Nikon Coolpix 8800 when used with Nikon SB-800 external flash

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by All Things Mopar, May 25, 2005.

  1. All Things Mopar

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Yeah, the best answer may be off camera flash positioned so it won't
    cause reflections in the image. That will make the pics look better anyway.
    Paul Rubin, May 27, 2005
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  2. What Usenet binary NG do you like to visit where I could
    put up some of "the good, the bad, and the ugly" images?
    I could post to or alt.binaries.amp.
    Iffn ya can give me an idea of where you could look, I'll
    gladly post a couple dozen shots. For now, please read my
    comments to your comments...

    Well, at the risk of being rude and argumentative, I
    understand your point fully, and agree with it, but this
    just /isn't/ what I'm seeing!

    Clearly, flash onto chrome or into headlights or nailing
    the old-fashioned wide WSW tires /will/ fool the flash's
    sensor, and it'll cut off the pulse way to early. I can
    live with that by changing positions and/or fixing the
    milder underexposures during post-processing.

    But, my "black cat in a coal bin"-style images simply do
    /not/ exhibit any signs of where extreme flash glare
    might've bounced back to the flash and caused it to
    prematurely shut down. Here's a way I might be able to
    "prove" this: I can take a left 3/4 view of a car and
    it'll be within +/- 1 stop, can't get better than that.
    So, I move to take a right 3/4 view and it's black. Or,
    vice versa. Or, I get a decent exposure on one car, move
    to feet right or left and shoot another car - under the
    exact same lighting conditions - and they can vary up or
    down by 6 or more stops.
    My first digital was a FujiFilm 4900, a state-of-the-art
    4.5MP, that I bought in January, 2001. All I ever used
    was its tiny built-in strobe. While I didn't get great
    pictures because of the flash's low power, they were
    almost always within 2 stops, easily fixable, and highly
    consistent. So, yes, I believe it /is/ possible.

    ... So I would think manual settings are by far the
    No, I'm afraid what you say here simply isn't true. It
    hasn't worked like that on my 5700 with Sunpak 433 and
    hasn't worked with the 8800 and SB-800. True, I have more
    control on Manual, but neither camera/flash combo will
    consistently give me good results, even when I pace off
    the distance accurate to maybe 10-15%.
    I honestly don't know any pros who use flash, at least
    not a single flash mounted on the camera. The people I
    know, while not pros, will shoot with a flash held to the
    side on an extension cord, or put the camera on a tri-pod
    and use two flash units.

    I understand fully the limitations of a single flash, but
    it just ain't as simple as you might like to think.
    I'll take a look, although I'll comment now that auto
    shows are /much/ easier to shoot than museums! That's
    because they are so bright, the auto exposure system in
    the camera gets a lot of help and the flash isn't much
    more than fill in many cases.
    Thanks for the warning!
    You're completely right. The camera store manager just
    grabs the camera, shoots a dozen /perfect/ shots at
    various things in his large store and say "works fine for
    me, why not buy a Canon DSLR?". Well, dude, come with me
    to the WPC museum with /whatever/ camera you're touting
    and let's see /you/ do it!
    Thanks, please also see my post from last night where I
    say I'm throwing in the towel and taking the 8800 back to
    the store for refund.

    Iffn you have some recommendations for a /good/ EVF pro-
    sumer camera and flash, I'd be very interested. I just do
    not want a DSLR because no matter what anybody says, you
    just can't visualize composure, focus, and flash exposure
    adequately in a DSLRs back LCD.
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
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  3. Paul Rubin commented courteously...
    I'm sorry, Paul, but you're just gonna have to trust me
    on this - /ain't/ flash off reflective objects! If this
    were a binary NG, I could post dozens of shots from my
    old Fuji 4900 or my current Nikon 5700, in many
    environments, that do work. Then, post the nearly
    identical situation where the 8800 fails miserably.

    To conclude, I am very relucatantly going to return the
    camera for a charge credit. I fell in love with the feel
    and the features of the 8800, not the least of which was
    higher quality, less noisy images and many more MP
    resolutions to choose from. But, I just can't live with a
    camera that isn't reliable.

