Postscript to my Nikon 8800 and SB-800 query

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005.

  1. Hi, all!

    Well, I've thrown in the towel - the 8800 and SB-800 are
    going back to the store tomorrow. Sure hope the manager
    is a man of his word! Here's a synopsis of what did/did
    not happen, in case anyone is interested and/of is
    considering a similar purchase for similar needs:

    I shot a total of /over/ 500 pictures at the Walter P.
    Chrysler Museum, in Auburn Hills, Michigan, since Tuesday
    morning. It's only 15 minutes from me and I get in free
    as a DCX retiree.

    I methodically, I think!, went through the entire gamut
    of logical testing, including setting the camera to
    Programmed Auto, Aperture Priority, and full Manual. Also
    varied the EV +1 and +2. I also tried Matrix, Center
    Weighted, and Spot for the AE. All of this should have
    helped greatly but simply didn't.

    On the SB-800 side, I tried TTL with zoom=Auto, and EV=+
    1, +2, and +3. Also tried Auto, Manual, and Guidenumber.

    Each set of "test" was documented via a pen and paper and
    the right stuff went with the right stuff (i.e., I set
    the manual aperture and shutter correctly, again, I
    think!). Final "judgment" was on my PC, not in preview
    mode on the camera.

    Conclusion: Not only can I /NOT/ get consistent exposures
    with the 8800/SB-800, I /cannot/ even "make it" do the
    "right" exposure by individually tweaking the various
    camera and flash parameters as described above! (((-;;

    I've by no means exhausted all the possiblities, but as
    best I can see, what I'm doing on the camera end that
    should help, ala going to Center Weighted or Spot AE,
    does /not/ seem to help at all. It's as though the flash
    is in "Matrix" mode at all times. If there's a way to
    control that, I couldn't find it in the manual.

    In very general terms, the "best" I was able to achieve
    was in areas of the museum well-lit by outside daylight
    coming in through the large windows. These were pretty
    much A-OK. But, when shooting back-lit against the same
    big windows, the window blows out to pure white, while
    the car in front of it is at least 5-6 stops under, which
    makes the noise go crazy even at ISO 100.

    Thus, it appears that the flash is being influenced by
    the back light and ignoring where I locked the AE (on the
    car).

    In between, if a car is lit only dimly by incandescent
    ambient lighting, the /best/ I could achieve even at max
    EV, was maybe 2-3 stops under.

    I seriously doubt the camera or flash is defective. It is
    either continuing operator error (likely) or Nikon simply
    doesn't know how to do iTTL (maybe)! Again, I
    specifically chose this camera and flash /because/ Nikon
    made a big deal out its new iTTL system.

    Still, in "normal" scenes where there's walls and
    ceilings, exposure is always +/- 1 stop. And, in daylight
    it is virtually flawless. But, I /cannot/ get it to work
    in museum environments, which is a deal killer for me,
    even if the other stuff is superb (which it is).

    I'm going to miss the many upgraded features, such as
    ergonomics, better photometric functionality, and ability
    to shoot at almost any resolution, including 2MP and 3MP,
    my favs, or I could go all the way to 8MP.

    The camera dude keeps insisting I should go DSLR, but I'm
    strongly resisting this as I simply /must/ be able to see
    what I just shot, in the /EVF/, and /not/ on the dimly
    lit LCDs. Else who the dickens can I tell real-time if
    the exposure is OK or not? Plus, to get the same 35-350mm
    equivalent zoom would entail big bucks and very heavy
    lenses.

    I'll be taking a look this fall at technology I hear is
    coming, something the camera manager calls Digic II,
    which means no-thing to me right now. I'm sorry, but I
    just don't accept that even $1,400 before rebates cannot
    produce reasonable exposures at least most of the time.
    And, I cannot accept anyone telling me that "this is
    inherent in all EVFs, go DSLR and your problems will be
    over!"

    At this point, I'd like to again thank the many people
    who helped me with this, and patiently tried to teach an
    old dog some new tricks.

