D800 and flash compatibility

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rodeo_joe|1, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. I was a bit dismayed to find that my D800 didn't "recognise" the SB-25 speedlights that I regularly use. With the D700, using an SB-25 in the hotshoe would automatically set the flash synch speed. This no longer happens with the D800. It's not really a big deal, since I'm nearly always in fully manual mode when using flash anyway. Plus the camera's refusal to acknowledge old-school flashes means that it longer locks up when the SB-25 is in TTL mode, or when fitted with a 3rd party non i-TTL flash or SCA adapter. And rear curtain synch still works correctly.
    What I'm wondering is: Has this change been made simply for spiteful marketing purposes, to try and force users to upgrade their flash gear? Or has Nikon got some future flash development in mind and removed some backward compatibility to make room for forward compatibility? Might we soon see radio-frequency CLS communication between Nikon speedlights, similar to Canon's latest system?
    I'm not usually keen on wild speculation about future products, but I'd welcome a change to a more reliable RF CLS system - as long as it wasn't ridiculously expensive.
  2. Who knows, but you could likely hook a sync cord between the flash ans the PC terminal if you had to.
    Kent in SD
  3. Huh, I didn't know a D700 could use an SB-25 automatically - I thought it was only the SB400/600/800 and later. I'd second that you can use the PC sync, but it sounds as though you still have manual control anyway. I agree that radio frequency flash control seems like a better idea, though I'm sure plenty of companies would prefer to sell you their proprietary solutions; Canon have only just switched to this, so I'm not too fussed that Nikon are massively behind a curve. I tend to use the internal flash mostly as a trigger, though it's nice to have in an emergency where some light is more important than the quality of light.
  4. The D600 is the same with the SB-24, no communication with the old flash unit, not even limit of shutter speed.
    I have an old D70s and it didn't communicate aperture and iso with the SB-24s but it would detect that a Nikon flash is present and limit the shutter speed.
    It might be electrical to some degree because the older flash draws some current on one of the pins to say that it is present. ITTL units have pure data communication between the flash and the camera.
    Obviously Nikon is phasing out older technology. The SB600 & SB800 for instance would work on older film TTL, d-ttl cameras as well as the newer ittl cameras. But the SB700 and SB900 only works on ittl capable cameras.
    Rear sync should always work on any Nikon camera since it's done by activating the center pin in the hot shoe (same as pc sync) at the end of the exposure. On Canon and perhaps other cameras it's done in another way which is proprietary.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The D600 is the same with the SB-24, no communication with the old flash unit, not even limit of shutter speed.​
    Same with the D7000 and SB-24. I just tried.
  6. I live and learn. I have several SB600s, partly because once I've got used to the pain of the interface it doesn't help much to have a shinier flash with the others, partly because they can talk to my F5 if I need them to. Can't say the current generation of humungoflashes appeals all that much, although I've used an SB900 and vaguely appreciate that it's nicer to use.
  7. Just to clear things up. The SB-25 can be fired from the hotshoe of a D800 without issue - no need to use the P-C socket. It's just that the camera totally ignores the fact that a flash is fitted in its hotshoe. Yet strangely the flash symbol appears in the info of the image file when reviewed on the camera TFT screen. So the camera does actually know it's got a flash fitted.
    I'm just wondering why Nikon even bothered to tinker with the flash algorithm. They must surely have heard the phrase "If it ain't bust, don't fix it"? So why did they feel they had to "fix" it? Just to p*** off users of older speedlights, or for more technical reasons?
  8. RJ - do you mean "tinker with the flash" as in "why is the D800 not metering with this flash" (which may be because they updated the meter compared with the D700 and just didn't bother to tune it for old flashes - the D700's meter is pretty much the same as the F5's, of course), or "why do the newer flashes work differently"?

    If the latter, it's because the very old flashes meter during the exposure based on the amount of light reflecting off the film; intermediate vintage flashes meter after the mirror has been lifted by checking reflection off the shutter blades, and the modern flashes do a pre-flash. Supposedly the difference between film reflectance and sensor reflectance is enough to cause a problem - although I'm a little mystified as to why the difference in reflectivities of different films wasn't a problem and it isn't possible to tune a similar system based on the specific sensor in the camera. Arguably the film mechanism is better, in that you get the actual light during the exposure rather than what was going on beforehand. However, the pre-flash route means you can use the main metering array (I think), which is presumably higher quality - can feed into the matrix calculations - compared with the primitive flash meter in film cameras, and means that you don't need two lots of exposure sensors in the camera.

