I'm done with CLS

Joined
Jan 4, 2008
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740
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Sacramento CA
I have recently been let down by CLS (again). I posted about D200/CLS issues in the other lighting forum...

For the past 3 or 4 years, I have used 2 SB800s and 2 SB600s in my small dedicated studio. I use one 800 tethered and the other strobes in remote and all manual. I do this to allow 4 adjustable groups (M, A, B, C).

Once in while I start getting black screens. The flash triggers, but either the synch is off or something is stopping the sensor from recording. Images, including NEFs are also black when viewed on a monitor.

I have since moved my studio into my home (more room) and have had additional issues. I believe this is due to the fact the my new studio has dark walls and my old studio had white walls which better reflected the line of sight signals.

So, during a church directory shoot this past week end the black screen occurred again. I substituted a D7000 and a D3 with no change. I changed out the Master 800 and things started working again. I suspect its the SB800 but further data is needed. I don't shoot rapidly, this should not be an over heat situation.

So to summarize my experience and desired improvements:

1. Nikon should move to a built in wireless system. They would have a better product and be able to spur new sales with a real value added technology.

2. Nikon should also offer stand alone triggers for those of us with legacy speedligts (including the ability to trigger non CLS speedlights after the preflash.

3. I would like to be able to adjust manual flash output by smaller increments than one full stop (1/1, 1/2, 1/4) when in manual and CLS. Also once I get the ratios set, I would like to adjust global output, again while in manual and CLS. There may be work-arounds here but I control my lights in manual.

At this point, I am going to migrate to a blended system starting with some cheap triggers and then move to pro studio lights with good wireless systems. CLS is a marvel on many levels, and I have no problems using it in any situation that does no involve a client watching me troubleshoot mis- fires. I guess I expected CLS and Nikon speed lights be pro caliber gear and for my purposes they are not. To fair, I don't expect to shoot subjects like cars and airplanes in a hanger or models on the beach where big power is more appropriate. However shooting portraits with in a relatively small environment should not be an issue.

As always, YMMV.

Happy shooting.

Nate
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
5,614
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Texas
So to summarize my experience and desired improvements:

1. Nikon should move to a built in wireless system. They would have a better product and be able to spur new sales with a real value added technology.

I certainly agree that it would then be an awesome system, and would solve most of the photography problems. But the lawmaking problems in the real world are apparently quite difficult, and I would not expect to see it soon. Every country seems to have its own rules about radio frequencies. For example, here is Pocket Wizards international offerings, which include three catagories for product modification:

http://www.pocketwizard.com/inspirations/technology/frequency/

Note there are only 62 countries on the list, but we have closer to 200 counties. The list of 1/3 of the countries surely represents more than 90% of the sales (in three groups), but probably some countries do not allow it all. This not only affects sales into those countries, but it also affects visitors bringing their own gear into those countries. Simply bringing such gear across the border could risk losing the equipment, or maybe in some cases, going to jail.

It seems no small issue to solve, else surely it would have been solved.



2. Nikon should also offer stand alone triggers for those of us with legacy speedligts (including the ability to trigger non CLS speedlights after the preflash.
All include hot shoe, and some models include PC connector, which easily allows add on radio for manual flash. Optical slaves are quite easy too. Yes, it is extra expense and gear and connections and batteries to mess with, but it is easily done, even inexpensively done.

3. I would like to be able to adjust manual flash output by smaller increments than one full stop (1/1, 1/2, 1/4) when in manual and CLS. Also once I get the ratios set, I would like to adjust global output, again while in manual and CLS. There may be work-arounds here but I control my lights in manual.
That is just the one step between full and half power, right? Otherwise my SB-800s do 1/3 stop steps on their menu. My D300 commander does 1/3 stops at all values, TTL or manual.
 
Joined
May 16, 2009
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Downey, CA
Yeah, CLS is finicky at times, to say the least. It's a good inexpensive way to get started, but for reliability and range, radio units seem the way to go. I must say I haven't yet purchased a radio unit setup, as I am waiting to see what happens with the TT1/TT5 PW pricing, and lately, so long as I take care to aim my commander at the unit(s) I want to fire, even outdoor functionality has been fairly reliable. But I know it's limitations, which have bitten me often.
 
Joined
May 16, 2009
Messages
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Downey, CA
Every country seems to have its own rules about radio frequencies.

Yeah, but this is not an unsurmountable problem to solve...

  • Sell units tuned to frequencies specific to the market, which is not a nice prospect for Nikon production
  • Sell units with selectable radio frequency (A,B & C) would cover most markets.
  • Develop more robust CLS, perhaps with repeaters, and please, oh, please, can we have more than one receiver on the side of the unit?
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
5,614
Location
Texas
Yeah, but this is not an unsurmountable problem to solve...

  • Sell units tuned to frequencies specific to the market, which is not a nice prospect for Nikon production

Also does not help travelers traveling to a different country with their gear, which would then be illegal there. Not a trivial problem. Esp not after customs agents became aware of what to watch for.

  • Sell units with selectable radio frequency (A,B & C) would cover most markets.
Pocket Wizard does not. It is easy for me to believe that units capable of illegal frequencies would not be tolerated in some countries, including the USA.

