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Unread 11-05-2012, 04:53 PM   #1
sukotsuto
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Manual vs. TTL based flash talk

In the past, I've done a lot with p-TTL capable flash with the occasional shoot in full manual and supplemented by RF triggers. p-TTL being the pentax version of i-TTL and e-TTL that allows for high speed sync and has usually done well for me outdoors with the addition of exposure compensation to get a nice mixture of flash and ambient.

However, now with using Nikon gear, for various reasons, I've been thinking I want to use full manual mode with manual flash and RF triggers. There are some quirks, mostly with sync speeds, but I'm also expecting that I will have to work slower and most likely take more photos per person to get things right in quick hallway style cosplay photography. With that type of photography, it's polite not to waste peoples' time, so I'm trying to figure out the best possible methods.

The strobist brought up an issue with the D600 and sync speeds, as I understand his article:
D600 = 1/200th max sync, 1/3rd stop less
D800 = 1/250th max sync

For a given situation outdoors in broad daylight,
The D600 would need some form of compensation to deal with a slower maximum flash sync speed.

*decrease the ISO (D600 does have ISO 50 which is nice):
both flash and ambient are affected, increase flash power to compensate

*shrink aperture:
both flash and ambient are affected, increase flash power to compensate, larger depth of field

*Use ND filter:
both flash and ambient are affected, increase flash power to compensate, potential viewfinder and AF issues, but wider apertures can be used, potential quality reduction from the extra glass

*Shutter speed:
ambient is affected, flash is more effective

I'm still leaning toward the D600, but trying to figure out if there is a large benefit with that 1/3 stop, especially in outdoor situations. One commenter on that article mentioned an effective 1.3 stops of flash power reduction, which seems like a lot when a Yongnuo 460-II can output around 5 or 6 total.

What I have now is two Yongnuo YN460-II, and 4 Yongnuo RF-603N triggers. That will allow me to have a trigger on each camera and two potential light sources. If I'm doing quick hallway cosplay photos, I'd probably only use one flash that can be triggered from both cameras as needed; using the simple hold the flash in one hand and the camera in the other (difficulties changing settings on the camera with one hand probably being an issue in practice, though I've done it before successfully).

Things like pocket wizards are out of the question. I could put the cash I had planned for a TTL capable flash toward the cost of a D800 instead of the D600, but that's still only a piece of the difference ($230 for a Sigma 610 DG Super). Getting the TTL flash has its benefits, but would limit my use back to on-camera flash most of the time.
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Last edited by sukotsuto : 11-05-2012 at 04:55 PM.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 06:24 PM   #2
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In the interests of saving time, one thing I do is save three common flash profiles (or two flash and one non-flash bracketed) to the C1, C2, C3 on the function dial, then fire off all three in quick succession and choose what works in the end.

I'll fine tune these three profiles as the day goes on, or spend some time with someone I know early in the day who doesn't mind the extra time it takes to get everything set up.

Quote:
*decrease the ISO (D600 does have ISO 50 which is nice):
both flash and ambient are affected, increase flash power to compensate
Provided the shutter speed is staying the same, yes. In reality, I find you are best off just watching the little indicator below the EV gauge in the viewfinder (in M mode), ideally if you are trying to balance the two it should fall between -1EV to -4EV or so and then trying to ballpark how much flash you need based on that.

Less ambient light, more light will be needed from the flash to balance it out. The end result can be a different 'look', or a different mix of light from the flash and the ambient.

Sometimes this is desireable, other times it isn't. The flash generally illuminates the subject more than the background, as it is farther away. So it can make the subject stand out against a crowded or uninteresting background. ie:
http://www.cosplay.com/photo/3133791/
If your flash has a focal length setting, setting it to higher than the default (ie. 70mm when using a 50mm lens) can also help if using direct flash and your subject doesn't cover the whole frame. When using bounce flash, angling the bounce in order to hit the subject and miss everything else can work similarly.

BTW if I am doing off-camera flash, I've never used anything other than TTL. I honestly just set the ratios and let the camera work it out from there, set a FEC to tweak it if necessary. But I don't know how Nikon handles this. I've never tried to set up flashes manually, I can't comment too much on setup. These days if I am doing off-camera lighting I tend to depend less on the flashes in favor of the Beleuchtungsvorrichtung-1500L, I have a 6000L but it tends to be overkill for what I do.

Last edited by Access : 11-05-2012 at 06:42 PM.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 06:26 PM   #3
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Sell all your third-party flashes and triggers. Pick-up a couple of SB600 and use Nikon's CLS.

