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Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1

Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1 consists of the Wireless Speedlight Commander SU-800, two Wireless Remote Speedlight SB-R200s, and a variety of accessories to help users enjoy professional quality close-up flash photography. We spoke with two people involved with the development of these products.

Hideki Matsui
Manager, Design 5, 1st Designing Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company, Nikon Corporation
PROFILE:
Since joining Nikon Corporation, Hideki Matsui has been engaged in the development of Nikon Speedlights. He has worked with a variety of Speedlights, including underwater Speedlights such as the SB-104 and SB-105, as well as accessories and IC custom control circuits. Matsui, who is a passionate photographer, says: “Before, I mostly took pictures of my family, but these days I take photos in day-to-day situations such as eating out and traveling. Looking at ordinary things from different angles reveals something new. I hope the R1C1 will help realize such experiences.”
Xiang Zhao Chen
Junior Executive, Design 5, 1st Designing Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company, Nikon Corporation
PROFILE:
After finishing university in China, Xiang Zhao Chen worked at an electrical power research center and then studied at a graduate college in Japan. He joined Nikon Corporation in 1996 and has worked on Nikon Speedlights since, developing more than 10 Speedlights and electrical circuits during this period. He told us,“Now I'm discovering the world of Nikon Speedlights and learning all about it from Mr. Matsui.”

Understanding the professional photographer’s environment

The R1C1 includes accessories that we think are very innovative.
Please explain what the Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1 actually is.

Awarded 2006 Good Design (product
design category)
Recognized by a wide range of users
for its quality of design.
The R1C1 kit in the Close-up Speedlight
Kit Case SS-MS1
Contains the full R1C1 kit, and also
provides additional space for one extra
SB-R200

Matsui:

Existing external flashes dedicated to close-up shooting are equipped with two light-emitting parts on the left and right or top and bottom. The flashes connect to the camera with a cable, such as the Nikon SB-29s. But many photographers involved in commercial studio photography say they don't use such dedicated external flashes for their work. Basically, they use three external flashes to illuminate subjects from left, right and top for fine close-up photography. This is why we produced the R1C1. The Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) enables wireless remote lighting and group flash control, and includes the various accessories necessary for close-up studio shooting.

There's a lot in the R1C1 kit. How did you choose what went in?

Matsui:

The basic contents are two Wireless Remote Speedlight SB-R200s and a Wireless Speedlight Commander SU-800. In addition, the R1C1 consists of Attachment Ring SX-1, which is used to attach the SB-R200s to the front of the lens, five kinds of adapter ring, Speedlight Stand AS-20 for standing an SB-R200 on a surface such as a table or attaching it to a tripod, Extreme Close-Up Positioning Adapter SW-11, Color Filter Holder SZ-1, Color Filter Set SJ-R200, Diffuser SW-12, and Flexible Arm Clip SW-C1 and IR Panel for Built-in Flash SG-3IR to help users with close-up flash photography in various shooting situations. Photographers can be very ingenious when necessity calls. With the R1C1 kit, we are providing such ingenuity.

A dedicated case is also provided.

Chen:

The Close-up Speedlight Kit Case SS-MS1 holds all the accessories and provides additional space for one extra SB-R200. Ordinarily, a dedicated case is made to hold the contents of the kit only, but we offer more space, keeping in mind that the user may choose to use three flashes for more creative close-up photography.

Matsui:

These days, non-professional photographers have many reasons to take close-up shots, such as for advertising goods on online auctions. In such auctions, prices may depend on the quality of the photos. Users may need more photo accessories depending on various shooting situations. However, we hope they can take high-quality photos with three external flashes.

I borrowed the R1C1 kit from Nikon and found I needed a third Speedlight.

Matsui:

Photographers may not be satisfied with only two Speedlights. With close-up shooting, the user normally lights the subject using Speedlights positioned at left and right to emphasize the solidity of the subject, and adds top lighting to eliminate unwanted shadows caused by the side lighting. Professional photographers never light subjects directly head on. For someone who has developed many Nikon Speedlights, it may sound funny for me to say that an external flash should not be mounted on a camera. When developing the SB-R200, we focused on wireless flash control.

Concentrating the knowledge and capability of our development division on a single product

Please tell us why you developed the SB-R200 as a wireless Speedlight.

Chen:

We took an adapted SB-29s and removed the lighting parts to see what was possible and what problems could occur with such a product. Then we spent six months looking at whether a Speedlight would work better with a cable or as a wireless device. We thought about fixing the lighting parts to a ring-type adapter like the SB-29s. However, when an illuminator was moved to the bottom of the Speedlight, another illuminator had to be at the top, disrupting the balance of light and desired lighting effect. A wireless transmission Speedlight system is far more flexible than a cable connection system. So we developed the SB-R200 as a wireless Speedlight that has illuminators that can be moved about freely and is very different from typical existing close-up flash units.

Matsui:

As developers, we hope our products will be used by many people. However, users seem to shy away from using close-up Speedlights, maybe because they are rather technical. We plan to equip the CLS with a new Speedlight in order to widen its usage in standard shooting situations. With the CLS, we wanted at least three Speedlights to be used, which is why we developed the SB-R200 as a wireless Speedlight.

What was difficult about developing the wireless Speedlight?

The user can detach the SB-R200 from
the attachment ring while shooting,
enabling easy-to-use hand-held
lighting and complete Speedlight
control.

Matsui:

Deciding on the position of the infrared acceptance sensor was very difficult. When SB-R200s are positioned to the left and right of the lens, as in the case of the SB-29s, there is no problem with the reception of the infrared ray from the commander. However, when the SB-R200s are positioned below the lens, the lens body can interrupt the infrared ray. To solve this problem, we made the attachment ring a light guiding plate. Infrared rays from the commander or Speedlights enter the exterior edge of the attachment ring near the acceptance sensor. The ring is made of a special material that looks black but is in fact transparent to infrared rays. With this ring, signals from the commander reach SB-R200s attached to any part of the ring. This development was the result of combining different ideas and the know-how of our staff.

Chen:

In addition, it was important that the SB-R200 be developed as a successor to the SB-29s. We tried to bring down the cost to the same level as the SB-29s, but wireless systems cost more than connecting cable systems. We eventually chose the wireless system, but were worried whether users would accept the price or not. We made great efforts to lower the price by reducing the number of parts, designing circuits with low electricity consumption to increase flash firing times on limited power, and reducing other excesses while retaining the durability of the product. Fortunately, the SB-R200 is a close-up Speedlight that is used near the subject and therefore does not require high guide numbers (large amounts of light). We applied the smallest condenser possible to the SB-R200 and used readily available lithium batteries in order to reduce the costs.

A lot of time was spent on the size of the attachment ring.

Matsui:

The user can move the SB-R200s around the ring easily with one hand. Also, attaching them to and detaching them from the ring is very easy, so the user can continue shooting while repositioning the SB-R200s anytime he or she wants. If the SB-R200s were connected to the camera with cables, the cables or their shadows could appear on the image, even if the position of the SB-R200s would be pretty much fixed. I've been greatly involved in the development of Speedlights, but I feel the R1C1 is somehow different from other Speedlights, and I'm excited about this kit. We are relieved when we hear that users are impressed with this product.