My guess is that Nikon and Canon and Sony and Olympus have already evaluated all of this.
 
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
4,638
Location
Orlando, FL
IMO, CLS is a waste of time for studio-based applications - even if you are using manual mode on the flashes. If you are shooting commercially, the $$ invested in a set of Pocketwizard Plus II's are well worth it.
 
Joined
Jan 4, 2008
Messages
740
Location
Sacramento CA
That is just the one step between full and half power, right? Otherwise my SB-800s do 1/3 stop steps on their menu. My D300 commander does 1/3 stops at all values, TTL or manual.

I may not have been clear on this point. In non CLS manual mode, i can adjust in 1/3 increments. When I go to CLS manual mode, then I am limited to 1/1/, 1/2, 1/4 etc. i.e. full stop adjustments. It almost seems like CLS is bandwidth constrained on how many unique commands it can execute.
 
Joined
Apr 15, 2008
Messages
911
Location
Orange, CA
I left CLS years ago and went strictly manual radio controlled. Consistent and costs much less. For the price of 1 sb-900 I have several manual flashes that are similarly powered for a fraction of the price.
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
5,614
Location
Texas
I may not have been clear on this point. In non CLS manual mode, i can adjust in 1/3 increments. When I go to CLS manual mode, then I am limited to 1/1/, 1/2, 1/4 etc. i.e. full stop adjustments. It almost seems like CLS is bandwidth constrained on how many unique commands it can execute.
I think you must be referring to the SB-800 commander. Its Manual steps do move in full stops (but 1/3 stop TTL compensation steps).

The D200 and D300 internal flash commander moves in 1/3 stops in either TTL or Manual mode. I just use it, but I only have two remote flashes.

The Commander is very fast and handy for quick work, like magic almost.

But I agree, I also prefer manual studio lights and a flash meter for more serious studio work with more than a couple of lights. That is of course much slower, but it offers much more control.
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
2,556
Location
Virginia
It is funny that elinchrom can have one freq. for the world. There are a couple others that are standardized as well. You would think Nikon could. I got tired of the limitations of the SB system. I was shooting in manual most of the time anyway to get the right control and I noticed that they were getting pretty hot shooting the grandkids. So, I looked around and decided on an Elinchrom setup with the skyport. It was cheaper than some of the others but it was just about the cost of a new SB900 per head...Much more usable power and modifiers and control and I can overpower the sun if I wish.
 
Joined
Oct 7, 2008
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Location
Littleton, Colorado
It is funny that elinchrom can have one freq. for the world.

I agree, it should not be that big of a deal to get past, many other manufacturers have managed to figure this out just fine.

as for showing up at the airport and worrying about your camera broadcasting illegal frequencies, does the same issue not apply to other established radio triggers?

I dont think i have ever seen any threads that say "I got arrested at the canadian border because of my pocket wizards"

lol
 
H

Hwy1

Guest
I too left the Nikon CLS system behind after having failures in outdoor shade.
Pocket Wizards have filled the void well..
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2009
Messages
1,496
I've also had problems with the Nikon CLS system, and I've quit using it in favor of Pocket Wizards.
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
2,556
Location
Virginia
I will say that I was out shooting with a couple other guys and it was getting a bit dark. We still wanted to get a couple more shots off and rather than up the ISO we pulled out a couple speedlights and used our popup flash as the commander and got the final shots of the day. It was not planned to do that but it worked out that time. I rather use my Elinchrom in the studio though and will pack up and take them if I know I will need them.
 
Joined
Jul 29, 2005
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9,532
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Pittsburgh, Pa.
According to what I understand so far I need one mini for use with the SU-800 and four Flex for use with my four SB-800's. That's $1,075.
 
Joined
Jul 4, 2007
Messages
3,551
Location
Redmond, WA
IMHO what is confusing now is that there are really two forms of PocketWizards in the wild --

1) The traditional, ultra-reliable, it-must-pop PocketWizards -- like the Plus II's. No TTL or remote flash power control of Nikon flashes, just super-reliable triggering.

2) The newer, more expensive, more functional, and -- see below -- IMHO not quite as reliable -- ControlTL / TT system -- MiniTT1, FlexTT5, and AC3. These add features like TTL, CLS-like control, HyperSync, High Speed Sync, etc.

I've only had a couple of weeks with my new TT's and I freely admit that there's a learning curve to them and some issues have been my mistakes. But while overall I like them a lot, they don't seem to fire with the same absolute reliability as traditional PW's. Indeed, at this point I don't even think they fire with the same reliability as my old Yongnuo RF-602's (though obviously the RF-602's are much simpler in functionality).

Just because the units say PocketWizard doesn't mean it's rock-solid.

OTOH I hope that PocketWizard continues to improve the Nikon TT implementation through firmware upgrades. The Nikon versions have only been out for several months. So perhaps better reliability may come in time.

I just don't suggest buying the TT's at this point in time, if one expects the traditional image of rock-solid PocketWizard reliability. But if one is willing to put up with a few bugs and needs the level of control, they are very good indeed.
 
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