Readers' Questions

Phil is getting back into photography after what sounds like a long time away.  His enthusiasm and excitement is contagious!  I’m going to cut and paste some of this questions and my answers here in this section so hopefully anyone else with the same questions can benefit from them as well.

Steve - your site looks really great but when I click on any of the sub-titles up top - nothing happens.  I don't think it is my computer because any other type of site I try it works ok.  I have tried on many occasions and I still get the same result

Phil -  My site is a flash site.. which means its operation is dependent not only on the way my site is built, but on the flash player add-on you’ve installed in your browser as well.  Flash player add-on’s are known for being problematic.. which is one of the drawbacks to building a flash website.

Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Inside your browser, bring up my website, and when it stalls (that’s what it does when you can’t click on anything) and nothing is clickable.. hold down the control key and then hit F5.  This will probably work.  I visit a lot of websites each day and I reset 1-3 times a day when the site stalls.  Using Microsoft Internet Explorer is more reliable, but Firefox and flash still has issues.  I love Firefox though.. so I use it.
  2. If the above doesn’t work, simply go to and download their newest flash player add-on and install it.  This will be Version 10.  My site was built with version 9, but it should work with past/present versions.. but I’ve found that people running versions 7 and 8 have a lot of issues.  Its good to upgrade to the newest version anyway.

Let me know how that goes ok?

I am working out whether or not to keep my F5 gear or sell it off.  I still reckon film cameras are fun and get great results but I am not sure how much Velvia costs these days and processing.  If I bring it can I still get access throughout Thailand to Velvia and E6?  If so - what is the quality like?  I don't want to sound horrible but when I lived there for those two years I was not impressed about anything done in Thailand.  From house construction, to car service, to bookings to repairs it was all shite.

  1. Once you become competent with digital you’ll no longer shoot film.  This happens to everyone.   Digital is just so much easier, cheaper to shoot (once you buy the thing), and better quality.. you just stop using film.
  2. Thailand photo processers use the industry standard Fuji Frontier processing machines and these are very good.  The problem is these are set up all week long for print film and they only run E-6 a few days a week.  I find the quality very good for both and even the 11x14’s from this system are great.

The only thing I don't like about new digital cameras is that they cost the earth and have built-in obsolescence.  Within a few yrs new technology has kicked in and your $3,000 body is suddenly worth about 300 bucks and you have to do the whole process all over again.  Why don't they just make a componentry body where one can just plug in the upgrades over the years.  Probably too simple for the boffins at Nikon and Canon.

  1. This is all true.  This is why buying only what you need becomes even more important than before, you won’t be using it for years and years and getting your money’s worth out of it.
  2. Excellent question.  Contax years ago came out with a “digital back” DSLR.. but quickly failed.  The main reason is that the “systems” in DSLR such as the autofocus, white balance sensor, metering, and more are contained all through the camera and these systems are still developing and getting better with each new model they put out.  Sometimes the updates are incremental, sometimes huge.  They couldn’t do this and still update the systems.  Now, take the medium format cameras.  For the most part these use the same AF, metering, etc, and rarely get updated.  These cameras are mostly for the studio or landscape and are made to shoot slow and sure.. not fast paced for sports and journalism like DSLRs.  So.. for years now they’ve made replaceable backs.  However, even these get updates sometimes and more and more they’re going to matching bodies.. or a digital back that only works with certain bodies.
    If I get one I will get the best (as I always do with gear).  A D3 body only in Auss at the moment is worth over $7,000 - a hell of a lot of dough in anybody's book.
  1. The best is relative to your needs.  The top model isn’t always the best for you and with Nikon this couldn’t be more true.  For instance, the D700 and D3 are 99% the same camera.  The same metering, same autofocus, same sensor, same weather sealing, and exact same image quality.  The bigger differences are the D700 has a 95% viewfinder, the D3 100%.  The D3 uses larger batteries and has more frames per second.  There are other differences, but differences that would only make the huge extra cost, weight, and size a “best buy” for someone who must have those features.  Otherwise, I’d rather carry the smaller and lighter and much cheaper D700..

If I did stick with film is it too expensive to do the whole film thing and then buy an expensive scanner to turn the hard copy transparencies into a file?  Probably a bit to set up but if the quality was there a whole lot cheaper than buying a new system.  I don't shoot editorial so I would not need the quick turn-around time.  I used to wait until I had about 100 images before I sent them to Austral.  They were very fussy and would maybe accept about 20 of them and I'd get the rest back.  However after a few years I had a goodly number of transparencies with them and the money started to trickle in.

  1. Almost always the processing centers have the ability to scan at roughly a 8mp resolution, and more are adding capability to scan at up to 15mp’s.  You pay a few extra bucks and you get a disk with your scans ready to go.  Nice.  You can still pay for drum scanning if you get a keeper.. and drum scanning still costs big money because as you know drum scanning is dependent on the operator and a good operator demands high pay. 
  2. Check with Austral’s website and see if they list their requirements for submissions.  I think you’ll find things have really changed.

Thanks so much for that Steve.  I am rushing out to work now but will read that when I get home tonight.
Just one more question - and a very important one.  How does one look after ones optics in the tropics?
Where I am in the dry desert here in Kalgoorlie WA, it is no problem at all.  Nothing ever smells or goes musty and I have never had any fungus in my lenses.  However after only two years of being in Chiang Mai, I came back and my beautiful 60mm Micro Nikkor was just full of it.  I nearly died and haven't found a technician I can trust to fix it properly.
This is a real problem in Thailand and I am a bit loath to launch forth into buying expensive new lenses when this can happen.  Will be interested to get your opinion on this one?
Cheers – Phi

  1. I have over 30 expensive lenses from Nikon, Zuiko, Sigma, Zeiss, and Canon sitting in an open room here in Bangkok.  It is not air conditioned or environmentally controlled in any way other than being inside my home.  None of these lenses, some being decades old, have any signs of fungus or any other issues at all.  The reason for this is:
    1. I keep them dry
    2. When I take them in the field I put them in large ziplocks and allow the temperature to adjust when I transit spaces where the temperature and humidity would rapidly change creating condensation.  For instance, when leaving an air conditioned hotel into the hot Thailand outdoors.
    3. I regularly (every 60-90 days) inspect my lenses for any signs of fungus and would have them serviced at the first sign.  This is almost embarrassingly inexpensive in Thailand at the factory service centers.
    4. Every few years I take my lenses in for regular cleaning and servicing, during which time they inspect the seals, thoroughly clean the inside/outside, inspect the autofocus mechanisms, check the rotation of focus and zoom rings, and more.  Regular service will keep your lenses going strong for the next century.


Please submit your questions to   All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.