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Nikon D70/SB800 best method for fill flash

N L , May 11, 2005; 06:16 a.m.

Hello I have recently migrated from shootings weddings with an E1 system( and film backup) to a pair of D70's. I have a month or so before my next wedding so will be getting to know my new gear but am interested in your views on using the D70/SB800 combo for fill flash outdoors.

I shoot my weddings usually in Shutter priority indoors and Apeture priority outdoors. Maybe I am really stupid but I cannot seem to see a fill flash mode on the camera (I had this on my E1) There is the balanced fill mode on the SB800 but this presumably requires me to set the camera to a normal flash mode such as fron synch and dial in whatever compensation I choose (used to be -1.5 stops ish on my E1), I do have a couple of queries though.

- If the camera is set to a normal flash mode I am assuming it is trying to arrive at an acceptable exposure by way of combining Shutter/Ap and flash? E.G THE FLASH ALTERS THE EXPOSURE I don't want this. I want fill flash to leave the cameras settings as they would be if the camera was not attached to a flash and then use the flash to fill in the shadows only. From what I have read so far I get the impression that this will be tricky. I am thinking of going with manual flash until I'm totally compfortable. Hopefully I am mis- reading the manual.

To be clear I am talking about outdoor fill flash only here not normal flash use indoors for which I will use iTTL. I have plenty of time to get familiar with the equipment but am looking for a head start!

Also lastly what metering pattern are most of you using? I passed on ESP on my E1 and used centre weighted mostly. How does the matrix metering perform on Nikons? better than centere weighted in your experience? Thanks in advance.

BTW On my fisrt day with the D70 I witnessed something on both bodies I have not seen for a long time...DUST!! (one longish speck on one and a couple on the other) Both were brand new but seem to come complete with factory fit dust!!. I have already ordered my visible dust kit and from the instructions this looks like the first cleaning method that does not scare the living daylights out of me! I'll say this the Oly may have been noisy as hell and require a second mortgage to buy any fast glass but In the 8 months I had it I never saw one dust speck, not one!! One day somebody will bring out the perfect DSLR, not for a few years though I guess. For the record though I am very pleased with the images from my D70's so far and having previously owned a Canon D60 would say that build quality and feel is easily as good not bad for a budget

Responses

Lex Jenkins , May 11, 2005; 06:25 a.m.

The easiest way I've found to get fill flash with the SB-800 (on my D2H) is to set the flash to full TTL mode (I also use BL - balanced fill flash; and FP - focal plane mode).

I set the camera to "P" with metering set to full matrix metering.

On the SB-800 I'll dial back -EV 1 or -EV 2 depending on the circumstances, distance, whether I'm using a diffuser, etc.

If there's nothing to bounce off of (ceilings too high or none at all) I'll use the supplied diffusion dome at a slight angle.

This covers about 90% of my flash needs. While a flip frame would be best for verticals Stroboframe and at least one other company offer very lightweight, simply flash frames that get the flash into the proper orientation overhead for use when the camera is vertically oriented for "portrait" mode.

TTL flash with the D70 and SB-800 it should cost you nothing more than a couple of evenings' practice to get the hang of things.

Benoit Deshaies , May 11, 2005; 07:07 a.m.

I could be wrong, but I understand that the default flash mode of the D70 is balanced fill-flash. That's why if you're using flash indoors as the primary source of light, on default settings, pictures will come out underexposed. I often pop the built-in flash for fill when outdoors, with no tweaking, and I'm always pleased with the results. Of course you can dial in flash compensation to suit your taste, but the default should be a good starting point.

With the built-in flash, you select the flash mode by changing the metering pattern. Matrix metering will use fill-flash. I think you can select this independently on the SB800.

(Colors look much better in Photoshop... It looks flat in the browser. I have to figure this out...)


Fill flash on default settings with built-in flash

Matt Blaze , May 11, 2005; 07:53 a.m.

Lex: if there's actually nothing to bounce off of, you're just wasting flash energy by using the diffuser dome. The effect of the dome is to turn the flash into a more omnidirectional "bare bulb", in which "stray" light bounces off ceilings, walls, etc (and eventually onto your subject in a more diffuse way that soften shadows, etc). If there are no surfaces for this light to reflect off of, it goes to waste.

Small barebulb accessories such as the Nikon dome or the Sto-fen Omnibounce cannot be used as a substitude for a soft box without large surfaces nearby; the surface area of the little dome that faces your subject is no larger than the flash head itsef, so there's no gain in softness for the light that hits the subject directly.

(A possible - and very small - benefit to using the dome without nearby is that it lets you tilt the flash head up to move it a bit farther from your lens to cast a more natural shadow, but this is much better accomplished with a proper flash bracket or by holding the flash above your head).

-matt

Andrew Kendall , May 11, 2005; 08:29 a.m.

I agonized for ages over this issue, and decided that for outdoor fill-in, Aperture mode on the D70 seems to be the most practical.

If you set the D70 to Aperture priority with the SB-800 attached, I think that all it does is prevent the shutter speed going faster than 1/500th, which means in bright sunshine you will get the "HI" indicator and you need to stop down a bit before the shutter will fire. I used this mode for informal outdoor wedding shots last week and it worked fine. I used ISO 200 and had Auto-ISO turned off. I also used flash mode 'AA' to avoid the pre-flashes and the danger of subjects blinking.

Metering pattern: generally Matrix, seems to work well most of the time.

(I know you're not concerned here with indoor flash, but just another point: Given the techno-wizardry of the SB-800, this might seem a bit perverse, but I found that I got the best results from pointing the flash up into one of those Prolite Bouncer things, rather than using the Nikon-supplied diffusers. This has a slight additional advantage of a wider gap between camera and light source, which helps with pictures of people wearing spectacles. Anyway, now I've got ugly white patches of Velcro stuck all over the end of my SB-800.)

Paul Beiser , May 11, 2005; 08:48 a.m.

http://www.bythom.com/flashqa.htm#simplefill

Some more nice tips in here as well. Flash can be very confusing, I wish Thom would write a nice article on it.

Paul

N L , May 11, 2005; 09:23 a.m.

Thanks for the responses.

I use a lumiquest soft-box which on my E1/FL50 combo worked a treat for direct flash indoors (nice difused light) I never really used it for fill as I was lucky enough to have nice overcast days or plenty of open shade. How do you rate the difuser that comes with the SB800?

A mode outdoors has always worked best for me and at ISO 200 there is plenty of scope to stop it down if necessary.

I am going to experement at the weekend, will start with camera in front synch mode aperture priority, flash and lumiquest (stroboframe mounted) in iTTL BL mode and -1 flash compensation and see what happens.

Keep em coming!

Matt Blaze , May 11, 2005; 09:35 a.m.

The diffuser is not useful outdoors; see my response to Lex above. (The tiny Lumiquest 80/20 or 90/10 soft box isn't that useful outdoors, either; its diffuse surface area is still too small to soften shadows significantly when used on-camera at typical portrait distances).

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