A new world... Nikon CLS

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by JerryPH, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thursday June 12th/08 I ordered a pair of Nikon SB-600 strobes to supplement my D200 with SB-800 setup. I did my usual attempts at thorough research and pricing and then ordered them. What is amazing is that on June 14/08, I had FedEx confirmation that they were delivered... an amazingly quick 2 days!

    One of the first things I wanted to try is seeing if the D200's built-in flash could trigger one, two or all three strobes. Well that went simple enough... it did and at distances of 28 feet (the maximum space my room permitted at the time). The thing is, I had them in manual mode and not iTTL. I wanted to take advantage of Nikon's iTTL and see the results.

    Next test was all three strobes off camera and in iTTL mode triggered by the D200... and that went well too, but my results were underexposed somewhat based on what I had the camera set at versus what the light meter told me (more on that later).

    Lastly, I wanted to test using it in total iTTL mode with the SB-800 as the commander. Because it uses IR to communicate with the SB-600s, the range to trigger them is greater (not that I need more, to be honest). This setup gave me fits for an hour or so, as the manual is vague as heck, there is no info on the Nikon, Nikonian and ThePhotoforum sites. A quick peek into my own library was in order to see if it held the answers to me in a clearer understandable format.

    It was a combination of the "Digital Field Guides" for both the D200 and CLS books together that each held part of the answer, and after referencing back and forth a few minutes, it is now clear as a bell for me to understand and control. This opened the final test of the evening for me and the final results were VERY interesting. Again there was some underexposure, based on my Honeywell light meter.

    I had set the strobes about twelve feet apart, about eight feet up and pointed them straight ahead and downwards a little, then stood about two feet behind the light stands. I hung the light meter on a chair about four feet off the ground and fifteen feet away from me (in the middle) and pressed the shutter. The camera and meter were exactly 1 full stop off... so I upped the exposure compensation (EV values in the D200), up by 1 full stop and tried again. The results? PERFECT F/8 results as per the light meter and that is what the camera was set at. The picture was tack sharp and very evenly lit area between the twelve foot wide area (light meter, when moved and tested, supported this). I set the camera to different F-stop levels and time and again, the light meter matched either perfectly or near perfectly to whatever aperture I set the camera to anywhere between F/4 to F/11 and the photo was properly exposed each time. Awesome!

    My final test of the evening was to play with the FV lock, so I set the camera to an aperture of F/8 and hit the FUNCTION button. This set off the calibration mode to a consistant F/8 across the scene and I took fifteen quick shots within about thirty seconds at different positions in between the light stands and at zoom settings between 18mm to 200mm. The results?
    - No misfires
    - No visible variances in exposures from picture to picture
    - No visible variances in exposure ANYWHERE in the frame, even when I zoomed in, out and recomposed.

    In the end, I was surprised at how well CLS works and how easy in the end it turned out to be to configure the many different ways to take advantage of this setup, though I am far from having completed all the tests I would like to do. So far, I was only in manual and I still would like to test out the high-speed sync mode (AutoFP mode for you Nikonians) in aperture mode outside in some bright sunlight (no chance of that anytime soon... several days of rain are in our forcast).

    Now, on top of this, I do have the Gadget Infinity trigger and *five* receivers ordered/on delivery, and they should be here sometime within the next two weeks. I then plan to go full manual and also then include an extra two 110V studio strobes into the game giving me a total of five light sources should I desire it (or add one peanut triggered Metz 45, and that would give me a total of six light sources... lol).

    No pictures or results just yet, because all the pictures I took so far were all merely test shots, but I will likely post several pictures in the near future. This coming Friday is my niece's 10th grade graduation (Secondary IV for us Canadians), and she has made The Honor Roll once again... what a perfect time and a place to put Nikon's CLS to the test!
     
  2. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    Sounds cool! I'll be interested to hear how it goes over the next few weeks as you get better acquainted with the CLS system. Currently I'm shooting cheap Vivitar flashes with Cactus triggers, so I'm definitely interested in hearing your opinion of the CLS system vs manual!
     
  3. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well, right now I can tell you that within the limitations of CLS' abilities, it is faster and easier to set up for the shot, pretty quick to respond (though there is that preflash delay unless you use FV Lock), and convenient as heck. In the end, though, I think that being able to have both options will offer the greatest range of possibilities and best results for whatever the need is at the moment.

    My concern now is where do I place the light stand/flashes at the location for my niece's grad that will give me best effect... I'll have to get there early and take it from there, I suppose.
     
