 125), Kodak Tri-X Pan (ISO 400), Ilford Delta 100, and Ilford Delta 400

B&W transparency:
Agfa Scala 200X

Color negative:
Kodak Portra 160NC, and Fuji

Color transparency:
Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64, Ektachrome E100S, Fuji Provia 100F and Fuji Astia (ISO 100).

I believe you asked about B&W film that can capture the "look" of the 1930's to 1950's cinema stars. Some of this is how the lighting was setup and used (consider trying Paramount and loop style lighting). The other part was the film format. Most studios used large format 4x5 inch, and occasionally 8x10 inch sheet film up through the 1950's and early 1960's. The enormous negatives produced very smooth gradation and exceptionally high detail levels in the prints. The film typically used was initially Kodak's Verichrome, which was replaced by Kodak Verichrome Pan. Unfortunately, this film was discontinued about a year or so ago with existing stocks disappearing (into heavy users' freezers) almost immediately. Very typical occurrance with a film discontinuation. The next best film with a similar, but not identical response, gradation and grain is Kodak's Plus-X Pan, which has been around for a very long time as a general purpose B&W film. Another "classic" that has been used for portraiture for many decades is Tri-X Pan, although its grain is somewhat coarser. Tri-X does have extremely wide latitude and very fine gradation in its midtones, and it also degrades into its graininess quite gracefully. It would render a look more like period newspaper/magazine photographs.

I don't recommend Kodak's TMax 100, and especially don't recommend TMax 400. It has a completely different tabular grain structure, different gradation and is noticeably contrastier with midtone gradation that doesn't seem to be quite as smooth as Plus-X or Tri-X. I also don't recommend Kodak's or Ilford's chromogenic B&W films (T400CN and XP2 Super). They are both general purpose films and seem a bit muddy in the midtones, although T400CN seemed a bit worse than XP2 in this regard.

I recommend trying Plus-X Pan first, followed by Ilford's ISO 50 Pan F Plus, ISO 125 FP4 Plus, and Delta 100.

Hope this helps some.

-- John


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9/30/2003 9:46:36 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Dave,
Additional thought:
I hope you are not using direct lighting without modifiers! It is quite harsh. The light (and shadows it casts) should be softened considerably using devices such as white reflective/shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes, etc.

-- John


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9/30/2003 9:57:25 PM

 
David J. Varela   Thanks John for the input. im going to try your film advice. I do use umbrellas with the flash shooting thru on to the subject. I have a small apartment should I being bouncing the flash off the umbrella instead of pointing the whole toward the subject? Also if my subject is 7 feet away,my main flash is directly behind me, what should my shutter and apreture be set to? im confused...


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10/1/2003 4:19:31 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  David,
Your last question about exposure settings I cannot answer . . . the camera needs to be set to its flash sync shutter speed or slower . . . with flash use, exposure is basically set by lens aperture with shutter speed set to ensure it's completely open when the flash fires. It's the reason I mentioned the need for a flash meter and measuring it. The lens aperture depends on film speed, the power output of your lights, and how much light is eaten up by the light modifiers you are using. It's so dependent on the specific equipment, film and setup you are using that anything I might suggest would very likely be wrong.

One thing you can do is an experiment with specific lighting setups and film speeds by using a family member or friend as a model. Set everything up and shoot the same photograph at different lens apertures. Make a record of each setting for each frame of film. Have it developed and examine the prints . . . and the negative densities . . . afterward. Comapre this to your notes about the lens apertures used and pick the one that works best.

If you are working with studio lights, and are working with a variety of light modifiers and rearranging lighting angles frequently, you need a flash meter for reliable film exposure. Even though I use essentially the same setup at the same distances with the light modifiers and film with monolights for on-location work, I still meter them after setting them up to verify exposure settings are correct (and that everything is working as expected).

-- John


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10/2/2003 2:57:23 AM

 
David J. Varela   well then that settles it. I need a flash meter.Thanks for your help on this. im going to try those exposure technics. well I guess its off to the photo store. damn this is one expensive hobby. But its worth it. Thanks again!


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10/2/2003 12:54:26 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  David,
Flash meters span an enormous price range. New they can run from about $75 for a very basic one to $500 for a digital with oodles of features and gizmos, including being a "dual" that can make flash and ambient readings. Some of the ones that originally sold in the $100-200 range new that are 10-15 years old can had used for a good price. Consider that as well. I'd love to have one of the super-duper whiz-bang meters, but really don't *need* all that. I got a basic "dual" used that does what it needs to very well, without any extra doodads.

