I’ve received lots of questions over this last week from readers regarding details on the Nikon wireless flash system. As most of you know, RockyNook and I recently released the 2nd Edition of our best-selling book The Nikon Creative Lighting System.
As people work their way through the book, they are generating many questions. Below are questions from three photographers about using the Nikon CLS (creative lighting system).
Q: Mike, I just finished your book except for the section on the sb-700 and sb-800 since I bought the sb-910 along with the sc-29 cable.
Is there any reason if I don’t have those two flashes that I would benefit from reading those sections?
A: There’s no reason to read the sections on the SB-700 and SB-800 since the info in those chapters only pertains to those flashes.
Q: I went to the web site you mentioned in your book for chargeable batteries and chargers at Thomas distributors and I spoke to Eugene the owner who was very helpful. I would like your opinion on the batteries and charger I am considering buying, the bible states there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and even though experience is a good teacher it is a hard and expensive one.
Since I am not sure how much I will be using the speedlight I was considering the Sanyo XX 2500 mAh enloope low discharging vs the Maha PowerEX 2700 mAh (which is not slow discharging).
a. Do you see any negatives in using the sanyo batteries, is 200 mAh that much of a difference in power?
b. Do you recommend any other battery or power rating than mentioned above?
A: a. Both the Eneloops and the Imedion batteries are good choices. I’ve used them both and remain happy with both. Don’t buy the PoweEX 2700 mAh batteries as you’ll be disappointed with them over time due to the steady discharge.
b. Nope. Buy either of these.
Q: I was also considering the Maha PowerEx MH C9000 charger; it charges 4 batteries at a time and what I like about it compared to its 8 battery MH- C801D you reference in your book is that it actually shows what each batteries mAh number is. I thought this would be helpful after buying new batteries and charging them that I could pair them up with as close as possible Mah numbers to be more balanced in power, plus you can see if a particular battery is losing it’s maximum mAh more rapidly than the other batteries in the set.
a. What do you think about my reasoning above is it valid?
b. If a battery in a set goes from 2500 mAh to say 2000 mAh ( the other 3 batteries are all around 2500 mAh) does it make sense if I have an extra battery with a 2500 mAh rating to swap them out even if the extra battery is newer or older?
c. What difference in mAh would you recommend changing out a battery?
A. a. Your reasoning is perfect. My wish is that Maha would make the MH C9000 in an 8-cell charger. I’m a tech nerd and would love to have the power rating in the 8-cell pack. The reason why I went with the MC-C801D is that I’m often charging lots of batteries at once and I needed the extra capacity.
b. Yes, this technically this is the right choice. Keep the batteries matched for best performance. If a battery has low capacity after a while, then discard that battery and replace it with a new one so the entire group is consistent in power and performance.
c. 500mAh is probably about the right difference.
Q: I am reading Joe McNally’s book – The Hot Shoe Diaries and he refers to the speedlights pre-flash as – Monitor Pre-Flash, I don’t recall you referring to it that way. Is that terminology correct and if it is please explain what the word Monitor refers to?
A: Love Joe McNally‘s book and have it myself. He’s a great inspiration for us all. Yes, when using the flashes in TTL mode, the camera and flash work together to determine correct exposure of the scene. The way this is accomplished is by sending out a monitor pre-flash from the strobe a few milliseconds before the exposure. This monitor pre-flash reflects off the surface of the subject and back through the lens to the camera’s light meter. At this point, the camera determines how much light to send out in the “real” flash when the camera takes the photo. This all happens faster than the blink of an eye and is pretty ingenious.
Q: When I compare the Canon 580EXII speedlight with a GN rating of 190 at ISO-100 at 105mm and when I translate the Nikon SB-910 which is rated with a GN of 146 at ISO -100 at 105mm it appears Canon is a much more powerful flash do you agree?
If two photographers both with similar cameras but one has a Canon with a 580EX11 speedlight and the other a Nikon with the SB-910, with a difference of 44 in guide number, what advantage does the Canon photographer have over the Nikon photographer?
A: Yes, the GN on the Canon is more than the Nikon. However, it isn’t something to really worry about. For example, even in the Nikon flash lineup, there is a wide variation in power between the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900 and SB-910 strobes. However, I use these flashes together in my system all the time without even a second thought. All have approximately the same power and reach. The Canon flash’s advantage would be that it can shoot at a lower ISO or higher F-stop or further distance.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Mike.
Maybe in the future I can take one of your photo tours.
Q: Hi Mike,
I’ve been reading heavily in your CLS book, the Ken Rockwell website and other places about the danger of letting my Nikon D7000 set shutter speed and Auto Iso when using the pop-up flash or a shoe flash on the camera.
The notion of the pop-up as a fill flash is really growing on me. In the days of film I often used this little acorn flash bulbs in outdoor photography and drew “oohs & ahhs” for my work. Here’s my question in a nutshell:
When using the pop up, is it faster or easier to use flash compensation by holding the flash button and turning the front wheel. Or to use the menu system of Custom>flash/bracketing controls?
A: The best way to use the pop-up flash is to tape it shut. Seriously. You can do better with off-camera flash, or even by using your camera-mounted SB-800 with a diffusion dome. However, if you are going to use the pop-up (gasp), then adjust the power on the flash by pressing the flash button and rotating the front command dial.
Q: With a shoe-mount strobe such as the SB-800 is it quicker to use the flash menu system to adjust flash intensity, or the camera controls? I like the way a strobe brightens faces shot outdoors. And I want to develop habits that are quick and repeatable with my hands and fingers.
A: Use the buttons on your SB-800 to adjust flash power rather than the camera’s buttons. The reason for this is that the camera’s adjustments are additive (or subtractive) to whatever you have set on the flash. If you have the flash set to +1 and the camera flash compensation set to -1, then the net result is 0. You’ll forget the camera’s settings, but you can always see what the SB-800 is set to by looking at the back LCD panel on the flash.
Q: Mike, I have a follow up to my previous question, and my neophyte flash user status….
Is i-TTL Flash really reliable? 90% of time I’m either having to quickly adjust and manually punch +/- exposure compensation on D7000 or flash unit… so not even sure if my flash settings are correct.
Like I said, maybe need to take a class. User-error seems to prevail.
A: Every photo I’ve ever taken with iTTL flash requires +/- flash compensation of some sort. Just like every photo I’ve taken in matrix meter requires exposure compensation. The reason why is that all scenes and subjects have different brightnesses. Someone with a white shirt requires additional compensation. Someone with a black shirt requires negative compensation. That’s just the nature of TTL.