I read that article too and IMO, if you’re really, REALLY into off camera flash (I’m talking it’s your bread & butter and your photography style is sensitive to 1/3 stop) then m-a-y-b-e a 1/3 drop might be a small nuisance. Practically, I doubt you would notice for most cosplay photography and you can use FP mode (If you get flashes that support it) anyway.

BTW, the mighty 5D Mark III has a flash sync of…yup 200.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 06:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Access View Post
In the interests of saving time, one thing I do is save three common flash profiles (or two flash and one non-flash bracketed) to the C1, C2, C3 on the function dial, then fire off all three in quick succession and choose what works in the end.
I like your idea of using the user modes. The D7000 for example has two and that could at least be used for inside/outside.

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Originally Posted by Surfsama View Post
Sell all your third-party flashes and triggers. Pick-up a couple of SB600 and use Nikon's CLS.

I read that article too and IMO, if you’re really, REALLY into off camera flash (I’m talking it’s your bread & butter and your photography style is sensitive to 1/3 stop) then m-a-y-b-e a 1/3 drop might be a small nuisance. Practically, I doubt you would notice for most cosplay photography and you can use FP mode (If you get flashes that support it) anyway.

BTW, the mighty 5D Mark III has a flash sync of…yup 200.
I don't know about Nikon, but with Pentax, their built-in wireless system has range and line of sight issues. I do know many cameras have 1/200th or less (Pentax being 1/180th), but with my options still open, I'm looking for the best tool given the lighting setup. I agree that FP/HSS is convenient, so getting at least one flash capable of that is still on the list right now.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 06:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surfsama View Post
BTW, the mighty 5D Mark III has a flash sync of…yup 200.
200 is actually a bit optimistic, or overated, like the 5D2 it's actually closer to 160 than 200.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 09:22 PM   #6
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My old film camera can sync at all shutter speeds! Hooray for leaf shutters. However, to the question at hand-

I say get the cheaper camera and get flashes that can do wireless TTL. I think it'll make more difference to how you shoot than 1/3rd stop of extra sync speed. The commenter on the strobist article that was talking about 1.3 stops was referring to 1/200 vs. 1/500 that was offered on some older Nikon cameras that used electronic shutters. I think Surfsama is spot on, although aren't SB600's discontinued? Also, I wouldn't rule out PocketWizards. You're saving $900 by going with a less expensive body, that should give you serious wiggle room with buying other toys.

Disclaimer: My DSLR's are Canon, so I never had this option of ultra-high sync speeds that the strobists love so much.
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Unread 11-05-2012, 10:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djlemma View Post
My old film camera can sync at all shutter speeds! Hooray for leaf shutters.
The Fuji X100 has a leaf shutter and high sync speeds. Although it is still hovering around $1000 online. A neat little camera.

Quote:
Originally Posted by djlemma View Post
I say get the cheaper camera and get flashes that can do wireless TTL. I think it'll make more difference to how you shoot than 1/3rd stop of extra sync speed. The commenter on the strobist article that was talking about 1.3 stops was referring to 1/200 vs. 1/500 that was offered on some older Nikon cameras that used electronic shutters. I think Surfsama is spot on, although aren't SB600's discontinued? Also, I wouldn't rule out PocketWizards. You're saving $900 by going with a less expensive body, that should give you serious wiggle room with buying other toys.

Disclaimer: My DSLR's are Canon, so I never had this option of ultra-high sync speeds that the strobists love so much.
Solid advice. I'll probably go D600 when the time comes, mostly due to the compact nature of the camera (though at the moment a refurb D800 from cameta + $100 mack 2 year warranty would be around $2600). Thanks for the info about the 1.3 stops deal, I didn't put any time into researching why they said it. I'll see what I can manage with my existing kit and then decide if I should take a more expensive wireless TTL route or not. The SB600 are discontinued, but look to be available used on places like ebay and KEH. I used the Sigma 530 DG Super on Pentax and it was generally solid too with a lot of power and FP sync (new model being the 610 Super).
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Unread 11-05-2012, 11:27 PM   #8
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I think the value of 1/250 v.s. 1/200 sync speed depends on the conditions you want to shoot in. If you want to push your limits and lighting in harsher conditions, it means a lot. It's pretty easy to make up that 1/3 stop loss in many other ways (as mentioned in OP).

However, in sticky situations, 1/3 stop more power is the key to the success of a particular lighting setup. I'll often use all of the following together to achieve a good sync speed:
1. 9 stops of ND filters
2. Double flashes up
3. Use a more direct/efficient diffuser or no diffuser
4. Use FP sync (up to say 1/400th)
5. Crank all my flashes to 1/2 or 1/1 power
6. Move the flashes closer
7. Use ISO 50
8. Close aperture down a little (say F2->F3.2 or F2.8->F4)

This makes shooting in bright light pretty reasonable and flexible. Each technique gives a stop or so advantage in really crazy light, it all adds up. I suppose you REALLY have to want a light setup to work to use 5+ techniques to get sync, heh.