    Having said all that about old flashes, the SB-25 appears to be perfectly capable of doing preflashes (I'm reading an F5 manual here). Ah... (thank you Leo Foo) so apparently the preflash happens anyway to determine details of the exposure (perhaps picking aperture? I'm guessing what benefit this might have...), but the older flashes rely on being told when to stop the flash according to the meter pointing at the film. Newer ones rely on flash duration being worked out in advance either from the reflection from the shutter blades (D-TTL) or purely by the preflashes (i-TTL). One would think that a flash mechanism could be made entirely ignorant of all of this just by having the camera turn the flash off at the right time... but I presume the protocol relies on some intelligence in the flash, hence the incompatibility.

    I think, and I'm rusty on Speedlites, Canon seem to have less of a distinction - possibly their protocol is simpler, so all that matter is whether or not there's a preflash. I may be missing the details, but if Canon patented this solution, Nikon might have weird behaviour as a workaround.
  9. Andrew, by "tinker with the flash algorithm" I mean; why did Nikon bother to change the way that the D800 deals with older speedlights compared to their previous DSLRs? My D700 is perfectly capable of recognising the SB-25 (and other film era Nikon flashes) and sets the flash synch speed when one is detected in its hotshoe. It also allows the use of manual and AA modes while locking the shutter button if TTL is selected. This makes its use reasonably foolproof. The D800 OTOH, does none of that and simply ignores the fact that any older speedlight (or non i-TTL 3rd party flash) is fitted. This has its good points, but quite a few negative ones as well.
    I'm well aware of the incompatibility of OTF TTL with i-TTL, and can easily live without the dubious benefits of either i-TTL or CLS. Just wondering why Nikon bothered to make this change between the D700 and D800, that's all. Is it purely a malicious blow at users of old technology like me, or has Nikon made room for something new?
  10. Sorry RJ - please consider my post as an attempt to be educational to other readers and a chance to check my own understanding.

    I'll apply my usual policy on life: "it's more likely that everyone is incompetent than that they're out to get you". I can believe that Nikon legitimately had to play with the metering system on the D800 and D4 (since it's new), and they just decided that anyone using one of these cameras could afford to buy a new flash - or they were rushing to beat the 5D3 and 1Dx to market (though it turns out they had a bit of leeway on the latter) and simply felt that making it work automatically with old flashes (and testing it) wasn't a priority. To be fair, as I said above, I had no idea that even the D700 could cope with older flashes - but then I had it before I went flash shopping, so I didn't think to buy a flash that was less capable. (In fact, the only real trouble I've had with flash was trying to use a cheap Nissin Nikon-compatible flash, which I discovered was impossible via a PC cable because it needs a Nikon protocol.)

    Not that this helps you much. It's another one on the list of things to be fixed in the D800 BIOS. Now I just need to win a lottery and take a year off to hack it...
  11. No offence meant or taken Andrew.
    I do find it difficult to believe that Nikon designs the firmware for every new generation of DSLR from the ground up each time though. It's not like someone sits there hand assembling machine code - do they? Surely it's more a case of "Hey, this worked for the D700, and we've ironed out most of the bugs. Let's just port 90% of the code over to the D800 and call it a night. Beers anyone?"
    But that obviously didn't happen, and I'm wondering why the big re-write.
  12. I agree with Joe that there is some reason why it is so beyond the reason they want D800 owners to buy new flash. I couldn't figure it out yet. I am curious that if the ready light in the viewfinder works?
  13. Did you use aperture-priority or manual exposure and single-servo autofocus or manual focus, Joe?
  14. Tried AA, manual, repeating, and - just out of curiosity - TTL mode on the flash, as well as every exposure mode on the camera Ann. The D800 just refuses to acknowledge the SB-25 by setting the shutter accordingly. No ready light in viewfinder either BeBu. The SB-25 works just fine on my D700 in Aperture priority exposure mode, and it doesn't matter whether AF is switched on or not.
  15. RJ - I don't think Nikon start the firmware from scratch each time, but the meter was heavily revised between the D700 and D800 generations. I'm prepared to believe that there's enough changed code in the firmware that support for older flashes dropped through the cracks. A shame, since I doubt there's any reason it couldn't be made to work, but there are plenty of things I wish were in the firmware!
  16. Actually according to Joe it works just fine just doesn't recognize the flash. Of course no TTL but no DSLR would do TTL with the SB-25 any way.

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