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Archive 2012 · An odd thing happened with my sb900/sb600's

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · An odd thing happened with my sb900/sb600's

I have done a lot of testing, and shooting with the sb900 as the master and the 600's as slaves, and have never had a problem. In fact, for close quarters, it's been a great solution for products, headshots, and whatever else I end up tinkering with. This evening however, I took them outside, set them up as I normally do, and I had nothing but problems. I couldn't get the slaves to fire consistently, or sometimes and mostly at all when triggered by the master. Here's the checklist of things I ran through:

Fresh batteries
tested each flash manually, and fired from atop the shoe mount
tested at different ranges, and was unable to produce consistent results.
Reset the settings and tried assigning a different group and channel.

None of this gave me any results as I would imagine, but I've never seen this happen. So I go home frustrated, apologize to my friend for having squandered his evening, and I set up the flashes on the four corners of the room, and without changing any settings, they work now again perfectly.... I must have had a problem with some sort of interference? Has anyone else experienced this ever?

Also, is this the sort of thing that a pocket wizard is supposed to elminate?

Aug 03, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Dale Kirchhofe

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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · An odd thing happened with my sb900/sb600's

The CLS is a line of sight infrared system. It also has limited range outdoors. Make sure the light sensors on the 600's are pointed towards the 900 for best results. I'm not sure of the range, the manuals may have some approximate distances in feet. I have 3-800's, they have fired at around 25 feet outdoors but not reliably. Indoors it is less critical as the signal from the 900 will bounce off walls or other reflective things and still fire the remotes. And yes, pocket wizards or other radio frequency type devices will solve the problem but with most of them you will have to have all the flashes in M mode. You might look at the SU-800, its slightly better but still not 100% reliable outdoors.

Aug 04, 2012 at 05:50 PM

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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · An odd thing happened with my sb900/sb600's

Thanks Dale! I was having problems getting the slaves to fire at any distance reliably, one would not fire at all, and after 20 times, all of a sudden it fired, and then it wouldn't fire again after that. But i never moved it. Another I moved close and far, and couldn't get it to fire consistently at all. Seems like there's got to be a better, cheaper way, I'd hate to shell out for a pocket wizard and have it not work well.

Aug 05, 2012 at 04:58 AM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · An odd thing happened with my sb900/sb600's


I'm a long time strobist, Nikon CLS user and now use RF triggers (CyberSyncs instead of PWs).

Dale brought up a really important point which you didn't address in your reply. In order for the the slave flashes, SB600s in your case (mine too), to fire while using your SB900 as the master requires two very important considerations when working outdoors.

1) You must always have the little IR sensors on the sides of the SB-600s (they're only on one side) facing the flash. In a small room, you'll get enough bounce off walls/ceilings/mirrors/etc so that this isn't as important. Outdoors it's essential. I've heard of people propping small mirrored disco balls around set to help with this. Seems like a lousy hack to me. YMMV

2) This is related to #1, however it's what convinced me to move to RF. You must always have the slave flashes in front of you. Meaning if you have two umbrellas setup for shooting a portrait, etc, then you have to make sure that you're standing behind the flashes and again that the sensors on the SB-600s are in line of site of the SB-900 master. This was a terrible inconvenience when I was shooting CLS with models. I'd be setup for a full/half body shot. I shoot with primes, and I'd want to move in for a head shot. I'd move in closer and closer, walk in past the point where my slaves where, and the slaves would stop firing as they were no longer in the line of sight.

I also don't care for the pre-flash, as it does show up as a catch-light in eyes, even when you have the master set to -- (just fire slaves). It's sometimes easy to remove in PP, and other times it's a total pain.

I've moved on to RF with three flashes and haven't ever, not one, had a misfire using my CyberSyncs. That's with tens of thousands of shots too, outdoors, as I shoot location 90% when working with people. In the studio I use PWs (work gear, not mine). They're constantly eating up batteries, so they tend to be more needy than my Cybersyncs.

The only think I don't like about my system is the inability to adjust flash power on the fly. I have to walk over to one of my light stands, if it's high I need to drop it down, and then I can adjust the power. That's all fine and dandy if the conditions are consistent, but they rarely are. Changing power settings in camera wasn't as annoying, but it wasn't exactly fast either. I know that there are RF systems out there where you can adjust the slave power on the fly, which is something I'd recommend if you have the coin.



Aug 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM

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