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Nikon Speedlight SB-80DX

Using synchro flash gives you the freedom capture the shot you want.
We want as many people as possible to discover the enjoyment of multi-flash photography.

Set the flash head to an upward angle of 50 degrees and take the shot using light reflected off the ceiling to intensify the shadows (note the difference between photos 1. and 2.).
Photo 3. is a shot taken with the bounce adapter mounted, resulting in shadows that are less pronounced than those in Photo 2.

Mr. MATSUI, can you give us some tips for using a Speedlight ?

A Speedlight should be used to take more natural photos, and to exercise more precise control over shadows.
For example, suppose the Speedlight illuminates the subject face-on for a portrait shot. This would cause facial features such as the forehead, nose and cheeks to appear washed-out, making the face look flatter and taking some of the dimensionality out of the image. This is especially true when shooting a subject with a naturally pale complexion or, say, a bride in her wedding dress.
This is the sort of situation in which bounce flash comes in handy.
Bounce means aiming the Speedlight at the ceiling or walls, and illuminating the subject using the reflected light as opposed to direct illumination. Indoor lighting is normally located overhead, so when the light is bounced off the ceiling the result is a natural shot that looks much more like what we actually see.

Photo 1.
With bounce flash
Photo 2.
Without bounce flash
Photo 3.
Without bounce flash, but with bounce adapter

I see. Though the technique is slightly different from the use of the bounce adapter you mentioned a moment ago, you can achieve the same effect either way.
Now, what exactly do you mean when you say "controlling shadows" ?

If the Speedlight is aimed from position 2 in the above illustration, the profile is enhanced, giving the picture more dimensionality and depth.

When aimed from position 1, the strong shadows of Photo 4. are lost, resulting in the natural appearance shown in Photo 5.

Using the light from the flash, we can eliminate the effect of shadows.
I personally am a proponent of synchro photography, and with that in mind I'd like the explain the sample photos that appear in the user's manual.
Beginning with the shot of the bird... if we were to aim the Speedlight at the subject diagonally from behind, the profile would be accentuated and the image would have a nice dimensional feeling --; but the shadows that would appear in front of the subject would negate the positive effect of the added depth.
However, if we illuminate the bird from the side using a second Speedlight -- as was done for this sample photo -- the effect of the shadows is virtually eliminated.

Photo 4.
Photo 5.

The results are totally different! It looks so much more natural with two Speedlights.

It does, doesn't it... now let's explore capturing a shot of the bouquet using three flash units. First, we would illuminate from the side the camera is on, to add depth. This results in strong shadows, so to negate their effect we would use the bounce flash technique, illuminating the subject from above and behind. This virtually eliminates the shadows and delivers a natural, highly defined image.

So you can use multiple Speedlights to make shots more natural and give them increased depth.

Right. We want more people to understand how to use synchro photography, and to enjoy it. We interact with our customers primarily through the user's manual and catalogs, so we try to explain as simply and clearly as possible how to perform synchro photography.

Photo 6.
Using a single side flash, separate from the camera
Photo 7.
Shot taken using three Speedlights
Photo 8.
Shot taken using a single Speedlight mounted on the camera

When the Speedlight is aimed from position 1 in the above illustration, the result is an image with enhanced depth and dimensionality (Photo 6.).

If illuminated from both above (position 2) and behind (position 3) with reflected light, the shadows disappear and the details are clearly visible, as shown in Photo 7.

Photo 8. is a shot taken with a single Speedlight mounted on the camera.
With only frontal illumination, the result is much flatter than Photo 7., and shadows to the rear interfere with the composition.

The most fascinating aspect of Speedlight development was controlling the light output down to 1/10,000th of a second.

In what area of Speedlight development did you encounter the most difficulty ?

We design Speedlights to be usable with all Nikon cameras, and as you can imagine it's quite a task to confirm compatibility when you're dealing with such a wide range of products.
For us as Speedlight developers, however, there's really no way around it.

I can only imagine how complex that must be.
Now, what area of Speedlight development did you find to be the most interesting ?

Controlling the light output, no question. The Speedlight emits light for durations as long as 1/1,000 of a second and as short as 1/10,000 of a second.
This poses a great number of technical problems, such as attaining high voltages in such a short time span, and being able to ship a quality product. It's these challenges that I enjoyed more than any other aspect of development.

Of the Speedlights you've worked on, which one stands out most prominently in your mind ?

The SB-50DX mounted on a camera.
The white, apron-like attachment is a dimmer.

The SB-50DX. Our objective during development was to emphasize the strengths of the camera, and show our customers the pleasure that can be derived from shooting with a really good flash.
Most cameras today have internal flashes, and we created the uniquely designed SB-50DX specifically because synchro photography isn't possible with internal flash cameras. The SB-50DX mounted on a camera.
The white, apron-like attachment is a dimmer.The flash leans forward, and looks like it has a white apron on it when viewed from the front. The apron is actually a dimmer. Suppose you bounce one flash off the ceiling, and also use the internal Speedlight. Because the internal Speedlight is so bright, the direct illumination overpowers the reflected light. With the dimmer, however, the illumination from the internal Speedlight is softened, making the reflected light the main source and achieving a natural image.

We asked for evaluations of the Speedlight, and received a diverse range of responses from the market -- some of them quite unexpected. Discussions followed about whether or not to keep the apron, other problems that may have existed with the design, and how the design would be received by our customers. In the end, we agreed that we are very happy with the design.

In the development of the Speedlight, were there any major technical problems that had to be overcome ?

Well, as I mentioned a minute ago, the Speedlight is designed to support the camera. Cameras will continue to evolve, and the key point in technology development is always how to realize the true potential of the camera.

What types of Speedlights would you like to make in the future ?

Well, for one, a Speedlight that doesn't blind you !
In commemorative photos there are always people who shut their eyes.
And people usually say you should never point the flash at a baby, but if the Speedlight were not so bright this wouldn't be a problem. It would be wonderful if you could take a picture with the correct illumination without the flash being so bright that people have to close their eyes.

MATSUI, H. has been involved in Speedlight development since he entered Nikon.
He expressed his determination to continue to develop best-selling products in the future.

In closing, could you let us know what's in store ?

My hope is that we can make the use of Speedlights easier to understand, and get more people to employ synchro photography more regularly. I would especially like to convey these things to picture takers who complain that they can only capture simple shots or don't know how to properly take a picture of, say, a beautiful floral arrangement.
In order to do this, we will have to teach customers how to construct a photography system, and make Speedlights as accessible and easy to use as possible.
I myself am looking forward to continuing work on planning new products and seeing them succeed in the marketplace.

We're looking forward to them !