January 2011 Archives

I've been reading a lot of information on forums and webpages of recent action against photographers taking pictures in public places.  It seems that many security guards and police departments feel obligated to stop and even search people taking photographs in certain areas or of innocent things, like tourist attractions. Evidently, the situation is worsening. There are now websites devoted to fighting against "harassment" of innocent people taking pictures.  Some, when taking pictures, are wearing T-shirts stating things like, "I'm a photographer, not a terrorist."

As I read these various sources of information, I, too, feel a bit of aggravation toward people in power that abuse it. However, I'm trying to remain logical and reasonable about this issue. There are two sides to every story.

So far, I've only been stopped once while taking a picture from a public location.  It was by a security guard at a major chemical company.  I had stopped my car on the side of the road just outside a fence surrounding their factory. I was within a few feet of the main entrance of the factory, but blocking no one, nor causing any road hazard. The sun was setting and I wanted to take some generic pictures of back-lit smoke ascending from one of their smokestacks.  It had a cool-looking purple glow that I thought was unusual and very photogenic.

About the time I started taking pictures, a pickup truck drove up, slid to a stop, and a security guard jumped out. With a frown on his face, he asked me why I was photographing the factory.  Being that I was on a public road and taking pictures from a non-private place, I was clearly breaking no laws.  I could have simply told him to go jump in the lake and kept snapping pictures. However, I tried to put myself in his shoes. I thought to myself, "If I were a security guard, and some guy had a zoom lens taking pictures of a factory I was assigned to guard, how would I feel about it?"  This is not a religious blog, but I also remembered a bible principle that states, "An answer when mild turns away rage."  I think that applied pretty well, in this instance.

I decided to answer mildly, and said something to the effect, "I'm a professional photographer taking pictures of the sunset shining through the smoke from the stack over there."  I then showed him a couple of pictures on the camera's LCD monitor.  "Who do you represent," he asked?  I told him I work for myself as a freelance photographer, and showed him a business card.  He visibly relaxed, and told me that he was charged with protecting other people and his employer's property and took his job seriously. He wanted to make sure I wasn't someone with bad intentions. He told me to be careful not to get run over, got in his truck, and left.

Now, thinking back on that situation, I have gone over in my mind various other ways I could have handled things.  I could have reacted like some do and refused to give him any information. I could have even taunted him or questioned his authority, like some of these websites seem to recommend. Most likely, the results would have been bad.  He might have been a hot-head and punched me in the face or broken my camera. He might have called the police, telling them that there was a suspicious man taking surveillance pictures of his employer's chemical factory, with the resulting mad rush of multiple police cars and a take-down of my innocent bodies, camera and flesh.

This whole issue is a very inflammatory one. However, where there is no fuel, the fire goes out. Most of the time, people in real or imagined positions of authority will respond with kindness when treated with kindness.  There are surely proper times to "stand up for our rights" and push issues to the extreme.  However, while photographing a picture of a tourist attraction or purple smoke is fun, and could even be profitable, it certainly isn't worth a punch in the face, broken camera, or police record. I'm not saying that we shouldn't stand up for our rights as photographers.  I'm merely opining that there are better ways to handle it than challenging the authority of another person simply doing his job.  Many people don't react well to direct challenges, as evidenced by some of the photographers I read about.

In 99.9% of the cases mentioned in the links I provided above, all the photographer needed to do was answer the simple question of why he/she is taking pictures.  Is that such a big deal?  Does a question like that require a photographer to go sullen and refuse to treat another person with respect.  I think not!  There are always special cases and circumstances where this may not apply.  However, in the majority of cases, allowing the security guard or officer to "feel important" by responding to them in a reasonable way, is quite disarming.  No one wins an argument!

I'm not saying that we should let angry people walk all over us, take our personal property, or force us to delete perfectly legal pictures.  I'm merely saying that there are better ways to handle the majority of these confrontations than getting into a fruitless argument with the authority figure.  Simply stating your reason for being there, displaying a few pictures, and showing a business card or press pass will usually completely disarm the tension.  In most cases, you'll be able to go right on taking pictures after assuring the person that you are not a pervert or terrorist.  In other cases, maybe the confrontation is simply not worth it, and one could move on, coming back at a different time for the pictures.  We, as photographers, can make phone calls to authorities if our rights are being violated, and usually will get support from them.

In a world so full of violence, terrorism, and anger we must realize that the government, police, and even security guards are under a lot of pressure, just like we are. So, the next time a person feels threatened by your perfectly legal photograph making, simply be kind, and most of the time kindness will be returned.  Acting like a jerk merely causes the authority figure to reciprocate.  Remember the title of this article, "Most Photographers Aren't Terrorists, but Some Terrorists are Photographers." This is a real fact in today's world! Sullenly refusing to answer perfectly reasonable questions is awfully suspicious. How would you react if one of your kids or spouse did that? 

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
A ball head is a ball head -- right? I used to think so! I've always had the attitude that it really doesn't matter what ball head you use, since all it does is clamp the camera in the position you want. I figured any ball head that was big enough to handle the weight was good and all that really matters is the price. 
Well, I come before you today with a different attitude. As the old song says, “I've seen the light!” Until I actually used a pro-level ball head I simply didn't know what I was missing. I'm just glad I never wrote any articles about less-than-professional ball heads because I'd have to take them back.

Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion. Back in 2006 I was enjoying a nice photographic day in the Great Smoky Mountains. A couple of Nikonians and I were running around the Smokies bringing home lots of great early summer images. I stopped at a nice overlook on the Foothills Parkway West and got a few shots. I realized that the heavy workload of taking images had made me hungry so we stopped to consume a few sandwiches. I leaned my Bogen® 3021B Pro tripod with its massive 488RC2 ball head up against the back of my Jeep while we ate. That's the last I ever saw of it! 
Somehow, when we got in the Jeep and headed down the road, my tripod was no longer with me. Whether it was stolen or simply left behind, I cannot tell. We drove to a different part of the Smokies before I got out to take another shot and discovered that my dear tripod was gone. Back we went in search of it, but, no joy. I had no tripod, in the middle of the day, in the most beautiful spot on earth. 
Somehow I got through the day, and on the way back home I stopped at the local super-store and bought for myself a deluxe, crank-the-handle-for-maximum-height, $29.00 USD genuine plastic and metal tripod. I was set for the next trip!
That evening, I was sitting at home feeling particularly sorry for myself for losing my $250.00 USD tripod and ball head. I was Skyping with a certain famous Señior Palacios of Nikonians.org about my tragedy and he was very sympathetic. In fact, he told me he was going to send me a nice Markins M10 Ball head to test, and that we could make arrangements later about purchase if I liked it. Since I was currently almost tripod-less (still had the plastic and metal crank unit), I agreed that it was probably a good idea. A few days later the UPS man drove into my driveway with a box from a certain Nikonians Pro Shop. Within a short period of time, my photographic life changed. 
I opened that small box expecting “just another ball head” only to find that I had never truly ever seen a real ball head before. Every ball head I had used before that moment paled into insignificance. I had never spent over $100 USD for a ball head and had no idea what a few more dollars would bring to my photographic life. The first thing I noticed was the highly refined finish on the ball head. “This Markins M10 is clearly made to last,” I thought. Looking it over, I saw a thing or two that I had never seen before, and other things that were simply better than anything I had ever seen before. 
I am now going to attempt to express my enthusiasm for this Markins M-Series Q-Ball head. I'll discuss the various features I found important and tell you how I used the head during Nikonians ANPAT 2006 to bring home some of the best images of my life. 
I'll use a Markins M10 ball head as a reference point in this article, but remember that theMarkins M20 is also available for a few extra dollars. It does everything the M10 does, plus allows monster telephoto lenses.

Look, Feel, Weight, and Support 

The Markins M10 is a smaller ball head than you would expect. It is no weakling however. In fact, for its size it supports more weight than many other heads in its class. The smaller size means that your very light carbon-fiber tripod will not feel top heavy like with some of the other big fat heads that support less weight. 

The Markins has a unique patented “bi-axial locking mechanism” that allows it to be smaller and lighter, yet support more weight. In fact, the weight to load ratio is 80:1, which means the Markins will support eighty times more weight than it itself weighs.

The M10/20 uses the industry standard Arca Swiss style dove-tail plates, so you'll never have problems finding extra plates for them. I bought four Markins plates for my M10; one for the D2X, D200, D300S and my larger Nikkor 80-400mm lens. 
You'll want to get a plate for each camera body and any lenses with collars, since they're designed to attach semi-permanently. 
Other tripod heads I've used in the past were simply too tall. Some of the squeeze type heads can be so tall that you can't fully extend the legs of the tripod and still look through the camera viewfinder. The Markins M10 is not overly tall at 3.9 inches (98mm). I am slightly less than six feet tall (1.83 meters), and I can comfortably extend my tripod to full height and still see through the camera viewfinder. 
Some low cost ball heads have an oily or greasy substance smeared on the ball, and since your hands are always touching the area you will invariably get the grease on your hands. This substance always seems to attract dust too. 
Fortunately, the Markins ball heads do not have any oil or grease on the ball. The Markins is designed to be used in a wide range of weather conditions and will not attract a lot of dust to the ball area. It is basically a “maintenance free” head. You'll be able to use it for years without worrying about oiling the thing. Just clean it every once in a while with a dry rag, and you are ready to go.

Why the Markins Ball Head Tension System?

Of all the features found on the Markins Q-Ball heads, the tensioning system alone makes the heads well worth their cost. It is vastly superior to any other ball head I've ever used and makes the use of the head much more flexible and fast. 
On my previous ball heads, I would use my left hand to control the tension knob while using my right hand to position the camera at the best angle for the image. When I was done with one picture, I'd loosen the tension knob and hold on to my camera carefully until I had it positioned for the next image, then retighten the tension knob. For obvious reasons, I had to be very careful not to let go of the camera at any time the tension knob was loose. 
I was perfectly happy with that process, since it was simple and fast enough. However, once I used the Markins tensioning system, I was a changed man. 
I discovered a principle that I later discovered was called the “sweet spot.” What is a sweet spot, you ask? Well, let me rave a little about it!
With the Markins, instead of moving my camera with one hand, clamping with the other, and hoping I didn't forget to hang on to the camera while the tension is loose, all I had to do was tighten the ball head until the tension allowed me to move the camera at will and then go shoot. 
In other words, I found I could set the ball head tension so that it kept my camera from moving, but I could then just reach up and move the camera to a new position without touching the tension knob. What a concept!

The “sweet spot” is the place where the tension on the ball clamp exactly equals the mass of the camera so that it does not move. Without touching the tension knob I could use one hand to move the camera to any position I'd like. 
No more was I a slave to the tension knob. No longer did I have to worry about my camera flopping over forward because I had not set the tension correctly. I simply put my camera on the ball head, set the tension so that it would still move without flopping, and then go shoot pictures. I would not have to touch that tension knob again unless I put a much heavier lens on the camera and needed to adjust for the extra weight. 
To me this was a revelation. I had tried tripod heads of all sorts for years and never really been happy with any of them. I've had heads with so many positioning knobs that I'd have trouble remembering what they all did. I've used heads with all sorts of squeeze-and-position ideas too. None of them ever satisfied that inner desire for a simple head that was easy to use but very flexible. 
I almost found tripod head happiness with a standard ball head, but was aggravated with how the camera flopped around so easily if I did not get the tension just right on the ball clamp. It only took me a few minutes with the Markins M10 to realize that I had honestly found what I had been looking for in tripod heads. To me it is the ultimate ball head!

How Does the Tension System Work or, How Do I Find the Sweet Spot?