    Thanks again for your help and comments.
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
  4. All Things Mopar

    ASAAR Guest

    Here's a bunch of questions, that may or may not help . . .

    If it's so bright, if you blocked the flash's output with
    something opaque, would the result be a dark as the underexposed
    pictures you were getting? If you check the shutter speed and
    aperture, either in-camera or using EXIF data, is there a difference
    between the shots where the flash worked properly and where it
    didn't? When the pictures turn out very dark, did the flash fire
    weakly or not at all? Is it possible that the problem is not with
    the camera or flash but with the environment? Something that might
    effect an SB-800 but not a simpler built-in flash? In other words,
    if you found another place to take pictures of cars that is as
    similar as possible to the auto show, would some of your pictures
    still come out dark? Maybe even the same building used for the
    auto show, but on a day when there's no show taking place.
    ASAAR, May 27, 2005
  5. ASAAR commented courteously...
    First, ASAAR, I returned the camera and flash for a Visa
    credit, but I'll try to answer your questions for any
    lurkers who may be listening in.

    First, traditional auto shows, such as NAIAS (North
    American International Auto Show, formerly called the
    Detroit Auto Show, are simply awash in lighting -
    flurescent/incandesent over head, fill lighting from top
    and sides, even spots. They are /bright/, enough that you
    can easily shoot available light at ISO 200 if you have
    steady hands and/or stabilization on the camera/lens.

    Typical museums, such The Henry Ford, in Dearborn,
    Michigan, the WPC I talked about, Petersen's in LA, etc.
    are /very/ dark places. There's some windows but they
    cause even more problems from backlighting the car. To
    shoot available light in a museum, you definitely need a
    tripod and long exposures; high ISO isn't a good idea
    because of noise.

    If the auto show or museum is at all busy, crowd control
    is a very big problem, as are museum curators that don't
    like people setting up shop getting in the way of other
    visitors. It /can/ be done but it is neither easy nor

    The brightness problem I am talking about is /not/ from
    the flash, it's from window or high-intensity ambient
    lighting. I'm really not sure, but it kinda looks like
    the 8800 (and, my 5700) appear to use the flash output to
    do the TTL, /not/ the normal AE, hence changing from
    Matrix to Center Weighted or Spot does not appear to help
    at all.

    So, if the flash were causing over-exposed pictures all
    the time or a large percent of the time, I could cut the
    EV on either the flash (+/- 3) or the camera (+/- 2). In
    other words, I could quickly "calibrate" the lighting for
    a particular set of pictures.

    The SB-800 comes with both neutral density and diffusers,
    which I undoubtedly would have used, perhaps with a
    polarizer, but I never got that far, as severe
    underexposure far outweighed uneven lighting and flash
    glare challenges.
    The short answer is No. The reason is that 5700s and
    8800s set the aperture wide-open, which varies as to
    focal length of the zoom, then use the length of the
    flash burst and shutter speed to "modulate" the exposure.
    Besides full manual, I could also shoot Aperture or
    Shutter priority, keeping an eye on the mins for correct
    exposure. I did do those things, but to no avail.

    Further, the SB-800 has iTTL, Auto, Manual, and Guide
    Number modes, with the usual definitions. Again, I tried
    all 4 but was unable to consistently get good exposures,
    in fact, there were cars that were way under no matter
    what I did!
    No, it fired, but it looked OK to me. It is imposible to
    judge the length of the pulse either through the EVF or
    by holding the camera at arms-length and just observing
    Again, on both the 5700 and 8800, I can switch to the
    built-in Speedlight by just turning off the external, so
    that isn't it at all. In my view so far, the problem is
    two-fold: environment is a biggies, but not one a
    photographer can control, so ya has ta do the best ya
    can, and there appears to be an issue with the underlying
    algorithms in the entire series of Nikon EVFs, beginning
    with the 5700, through the 8600 and 8700, and now to the

    I don't think the engineers at Nikon are dummies, hardly.
    I just don't know if they tried what I'm trying to do.
    Iffn they did, they probably used a 2nd slave flash, and
    probably set the camera manually. It is /very/ hard for
    me to believe the engineers ever went to museums, whether
    cars or the Smithsonian, or the Science & Industry Museum
    in Chicago, or where ever.

