CLS Revisited

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kent_staubus, Oct 17, 2014.

  1. In the past I never thought much of the CLS system of the Nikon flash. My thinking was the range was MUCH too short for what I normally use flash for, and I didn't need iTTL anyway because I was generally setting exposure with a flash meter. After all, I had all the time in the world to get it right. When I got into weddings I found it handy to pull my SB-900 off the camera and have someone hold it HLS style (human light stand) for quick candid shots, but continued using monolights for all formal posed shots. (They have the power to cover large groups AND work with modifiers.) As I drift out of weddings (taking up too much of my time) and get more into portraits, at first I still didn't find much use for iTTL/CLS. For many portraits I was using ancient lenses on my 4x5, lenses that didn't even HAVE flash sync! (I used the open flash technique.) However, I have been finding CLS to be crucial for one kind of portrait photography--anything with young children! Their ability to sit still is measured in nano seconds, and taking time to set up a monolight, meter, and shoot just wasn't working. By the time I was ready the kids were either fussy or had run into the next county. I found that the only way to nail them was to be fast, fast, fast! A single SB-900 mounted to a lightweight Raven RS-8 stand with ~40 inch umbrella was quick to position and a no-brainer to shoot with. I found the iTTL was very accurate with the D7100, and the recycle time alone was considerably faster than using a monolight. The short ~20 ft. range was not an issue for this kind of shooting. While CLS is worthless for photo'ing trains at night, it's exactly what I need for family portraits involving young children. To differentiate myself from all the others doing this kind of work, I've been going less for the traditional posed kind of stuff and more for the fun, creative images. My goal is to catch their lively little personalities. This works well with kids, especially. I still see off-camera flash as crucial for portrait work, but now also see the advantages of CLS too.
    Kent in SD
  2. Lovely photo, and a great demonstration of how CLS can work for you when there's no time to calculate flash power. I am surprised that you're getting faster recycle times with the SB-900 compared to monolights, and wonder what you were using.
    One quibble: I think they are elves.
  3. Very nice lighting, and you're ahead of me, I don't even know if and when it's on or how it works. Technology!
    (Just a thought, I think with three I would light a little more center to avoid that shadow on the back lads face)
  4. Kent: Like you, I've got other lighting tools at my disposal (and more than one sort of radio trigger). But I still routinely employ CLS, both triggered by a body's pop-up, or by an SB-[whatever] in commander mode in the hot shoe. Never did feel the need for the dedicated IR controller. When I'm using a pop-up as a controller, I use the cheap little SG-3IR filter on the body to cut down on blinks and on in-exposure reflections from the controlling pulse. Very handy.
  5. The SB flash recycles faster than the monolights because they don't dump all their power, where the monolights have to recharge to 100% after every flash. The new Einstein monolights act more like the SB flash and I've considered switching to them partly because of that and partly because they are much lighter than my WL X3200. However they have half the power. As for the shadow, shot happened faster than my HLS could react. Photo'ing excited children is much like photo'ing pets, except there are dogs that will obey when you say, "Sit! Stay!"
    Kent in SD
  6. Kent,
    I like to use 2 SB600 off camera through CLS/iTTL for flower shots, so also for still subjects CLS works for me ...
  7. Apart from the small amount of extra time taken to attach them, I find radio triggers far more reliable than CLS. I also find AA mode on the SB-25s I mainly use to be pretty much 100% reliable as well; even when used for fill flash in daylight or for setting ratios on multiple lights. So I really have no need for i-TTL/BL either. On the downside, it's such a chore walking 5 steps or so to a speedlight to change its setting, but then again I'm not wasting time poking about in a camera menu and occasionally forgetting to click "OK" after all that poking.
    Anyway, glad you've found some use for CLS Kent. Although have you checked that any flashes set behind the camera position in bright daylight have actually been firing?
    Edit: "I am surprised that you're getting faster recycle times with the SB-900 compared to monolights.." - It should be no surprise. Speedlights will 'recycle' almost instantly as long as you don't use full-power, whereas the design of older monolight circuitry means that they need to recharge after each and every shot. Modern IGBT designs will equal or beat speedlights though.
    Even my comparatively ancient SB-25s will allow 3 or 4 quarter-power shots as fast as you like before their ready light extinguishes. After that it's no big deal either. Full power recycle time with fresh NiMH cells is around 4 seconds, and down to 2 seconds with an external SD-8 power pack attached.
  8. I put off buying the SU-800 for a long time. I wish that I hadn't. It's a much more reliable trigger than the pop up flash.
    You can use modifiers with Nikon flashes - umbrellas, soft boxes, etc. - and you can augment that with the manual zoom feature.
    The bonus with CLS is that the flash heads are designed to work in high speed sync mode, which Nikon calls High FP (Focal Plane) sync mode. The only limiting factor is the power output, but you can group a bunch of them together for more punch.

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