It is a very simple system requiring only a thumb. Huh? That's right, you do need to have at least one thumb to use a Markins M series ball head. Well, If you have no thumbs, you could simply use a fingernail to set a special “ friction limit control dial ” (tension lock) on the side of the “ progressive friction control knob ” (main tension knob).
After you select your camera and lens combo for your shooting session, you'll mount the camera on the ball head. Then, just like with a cheaper ball head, you'll then hold your camera with one hand, and tighten the tension knob with the other.

The only difference is that you do not set the tension knob so tightly that the camera cannot move. You only tighten it up enough so that the camera does not flop over in any direction. Then you turn the little tension lock with your fingernail or thumb clockwise until it stops. (see Figure 1) At this point, your camera will move to any position the ball head allows, without creeping or flopping around. 
When you are done with a shot, you don't have to do anything except move the camera to a new position for the next spot. You've got the sweet spot set for that camera lens combo. That's all there is to it! 
One nice thing about the tension lock that also takes away a measure of aggravation is that, once you have it set, you cannot loosen the ball head enough to make the camera flop over. You can loosen it enough to let it creep under its own weight, but not flop with catastrophic results. This is a marvelous protection for your expensive camera and lens and takes away the most difficult part of using a ball head. No more too loose settings. 
Later, if you decide to use a bigger camera body, or a much heavier lens, you'll need to readjust the tension ball and lock. First you'll use your thumb or nail to release the lock in a counterclockwise direction. Then you'll reset the tension on the main knob to match the weight of the new camera lens combo, and then you'll turn the tension knob lock back clockwise until it stops. Another sweet spot located! 
This is a really simple system of adjustments. It takes all of two minutes to learn how to use. I cannot begin to tell you how much time it saves, and how much faster you can use your camera with this Markins Q-Ball head.

Which Markins® Q-Ball head Should I Consider Buying?

I use a Markins M10 ball head myself, because my biggest lens currently is the AF Nikkor 80-400mm VR. (see picture on right) If you have a larger camera, like the D2/D3, and use a big lens like the 300mm f/2.8 or larger Nikkor, you might want to consider theMarkins M20 instead.
It is not so much a matter of weight, since the M10 will support up to 88 pounds (40 kg) and I don't think many of us have a camera or lens that weighs that much. The problem is that the tension required for a very heavy camera lens combo makes it harder to find a smooth sweet spot that does not allow creeping. The heavier weight of the large lenses causes such a tight tension to be set to prevent movement, that it is hard to move the camera as smoothly without loosening the knob. 
From my experience with the D2X camera and the medium sized 80-400mm Nikkor, the M10 works just fine. If you are using anything smaller than a D2X, like a D300S, D7000, D90 or comparable camera, and normal lenses, you will not need anything bigger than the M10. The only time I'd consider the M20 is if you have a D2/D3 camera and a really big fast telephoto lens. Or, you might just like to own the M20 in case you ever buy a big lens and camera in the future. That is a consideration because I can't imagine wearing out one of the Markins ball heads in a lifetime or two of use.

Camera and Lens Plates

Another feature of the Markins system that I really appreciate is the design of the camera and lens attachment plates. 

Since the Markins heads have the sweet spot feature, you'll find yourself moving the camera around a lot. There is a little bit of torque involved in moving the camera so the plates are designed to wrap around the body to prevent unscrewing themselves when you move the camera. 
How often in the past have you moved your camera on another type of tripod head and had the blasted plate turn on the bottom of the camera? Then you have to remove the camera from the tripod and over-tighten the plate to keep it from coming loose again. This is not good for your camera since all that extra tension of over-tightening the mounting plate is pulling against the threads in the camera's bottom side. It is only a matter of time until something breaks. 
The Markins plates solve that problem by extending the plate with a lip or flange around the bottom of the camera in at least one, and often two directions, so that they are securely fastened and will not rotate loose when moving the camera. 
Using the other ball heads, I have often left my plate on the bottom of the camera, but it was an aggravation because they were thick and caused the camera to not sit on its bottom very well. That can't be avoided completely, but the Markins plates are much nicer in that respect. They are very thin plates and fasten to the bottom of your camera or lens with an Allen head screw. They are very attractive looking and blend in well with the camera body. If anything, they add to the coolness of the camera with their distinctive look. 
Everything about the Markins ball head system speaks quality! When someone sees this ball head and camera plates, along with your Nikon and Nikkors, they'll know without a doubt that you are a serious photographer.

Panorama System

Many of us like to experiment with panorama imaging. The Markins ball heads have a very smooth panorama control on the bottom of the tripod.

There is a small lock knob for the pano system just below and to the right of the main ball head tension knob. When you loosen the knob, the entire head will turn in a full circle. I don't know how they accomplished it, but it has a very smooth, almost fluid-like feel to it. It is not dampened like with a fluid head, but is super smooth in the way it turns. 
The pano system is marked in degrees so that you can accurately make a turn to a particular degree mark. You might start at 0 degrees, and then turn to 30 degrees, then to 60 degrees, then to 90. At each point you can take a picture that overlaps the last and next one, so that you can use computer software to connect or “stitch” the images together into one long panorama image.

You could get really technical about it and learn how to find the nodal point of your lens and then use a sliding plate that allows moving the center of rotation directly under the nodal point. Then you can make undistorted rotations. Or, you could just put your camera on the Markins, loosen the pano lock knob, and take a series of overlapping pictures without worrying about the technical aspect. 

Either way, with the Markins panorama features, you can get the images you want. You can just have some fun or get really serious about panoramas. The important thing is, you'll need a head with pano features to even attempt panoramas. The Markins Q-Ball design does the job exceedingly well. 

My Conclusions

During the ANPAT 2006 I used the Markins M10 for seven days of exciting shooting action. In fact, of the 25 Nikonians on the ANPAT, 20 of them were using Markins heads. I find that to be a telling number. Why do so many Nikonians use Markins ball heads? 