Sooo . . . as you trundle off the the camera store for yet something more (been there, done that) be ready for some sticker shock if the person behind the counter pulls out the top drawer model. Then you can tell them what your budget is and go from there.

-- John


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10/2/2003 5:20:11 PM

 
Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/20/2001
  David, before you head out for the camera store, try searching Adorama's or B&H's used sections for a used Minolta flash meter. You can find some great deals on the most popular models of Minolta, Sekonic and Pentax meters at half the price of the same ones new. Usually, these are barely used, and you can trust the ratings given by both stores to be accurate.

I am currently using the Minolta Auto Meter V-F that I purchased from Adorama's used dept for $170. It takes both incident flash readings and ambient readings and also has some extra stuff like averaging two readings (for more than one light). Before this one, I used the Minolta IV Flash meter that I also bought from Adorama but for $114. It is an older model, but it worked perfectly and was almost exactly like the VF auto meter, only it didn't average readings, and it had a different readout screen. Both would be fine for you, I think.

You might want to research more on the difference between 'auto' and 'flash' meters by Minolta. Some say the auto meters aren't as good as the 'flash' ones, but I can't tell the difference yet, as the VF is very accurate and works great for my needs.

hope this helps some.


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10/2/2003 7:11:46 PM

 
Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/20/2001
  Forgot to add --
Check out this link for help with studio lighting and how to meter and stuff. http://www.lightingmagic.com/topics.htm

It really helped me sort out all the confusing information! I had a hard time trusting my flash meter readings. Luckily, I am using a digital camera and can just keep shooting until I get the right exposure ratio, but I feel your pain! We've all been there and done that.


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10/2/2003 7:17:26 PM

 
David J. Varela   wow that really helps. yeah the guy at the store wants me to buy this Sekonic brand. I have a minolta camera so id like to get the flash meter from them too. Ive been doind a little Ebay research, and man , they seem pretty close to retail. So I guess ill try to go with the web sites you given me.I make mistakes on my shots, and the guys at the lab look at me like im a moron, so I get embarred to even develop my stuff sometimes.Hopefully with this meter I can atleast not be so intimidated to get print done. thanks again.


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10/2/2003 7:25:01 PM

 
Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/20/2001
  Sekonic is supposed to be good too. I would decide how much you wanted to spend and go from there. There are really cheap meters that are fine for one light setups, but they are not very accurate, nor are they very consistent. JTL makes a meter I have not tried that is being sold on ebay by J&K Group for pretty cheap, I think. Just don't try the Interfit model for $69. Too good to be true? You bet it is. I bought one and then sold it the next day. It was crappy in every way.

I wouldn't think you could get a quality meter for less than $150, even used, but you might get lucky. Stick with the name brands and ask lots of questions. Also be sure to get a manual. Some of these things are pretty complicated to figure out!


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10/2/2003 7:32:02 PM

 
Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/20/2001
  Oops! Just realized my mistake. The Minolta IV should be Minolta III


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10/2/2003 9:37:33 PM

 
John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  I'll add a meter brand also . . .
I use a Gossen Luna Pro F . . . the older analog model. It's a combination ambient and flash with both reflected and incident capability. A basic exposure meter, it's very accurate, very reliable and quite rugged. Got it used for well under $200 from KEH Camera Brokers in Atlanta, GA (www.keh.com). Last I checked, Gossen still makes them although they're pushing the pricier digitals pretty hard. The older Gossen Luna Pro series of analog meters have just about achieved "classic" status (similar to the Vivitar 283/285HV flashes still in production after all these decades). If you go after a Gossen Luna Pro, ensure it's an "F" (flash). All the rest of the Luna Pro series are ambient only.

Just another brand/model to consider. Sekonic and Minolta also have very good meters.

Don't feel so bad about the steep learning curve with studio lighting. It's **not** an easy thing to master. Indeed, studio lighting is one of the most difficult aspects of photography. The subject fills entire textbooks and the options for lighting angles and how modifiers can be used with the lights are nearly infinite. Once you do start to get decently skilled with just basic setups, the payoff in the types of imagery you can create is enormous! As you add some sophistication later (after mastering some of the basics), it only gets better. Keep chipping away at it, one step at a time.

-- John


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10/2/2003 9:46:45 PM

 
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