Blown-out flash at close distances with SB-90

Started Jan 26, 2009 | Discussions thread
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rhaytana Forum Member • Posts: 61
Blown-out flash at close distances with SB-90

This is more of a Nikon flash question than a D700 question, but is occurring exclusively while using the D700, so I hope it can find a home here. I've sought help elsewhere on the 'net and despair a bit that I'll find a solution.

I am a new Nikon shooter, having jumped ship from Canon largely to use the fantastic-amundo 14-24mm lens. Canon E-TTL II was pretty much plug and play for me. I never had to worry about any of the issues I'll describe below.

THE PROBLEM: Mildly to seriously blown-out / overexposed flash in shots taken at distances of two feet or less, indoors in dim light, with apertures of 4.0 and larger. If I stop down to 4.5 and smaller, I usually get good results.

EQUIPMENT: D700 camera, 14-24mm G lens, on camera SB-900. I'd love to do the Strobist thing, put the D700 in commander mode and get the SB-900 off camera, but that's not practical in the type of shooting I do.

CAMERA SETTINGS: Aperture priority mode, ISOs from 800 - 6400, and I try to keep the shutter speed below 1/50th. Switching from TTL-BL to TTL hasn't made a difference for testing purposes. For that matter, neither has switching from aperture priority to shutter priority mode. Same results.

MORE INFORMATION: Keeping the wide flash adapter down and the diffusion dome on always helps at least a little, whether the flash is pointed straight forward or straight up.

If I'm a foot to a foot and a half away, I usually have to put the flash straight up (with the diffusion dome on) to get a reasonable picture. Pointing the flash head straight down usually will give me that dreaded blown out flash look.

If I'm four feet away, on the other hand, I get the blown out flash look if the flash head isn't pointed straight ahead.

Unfortunately, these results aren't consistent. I spent the afternoon testing the camera with a friend, and some shots from two feet with the flash pointed straight forward were just fine. Inconsistent results means lots of chimping and plenty of lost shots when I'm shooting at an event.

A brief experiment with TTL automatic aperture mode flash didn't produce promising results. I just might get distance priority manual flash to work, but a few tests here at home suggest that it will produce inconsistent results too.

The distance reading on the flash LCD has been all over the place ... but yes, it's usually indicating that I'm too close when I have this problem. In other words, it's telling me I gotta be four feet away, when I want to shoot two feet away.

The trouble is, if I want to frame a shot from two feet away, and the shot won't be the same if I step back two feet, then I've taken a big, big hit in the range of photos I can shoot. If I didn't have this problem with E-TTL II on the Canon, I can't help but hope that I can resolve this problem with the Nikon.

The SB-900 has worked well otherwise. If you think it's a problem with the flash unit itself, though, feel free to say so.

If you have any ideas, Nikon shooters, I'd love to hear them. And if you're pretty convinced that this is something I'm going to have to live with, I'll be better off finding that out now.

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