Getting started with off camera flash

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by andrew99, Feb 29, 2008.

  1. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    Hi guys, I want to get started with off camera flash.. I currently have a Nikon D40 camera and SB-600 flash. The D40 does not have wireless capabilities, but the SB-600 can be used as a wireless slave. What is the best option for me? Should I get an SB-800 flash which will wirelessly trigger the SB-600? Or are there other (cheaper) options? I hear a lot about pocket wizards, is that an option considering I already have an SB-600?
     
  2. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    There are two main directions to take when considering off camera flash.

    One is to use the manufacturer's wireless system. The benefits of this is that you keep TTL metering (auto flash metering) the same as you would have with the flash mounted on the camera.
    The downsides of these systems are: Expense, you need a master and a slave. Nikon has some cameras with built-in master capabilities...but unfortunately not yours.
    Reliability, the communication between camera and flash isn't always great. Indoors, they usually work well but outdoors they usually need line of site and bright sunlight makes things tough.

    The other direction is to use a different system for triggering only. Radio is quite popular and you could also use optical (flash) triggers. With these systems, the only communication is when to trigger...so there is no metering. You have to meter the flash (set your exposure) manually. However, a good radio system (Pocket Wizards, for example) will work very reliably, even with a great range (up to 1600 feet I think). Optical triggers are pretty cheap and you trigger them with a flash. They work well enough indoors but outdoors in bight light, it's a lot harder.
    With radio triggers...you still need a sender and a receiver. Pocket Wizards are a bit expensive (almost $200 each) and you need at least two of them. You can get cheaper products like Elinchrone Skyports or even really cheap ones for around $30 on from E-bay. They do work but not as well or as reliably as Pocket Wizards.

    I almost forgot that you can use cords to trigger an off camera flash...obviously, your range would be limited...but a cord and the adaptors is much cheaper than most wireless systems.
     
  4. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You'll have to check compatibility with the D40, but another option is the SU-800 Commander Unit. I have no personal knowledge with this, but have given some consideration for it.
     
  5. nikonkev

    nikonkev TPF Noob!

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    To re-iterate: Your D40's built-in flash cannot act as the commander for your SB-600. They added that wireless CLS feature in their D70 and up models, with the exception of the pro, single-digit bodies, as they don't have built-in flashes.

    You have a few options: (1) buy PocketWizard transceivers (one goes on your camera's hotshoe, another unit on your SB-600), (2) use a sync cord (not sure if the D40 has a sync cord slot - if not, you'll have to buy a hotshoe sync cord adapter) - this, of course will not be "wireless", (3) buy another SB-600, place it on your hotshoe to "act" as a commander while having your other off-camera SB-600 in remote mode to receive the flash signal - this last option doesn't give you full manueverability of both flash units, as one has to be on your camera's hotshoe.
     
  6. nikonkev

    nikonkev TPF Noob!

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    Oh, and consider spending some time on the link that Digital Matt put up (Strobist).
     
  7. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the input guys.

    Yes, the SB-600 cannot be a master, but my understanding is that it can be triggered by an SB-800, so if I get an SB-800, I can use that as a bounce flash (mounted on the hotshoe) and also trigger the SB-600 wirelessly. I am considering this option since I already invested in the SB-600, and it will use Nikon's metering system and all that stuff.

    There is a cable which I could get that goes from the hotshoe to the SB-600, which is expensive (for a cable) but still cheaper than wireless. Saving some money is tempting, but I think the cable will drive me nuts in the long term, and I hate to buy something cheap now and have to replace it later.

    I looked into the pocket wizards, they look very cool, but are expensive!

    What about flashes that can be optically triggered? Can anyone recommend some decent ones? How much of a pain in the a** will it be metering and working with those?
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    All you need is an optical slave device and you can trigger any flash...SEE HERE. It attaches to the flash and triggers when it senses another flash. Note that some flashes use a pre-flash, so you would need an optical slave that can be set to ignore a pre-flash.

    As for metering (when using optical or radio triggers). It can be a pain but with digital, it's easy to use trial and error. Ideally, you could use a flash meter, but those aren't cheap.
     
  9. RacePhoto

    RacePhoto TPF Noob!

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    Vivitar DF120 slaves are about $30 each, GN is 40, can be set to ignore the pre-flash or fire instantaneous. Nice little fill flash, if you want to have something inexpensive. Can be camera mounted with the bar that comes with it. Also includes a little stand.

    Can be triggered by just about any camera or flash, optical.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/317047-REG/Vivitar_60250_DF120_Digital_Slave_Flash.html

    This isn't your big bright flash, but it can be a nifty little fill flash.
     
  10. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Cheapest solution is to attach a peanut optical trigger to your off camera flash and use the flash on your camera to trigger it. Forget all about iTTL from that moment on. You're going the strobist way now... which means manual settings.

    Total cost? Maybe 10 bucks.

    Its not the "best", but it sure is the cheapest and will get the job done for 90% of your needs.
     

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