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Thread: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

  1. #1
    RonH's Avatar
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    Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    I would appreciate some advice please:
    I use a Nikon D3000 (I am pleased with it) with 18-105mm and 70-300mm, both stabilised lenses. Probably stupid to get both of these but the Nikon 18-105 was my first lens and I then wanted a longer reach and got the Sigma. The stabilised Sigma is in my humble opinion a really good lens ... for my price range and skills.

    For 'size convenience', general photography and occasional low light situations, I am looking to purchase a prime lens ... the Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D. This is not an expensive lens but seems to have very good write-ups. Is this a good choice for my next lens?

    Also I am of the view that its now time to get a shoe mounted flash instead of using the pop up when needed. There seem to be two options for me ... the Nikon SB400 basic flash and for a slightly lower price here in Norway, the Sigma EF 530 DG ST which is actually a more complex unit. In the forseeable future I don't think that I will be into 'multi flash' usage. Any recommendations?

  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Hi Ron,

    Let me preface this statement by saying that I am a Canon guy. However, I have been doing some Nikon flash research for a friend of mine who also is contemplating upgrading her on-camera flash to a hotshoe model.

    The SB400 is definitely an upgrade to the on-camera flash. It seems to me that it is quite similar to the Canon 270EX. Here are a couple of pros and cons that I see in the SB400 (along with the 270EX). Nikonians, please correct me if I am wrong.

    First, the SB400 is light weight. I am able to carry my little 270EX everywhere, either in the pocket of my photo vest or on the camera. It is so light weight that I don't even realize that the flash is attached to the camera. Additionally, being light in weight and having a low profile, it balances quite well when attached to a camera that is on a strap. The larger and higher profile hotshoe flashes often tend to unbalance the camera a bit and cause it to tip when carrying it on a neck strap.

    Since I always carry this little flash with me, I always have access to fill flash outside and a limited indoor capability.

    I consider that both the SB400 and the 270EX are somewhat limited in use, especially indoors. I virtually always bounce my flash because I hate the look of direct flash. Both the SB400 and the 270EX are capable of tilting for bounce flash but, cannot rotate. This lack of rotation capability limits the effectiveness of either flash when bouncing with the camera in the portrait or vertical position. IMO, this is the primary fault with the small flashes of this type.

    Secondly, both the SB400 and 270EX are rather low powered and often do not have enough power to light a reasonably large area.

    If a photographer chooses to select either of these small flashes to use as a primary flash, I strongly recommend using a Joe Demb Photojournalist Flip-it diffuser reflector ( www.dembflashproducts.com ). This Flip-it helps when using the flash in the portrait position and it also helps in general bouncing because you can adjust the reflector angle to direct a greater position of the light forward.

    "If wishes were horses then beggars could ride"; but I really wish that my 270EX (and the SB400 if I were shooting Nikon) could be used wirelessly. It would be great to have a second mini flash available in my pocket when I needed it.

    As far as the Sigma flash goes. I have no experience with this unit, but it appears more fully capable (along with being larger and heavier) than the SB400.

    BTW: Both the Canon and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lenses are excellent choices for a low light, general purpose prime lens at a very reasonable price.

  3. #3
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Quote Originally Posted by RonH View Post
    For 'size convenience', general photography and occasional low light situations, I am looking to purchase a prime lens ... the Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D. This is not an expensive lens but seems to have very good write-ups. Is this a good choice for my next lens?
    Hi Ron,

    I would say not; it will not Auto-Focus on your camera and especially if you try to make the most of the wider end of the aperture range, manual focus errors when handheld and of moving subjects are going to spoil a good many shots.

    If you work on a tripod and could use LiveView (sadly I don't think the D3000 has it) then it might be more do-able.

    You need an "AF-S" lens, I just got the AF-S 50/1.4, but haven't had the opportunity to use it much. I think there is an AF-S 1.8 option though, or am I mistaken?
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 20th January 2011 at 08:50 PM.

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    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    My only advice on flash is get the biggest flash you can afford. You can always dial down the power but when you need light you need it.

    I use the Nikon SB 800 (I think it is) and the thing I like about is it offers off-camera TTL balanced fill flash. I use it quiet often when doing macro photography. It allows you to introduce side lighting and hence some modelling to your subject. Also for close up work with a long lens you might find the length of the lens is such you get a half moon shadow at the bottom of your picture as the longer lens precludes all the light from reaching the subject.

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    Klickit's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Ron, re the lens question, I too wanted a prime for my Nikon D80 and swithered between the Nik 50mm 1.8 and the Nik 35mm 1.8 AF-S G lens. I ended up getting the 35mm as 50mm was just a bit too narrow an angle for what I was wanting to use it for. Your D300 is a crop sensor too (1.5) and will give you a 75mm equivalent. The 35mm will give you a view much closer to the classic 50mm lens. Just something to consider and if you have done so already, feel free to ignore me completely.