I can only speak for myself and I'll tell you what I think. One very cold morning on top of the Smoky Mountains at Newfound Gap, we were shooting a sunrise. It was about 6:45 AM, very dark, and 17 degrees F with the wind blowing small icy particles. Needless to say all the Nikonians surrounding me were at least double their normal size from the layers of clothing. I had on a pair of gloves that would have made it very difficult to use any tripod head. However, with the Markins, I was set to go. 

Before I headed up the mountain, while still in the warmth of the motel room, I set my tripod up with the camera and lens I was going to use. I put the D2X and 80-400mm lens on the Markins, set the sweet spot, then removed the camera and packed everything up. When I arrived at the top of the cold dark mountain, I simply unpacked my tripod and camera, attached it to the Markins, and I was ready to go. I could simply reach out and move the camera to whatever position I needed to get the shot. I didn't have to touch the tension knob. I just grabbed the camera and moved it. Even in extreme cold the Markins performed like the professional ball head it is. I got the shots I wanted!

Later I took the Markins over to the Tremont area and returned that evening with some of the best shots I have personally ever taken. It might have had something to do with the fact that I was surrounded by world-class Nikonian photographers that I could imitate, but I came away from that ANPAT with images that make me very happy. The Markins was part of an overall photographic system that performed flawlessly in all of the conditions I found myself in. 
Does it take a Markins to get images like this one? Maybe not, but, it sure helps when you don't have to think about fiddling around with your tripod ball head. When you can just set it for the lens you are using and then shoot, it makes images like this one come easier than ever. 
Do I like my Markins? Yes! Could I ever go back to a cheap ball head? No way! I use Nikon cameras, Nikkor and Sigma EX Pro lenses, and now Markins ball heads. What's in your bag? If you don't have a Markins, ask yourself, “Why not?” They're not overly expensive. You use professional camera equipment, why not a professional ball head.

The Markins® M10 certainly changed my mind on why I need a pro-level head. Get one to try out and see if it you don't see the light in new ways too!

Update: The Markins M10 was replaced with the Markins Q10. In reading about the newer Q10 the only real differences I see are the newly designed lever-release head on the Q10 and a somewhat higher strength rating. The M10 was already one of the strongest ball heads in its class with the ability to support 88 pounds (80:1 ratio). The new Q10 is rated to support 100 pounds (92:1 ratio). Either ball head will give you one of the best tripod experiences you can find out there. I recommend Markins from years of personal experience.

Keep on capturing time…
Darrell Young 
The other day I read somewhere about an amazing new type of image sensor that's available now. We'll see how many camera companies start using it.

What is different about this sensor?  They take special small crystals of some light sensitive grains and put them in a layered acetate base containing a built in color filtration system. The really cool thing about this new sensor is that it replaces itself on each shot, so there's no need to worry about dust spots.

The new camera that uses them actually takes a roll of the sensors and moves them across the focal plane with each shot.  It is sooo cool, because they devote one whole sensor to each image. Talk about luxury. But wait, there's more! With these sensors, there is no blur filter, so sharpness is a given.

Each of the sensors contain about 25-100 megapixels. Plus, since the sensors are loadable, the new camera bodies are much less costly to build, and last longer. I hear they have no heat buildup AMP noise at all.

And, finally, the best thing about the new sensors is that each one of them is Full-Frame (FF) so your older lenses work like they used to.  No more cropped sensor views.

I was completely amazed to hear that the sensor replacement rolls would sell for something like $14 USD. I can't understand how they could cram this much technology into such a small place.

They guy that invented this new sensor technology is a real genius. Do you think it will catch on?

Keep on capturing time...
Digital Darrell

Nikon makes several Speedlight units that work very well with your Nikon DSLR camera. I have used the SB-400, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, and SB-900 Speedlights extensively. There are also the R1C1 flash units (SB-R200), which are designed to be used in small groups, such as for a ring-light arrangement.

Let’s consider each of the current Nikon Speedlights, along with basic information on the unit’s guide number, lens coverage, and how to view detailed specification information on Nikon’s website.

Nikon SB-900 Speedlight

I really enjoy using the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight unit. It is very powerful and easy to use in the CLS arrangement because it has external controls for setting remote mode. It can also be used as a CLS commander when needed.

The SB-900 is now Nikon’s flagship Speedlight. It has adjustable beam width that goes wider and farther than most of the flash units. It has a big, detachable diffuser that really helps control hotspots and contrast. Plus, it has an included filter system that communicates with the flash unit.

The Nikon SB-900 Speedlight – Nikon's Flagship Flash Unit
The controls and menus on the SB-900 are very easy to use; much easier than the previous flagship flash, the SB-800. One perceived drawback: The SB-900 unit is such a powerhouse that it can overheat if fired rapidly, caused by allowing the batteries to get hot from heavy current drain. For that reason it has a built-in temperature sensor that will prevent the flash from being fired when it gets too hot. This sensor can be enabled/disabled in the camera’s menu. Many photographers leave it disabled so that the flash will not shut off when hot. That could be a problem in events like a wedding. Of course, if you shoot so hard and fast that your flash unit bursts into flames, I suspect that the warranty will be void!

So far, my use of the flash has not caused it to get too hot, and I’ve shot all sorts of events, so this may not be a real problem for most. There is a firmware upgrade that addresses this issue to some degree. However, some have chosen to seek out the older flagship SB-800, which does not suffer from this percieved issue.

I have both flash units and like them both very well. I use the SB-900 now more than the SB-800 because I love the extra reach the narrow beam width gives me, and I shoot a lot of wide angle group shots. The extra-wide zoom position the SB-900 provides really makes a difference. Plus, I love that big white diffuser!

Official SB-900 Guide Number Information

  • 34m/111.5ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48m/157.5ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-900 Lens Coverage

  • 17 to 200mm (FX-format, Automatic mode) 
  • 12 to 200mm (DX-format, Automatic mode) 
  • 12 to 17mm (FX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed) 
  • 8 to 11mm (DX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • Wireless Commander Mode offers wireless control at the master Speedlight position, controlling up to 3 remote Speedlight groups and an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights. 
  • Four wireless channel options help manage wireless conflicts in multi-photographer environments.

