Tuesday, December 2, 2008

SB600 speedlight for a Rolleiflex

Yesterday I traded my new Nikon SB600 flash for a mint 1962 Rolleiflex T medium-format camera, a few rolls of film and some black and white chemicals.
I think I got the better deal.
The Nikon SB600 flash is a dog! Stay away from it and all its ilk!
The problem is, the flash forms part of Nikon’s fancy 3D matrix lighting system and, in order to set the exposure, it fires two flashes of light in rapid succession. The first is used by the camera system to provide the information needed for the second flash.
The system works...no doubt about that. Exposures are perfect. So what’s the problem? Nikon claims the intense flashes of light are fired so rapidly the subject will not notice. That is simply not the case.

Closed eyes

In more than half of all people I photographed while using the SB600, the subject blinked after the first flash and was captured by the second with eyes half or altogether closed. Imagine presenting a set of wedding pictures where in most images the bride is dopey-eyed!
Of course the SB600 can be used as a manual strobe and, with a simple homemade, “flash meter” that costs a few cents to make (I’ll post instructions in the future) it performs perfectly.
But being forced to use a strobe that costs in the region of R3000 (approx US$300) to do the same job as a unit you can pick up for less than a third of that price, somehow doesn’t seem right.
The simple fact is, with a digtal camera and its instant feedback, you don’t need a strobe with all the bells and whistles, unless you intend to use it as a remote unit fired by a “commander”.
A digital camera allows you to take the shot, examine it in the viewfinder and then chimp the image until it is exactly the way you want it.
The fact is, many photographic products are like fishing lures -- designed to catch fishermen rather than fish!
Save your money, learn the underlying foundations of photography so you can MAKE the images you want.
In the meantime I can’t wait to get out with one of the greatest cameras ever made and to view the silky, rich tones of a 6cm x 6cm negative that allows me to make poster-sized prints.

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