    P.S. The 35mm is quite light and plasticy and some don't like that aspect, but it doesn't bother me. Just another thing to consider.

  6. #6
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Quote Originally Posted by RonH View Post
    ... the Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D. This is not an expensive lens but seems to have very good write-ups. Is this a good choice for my next lens?
    As long as you don't mind manually focusing, it's a great low-cost fast prime. However, if you want autofocus, then your only two lower-cost choices are the AF-S lenses: the 50/1.4 and the 35/1.8. Sigma's 30/1.4 HSM (Sigma speak for AF-S) might also work. But all of these lenses are going to be more expensive than the 50/1.8D. Another alternative, if you're willing to put up with a manual focus non-CPU lenses, would be to hunt up an old AI version of the Nikkor 55mm f/1.2. It's old-fashioned, but it opens up oh-so-very-wide.

    Also I am of the view that its now time to get a shoe mounted flash instead of using the pop up when needed. There seem to be two options for me ... the Nikon SB400 basic flash and for a slightly lower price here in Norway, the Sigma EF 530 DG ST which is actually a more complex unit. In the forseeable future I don't think that I will be into 'multi flash' usage. Any recommendations?
    Two, actually.

    1) Hold off on buying a flash until you know how you want to use the flash and which one you want. If all you want is a step above the pop-up, the SB-400 can certainly give you that. But it's relatively limited in its usefulness. It doesn't swivel, it's low-power, and it's iTTL-only: you have no manual control over the power output. Think of it as being similar to having a P&S camera with no full Manual mode. If you have to get one of these two, I'd go for the Sigma, for the swivel capability, higher power, and ability to be used off-camera.

    2) Take some time and read a few websites about flash photography (my two recommendations: Strobist and Tangents), so you can get a feel for what flash features mean in practical shooting terms. Things like manual mode, high-speed sync, sync ports, TTL capability, and guide numbers are probably just meaningless noise to you right now. But they can and do make a significant difference in the capabilities you'll have when you actually get around to using them. You may think quite differently about the likelihood of using multiple flashes if you get caught in the toils of the Strobist blog, like so many other folks have.

  7. #7
    RonH's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Thanks all for your very informative inputs ... lots more research for me to do before I bite the bullet. Snag with me is that I am a bit impatient ... must be a factor of age and the more urgent need to 'do it'.

    Taking the lens first, I am now thinking of an AF-S and maybe dropping down to the 35mm. Its not a whole lot more expensive.
    How times change ... just a few years back we were all happily using manual focus lenses 'cause that's all there was! In fact like many, I still have my Pentax 35mm SLR plus a host of more 'modern' digital compacts, each one supposedly the latest and greatest at that time. But I can't find my pinhole camera, my box Kodak nor the Rollieflex that my dad used to use for wedding photos etc.

    And on the subject of 'external flash' I have to conclude that mostly I will be using it at or around home so is size and weight so very important? In my case, no. So the Sigma is looking more attractive and they have it on special at the local professional camera shop An external connection cable would doubtless be a worthwhile purchase a bit down the track.

  8. #8
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    I just wanted to give my thumbs up to the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.4. The 50 has been by most used lens and I just picked up the 30 yesterday at my local shop. I owned (actually still own) the Nikon 50 f/1.8 and 35 f/1.8DX but gave them to my son in favor of the Sigmas. I very much like the character of the photos I get from the Sigma primes.

  9. #9

    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    I have always used Sigma flash units and found them to be good value for money.
    Full of useful features and very well built. Hard to beat, in my opinion.

  10. #10
    RonH's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Well I 'bit the bullet' and my final selection was:
    Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D
    Sigma EF 530 DG ST

    Apart from very good prices (for Norway at least ) I decided on the 50mm manual focus lens ... manual on my D3000 at least.It brings me a bit closer to my subject compared with the 35mm I was also looking at. The manual focus is very easy to use ... much like the 'old days' when using my film Pentax. Also good to have a reasonably fast lens 'cause we suffer from a lot of darkish days up here during winter.

    And the Sigma flash at a 50% price discount from normal could not be resisted. Now I need a flash remote cable ...

  11. #11
    RonH's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Quote Originally Posted by RonH View Post
    Well I 'bit the bullet' and my final selection was:
    Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D
    Sigma EF 530 DG ST
    I should have listened to some of you
    Whilst the Nikon 50mm F1.8 AF-D is a great prime lens the lack of auto-focus on my Nikon D3000 is an issue for me. I have messed up a number of shots as a result. Hand in pocket, down to the camera shop and now I have the 35mm F1.8 AF-S G ... fully auto focusable with manual overide Being 35mm (effective 50ish mm) is also better for me as a prime lens ... took the pic of my 'Wild Animal' with it.