Nikon Official SB-900 Website Address

Nikon SB-800 Speedlight

The SB-800 Speedlight unit is similar in power to the SB-900 and has the ability to be a CLS commander too. The SB-800’s controls are more difficult to adjust than the SB-900’s controls because the settings are buried in menus. I’ve used these successfully for several years.

The SB-800 Speedlight – Nikon's Previous Flagship Flash Unit
The SB-800 is out of production but still in very high demand due to the perceived heating issue with the SB-900. You can sometimes buy them as new old stock on Amazon.com or eBay, but be prepared to pay a large amount of money. As this book was going to print, I saw a new old stock SB-800 on Amazon.com for over $850. Will the SB-700 or SB-900 replace the desire many have for the SB-800?  Time will tell!

Official SB-800 Guide Number Information

  • 38m/125ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F) to 53m/174ft. (at ISO 100 and 105mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-800 Lens Coverage

  • 24 to 105mm (Automatic mode)
  • 14 to 17mm (Automatic mode, with built-in wide flash adapter (14mm with SW-10H Diffusion Dome)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • Control as many as 3 remote groups (A, B and C) of an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights with the SB-800's wireless Commander mode.

Nikon Official SB-800 Website Address

Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

The SB-700 is one of Nikon’s latest Speedlight units, having been released after the SB-900. It seems destined to replace the lower-cost SB-600. It has a built-in wireless commander mode, allowing it to be a controller in the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS).

The SB-700 Speedlight
The unit has a nice zoom range on its flash head, reaching out to the coverage of a 120mm lens. It also covers the wide end well, with the equivalent coverage of a 14mm in DX format, and a 24mm in FX. It’s quite a desirable flash unit for its power level and lower cost over the SB-900. The external controls on the flash make it significantly easier to use than its cousin the SB-600, which has many functions buried in menus.  Consider this flash if you are on a budget, yet need excellent power and coverage.

Official SB-700 Guide Number Information

  • 28m/92ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 39m/128ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-700 Lens Coverage

  • 24 to 120mm (FX-Format)
  • 14-120mm (DX-format)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • Wireless Commander Mode controls up to 2 remote Speedlight groups and an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights. When used as a remote speedlight up to 3 Groups can be selected. 
  • Four wireless channel options help manage wireless conflicts in multi-photographer environments.

Nikon Official SB-700 Website Address

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight

The Nikon SB-600 Speedlight unit is the low-cost flash for users on a budget. It is only about one stop less powerful than the SB-900 or SB-800 unit and costs considerably less.

The Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
Buying several of these won’t set you back much and will allow you to set up a great CLS system with your D7000. If you are just getting started in CLS, these might be your best investment. The SB-600 does not have a built-in Commander mode itself, like the SB-700, SB-800, and SB-900, but you don’t need it since your D7000 does.

Hurry though, if you plan to buy one or more SB-600 units; the SB-600 will probably be phased out now that the SB-700 is on the market.

Official SB-600 Guide Number Information

  • 30m/98ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F) to 42m/138ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom-head position, at 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-600 Lens Coverage

  • 24 to 85mm (Automatic mode)
  • 14mm to 85mm (Manual Mode, with built-in wide-flash adapter)
  • 24mm to 85mm (Manual Mode)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • None – but does have a remote (slave) mode for use in groups under Nikon CLS control.

Nikon Official SB-600 Website Address

Nikon SB-400 Speedlight

The SB-400 is Nikon’s answer to those who need an economical—yet quite powerful—stand-alone flash unit.  Its small size belies its impressive reach and power.  I often use my Nikon D7000 as a backup camera during event shooting. I find that this little SB-400 and the D7000’s AUTO exposure mode will give me excellent images without thinking about exposure. What else can one ask from a camera/flash combo in fast shooting conditions?

The Nikon SB-400 Speedlight
I’ve shot several weddings with the SB-400 on the D7000, as a backup camera and flash combo, and this little baby is a firecracker. Why buy some aftermarket flash unit, when you can own a genuine Nikon for about US$120. While not a contender for using within the Nikon CLS system, due to its lack of CLS compatibility, the SB-400 is a great standalone flash with plenty of power for a reasonable price!

Official SB-400 Guide Number Information

  • 21m/69ft. (at ISO 100, 18mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F) to 30m/98.4ft. (at ISO 200, 18mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-400 Lens Coverage

  • As wide as 18mm on Nikon DX-format digital SLR cameras and 27mm on FX format.

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • None (no remote mode either). This is a stand-alone flash unit not to be used in groups.

Nikon Official SB-400 Website Address

Nikon SB-R200 Speedlight

Then there are the SB-R200 Speedlight units. These are primarily designed to use in special arrangements on brackets that Nikon created for them. These flash units are not really designed for use in a camera’s Accessory shoe. Instead, they have a special foot made to mount to special brackets, as shown in the picture of the Nikon D7000 with the SX-1 circular bracket mounted to the lens’s front with two SB-R200 flashes.

The Nikon SB-R200 Speedlight and D7000 with the SX-1 ring bracket
You’ll see these Speedlights in use if you watch many crime dramas on TV because the investigators often use them for close-up flashes of crime scene evidence. They are normally used in a group arrangement, including special mounting brackets, with a Nikon SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander Unit. The SU-800 is discussed next.

Official SB-R200 Guide Number Information

  • 10m/33ft. (at ISO 100) to 14m/46ft. (at ISO 200)

Official SB-R200 Lens Coverage

  • 24mm; 60° (vertical) and 78° (horizontal)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS 

  • None – but does have a remote (slave) mode for use in groups under Nikon CLS control.

Nikon Official SB-R200 Website Address

Nikon SU-800 Wireless Commander Unit

While not a Speedlight flash, I wanted to show you the Nikon SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander Unit (see figure 4E). This unit can be used when you need extra range or need to control more than two banks of flash units—it can control three.  The SU-800 can control slave flash units up to 66 feet away, where most Speedlights with a Commander mode can only control out to 33 feet.

