Q - A friend of ours is going to the Orient and has offered to buy a camera for us. At present we have a Pocket Instamatic. What kind of camera equipment would be our best buy?
A - Obviously, the more expensive the equipment, the more you would save over state-side prices. But considering that at present you are in the Instamatic class, I doubt that you would get the full value-use at present from top equipment. I wouldn't recommend any off brands that couldn't be serviced in the States, so you better stay with the standard makes.
My suggestion would be to go for the Nikon, Canon, Pentax or Minolta line, depending on where he could get the best deal. Also you should get a wide angle lens of 24mm and a telephoto lens of 85mm to go with the outfit. You should be able to save about 30 percent under local prices. If you change your mind later, you can probably recover the cost of the equipment by reselling it.
On the other hand, I think that it's risky to have someone else buy a camera for you. You should ask yourself, am I really going to use the camera? Why do I want it?
Meanwhile look in the local photo stores and get acquainted with what is here. Unless there is a particular camera or leans you want that's not available, you can often find deals locally that are very close to the prices overseas.
Q - How can I use my zoom lens to take those interesting shots that show converging blurred lines on the edgees and a sharp image in the center?
A - You'll need a slow shutter speed to move the zoom control through its range during exposure.
The technique is to use a slow film like an ASA 25 and the smallest f-stop, such as f-22, so your exposure will fall into the 1/4-of-a-second, depending on the amount of light. You will need a tripod.
Compose your picture so the main object of interest is in the center - say a person, standing or sitting. Focus on your subject at the zoom's longest setting. As soon as you hear the shutter click move the zoom control to its shortest focal-length setting while the shutter is open.
You'll have to practice, making a few dry runs moving the zoom. It's best to take the picture in a fairly dim light so you can make a long enough exposure to move the zoom range, while the shutter is open.