A Nikon user using a Canon... a cry for help!

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by manaheim, Oct 9, 2008.

  1. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    Ok. So a woman I work with is NOT a camera buff, but takes pictures of people at work for passports. She is using a Canon 20D, if you can believe that. Kinda overkill. :lol: She also has a Canon Rebel XTi which she brings in and uses on occasion. (even that is overkill for what she's doing, but she's kind of enthusiastic about photography even though she's pretty clueless at it, so whatever... let the woman have her fun.) :)

    Anyway, she was graussing over shadowy eyes and stuff without the flash, and graussing over the zombie look people get when she uses the onboard flash. She wanted nicer pictures. Fair enough. I suggested she look into an external flash that she can bounce off the ceiling. She says "Oh! I have one of those at home! I'll bring it in and we can try again!" Cool.

    So today she brings in her flash... a 430EX I believe it was. I had also brought in my Nikon D300 and my SB-600. We tried a quick pic using that setup and I showed it to her. Perfect. No shadowy eyes, nice even light, etc. She was all excited. So we pop her 430 onto her flash, she hands me a tupperware diffuser that she also bought (I was pleasantly surprised to see this), we pointed the flash at the ceiling, and took the pic.

    BLECH. Horrible. The shot was totally underexposed and looked awful.

    I futzed and futzed with the thing. I took the diffuser off... no good. I tried a different bounce angle... no good. The only thing I could do to make it work was to set the camera in manual mode and intentionally meter to overexpose, or to point the flash (with diffuser) directly at the person (which actually had far better results than I expected, but I still wouldn't consider this ideal).

    I was also looking for ways I could up the power on the flash, but really couldn't find anything on it... and in a quick search I didn't see any manuals on Canon's website, which was irksome.

    BTW, we had the same results on both the 20D and the XTi.

    So am I doing something seriously stupid here?

    BTW... I LOVE that the 430 appears to have a mechanical switch to go into slave mode. That's REALLY nice.

    (which I don't want to make her do because she's really new to this stuff and not really someone who "gets it" if you know what I mean)
  2. davebmck
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    davebmck New Member

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    Check that the flash is in ETTL mode. Otherwise I would check to make sure the camera does not have any exposure compensation set. I have the XTi and the 430ex and they work great together, especially when bouncing off the ceiling or other subjects.

    I also have a lightsphere. When you use it turn it straight up, don't try to point it straight on or at an angle. It's not designed to be used that way.
  3. Overread
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    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member

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    check both the cameras flash exposure compensation and the flash units own internal one - if it happened with both it might be set in the flash itself.
    After that do check that its in ETTL mode. Try also using the preflash to get the flash to auto meter for itself that might help
  4. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    It definitely was in ETTL mode. I'll check the exposure comp.

    Doesn't the flash meter on its own when it takes the shot?
  5. Overread
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    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member

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    *is most certainly not an expert but*

    there is a preflash command that lets the camera/flash meter for the flash - there is a noticable difference with the result when using the preflash to meter the shot.
    It might help
  6. Village Idiot
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    Village Idiot Well-Known Member

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    Searching yahoo for "Canon 430ex manual pdf" brings this up as the first entry:
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Owners-Manuals/Canon-Speedlite-430ex-Flash-Manual.pdf

    Yes it does. If you're bouncing it though, it's still metering as if it's firing forward and so you have to compensate for that.
  7. usayit
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    usayit Well-Known Member

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    I was under the impression that it would still be metering properly since the preflash is also being bounced....



    If my memory serves me correctly, you'll need to put the flash into High sync mode if you are shooting in manual and shutter speed is faster than sync. Shooting with a high shutter speed with the flash in normal mode can result in the same underexposed photo as the OP described.

    Its been a while since I shot with my canon but try the following:
    1) Camera in Av. .. set aperture to something reasonable... letsay f/5.6
    2) Attach and power up the flash. Set the flash to Ettl mode.
    3) Set the head of the flash to bounce.
    4) Take a photo.
    note: in Ettl+Av mode, the camera should stay under sync speed automatically. If you need faster sync, set the flash to high-sync BUT be aware that efficiency and power are both reduced. EX line+Canon DSLR setup works pretty well and straight forward.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2008
  8. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    Man what a pain in the butt... I swear I've never had to go through this much work with my Nikon flash in either automatic or manual modes, and the results have always been amazingly good.

    Hate to say it, but Nikon:1, Canon:0
  9. davebmck
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    davebmck New Member

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    That's not correct. It will meter correctly even when bouncing.

    I don't know what what is causing your problem, but other than getting out of the range of the flash, I haven't had any problems getting good exposures. Are you using spot metering? I guess the Nikon system works the same, but with the Canon, you set the exposure for the background and the flash will provide the appropriate amount of power to properly expose the subject.

    As Usayit said, if you are shooting faster than the sync speed, the camera will reset its self to the max sync speed no matter what you set it at in manual mode. If you need a faster shutter speed, you need to set the flash to high-sync mode.
  10. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    Well, I just had the thing in full auto... and used both spot and full-frame metering. I also put it in manual modes with better results, but as I say, I can't have her do that. Too much work for her atm.

    I definitely wasn't out of the range of the flash since I was maybe 6-7' away.
  11. ksmattfish
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    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    The meter has no clue where the flash is pointed or what's on it. In ETTL a low-power pre-flash is fired and metered at the lens' max aperture, and then a full power flash is calculated and fired at the set aperture.

    Assuming the camera and flash are not malfunctioning something is causing the meter to be fooled (actually since the meter is an inanimate object, the camera operator is being fooled, but we'll stick to blaming the gear ;) ). Is the background bright or reflective? That would cause the flash to underexpose. I've run into a few situations where Canon ETTL (I own several 20Ds and 430exs) is fooled, but 99% of the time it's as point-n-shoot as anyone else's.
  12. usayit
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    usayit Well-Known Member

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    How is it different for Nikon? As far as I know, they operation is the very similar. Which of the 4 steps I posted are not required by Nikon flash systems?

    You could just pop the flash on and set the camera to full auto... is that simple enough?
  13. manaheim
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    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member

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    Maybe I misread, but it looked like I had to go through a number of extra steps just to get the Canon to expose properly even in full auto/ttl. Nikon is pretty much pop the flash on and take the pic. If you happen to want to do something snazzy, you can, but the auto pics have always come out flawlessly for me with the SB-600.
  14. usayit
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    usayit Well-Known Member

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    I think you misread... My steps were just being explicit to help avoid confusion. Nikon is pretty much the same... Pop the flash set to manual or full auto and take the photo. From your post it just sounds like you are presented with a competing product which is unfamiliar to you... which you immediately wrote off as inferior and searched for a workaround rather than a solution. I was trying to redirect...

    Just like Nikon.. canon flashes operate in normal and high-sync modes. My guess is that you were shooting at a faster than sync shutter speed and did not have the flash in high-sync. Thus resulting in no to little of the flash light making it to the film plane.

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