The Nikon SU-800 Wireless Commander Unit
It uses wireless infrared signals to control the flash banks. It is mounted onto the Accessory shoe of your camera, thereby precluding the use of the built-in flash.

Official Nikon Key Features

  • Functions as a wireless commander for the SB-R200, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700 and SB-600 Speedlight units.
  • Controls an unlimited number of Speedlights for up to three groups.
  • Provides wireless control up to 66 feet.
  • Offers 4 independent channels for competitive shooting environments.
  • Built-in AF assists illuminator for critical focus in low-light situations.

Nikon Official SU-800 Website Address

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

Evolution Of The Revolutionary: The Nikon D7000 D-SLR Is The Preeminent Digital Camera For Demanding Photo Enthusiasts The D7000 Offers Creative Freedom with Advanced Features Such as a New 16.2-Megapixel DX-Format CMOS Sensor, Six FPS Shooting, 39-Point AF System and 1080p HD Movie with Full Time Autofocus

MELVILLE, NY (September 15, 2010)
 – Nikon Inc. today introduced the new D7000 digital SLR camera designed to fulfill the needs of passionate photographers who demand exceptional performance, reliability, and unprecedented levels of control and versatility in a compact form factor. Engineered as an ideal balance of durability and functionality, the D7000 D-SLR features a multitude of new enhancements and updated Nikon technologies, which results in stunning photos and amazing full HD (High Definition) movies.

Continuing the tradition of innovative technology that began with the revolutionary D90, the first D-SLR to capture HD movie, the D7000 features a new 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with low-light ability never before seen in a DX-format (APS-C) camera. The new EXPEED 2 TM image-processing engine fuels the enhanced performance of the D7000 along with a new 39-point AF system and groundbreaking new 2,016 pixel RGB 3D Matrix Metering System to deliver amazing image quality in a variety of shooting conditions. Additionally, the D7000 D-SLR provides full 1080p HD movie capability with full-time auto focus (AF), enabling users to capture their world with both striking still and moving images.

“The D7000 D-SLR creates a new class of Nikon camera by delivering exceptional quality, control and an innovative feature set; this is a camera that enables D-SLR users to achieve a true expression of their creative vision, while concentrating primarily on image quality above all else,” said Lisa Osorio, general manager of marketing at Nikon Inc. “When you combine the innovation of the agile D7000 with the exceptional and robust line of NIKKOR lenses and accessories, the potential for D-SLR photographers and filmmakers is limitless.”

Unparalleled Performance From Unrivaled Technologies
With its new 16.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and Nikon’s new EXPEED 2 image processing system, the D7000 D-SLR delivers superior image quality with low noise. The EXPEED 2 image-processing engine combined with a 14-bit Analog / Digital conversion brings a new level of even tonal gradations while managing color, contrast, exposure, and noise resulting in brilliant image quality. EXPEED 2 also manages the D7000’s speedy 50-millisecond shutter response, blazing AF speed and rapid six frame-per-second (fps) burst speed for up to 100 images.

The D7000 D-SLR features an all-new 39-point AF System, which includes nine center cross-type sensors that operate with more than 60 NIKKOR lenses. The 39 points in the new Multi-CAM 4800DX AF module work together to provide superior subject acquisition and fast tracking capabilities, allowing photographers to confidently capture a player stealing third from the sideline to fast-moving wildlife. Additionally, photographers can activate dynamic or single point AF, configurable in combinations of 9, 21 or 39 or a 21-point ring to match a variety of shooting styles and situations. Photographers can activate 3D tracking, which continuously follows moving subjects within the 39 AF points, highlighting the activated AF point in the viewfinder.

Utilizing Nikon’s exclusive Scene Recognition System, the camera analyzes subject information from a database containing more than 30,000 images to optimize focus, exposure and white balance. To assist in creating amazing imagery, the Scene Recognition System reads data from a groundbreaking 2,016-pixel 3D Color Matrix Meter RGB sensor that examines the scene’s brightness and color data then optimizes the camera’s performance prior to the actual exposure. Another revolutionary Nikon first, this system interprets scene data for improved control of light metering and i-TTL flash output. Additionally this new sensor allows for a new “Ambient” white balance setting which can be activated to allow warm rendering in Automatic White Balance.

Nikon Continues the Low-Light Fight
The D7000 D-SLR continues Nikon’s tradition of providing photographers the confidence to shoot in low-light, knowing they will capture high quality low-noise images. The camera’s native ISO range of 100-6400 affords the versatility to photograph in challenging lighting conditions, such as when indoors or in the evening. The ISO range can be expanded to a Hi-2 setting of 25,600, which was previously found only in Nikon FX-format territory. The resolution of the camera renders a pixel size of 4.78 µm, which allows more light to be gathered, resulting in a correctly exposed image that has less noise and finer grain.

Full 1080p HD Movies with Advanced Video Features
Building upon the popular D90 D-SLR, the Nikon D7000 captures breathtaking full 1080p HD movies with full-time autofocus and manual exposure control. To keep critical HD focus, users can choose to engage a variety of AF functions, including face priority to track up to 35 human faces, subject-tracking and normal or wide-area autofocus.

Advanced movie features also allow exposure adjustment on the fly while recording. The D7000 D-SLR offers variable frame rates and resolutions, and can record 1080p at a cinema-like 24 fps, or a web-friendly 720p at either 24 or 30 fps for up to 20 minutes per clip. Once recorded, users are able to edit and trim video clips in the camera to save time in post production. Whether utilizing a wireless or hot shoe mounted microphone, sound can be recorded via the stereo microphone input for professional audio results.
To further simplify movie shooting, Live View is activated by a single dedicated switch, and HD video recording is achieved by pressing a single button. The D7000 D-SLR also incorporates a built-in HDMI output CEC compliant (Consumer Electronic Control) that allows users to connect it to a HDTV and playback with most HDTV remote controls.