    BTW, just as a sanity check, I went back to the WPC
    museum this afternoon with my old 5700 and Sunpak 433D
    and hit about 80% good exposures with just minor
    tweaking. I think that if I play with the camera EV
    and/or bring a small tripod along and try some available
    light with the WB adjusted, and I'll be golden.
    Meanwhile, I've upped my 5700 to 5MP on Fine JPEG, and
    will give that a whirl tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, I've upped my 5700 to 5MP on Fine JPEG, and
    will give that a whirl tomorrow.

    In closing, if anyone has some words of wisdom as to what
    I should do next, I'd appreciate it.
     
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
    #1
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  2. All Things Mopar

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Can you use the GN (guide number) flash exposure feature with the 8800?
    I'd think that's what you really want.
     
    Paul Rubin, May 27, 2005
    #2
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  3. Paul Rubin commented courteously...
    Yes, I /can/, Paul, but I won't...
    No, I'm afraid that is /not/ what I want. I want
    something that is worth $1,400 (before rebates) that
    performs to its advertised all-new, high-tech iTTL
    external and internal flash auto exposure system, in a
    car museum environment.

    While I could go full-manual with GN, why would I Paul?
    As I said this thing ain't broke, so either it's me or
    iTTL just doesn't work! It is /really/ hard for me to
    believe Nikon doesn't know their camera is bad, so
    perhaps the explanation is that the Nikon engineers
    didn't test the camera and flash in the conditions I'm
    forced to shoot under.

    But then, to be fair, it isn't everybody that has such
    specific and stringent flash shooting requirements as I
    do. In the home or close-in museum exhibits where
    there're walls and ceiling for the light to reflect off,
    and there's no back light, it does OK. It does just fine
    in daylight. It is just that, out of 500+ flash photos,
    less than 30% are acceptable to me, and cannot be fixed
    in Paint Shop Pro 9 without noticing significant damage
    to the image from the severe underexposure.

    Frankly, I don't understand what's happened. I tried to
    creates tests as methodically as I could devise to try
    and determine what causes the underexposures and what
    settings for the flash and camera I should use as
    starting points to get better pictures.

    There just isn't nearly enough info in the EXIF data to
    debug this, and so it is simply pointless to contact
    Nikon Tech Support, nor go round and round with the
    camera store manager any more. If EXIF showed me the
    distance focused and the shooting mode/EV for the SB-800,
    I might stand a chance of finding a root cause. But, its
    not there.

    I was disatisfied with my 5700 since Day One, but
    compared to this 8800 turkey, it takes great flash
    pictures with only an $80 Sunpak external!

    Iffn ya has a few more minutes, could you re-read my post
    and give me any ideas you have what might be going wrong,
    other than to suggest full manual and/or tripod and
    available light?

    And, what might you recommend for an EVF - /not/ a DSLR -
    that might better meet my specific needs?

    I've looked, but not found, anything with the same
    features as either my 5700 or the new 8800 from the usual
    good camera makers, including FujiFilm, Sony, Canon,
    Minolta, and the others. I haunted dpreview.com and
    several dedicated news groups back in February but failed
    to find a better camera. I just /won't/ pay $995 for a
    camera and another $330 for a flash and not be able to
    move from one car to the next to the next and get totally
    crappy 5-6 stop underexposed pictures!

    Thanks.
     
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
    #3
  4. All Things Mopar

    kmy Guest

    Have you tried posting/researching your problems on

    www.nikonians.org

    Its a nikon fan site with some pretty useful forums that cover the 8800
    and sb800.


    : Paul Rubin commented courteously...

    :> Can you use the GN (guide number) flash exposure
    : feature
    :> with the 8800?

    : Yes, I /can/, Paul, but I won't...

    :> I'd think that's what you really want.

    : No, I'm afraid that is /not/ what I want. I want
    : something that is worth $1,400 (before rebates) that
    : performs to its advertised all-new, high-tech iTTL
    : external and internal flash auto exposure system, in a
    : car museum environment.

    : While I could go full-manual with GN, why would I Paul?
    : As I said this thing ain't broke, so either it's me or
    : iTTL just doesn't work! It is /really/ hard for me to
    : believe Nikon doesn't know their camera is bad, so
    : perhaps the explanation is that the Nikon engineers
    : didn't test the camera and flash in the conditions I'm
    : forced to shoot under.

