>Here Is A Quick Tip List On Letters For The Help! Desk:
Please confine yourself to only one question per letter. Both postal letters and e-mails are fine, although we prefer e-mail as the most efficient form of communication. Send your e-mail queries to with HELP! in the subject header and your return e-mail address at the end of your message. Although we make every effort, we cannot promise to answer every HELP! letter.
When sending a response or suggestion that refers to a published letter please include the month and page of the original question.
All postal letters to HELP! must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope to be considered for reply. We will respond to e-mail queries with an e-mail.

Minolta Fits
Your response to Sidney Richman, MD, in the January, 2012, issue was correct but incomplete. You should have told Dr. Richman that his lenses would fit and operate correctly on every Minolta film SLR, from the SR-T models to the last one made. He would probably be best served with an X-700 or an X-570 as they can operate in the same fashion as his XE-7 as well as in more advanced modes.
Joseph Brotherton
via e-mail

Thanks for adding your personal expertise in older Minolta film cameras and lenses to my recent reply. I obtained my information from a friend who worked for Minolta for decades so I was sure it was accurate. We will forward your camera body suggestions/comments to Dr. Richman so he can contact you about your ideas on locating some camera bodies so he can continue using the many Minolta lenses he already owns.

T-Shirts And Umbrellas
Re: recent queries to the HELP! column. Generate makes a microfiber T-shirt that you wear which is designed for cleaning optics. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea since the fabric can easily pick up body oils and dust in the air. Also, a while back there was a question asked about an umbrella that could be used in the rain, hands-free while taking photographs. sells the “Umbrella Messenger Bag.” It’s a sling bag with pockets that also holds a straight handle or curved handle umbrella. If you want to attach an umbrella to a tripod, you could use two Manfrotto 171 mini clamps with a double-ended stud.
Nelson Y. James
via e-mail

We appreciate your suggestions for additional sources for holding an umbrella over a camera for rain protection. Anything that offers protection for those individuals forced to shoot in inclement weather will be welcomed. I always “feel” for the sideline photographers covering outdoor athletic events when the weather suddenly changes for the worse. I had not heard of the T-shirt intended for cleaning optics. I agree with you, and I would be concerned about the possible absorption of body fluids and dust, which might damage the optics.

Tabletop Advice
Q. I am very impressed with the photos and wonderful lighting you showed in a recent issue for tabletop photography. Three of us are currently thinking of doing a website showing high-quality handmade accessories and holiday crafts with a lot of detail. Besides the quality of the work, I think the photography is the second most important part of doing this, but we are all amateurs when it comes to photography of this type. Since the information you suggest, such as cocoons, etc., sounds far too advanced for us right now, could you possibly suggest a somewhat easier way to get started to obtain better photos without having to take some classes or having to hire someone?
Susan Losenno
via e-mail

A. There are a number of small, self-contained easy-to-use soft lighting kits available just for your requirements. A big plus is you won’t need any extra accessories because the lights and background are built-in. You did not indicate how large your products are. Hopefully they are mostly of a similar medium size, or smaller, because the prime initial decision is on just how large a unit you will need.
One unit is the Digit-eBox from JTL, which is available from Adorama and other dealers, that’s offered in five models (sizes) ranging in price from $280 to $760. Each is self-contained, having a combination of LED and CFL lighting that’s daylight color balanced. It produces shadowless and glare-free lighting and the fixed lights can be adjusted on or off when you want emphasis on one part of the item. Camera mounting brackets are included so a tripod may not be needed. When using this type of lighting you must cancel your camera’s flash and since some exposures might require a slower shutter speed some type of camera support should be used. You might want to consider the JTL Digit-eBox M 2951 medium-size version that has a subject platform measuring 11x10x9”. They indicate there is no need for photographic know-how or lighting skills since what you see is what will record on your digital camera. You can read more about these units at: With a fixed self-contained unit such as this anybody can easily use it and achieve uniformly similar results with practically no training. I would like to thank Jack Neubart who has extensive experience working with this type of product for suggesting this particular device, and whose report on this unit will be appearing in a coming issue.

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