What Do You Mean " I Shouldn't Buy Another Lens...? "

on December 22, 2016

This column is nothing if not flexible. We can provide advice that bends in the middle and faces both ways at the same time...

A previous post reported a conversation with the new photographer centred around advice about buying a new Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f:1.8 G lens. That was good advice, and I stand by it firmly, and am now prepared to contradict myself. I've been watching politicians after elections and I can see how it is done.

The new photographer is using a Nikon D3300 which is a dandy camera - with a Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55 f:3.5-5.6 GII lens which is a dandy match. Her main focus will be family shots. I suspect she may get more benefit in this pursuit from another Nikon product - the SB 700 flash.

Her camera does have a pop-up flash in the prism housing, of course. It is linked to the TTL system and is capable of the measure and shoot trick that makes for perfect tiny illuminations and mild fill flash. It can do a portrait inside the house. But it is necessarily low power and equally necessarily draws electricity from the camera battery - restricting performance as it does.

The SB 700 stands outside the electricity supply of the D3300, drawing power from 4 AA batteries. I always recommend Toshiba, Panasonic, or Duracell batteries for this sort of application...and I have settled into using disposable lithium-ion AA cells for all my speedlight work. She'll have plenty of power, quick recycling times, and extra shots in the camera battery for the camera itself.

Okay, what should she do with the SB700 to start with? Fuel it up, slide it onto the hot shoe, lock it there, and turn the flash to TTL mode. Then go out and pursue the kids. The camera will operate as fast as its own AF system will permit and the flash will fire enough light to stop any actions it sees.

Note: I don't mean it will stop the kids from shaving the cat, but it will provide clear pictures of the operation for later evidence. It is hard to stymie the TTL system on a Nikon as it pre-flashes, measures, then exposes the scene. There is PLENTY of flash power for all ISO choices - I have used this same unit for big-church illumination at weddings on 800 ISO with no problem. It can cope with household spaces perfectly.

The thing is consistent. Make no mistake about the comfort that this can provide. People do not want to be sitting in front of a computer whacking the sliders to try to chase fugitive white balance. You tell a Nikon camera to shoot flash and it will agree with this SB700 for every single shot.

And the new photographer can hesitantly press in the rubber locks on the side of the flash head and gingerly tilt it up towards the ceiling and take a shot...And thenfind out more looking on the LCD screen that ever we can teach. Even better - she can pop on the diffuser that Nikon includes in the pack and see even more. I'm not going to take her through the complications of the Mag Mod Dome...I'll just leave that as my little professional advantage...

She may never get past the need for the TTL and move onto the GN settings, or the manual flash. She may never need a slave or master flash setup. But I think she will find the addition of such a sophisticated portable light to be a wonderful thing.