    : But then, to be fair, it isn't everybody that has such
    : specific and stringent flash shooting requirements as I
    : do. In the home or close-in museum exhibits where
    : there're walls and ceiling for the light to reflect off,
    : and there's no back light, it does OK. It does just fine
    : in daylight. It is just that, out of 500+ flash photos,
    : less than 30% are acceptable to me, and cannot be fixed
    : in Paint Shop Pro 9 without noticing significant damage
    : to the image from the severe underexposure.

    : Frankly, I don't understand what's happened. I tried to
    : creates tests as methodically as I could devise to try
    : and determine what causes the underexposures and what
    : settings for the flash and camera I should use as
    : starting points to get better pictures.

    : There just isn't nearly enough info in the EXIF data to
    : debug this, and so it is simply pointless to contact
    : Nikon Tech Support, nor go round and round with the
    : camera store manager any more. If EXIF showed me the
    : distance focused and the shooting mode/EV for the SB-800,
    : I might stand a chance of finding a root cause. But, its
    : not there.

    : I was disatisfied with my 5700 since Day One, but
    : compared to this 8800 turkey, it takes great flash
    : pictures with only an $80 Sunpak external!

    : Iffn ya has a few more minutes, could you re-read my post
    : and give me any ideas you have what might be going wrong,
    : other than to suggest full manual and/or tripod and
    : available light?

    : And, what might you recommend for an EVF - /not/ a DSLR -
    : that might better meet my specific needs?

    : I've looked, but not found, anything with the same
    : features as either my 5700 or the new 8800 from the usual
    : good camera makers, including FujiFilm, Sony, Canon,
    : Minolta, and the others. I haunted dpreview.com and
    : several dedicated news groups back in February but failed
    : to find a better camera. I just /won't/ pay $995 for a
    : camera and another $330 for a flash and not be able to
    : move from one car to the next to the next and get totally
    : crappy 5-6 stop underexposed pictures!

    : Thanks.

    : --
    : ATM, aka Jerry
     
    kmy, May 27, 2005
    #4
  5. Have you tried posting/researching your problems on
    Yes, I have. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I went around and around almost a year ago with my 5700
    on exactly the same issues, this is now SSDD. If I hadn't
    gone 3 1/2 years with my FujiFilm 4900 with no real
    exposure issues, I wouldn't be nearly so incredulous that
    a valued name in cameras - Nikon - can fail so miserably,
    twice in less than a year.

    For the sake of brevity, I've kept my posts as short as
    possible, and only added text to clarify questions or
    offer differing perspectives. I can do so again, if more
    words will help, but I kinda doubt it at this point...

    My wife says I live in the world of Leave It To Beaver. I
    think she may be right! I trekked around Europe and all
    over the U.S. with my 1969 Nikon Photomic FTN with nary
    an exposure problem that wasn't clearly my fault.

    I'd gladly return to that world of focus to a scale on
    the lens, then line up a needle in the viewfinder as
    appropriate, but I can't.

    Instead, I must rely on systems of multiple sophisticated
    computers who want to "think" for me. Fine, I guess, then
    why is it so difficult for the computers to figure out
    what I want?

    And, I've also used my wife and daughter's two little
    Kodak P & S cameras in the exact same museum with
    terrific results. So, perhaps you can see why I'm coming
    away from all this with a "WTF?!" expression on my face!
    If a $150 Kodak 6330 works, why doesn't a $1,400 Nikon
    8800 and SB-800?

    (and, no, putting a digital into "manual" is /not/ the
    same as my old FTN, which, BTW, still takes superb
    pictures!)

    It seems there are really only two kinds of people "out
    there", those who think I should shoot available light
    with the camera on a tripod, and those who really have no
    clue as to what I'm trying to do, so they can't help.
    I've "talked" to some very experienced people who
    honestly want to help me, but there's a disconnect some
    where.

    And, I haven't at all dismissed the idea of plain, old-
    fashioned user error, but despite 500 pictures varying
    all the controls I can figure out, in a controlled way, I
    just can't make it work, so it's back to the store for a
    refund.

    I'm not ticked off at anybody, just extremely frustrated
    trying to understand why something so simple can be so
    difficult.
     
    All Things Mopar, May 27, 2005
    #5
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