  4. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For the Nikonphiles (lol) who want to learn a little about how to set this up, I made a couple pages on my blog for you:

    Nikon CLS Play Time and...
    Nikon CLS Setup Explained.

    Now its not completed yet, but it may help some of you out.

    Enjoy!
     
  5. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Congrats Jerry. I am quite envious. I await the photos. I have an SB600 & a SB800, but will hold off for the additions until I can find some models (hell, just one will do) to practice lighting techniques on. Please post the results.
     
  6. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks Kundalini, makes me feel good. :D

    Tomorrow evening is test day #1 in a real live environment. I will not be doing anything arty-fartsy, just going for very basic, well exposed, deep DOF (F/8) shots of my niece accepting her honors award and certificate of accomplishment.

    I may just do something extra on Saturday for her if the weather is nice. Next year, though, is her senior year. You can bet that her uncle is going to go all out for her then. :lmao:

    I mean, that my goal will be to offer her as close to professional quality senior shots that I can... all printed out in a nice leather bound album that I picked up a little while ago. I have tons of ideas of how I would handle that already. I really should write them down so as not to forget any of the good ones! :mrgreen:
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A few results of the event:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Just to set the tone... the location was a school auditorium that was very dark and the stage very unevenly lit from one area to the next and front to back.

    You can easily tell the pics were somewhat overexposed, especially in the first two... I took them straight out of the camera and converted from NEF to JPG and added some sharpness using CS3, but besides that, the way you see them is the way the NEF looks.

    If I had played with the levels/curves, there was room for improvement. On my final PPed ones, I plan to correct for these issues of lower contrast and too high exposure levels.

    CLS works very well, but after more tests, I am finding the results a little "flat" if left to default settings (iTTL all around and +1 EV in camera levels). More playing is DEFINATELY in order, but I still enjoy manual just as much, if not a little more.

    It concerns me that at home during my initial tests, the +1 EV levels matched what the light meter read. Obviously it did not stay consistant last night. Is this me, something that I did or the CLS? Time and practice will tell me.

    The strobes triggered consistantly and without misfires from as far as 50 feet away (line of sight)... I was surprised! I can tell you that a pair of SB-600s and a single SB-800 are more than up to the job of lighting a very wide and deep area. Fall off was very pronounced if using the higher zoomed settings on the flashes. Light strength fell off a lot less than I expected at the wider flash zoom settings.

    Finally... the lens used was not my sharpest. Indeed, it was a lens some around here are not very fond of (lol)... the 18-200 Nikkor VR lens. I found it extremely useful having such a broad range available to me!

    A final little surprise... After the event was over, the school principal and I spoke a little. I was offered the "job" to be the official event photographer for next year's event and offered payment. I politely refused the money, but accepted the honor of shooting the event. Besides, next year is my niece's graduating year and I would not miss that for the world!
     
  8. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    Actually I think the SB-800 still triggers remotes via the flash. Will it actually trigger remotes with no flash emission? I'm pretty sure only the SU-800 commander has a real IR transmitter.
     
  9. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow, good question, MAV. I had to go look it up and then go downstairs to confirm this.

    You are right, it DOES use the flash ALL the time (even when the on camera SB-800 is set to "--" or not contribte to the picture, leaving the other SB-600s to set the lighting, it does send out a pre-flash), and it uses the IR to assist autofocus.

    I did notice that no other camera could fire off my off camera strobes, but I think that was mostly because I was in iTTL mode and had each SB-600 set to a specific channel. If they were in a SU4 mode (which they cannot do, I believe?), every flash from the hundreds of P&S present there would be setting them off.

    Good catch and a nice way to find out, thanks! :D
     
  10. DWS

    DWS TPF Noob!

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    any updates, Jerry?......I'm thinking of going the Nikon cls route
     
  11. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nothing much more to say. I use CLS about 50% of the time. The other 50% I need more than 50 foot distance and using the modded gadget infinity transmitters (good for over 350ft for me).

    Its nice not needing to have to stop and chimp or use a light meter between shots. If your needs do not exceed, oh, about 30-40 feet, CLS is a dream come true.

    I do not use CLS when I want consistent results from shot to shot (or I use the exposure lock to accomplish the same thing).

    If you had more specific questions I could answer them?
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  12. DWS

    DWS TPF Noob!

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    thanks, not at the moment....I'll probably be back after everything arrives
     

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