Do I need an external flash?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by allan_martin, Mar 11, 2013.

  1. Hello!
    I've started to wonder whether or not my D7000 needs an external flash. Im an amateur photographer who has always heard the "dont use flash, practice without it" thing.
    Now that I got some money left Im thinking, hey maybe I should get one. I dont do a lot of portraits, since im not a pro, so it would be mostly family stuff. However, I plan on shooting macro yes, and I heard flash is very nice in macro photography. I also love landscapes, but im not sure if flash is needed there.
    Since a nice flash costs ~ $350 (SB700), I gotta ask. If it was something cheaper I probably wouldnt.
    Thx!
     
  2. Im an amateur photographer who has always heard the "dont use flash, practice without it" thing.​
    You can practice without it, but when it comes to shooting, you'll do better to have a flash available. Family photography is people photography, and if your family is like mine, it is populated by people with eye sockets and noses and ears that create shadows, as well as skin that doesn't look its best in unfilled harsh light. Flash can make a huge difference with that. A flash that can be separated from your camera, or can be bounced (unlike the on-board flash that comes on your D7000) off a large surface will generally allow you to make photos that look better than those with a flash that can't. The D7000 is beautifully designed to control an off-camera flash.
    Landscapes are typically shot without flash.
    If you are going to concentrate on macro photography, you might consider flash specifically designed for it.
     
  3. Ok, you convinced me. But what do you think about the sb-700? Overall isnt it an excellent external flash to get? Im planning on getting more than one flash unit.
     
  4. An on-camera flash (whether the integrated one or, to a lesser extent, one used in the hotshoe) is very restricting in light control; using a speedlight controlled wirelessly from the camera's integrated flash gives you a lot of control. Does the camera need one? Obviously not. Will you be able to take different shots if you have one? Yes. Is it worth the money to you? Only you can say!

    I'd consider a used SB-600 if you can find one. The interface is a bit painful, but it can do almost everything the SB-700 can do (it can't be a wireless flash master, but your on-camera flash can do that) and it's quite a lot cheaper. I have three. :) (The SB-700 is nicer to use, but I couldn't afford three of them, so I figured consistency was my friend. Plus the SB-600 works on film cameras too.) There are those who might suggest it's hard to test a used flash, so the fact that I've been lucky may need to be weighed in the light of experience of others. Nissin make some good flashes (as do Sigma) which are compatible with the Nikon system if you want to save a little money.

    For macro, it depends what you're shooting. Don't underestimate the amount of light an LED torch can put out at short range. For landscapes, it can be useful for balancing light, especially in the foreground (though the D7000 has a pretty good dynamic range for fixing things in post-processing). For portraits, don't rule out a cheap reflector or two, but an off-camera flash (or several) is a very flexible tool.

    If you'd like to go cheap and more manual, have a look on strobist.blogspot.com. Good luck!
     
  5. I think the SB-700 is excellent, and it is my recommendation. It has a much nicer user interface than the SB-600 and SB-800, which I have. For macro, you might prefer a pair of SB-R200 flashes controlled by your D7000, or a ring light, but they are rather specialized.
     
  6. What Andrew said. Great information. Get a used SB-600.
    Go to strobist and look at the tutorial. It will show you the difference a good flash can make.
    Getting good with flash (especially when you move it off camera) will really change what you can do. It is exciting to see how good some of your shots can be with just a little know-how.
     
  7. That's if you can FIND a used SB-600 (they're sought after by people using older cameras, something you don't need). And you have no idea how badly the capacitors and flash tube in an older unit have been treated. Be careful, there.

    I completely second the idea of the SB-700. Much easier to get along with, and (importantly) a more flexible swivel head. Oh, and it can act as a commander when it's in the hot shoe - something the SB-600 cannot do.

    But yes - get a flash! You'll be amazed, once you get the hang of it.
     
  8. Matt - I agree, the SB-700 is a better flash (if you don't have a film camera), if there's no cost saving. When I was last looking, the SB-600s were still reasonably available, and appreciably cheaper than a used SB-700. Since the D7000 can use its on-board flash as a remote trigger, the ability to use a hotshoe flash as a trigger is less necessary than on some cameras, but I admit it can have benefits. The SB-700 is certainly easier to use, though once you're used to its foibles and have it set up right the SB-600 is merely cryptic, not actually too awkward. I owned one SB-600 before the SB-700 was launched, and decided that it was better to have several flashes with the same interface than have differences, even if some were better (if I had a mix, I'd use the SB-700s and forget how to use the SB-600s when I needed them).