    So any Norwegian residents want a 50mm, good price ...

  12. #12
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Missed this one but from experience I would go for the AF-S 35mm f1.8 every time. I have owned a 50mm f1.8 for years and it is a great lens but not for those with DX bodies without the AF motors in them. Even on my D300s, which will drive the focusing, I find myself reaching for the 35mm and to be honest I can't remember the last time the 50mm was used.

    I't odd how the 50mm lens still has such a cult following these days. It was the standard in the days of 35mm film, mine dates from this time, and I took it everywhere with me but with most of us shooting with a crop sensor it just isn't as practical anymore. I wonder how many of the people who leap to recommend it still use it on a daily basis? I actually wish Nikon would make a AF-S 24mm f2 in the same style as the 35mm one as I'd buy it on the day it was launched and likely never take it off the camera for months. I had an older 35mm lens in my film days and it is the perfect 'use everywhere' lens - just look at the likes of the Leica X1 and the Fuji X100 to see how a 35mm equivalent can be the only lens you ever need.

  13. #13
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    It's odd how the 50mm lens still has such a cult following these days. It was the standard in the days of 35mm film, mine dates from this time, and I took it everywhere with me but with most of us shooting with a crop sensor it just isn't as practical anymore. I wonder how many of the people who leap to recommend it still use it on a daily basis? I actually wish Nikon would make a AF-S 24mm f2 in the same style as the 35mm one as I'd buy it on the day it was launched ~
    I agree Robin, I have 105mm and 50mm and hesitate (apart from it being cheap) to get the 35mm, I'd really like something a tad wider as you say.

    Before I gave up film shooting (with a Nikon EM) I had got to the point of just leaving the 50mm f/1.8 on, but often found that too close. As you say, in film days the 35mm would have been great, but for use with 1.5 crop factor bodies, an AF-S 28 or 24mm f/2 would be a great addition to the line up.

    Cheers,

  14. #14
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    Hi Ron,

    Let me preface this statement by saying that I am a Canon guy. However, I have been doing some Nikon flash research for a friend of mine who also is contemplating upgrading her on-camera flash to a hotshoe model.

    The SB400 is definitely an upgrade to the on-camera flash. It seems to me that it is quite similar to the Canon 270EX. Here are a couple of pros and cons that I see in the SB400 (along with the 270EX). Nikonians, please correct me if I am wrong.

    First, the SB400 is light weight. I am able to carry my little 270EX everywhere, either in the pocket of my photo vest or on the camera. It is so light weight that I don't even realize that the flash is attached to the camera. Additionally, being light in weight and having a low profile, it balances quite well when attached to a camera that is on a strap. The larger and higher profile hotshoe flashes often tend to unbalance the camera a bit and cause it to tip when carrying it on a neck strap.

    Since I always carry this little flash with me, I always have access to fill flash outside and a limited indoor capability.

    I consider that both the SB400 and the 270EX are somewhat limited in use, especially indoors. I virtually always bounce my flash because I hate the look of direct flash. Both the SB400 and the 270EX are capable of tilting for bounce flash but, cannot rotate. This lack of rotation capability limits the effectiveness of either flash when bouncing with the camera in the portrait or vertical position. IMO, this is the primary fault with the small flashes of this type.

    Secondly, both the SB400 and 270EX are rather low powered and often do not have enough power to light a reasonably large area.

    If a photographer chooses to select either of these small flashes to use as a primary flash, I strongly recommend using a Joe Demb Photojournalist Flip-it diffuser reflector ( www.dembflashproducts.com ). This Flip-it helps when using the flash in the portrait position and it also helps in general bouncing because you can adjust the reflector angle to direct a greater position of the light forward.

    "If wishes were horses then beggars could ride"; but I really wish that my 270EX (and the SB400 if I were shooting Nikon) could be used wirelessly. It would be great to have a second mini flash available in my pocket when I needed it. NOTE: Canon has recently introduced a 270EX ii model which can be used wirelessly along with a 550EX or a 580EX [series] master. This is a significant increase in the capability of the unit - now, if they only come out with a 270EX iii that can rotate as well as tilt! )

    As far as the Sigma flash goes. I have no experience with this unit, but it appears more fully capable (along with being larger and heavier) than the SB400.

    BTW: Both the Canon and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lenses are excellent choices for a low light, general purpose prime lens at a very reasonable price.

  15. #15
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon Lenses and shoe mounted flash

    Now I need a flash remote cable ...
    Consider as well as off camera flash bracket, sometimes you may find the need for a "third hand" to hold the flash for macro or with wide angle lenses
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 13th March 2011 at 04:02 PM.

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