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D700 hot shoe problems

Daniel McGarrity , Jul 05, 2009; 08:45 a.m.

Hey all, I've had 3, yes three D700 camera bodies, all using the SB900 flash exclusively, I'm a full time photographer (weddings and portaits, cameras used 25+ hours a week every week)
All three exhibit, or have come to exhibit, exactly the same problem with the flash (I thought it ws the SB900, but all 5 of my Sb800's do the same thing with the D700's)
The flashes will flicker, and strobe, not part of their normal operation, when I pick up the camera, or do anything that causes minute movement in what I suspect is the hot shoe mount, the strobes flicker. The problem has gotten severe enough that I can not depend on using flash at any time with the bodies.
To test the theory, I have tried all the SB800's with the D700's and sure enough, turn on the D700, the flashes flicker when the camera moves or tries to focus, it's not a low light thing either, it does it in daylight when trying to use fill flash too.
I have 3 SB900's, 5 SB800's, 3 D700's and 2 D200 backups. I am forced to send the D700's in for repair yet can gain no valuable insight into what is causing these problems.

I don't pack the camera poorly, I do make certain that the flash is seated in the hot shoe all the way (so please don't think I'm just neglecting my equipment and blaming Nikon, because I'm not) I am coming to believe that the SB900 is so large that over a period of time the metal is being stretched just enough to cause an imperfect fit between flash and hot shoe seating. Is it a flash design problem (lower center of gravity needed?) or a camera flaw (inadequate planning for a heavier speedlight so the materials won't allow maximum reliability)

So I ask if any of you professional shooters (those who earn a living from picking up the camera and shooting) if you have experienced the problems, No disrespect intended to those of you who don't shoot for a living but love it, but your use of the camera is not as heavy duty or constant as mine, I know some will still take offense, but that's not's what is intended, I'm just looking for answers as to what is causing this, if I'm doing it..I'd love to know how, I treat the camera's very well, if others are experiencing it, perhaps Nikon should be made aware.
Nikon is like any business, it can't possibly tie all things together when sent to the tech department, and the repair department really doesn't seem to compile statistics about the nature of repairs needed.


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Matt Laur , Jul 05, 2009; 08:48 a.m.

Just to be sure on one thing, Daniel: do you have the camera body's front function button set up to trigger the modeling light feature? If your way of gripping the body leaves your right-hand finger tips grazing that button, you could easily be firing off the modeling feature, which looks just like a flickering strobe (because it is a flickering strobe!). If that's the case, it a feature, not a bug. And you can turn it off.

Daniel McGarrity , Jul 05, 2009; 09:22 a.m.

Nope, the modeling light is not what's going off, the strobe activates no matter what, when this first happened I was thinking that very thing, but to no avail...DANG!

Frank Skomial , Jul 05, 2009; 10:31 a.m.

This is really disturbing report.

Since the same flashes on your D200 work OK, we need to watch out for more experience with D700, but 3 cameras behaving like this is already plenty.

Not asking you to do that, but we could try some more...

Have you tried, just for test, a non-Nikon hot shoe flash ? Would SB-600 (no optical slave built) also behave like that of your D700 ?

Would possibly use of a camera bracket (e.g. Stroboframe), and a SC-29 work OK on your D700 ?

Would the flash flicker if in flash Manual mode ? or only in the iTTL mode ?

Try disabling auto focus assist light, just for test...
Trying a SU-800 commander ? and the CLS from that hot shoe?

Jerry Litynski , Jul 05, 2009; 11:09 a.m.

This may not be the ideal answer, but Nikon did not put the 'consumer pop-up flash' on the D3 and the D3x bodies for a reason. And you may have discovered the reason.

If, after Nikon services your D700 bodies, you do not include a flash bracket to hold the SB-900 above the "pop-up flash," then there is not much you can do when the next "unexpected" series of flashes occur.

Nikon does not consider the D700 a pro camera body....

Shun Cheung , Jul 05, 2009; 12:02 p.m.

I only have one D700 body, one SB-900 flash and two SB-800. I have used those flashes on the D700 and D300, and I don't think there is any weakness in those hot shoes. The D300 and D700 are pretty much as solid as my D2X, as well as the D3 and D3X bodies I have used extensively. The only issue is that with the pop-up flash, those bodies are not as well weather sealed.

As far as I can recall, this is the very first time I have even heard of such flash flicker issues. I did a quick search on Google, and this very thread is the first to come up. It is important to send both the cameras and flashes to Nikon so that they can reproduce the problem. Obviously all D700 bodies and SB-900 flashes are still under their original warranty.

Daniel McGarrity , Jul 05, 2009; 12:27 p.m.

Frank, thanks for the input
Okay, tried a ProPhoto flash..same thing after a while, but that flash is much lighter and a smaller hot shoe arrangement, not really a fair test, tried a SB-80DX...flicker
Don't use a Stroboframe...personal choice here, the way in which I work is to provide minimum distraction to my subjects, I've found, and seen, the size of the stroboframe arrangement attracts my subjects attention, and as I want to be invisible to document the proceedings......but I digress.
Flicks in manual, ttl, A and every mode, if I suspect it's a hot shoe seating (be it flash or camera difficulty) You know how when you connect a synch cord to a studio flash that's powered on? The flash fires because of the connection? Well that seems to be what I'm getting, the flicker or strobing is because the small amount of space connects, disconnects, connects, disconnects as the weight of the flash settles into the hotshoe, the flash IR fires to focus (I can see this in reflections) I suppose if I haven't used enough metaphors, it's when you screw a lightbulb in to a socket where the circuit is closed, at some point there will be just enough contact to allow current to flow, but the bulb isn't seated correctly and it flickers...this is EXACTLY what happens with all my flashes.
Su800 commander will trigger the flash, but not the TTL, and it fires only when the camera is absolutely still.
Frank, I'm not really sure the pop up flash is the culprit per se, but it may very well represent an issue based on the housing, you may be on to something there. I don't use a D300 (I want a full frame) but is the D700 based on the D300 body or the D3 minus the flash?
Shun, I did the same check and nothing as well. Thankfully the cameras are still under warranty.
Thanks for the input folks, I appreciate the responses, and will be looking in on this post to update and answer any questions.
Hopefully the Nikon repair people will tell me something more valuable than they merely swapped the hot shoes out. That's the most frustrating thing of all.

Dave Lee , Jul 05, 2009; 01:32 p.m.

Not using a Stroboframe. So all your vertical photos with flash are lit from the side? We used the "flip" stroboframes during weddings, and we never felt there was a distraction to the subjects. Getting the correct lighting was more important. Plus you can always remove your camera from the stroboframe if you want and shoot loose without flash.

Daniel McGarrity , Jul 05, 2009; 01:43 p.m.

Dave, I bounce the flash from side walls getting a much nicer lighting, again, it's personal choice.

Rhaytana (Tim Adams) , Jul 05, 2009; 01:46 p.m.

Sorry you're having these problems, Daniel.

Joining sportsshooter.com just to query other pros about this issue might be a lot of work, but that's the first site that occurred to me when I read that you'd like feedback from those who use their equipment as many hours/week as you do.

Good luck.

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