New lens, or new flash gun?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by ted_smith, Dec 30, 2006.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith TPF Noob!

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    I have got some vouchers to spend (about £100). I currently have the following :

    Nikon F80 Body with it's built in flash

    Nikon 60mm AF Nikkor Macro lens

    Nikon 28-70mm standard AF Nikkor lens

    Nikon 80-300mm AF Nikkor zoom lens

    I do a lot of social photography of family, parties etc. I have no dedicated flash gun though - just the built in. I think I should buy one, but I'm unsure which one to buy for the F80. I would like the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, but it's a tad too expensive at around £230. And as far as I can tell, the SB-400, which is highly rated and cheaper, does not work with film bodies? Is that true?

    Lastly, Ken Rockwell says "[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Most people will never need anything more than the built-in flash on their cameras. This isn't the 1970's. Nikon's built-in flashes are superb. The built-in flashes on all my Nikons are all I need most of the time for just about anything.". So is there any point buying a flash gun? Would I be better buying a lens, the [/FONT]50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor perhaps as a high quality fixed 50mm lense for my portraits?

    Thanks for your help

    Ted
     
  2. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

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    Sometimes I think Ken Rockwell is misleading and his statements questionable. Other times I think he's a complete fool.

    Ken does like to talk about what 'most people' need, as we saw in his "Point-&-shoot vs 5D" article. And true, most people don't need a dedicated flash. But 'most people' wouldn't be looking for a dedicated flash in the first place. If you find your built-in flash limiting then don't let Mr Rockwell tell you that you don't need a flash gun; that's for you to decide. The pop-up flash may be good but a dedicated flash (for many reasons) is better, so Ken's argument here is a bit like saying you don't ever need to buy a better lens because the kit zoom will do what you need most of the time.

    Last time I checked, pop-up flash didn't allow for bounce or flash operation, and that alone could be reason enough to consider a dedicated flash. Then also consider the increased range and coverage. A dedicated flash can be very useful indeed.

    Having said all that, I do believe a fast 50mm is one of the best investments you can make for a system in terms of value for money, and even more so when shooting with 35mm film/sensor. Although I would tend not to use a 50mm lens for portraits on 35mm (though I would with a crop sensor DSLR where the 50mm effectively becomes a 75mm) but that's just me. Still I personally would be inclined to go for the 50mm first.

    As for specific flashes, I don't know much about the Nikons but I can tell you that you can buy one for significantly less than £230. As in £60 less. I assume that price is from J*ssops or another major high-street chain. No offence to anyone affiliated with these retailers but my advice would be to avoid them and shop around.
     
  3. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Ken is a tool. About the only thing on-camera flashes are good for are snapshots or fill. The direct light is harsh and horrid. There's a reason the pro cameras don't have them built-in. I'm not saying they are useless for the average person, but if you want to improve your photography and want to work with strobe light, a flash gun can be a good investment. (This coming from a guy that doesn't use flash.) Who wants to be just average?

    I was going to recommend a 50mm also, but I see you have a 60mm. What is its max aperture? If it's decent, I don't think a 50 would be the best choice, especially if you want to do portraits, as ZaphodB mentioned. Something like an 85mm prime would be great for that, but I don't know what the max aperture on those zooms are. You may be fine with those.

    If you go for the flash, you can use your current lenses for what you want and have the flash deal with the low light situations that usually come with indoor parties and such.

    If you want to skip the flash, I'd go with a couple of prime lenses with large max apertures. You have the 60mm, and as I mentioned, an 85mm/f1.8 or similar would be a great addition. Then you can skip the on-camera flash as well. This is the route I went. Either works well. They just require different equipment and skills.
     
  4. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ken Rockwell is an unreliable informational source. Sorry. I truly recommend you ignore him. He has so much nonsense on his web site that it overshadows the good information he also has there. There is good information and bad on the internet. I would suggest you view his information as bad, even though not all of it is.

    Your 60mm f2.8 micro Nikkor is a fine lens. I have one myself. I'd look at one of the Nikon speedlights and an extension cord for it. That will allow you to get the flashgun away from the camera where it belongs. My recommendation is never to use on-camera flash. Ever. It provides deer-in-the-headlights lighting with no modeling. If I have to choose between on-camera flash and not getting the image, I opt not to get the image.

    If you can turn it way down and use it to fire the off camera flash as a slave, then that's fine but never, ever use it as a primary flash.

    Sorry about beating up on Rockwell. I toned down the first sentence. Just underline unreliable and that's about as kind as I can be.
     
  5. ted_smith

    ted_smith TPF Noob!

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    This is all great stuff. Thanks for the advice. It is sometimes difficult to work out what is good advice and what is bad, which is why I posted my thread having spent hours researching it on the net. Glad to see, that as always, TPF has come up trumps :)

    I think the general consensus is to get a flash in light of the fact (no pun intended) that I have a great 60mm lense, so getting a fixed 50mm lense, good thoug it is, may not be getting me the best results for my money seeing as I currently have nothing but a built in flash on my F80.

    So which Nikon flash gun would people recommend. I have £80 (about $150) and yes, they are Jessops vouchers. I can of course add a bit to that if it gets me significantly more 'for my buck'.

    Thanks a lot

    Ted
     
  6. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nikon has an SB600 and SB800. The latter is a little more powerful and has some extra features related to using multiple flash units. Either one would be fine and integrate handsomely with the D80's electronics. Personally, I use the SB800 with my D80.
     
  7. ted_smith

    ted_smith TPF Noob!

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    The SB400 is being shipped to Jessops outlets as I type (just spoke to them). But, having read up on it a bit, there's no mention of it's compatability with my F80 (nor film bodies generally). For example, http://www.image-acquire.com/nikon/nikon_sb400_speedlight.html suggests it's for digital bodies.

    Can anyone tell me whether or not it will work with my Mikon F80 body?

    Thanks

    Ted
     
  8. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    Ken, and everything else i found on google said the SB-400 won't work on any camera without i-TTL. So it won't work on the D1's, D100, or any 35mm body except the F6.

    I don't know if it will work in Manual mode though. It might, but than why would you be buying a TTL flash if you're just going to use it in manual mode? Save up for an SB-600, if you but a body with CLS, you can use it wirelessly without having to buy any other attachments. The SB-600 is also compatible with every Nikon body with a hot shoe. It works on both my D70 and FE. I'd shy away from the SB-28's and SB-50's becuase they wont' do TTL on any newer Nikon bodies.
     
  9. ted_smith

    ted_smith TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your help.

    I think I will save up for the SB-600 - it's about £230 and I have £80 in vouchers, so not too much to make up. Better to buy something decent I think, as you say.

    Ted
     

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