    My advice of SB-600s is based on the assumption that they're still cheaper than SB-700s. If they're not, go with the newer flash. When I last shopped, the SB-600 was appreciably cheaper than the SB-700 - enough that I thought it was worth the risk that one of them might be ill, though if you buy somewhere reputable you might be able to return an ill one. That may or may not still be true. (The 600 is also slightly more powerful, for what it's worth.)

    I notice that used SB-800s are still available in some places at the same price as a used SB-700. That's worth a look too - it can be used as a master, and it's appreciably more powerful than either the 600 or 700. Again, it might have suffered abuse, but that's the price you pay for getting a heavily discounted flash - if you're buying several, you're amortizing the cost saving against the chance that one is ill. The 700 and 900 have much nicer interfaces, but to be honest I don't usually poke my flash much once I've set it up - I control it mostly from CLS on the camera, which makes the flash's own interface moot. Whether you pay for the nicer interface is your choice.

    Or you could buy some mains-powered studio strobes, but I like having a bit of portability. (Tip: Mount a flash on one end of a monopod, hold another flash and the other end of the monopod, hold the camera in the middle with your other hand using the on-camera flash as trigger, and you get portable clamshell lighting. And wrist ache. :) )
     
  9. As I've said before, my beau ideal photographer, Gordon N. Converse of the Christian Science Monitor, told a story of getting in trouble early in his career with the intrusion of flash into a public setting, so he ever after stuck with "natural light", as was a common custom in those days.
    I rarely use flash, so for me, I don't miss not having a 'built-in' on my 35mm sensor cameras. I did buy an external flash when I first went to that format, but honestly I have never used it, nor do I typically carry it with me. I realize this is a limiting factor in my photography, but at this late stage, it's a problem that I am unlikely to address. I'd personally rather accept the noise/grain of high ISOs.
    If you use the built-in flash, then you should definitely get an external unit, however.
     
  10. An on-camera flash (whether the integrated one or, to a lesser extent, one used in the hotshoe) is very restricting in light control​
    W. Eugene Smith once said available light was ANY light that was available to him, including the little hot-shoe lights he carried in his cavernous camera bag.
    For instance, this one.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
     
  11. I use flash whenever I deem it necessary. It is one of those things that can look clumsy until one gets the hang of it, and with today's flashes that is far easier than it used to be. Understanding what's happening remains just as hard as it always was.
     
  12. For Macro work it is a good thing to own. But you should also get an off the camera flash cable. I like the long ones sold
    by Http://www.ocfgear.com FlashZebra makes a decent alternative to the shorter and pricey Nikon Nikon SC-29.
     
  13. Ellis - I've always found off-camera cables to be more pain than they're worth. The flash on the D7000 can act as a master for wireless triggering, and control multiple flashes; all the flashes we've discussed talk this protocol and will be triggered wirelessly by the D7000. A cable is useful if you're worried about being interfered with by other flashes, or if you want long range in daylight (or the ability to trigger flashes round corners), but there comes a point when it's better to go for radio triggers or get PC-sync cables and set up the flashes manually - not least because either solution tends to work better with multiple flash guns, as Allan was suggesting. There's the SG-3IR if you're worried about light from the on-camera flash contributing to the scene at macro ranges. It's certainly worth being able to get the flash off the camera, though. (But bouncing from a swivel head is better than nothing, even if you're a bit dependent on paint colour.)

    Luis - it's easier to get the overall exposure right, and much easier to check the result, than it used to be. I can't claim that predicting the results of a manual flash set-up has necessarily got easier (honestly, I don't use flash enough to claim to be an expert), but the strobist crowd seem to cope! Lighting is a good thing to learn, but nothing to be scared of.
     
  14. Flash is just one of the tools of the photographer. Off camera flash offers lots of flexibility that on camera flash can not provide. To control off camera flash you can use built in optical slaving, but I prefer the radio frequency slaving (RadioPoppers or Pocketwizard) that provides for more robust control. I use the Pocketwizard's devices:FlexTT5, MiniTT1 and AC3 with SB800 and SB900. I would guess that they would also work on the SB700, but don't really know. This system has proven very reliable once the initial bugs were worked out. I have used it with either the D700 or D800.
    I would add that I use off camera flash all the time with family stuff. Makes us look a lot better!
     

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