Regardless of the system you choose work with, I encourage manual camera settings and manual flash settings all the time. You'll get more consistent results and have more creative flexibility. It's no small challenge, but worth it. Save the money and skip TTL.

If you can buy into a system which lets you control flash output on the fly remotely, it'll help facilitate your learning and shooting speed. Some good ones are the AC3 for PW, Nikon CLS, or trainable (free) assistant flash holders.

Each system has its caveats. I'm absolutely convinced you can use any system to get sick photos, as long as you can figure out where your system performs well and when it starts to break down.
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Unread 11-06-2012, 03:06 AM   #9
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If 1/200th is a problem, there is a chance that 1/250th would be too, so I wouldn't base myself on it to choose a camera body.
I work with manual flashes, just like a big majority of French cosplay photographers, and I'm perfectly fine with it. Sometimes it may get a couple more tries to get the photo right, but that's not much of a problem with cosplayers, who are quite patient in general. I often redo shots for other reasons anyway.
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Unread 11-06-2012, 07:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashurachan View Post
If 1/200th is a problem, there is a chance that 1/250th would be too, so I wouldn't base myself on it to choose a camera body.
Yeah, other things like ergonomics and functionality is more important. =)

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I work with manual flashes, just like a big majority of French cosplay photographers, and I'm perfectly fine with it.
Woot for manual flash!
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Unread 11-06-2012, 09:56 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SolarTempest View Post
Yeah, other things like ergonomics and functionality is more important. =)
Honestly, my experience so far suggests that Nikon is a less ergonomic than Pentax, at least this D7000 compared to the K-5. Not really enough to care about though. The Nikon has some things that I like about it more such as being taller so my pinky has somewhere to go, dual SD card slots, and a replaceable screen cover.

I would say the sync speed is an important piece of functionality, as well as maximum shutter speed, sensor format, and other somewhat technical aspects that define the unique qualities of a tool besides size and ergonomics.
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Unread 11-06-2012, 10:57 AM   #12
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The one other thing I'll say about this thread is now I want to go out and buy some pocketwizards. Too many toys!
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Unread 11-06-2012, 11:53 AM   #13
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Some thoughts:

I'd say you definitely want TTL for run-n-gun shooting such as convention hallway shots.

Lack of ETTL is one of the biggest failings of my Steampunk lighting rig (essentially a giant heavy wearable dual flash bracket). With practice and considerable awareness of my surroundings, I can often get pretty good results. At Florida Steampunk Exhibition East, where the con was in a single building, and there were light-colored ceilings and walls everywhere, I was getting pretty good results. However, at Dragon*Con where every building and room was different, I bungled many of my walkabout shots with it, and ETTL would have really helped me out.

As for the 1/3 stop of shutter speed for your sync - I wouldn't make that a deciding factor. With an ND filter and/or judicious use of an appropriate aperture, you can block as much ambient as you like and still have plenty of flash power, anywhere except in direct sunlight. you'll definitely have no problems in indoor spaces like convention hallways.

The 5DIII is rated for a 1/200 sync speed, but with my Cactus triggers 1/200 wasn't reliable, I had to slow it down to 1/160.

For my setup posed shots, I took a ton at Dragon*Con with two Yongnuo YN-560s, and had no problem killing as much ambient as I wanted to. I used a 3-stop ND for the daytime outdoor shots (the Soul Calibur set which were in a parking deck at about 2pm, and about half the Once Upon a Time set). Just carry a bunch of spare batteries and change them as necessary. My eneloops never failed me.

I've posted some in the Picture of the Day thread, first post is here but I've posted more (including some explanations and breakdowns) over the next couple pages:
http://www.cosplay.com/showthread.php?p=4508687
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Unread 11-07-2012, 05:31 PM   #14
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Once you figure out the various lighting settings for most of the locations at Dragon*Con, you can shoot full manual mode for the dSLR and flash settings. For me, most of it deals with figuring out what ISO you should shoot at for any given location, and then it's easy to adjust on the fly afterwards. It's what I do. I may blow my first couple of shots to get a feel for what I need my settings to be, but it's doable. For me eTTL never really works consistent enough for me (due to mainly over-exposure), so I rarely use it nowadays, and mainly rely of adjusting my aperture to control over-exposure when using flash in the hallways/etc if I don't want to fiddle with stops of flash power.
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