I have a Minolta MD zoom 28-85mm lens for my Minolta XG-1.

The rangefinder seems to be in a constant state of blackout -- either the upper or lower half is blacked out. It's very difficult to line up a shot at short and medium ranges.

Is this condition repairable? If not, how can I compensate for loss of rangefinding capabilities?


Your problem is not unusual. I have been battling it for years. It occurs on many single-lens reflex cameras. Here's the pitch:

Your Minolta has a split-image viewfinder. As you begin to focus, the image appears divided in the two half-circles in the center; when they line up, you're in focus.

This system is most effective in bright light. In dim light, or when you use your preview button, one of the split-image half-circles may black out.

Lens speed is another factor. In a zoom lens, the longest focal length is generally slower, sometimes by as much as two stops. Therefore less light gets through the aperture and this can cause blackout.

There's a way to get around this. Check your viewfinder and you'll see a small clear ring surrounding the split image, and the rest of the area probably is ground glass -- try focusing through either.

I think you'll be able to get used to this kind of focusing.

Camera clubs all around the area are cranking up again, and first in with a schedule is the Bowie- Crofton Camera Club.

On September 21, Joseph Bailey of the National Geographic Society will present a program on the Society's role in recording the nature and culture of the capital. His talk will include the presention of some special pictures from other nations.

The program will be held at the Bowie Library, Route 450 and Belair Drive.

On September 28 there'll be a question-and-answer session, with the more experienced members tutoring, at the Crofton Library, Route Three Centre, Crofton.

Meetings begin at 7:30 and all are welcome. Call 464-8227 or 262-1969.

How about the rest of the clubs sending in their fall schedules?

Jim Wallace, Director of the Smithsonian's Office of Printing and Photographic Services (OPPS), sent me a remarkable book, Reflections of the Wall -- The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial.

I suggest that anyone who has ever tried to make that "special" picture see this book. It's crammed with special things.

It is the result of more than four years of photography by OPPS staff, volunteers and interns.

The pictures were not taken with a book or exhibit in mind. It was a project designed to document this historic construction in Washington. As the collection of photos grew, it became obvious that they should be shared with others.

The pictures are shattering. None are bloody combat scenes, but almost all relate to tragedy, hurt and a sense of inner weeping. I've scanned the book a dozen times and always get goose bumps.

The book has forewords: by Jan C. Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; John P. Wheeler III, its chairman; Gen. William C. Westmoreland, former commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam; and by James Quay, aVietnam-era conscientious objector.

Scruggs and Wheeler were prime movers behind the Memorial.

The pictures reach out, grab you by the shoulders and shake you. There's a shot, made during the 1982 National Salute to Vietnam Veterans, of a couple of guys in wheelchairs doing "wheelies" in front of the Washington Monument.

Look for the picture of the World War I vet, replete with "tin helmet," in deep conversation with a Vietnam vet. And a heart-rending series of a raincoat-clad woman, an American flag pinned to her chest, finding the name of a loved one on the wall.

Watch for the closeups of hands, gloves, and an amputee's hooks touching the names of lost friends.

The reunion pictures follow in kind. There are pictures of strong men embracing, strong women touching the names of those left behind. There are pictures of lonely parents kneeling in prayer and of proud men lighting candles.

The book is like the wall itself: You can't see it all in one trip. You'll need to go back again and again.

Carl Kramer deals with questions of general interest but cannot respond individually. Address him c/o Weekend, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20071.