Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Retrospect: Search for Second Flash

Baby Soft
Baby Soft
When my Yongnuo YN-560 flash got fried (or rather, drowned), I started looking for another flash.  Although I was satisfied with the YN-560, I got an Nikon SB-600 as a replacement, primarily for the remote adjustment capability.  I thought I'd update everyone on what I think of that choice in retrospect.

(Hit the jump)

The YN-560 and other manual flashes excel as a second or third flash if used for setup shots.  It's hard to beat the value that the YN-560 offers, especially now that it's been updated (with a metal foot and apparently much greater reliability).

However, I take mostly candid, non-setup photos and I rely heavily on TTL when using flash.  For my kind of photography, I've found that a flash that can operate wirelessly on TTL is a tremendously useful tool.  While I used the YN-560 primarily for setup shots as a rim light or other accent light, the availability of wireless TTL on the SB-600 meant that I could use it not just for special effects but also to work with my SB-800 as key or fill light.  So I've been using the SB-600 far more often than I did the YN-560.

The shot above shows what I mean.  In terms of lighting, I used the popup flash (covered with SG-3IR) as commander, then used the SB-800 and SB-600 as slaves in separate TTL groups.  I've found that with 2 TTL groups, it's possible to improve upon single-TTL flash image.  (That's another topic I will cover in the future).  For now, just to show that not all of the result was due to postprocessing, here is the unedited shot:

original unedited shot
Do I have any issues with the SB-600?  Sure I do.
1. The CLS sensor on the SB-600 is acceptable but is not as sensitive as that of the SB-800 or even the YN-560. 
2. Cumbersome controls.  It takes more than a few button pushes to operate the wireless menu.
3. No commander capability.  Right now I'm forced to use the SB-800 on-camera as commander while using only the SB-600 as a slave.  If the SB-600 could have been used as a commander flash, I would have been able to use the more powerful SB-800 as a slave instead.

Well, #2 and #3 in that short list have been addressed in the SB-700.  As for #1, I don't know about the SB-700's actual sensitivity, but I'm guessing the CLS sensor sensitivity on the SB-700 is similar to that of the SB-800.  So if I had to do it over again, far from regretting the extra I paid to get the SB-600 over the YN-560, I would actually choose to buy an SB-700 instead of an SB-600.