By adding versatile NIKKOR lenses to the equation, photographers can create a variety of photo perspectives to video such as isolating subjects with a shallow depth of field, and recording in low-light conditions. Combining the D7000 D-SLR with NIKKOR lenses also delivers the sharpness essential for HD video, and Nikon’s innovative Vibration Reduction (VR) II technology helps to eliminate the effects of camera shake.

No Compromise: Enhanced Build Quality, Durability and Usability
The compact design is lightweight enough for a full days use, but has a reassuring heft that hints at Nikon’s reputation for reliability. The durable camera body consists of a magnesium-alloy top and rear covers and a 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system. Additionally, the D7000 D-SLR is dust and moisture sealed and features Nikon’s dust reduction system to remove image-degrading particles from the image sensor. Among the well laid out ergonomics, users will immediately notice a new Mode Dial that eschews traditional Scene Mode icons for more advanced manual functions and two user-defined settings (U1, U2) to adapt to a users shooting style on the fly. Placed under the control wheel is a Release Mode dial, which allows access the burst modes, timer, or the Quiet Shutter, to soften the cameras operation when shooting in sensitive environments such as a ceremonies or nature.

When framing lush landscapes or tight telephoto shots from afar, users will appreciate the large, bright glass pentaprism optical viewfinder has approximately 100% frame coverage and approximately 0.94x magnification. The three-inch, 921,000-dot super-density LCD monitor with 170-degree viewing delivers bright, crisp image playback and precise Live View and movie shooting.

The D7000 D-SLR features twin SD card slots with SD, SDHC, SDXC memory card compatibility that offers several recording options including designating separate NEF (RAW) JPEG and movie files. The built-in i-TTL Speedlight flash offers coverage for lenses as wide as 16mm and has Wireless Commander support so users can choose how to light their subjects. The D7000 was designed to provide maximum performance with minimized power usage and also employs a new EN-EL15 battery which enables up to 1050 shots when fully charged.

Nikon Technologies That Empower and Inspire
The D7000 D-SLR contains many features aimed at empowering the user with creative freedom including the ability to process RAW images directly in the camera, and add in special effects using the retouch menu. Among the many editing options are color filters, distortion control for a fisheye effect, perspective control for a miniature effect, or a new color sketch filter that creates a sketch-styled image. As always, manipulated images are saved as copies while the original is retained.

The Picture Control system also allows the choice for Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, or Landscape settings to apply a personal look and feel to their pictures, and it’s versatile Scene Modes let them choose from Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up or Night Portrait for stunning results even in challenging conditions.

Price and Availability
The D7000 D-SLR camera will be available throughout the United States beginning mid-October 2010 at an MSRP* of $1199.95 for body only and $1499.95 for body and lens outfit that includes the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. For more information, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

*MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.
The New Nikon D3100 D-SLR Empowers And Inspires Users As The Simple Solution To Stunning Pictures And Amazing HD Video
Enhanced Guide Mode and the Ability to Shoot 1080p High Definition (HD) Video with Full Time Auto Focus Allow Users to Capture with Confidence
MELVILLE, NY (August 19, 2010) – The new Nikon D3100 digital SLR camera speaks to the growing ranks of enthusiastic D-SLR users and aspiring photographers by providing an easy-to-use and affordable entrance to the world of Nikon D-SLR’s. The 14.2-megapixel D3100 has powerful features, such as the enhanced Guide Mode that makes it easy to unleash creative potential and capture memories with still images and full HD video. Like having a personal photo tutor at your fingertips, this unique feature provides a simple graphical interface on the camera’s LCD that guides users by suggesting and/or adjusting camera settings to achieve the desired end result images. The D3100 is also the world’s first D-SLR to introduce full time auto focus (AF) in Live View and D-Movie mode to effortlessly achieve the critical focus needed when shooting Full HD 1080p video.

Packed into the compact and lightweight body of the D3100 camera is a host of advanced Nikon technologies, such as the new EXPEED 2TM image processing engine. EXPEED 2TM in conjunction with Nikon’s new 14.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor is the driving force behind the enhanced performance and rich image quality. Ready to go wherever life leads, the D3100 features split-second shutter response and a blazing fast 11-point AF system to help ensure tack-sharp images. For shooting in challenging lighting conditions, ISO 3200 (expandable to 12,800) enables versatility in environments such as indoors or in the evening hours.

“People are stepping up to digital SLR cameras – consumers are embracing the enhanced performance, amazing image quality and options for lenses and accessories that only a D-SLR can provide,” said Lisa Osorio, general manager of marketing at Nikon Inc. “The D3100 is a camera that makes it easy to take beautiful pictures and will grow with the user, unlocking their potential and assisting in creating lasting memories or amazing art.“

D3100_18_55_front.jpgGet Inspired With The Guide Mode

Whether new to D-SLR photography or exploring new shooting techniques, the D3100 features an enhanced Guide Mode with an easy-to-use interface to help customers build confidence in using their D-SLR through on-demand, step-by-step assistance. A stand out feature in the D3100’s predecessor, the D3000, the Guide Mode is easily accessed through the Mode Dial on the top of the camera. This enhanced help function now features sample assist images that change with camera settings to inspire consumers to achieve a desired look and feel to their images, while guiding through easy to understand photographic techniques. For example, to instill the majestic appearance of moving water, users can select “show water flowing” from the Guide Mode, and simply follow the prompts to create the ideal camera settings to capture an amazing image.

By following the guidance on the bright 3-inch LCD screen, users can achieve professional looking photographs to be proud of. Whether looking to soften backgrounds, freeze a moment in time or convey motion, the Guide Mode assists users in exploring effective picture taking solutions at their own pace to make capturing great pictures even easier and enjoyable.

