Nikon, God bless ’em, loaned me a sample D5 and a couple of pre-production SB-5000 flashes last week in Vegas. I had to get tuned up with the gear prior to getting onstage in front of a few hundred folks at WPPI and demonstrating the new system. I said yes, of course. Take the plunge!
My total time behind the camera, actually shooting, is less than an hour at this point, so I am not posting this as an invite to entertain highly detailed questions about this brave new world of Nikon radio TTL and the intricacies of the new flagship. I’m going to be a learner on this new stuff for a while, just like any other shooter. I can say it was fun, for sure. How could it not be fun? I had a wonderful subject, a bunch of new gear, and Lindsay Silverman, the Obi Wan of Nikon flash with me. (Who, by the way shot the behind the scenes stuff in the desert and on the street.)
First thing I did was try to confuse the camera by throwing a huge exposure source in the back of the frame, and lighting Annette with raw flash. (No light shapers, too windy.) The camera/flash tandem worked it out.
Then, we jumped out of the car in old Las Vegas, and shot quickly right on the street. (No permits, no planning, just run and gun stuff.) Cali, one of our first assistants, is actually in the street with a sidelight flash, which would have been hard to trigger with line of sight, and knocked out a quick pic. (It was within range of line of sight, but when I shoot a vertical, I spin the camera to the left, and my right hand naturally goes to the overhand vertical grip position. Which means if I was using a Speedlight as a commander, it could easily have been blocked by the barrel of the 70-200 lens. In the old days, I simply would have flipped the camera the other way, which for me, is uncomfortable. Little things, but important things.)
And the next day, on a WPPI photowalk, I was able to do another two light setup, very quickly, as a demo.
And then one light, through an Ezybox, in high speed sync. 85mm @ f1.4, 1/3200th on the shutter. The mix of flash, lack of DOF and natural light rendered the scene very softly. Everything worked.
Above photo, courtesy of Rob Sirota.
All of the stuff above was done quickly, because I had to give it all back. These things are not in great supply right now. But the camera and the flashes made a good team. There’s still a lot of exploring to do. Couple things I know.
The radio TTL system works. Really well. Happy with it, and looking forward to experimentation.
The camera will have a learning curve, for sure. Some button positions have changed.
Small things. In love already with Auto 0, a new option in AWB. Renders a very clean, neutral file.
Small things. The flash compensation now has third stop increments between manual 1/1 and manual 1/2. In past versions, you had to make the complete, one stop jump from full power to half power. No slicing that stop. Now you can parse out the power level. Small thing, but important for fine tune control. (FYI, there has always been third stop adjustments for flash power at every other level, from 1/2 to 1/128. It’s just been the jump from 1/1/ to 1/2 has always been a a full jump. Now you can move the power in between those levels in third stops.)
Small things. The WR-10 transmitter for the radio wireless is light and small. Plugs into the 10 pin. So, no longer do I have a Speedlight on the hot shoe. Sounds nutty, but this means the camera feels more balanced in my hands. And, I can peer over my eyepiece at my subject, and not have to glance around an SB-910.
Small big thing. You can program your DOF preview button to immediately take you to the flash compensation menu on the LCD. One touch, and you’ve got a read out on all the flash zones and their power rating, and can adjust right there. Simple.
Big things. The swipe LCD. Move the image, enlarge the image with your fingertips. Wow.
Big things. Flash recycle seems improved. I worked the units without battery packs for some shots, and they bounced back quick, even at full power. There’s also a new cooling system in them, a blessing for heavy flash shooters.
Big things. I can keep my S-910 units. The new system has six zones, instead of three, and works fine with line of sight technology and radio in the same situation, which is a blessing. No call to trash my old Speedlights.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to production line, finished machines. The camera and flashes I used for above are all still pre-pro. I am currently resisting the urge to call the big guy, Jeff Snyder, (firstname.lastname@example.org) every other day to check on progress for my order. This camera, plus radio TTL flash. Been waiting for this.