    These places are generally all the same. What galls my
    butt is that I can get itty bitty $150 P&S cameras to
    work, as well as el cheapo range-finder 35's.
    I don't want to belabor this point, but if you travel
    even across-town and pay money to get in the building,
    you're usually on a tight schedule, which doesn't help.
    In the case of the WPC, I popped over there 4 or 5 times
    since Tuesday, since it is only 15 minutes from my home
    and I get in free as a DCX retiree.

    So, that's a round-about way of saying that I
    intentionally went to the WPC because it possesses, in
    one moderate size building, /all/ of the various
    available light and flash-mode photography.

    I can shoot pictures in small rooms with aplomb. That
    includes my house, close to museum small exhibits, in
    stores, you name i. They work fine. But, it drives me up
    the wall to take a picture of the left side of a car,
    move 10 feet and try to get the right side or rear, and
    have one or the other go dark.

    For the time being, I'm gonna cool my jets and continue
    to use the 5700, albeit now that I'm a little smarter on
    how to get better results than I'd previously attained.

    Then, later this summer, I start haunting the
    manufacturer's web sites,, even here on this
    NG, to learn what's coming up in September. Then, too,
    I'd like to confirm or deny the "claim" lots of people
    have that EVF cameras - specifically Nikon - just don't
    perform as well with flash as DSLRs.

    Being an engineer by education, that makes /no/ sense to
    me at all! Still... One more time for any lurkers, my
    /big/ hang-up with DSLRs are that I see /not/ what the
    digital sensors "see", but rather what the lens sees.
    Duh?! And, my experience is that trying to make a valid
    judgment off the little LCD on the camera back just
    doesn't cut it.

    But, as part of my summer/fall planned investigation,
    I'll definitely look at the latest crop of pro-sumer
    DSLRs. I do have an open mind, it's just that no one has
    been able to make me feel "warm and fuzzy" with through-
    the-lens vs. EVF viewing.
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
  6. All Things Mopar

    Frank ess Guest

    My standards are relatively low for photos of static car exhibits.
    Cars are dynamic, and I reckon a fair representation of a sitting car
    is plenty good. So, I don't devote a lot of attention to museums and
    car shows. I tend to see them when they are attached to some other
    activity that means somewhat more to me.

    Such an event was a tribute dinner at the Petersen, Phil Hill was the
    honoree. It was a fine, fun, and fulfilling evening, hearing Phil talk
    about the way it was during his ascent to the World Driving
    Championship, first American to accomplish that monumental feat. Other
    stars in the auto racing firmament adding their perspectives and
    anecdotes included Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Bob
    Bondurant, Bernard Cahier, Chuck Daigh, John Fitch (_via_ telegram).

    Several cars the like of which Phil had driven were on exhibit, sort
    of an endurance-race display, as that was one of Phil's specialities.
    I pretty much felt obligated to photograph them, so I waved a cursory
    camera in their direction and returned to the gossip and glad-handing
    in the buffet line.

    You can see some of what I recorded in the album at:

    There are 21 images, three versions each of seven exposures. None has
    been manipulated in any way, other than resized in 10% decrements
    (first seven) and Saved For Web at Photo Shop 30 quality (first seven
    and second of each of the remaining pairs), or simply Saved As at full
    size and Photo Shop jpg quality 5, to maintain EXIF data (first of
    each of the pairs).

    My philosophy, beyond preferring to photograph cars in motion and in
    their natural habitat, has something to do with recording what you
    found the way you found it. I pretty much avoid flash photography
    unless there is no alternative. I'm not very assertive, so I don't
    often try to push people out of the way, nor do I use a tripod in the
    field, unless there is no alternative.

    You'll see five hand-held (propped when possible) available light
    exposures, two with a "digital slave" flash held high and
    supplementing the on-camera flash. I don't like the flash pictures,
    and am not much tempted to perfect the technique, given the
    satisfactory nature of the first two photos in the album: I think the
    GT40 and the Porsche fairly represent what was there, and is of
    sufficient quality to meet my requirements, which include Web and
    other monitor viewing, and low likelihood of big ol' prints.
    Frank ess, May 27, 2005
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