Full HD Video Made Easy with D-Movie

The Nikon D3100 D-SLR allows users to capture stunning Full HD, 1080p resolution (1920x1080) movies. Users can record cinematic quality 24p video clips, or shoot at 24 or 30 frames-per-second at 720p, ideal for sharing online. By incorporating versatile NIKKOR lenses to the equation, users can now create a variety of photography effects to video such as isolating subjects with a shallow depth of field, and recording in low light conditions. NIKKOR lenses also deliver the sharpness needed for HD video, and Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II technology helps to eliminate camera shake.

While Nikon pioneered HD video in a D-SLR, Nikon is now introducing another industry first to enrich the user experience: The D3100 is the first D-SLR to implement full time AF for D-Movie video shooting and while in Live View mode. Using contrast based AF, the D3100 automatically focuses on subjects when Live View is activated to aid shooting when using the LCD. The D3100 camera also uses Face Detection technology to lock focus on up to 35 human faces, a feat not even accomplished with consumer camcorders. To further simplify movie shooting, Live View is activated at a single flick of a dedicated switch, and HD video recording is achieved by a simple press of a button.

Sharing and editing video clips is also easier than ever, as the D3100 records movies in the versatile H.264 AVCHD codec (.mov file). While playing movies back in the camera, users are able to edit recorded videos by clipping footage from the beginning or end of a movie. High Definition movies and stills can be shared with family and friends on an HD television via HDMI output, and control slideshows and video using the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) interface that is a part of most modern remote controls from HDTV manufacturers. Additionally, the D3100 is compatible with the new SDXC memory card format to store large amounts of photo and video data so users can shoot multiple scenes without interruption.

D3100_Top.jpgRenowned Nikon Technology

The D3100 leverages proven Nikon technologies to create the most positive picture taking experience for consumers of any skill level. With its new 14.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and Nikon’s new EXPEED 2TM image processing system, the D3100 delivers exceptional image quality with low noise. The new EXPEED 2TM image-processing engine enhances camera performance and helps to ensure brilliant image quality while managing color, contrast, exposure, noise and speed for optimal results. The D3100’s normal ISO range extends from ISO 100 to 3200, allowing users to capture stunning images, even in low light environments. Additionally, the D3100’s ISO range can expand to a Hi-2 setting of ISO 12,800, furthering the opportunities for low-light shots that other cameras miss.

Other exclusive Nikon technologies include the Active D-Lighting system, which automatically rescues dark or backlit images to help create flattering images with even tones. This is especially useful when photographing subjects that are backlit by the sun or lights to provide an even exposure.

What’s more, Nikon’s Scene Recognition system draws upon the 420-pixel RGB color 3D Matrix Meter for outstanding exposures under a variety of lighting conditions by integrating a database of tens of thousands of sample images. The result is a camera intelligent enough to recognize when photographing a specific scene such as a portrait or landscape and automatically choose the proper camera settings.

To make taking great pictures even easier, the D3100 elevates Nikon COOLPIX technology and incorporates an Auto Scene Selector feature in Live View. This innovative function automatically selects the best scene mode to match shooting conditions. When engaged, the camera will automatically recognize when shooting a lush landscape or fast action sports and adjust the camera settings to create an astounding image. Six preset scene modes can also be accessed with the Mode Dial on top of the camera to overcome many common shooting challenges.
D3100_WithLenses.jpgCompact Design. Huge Performance

With comfortable yet intelligent ergonomics, the D3100 packs powerful technology that’s easy to use into a compact form factor. The advanced 11-point autofocus system of the D3100 makes it easy to find and focus on a subject through an enhanced viewfinder design with new “hollow” focus points to give a clear view of the subject.

In the playing field or the backyard, the benefits of Nikon’s advanced 3D Subject Tracking become clear, as the camera continuously focuses on fast moving subjects throughout the frame, resulting in crisp, clear action shots. Additionally, the D3100 offers split-second shutter response, eliminating the frustration of shutter lag—the annoying delay that ruins so many pictures. With the ability to capture images at up to three fps, users never miss a moment.

Also added to the D3100 is a Quiet Shutter Release mode, which substantially reduces the sound of the mirror while shooting. Quickly accessed by selecting “Q” on the release mode dial, this feature is ideal for the photographer who wishes to remain unobtrusive, for example during quiet ceremonies or photographing a sleeping baby.

Nikon also empowers users to prepare their photos for sharing quickly and easily using Nikon’s extensive in-camera Retouch Menu, which easily applies a variety of fun and dramatic effects to images without a computer. Fun and easy-to-use adjustments include a miniature effect to photos, image overlay, color outline and softening filters for flattering portraits and realistic skin tones.

The D3100 also incorporates Nikon’s Integrated Dust Reduction System, which offers a comprehensive solution that combats the accumulation of image-degrading dust from the camera’s image sensor. The shutter is tested to 100,000 cycles for maximum durability, ensuring years of captured memories.

Gateway to Legendary NIKKOR Optics and Accessories

Nikon has also introduced the ideal companion to the D3100, the brand new AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm VR lens, which gives users super-telephoto zoom capability for an affordable price. This is a perfect complementary lens when combined with the AF-S 18-55mm VR kit lens, and is great for capturing images of sports and wildlife around town or on vacation. Photographers can also appreciate the D3100’s system expandability, as it is compatible with more than 40 legendary NIKKOR AF-S interchangeable lenses. While the D3100 offers a versatile built-in flash, the camera also operates with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System and is capable of Advanced Wireless Lighting when using the SB-900 Speedlight or the SU-800 Wireless Commander. The D3100 D-SLR’s design also supports Eye-Fi memory card functionality, enabling the convenient wireless transfer of images from the camera to a computer when using Eye-Fi memory cards. Also included is a new version of Nikon’s powerful image editing application, View NX2. The latest edition of this software allows users to organize and edit both photos and video files easily. 

Price and Availability

The D3100 D-SLR camera outfit, including the versatile AF-S NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR image stabilization lens, is scheduled to be available at Nikon Authorized dealers beginning in mid September 2010, at an estimated selling price of $699.95.* The AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens will be available starting in September for $399.95*. For more information, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

*Estimated selling price listed is only an estimate. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

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