Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1
Imagining the world five years from now
Tell us about developing the Wireless Speedlight Commander SU-800?
The front panel of the SU-800 may seem as if it's there only for design's sake, but it is in fact a light-emitting part for infrared wireless control. When we were carrying out trials at Nikon using a prototype of the SU-800, someone put a material management sticker on the front panel, not realizing what they had done because infrared rays are invisible to the human eye. So we made the surface of the panel uneven to put users off sticking labels or stickers on it. We also equipped the panel with prisms so that the infrared rays are sent to the attachment ring. Without the use of a prototype, no one would have noticed such problems.
The user can select “Close-up (indicates ratio of flash output level between two groups)” and “Commander (indicates EV level)” on the LCD panel. Some people believe that no such distinction is necessary for this product because the two mean the same thing. However, when controlling two SB-R200s with the SU-800, the ratio of ordinary light of both flashes combined is measured. In contrast, when controlling many remote Speedlights for multiple flash photography, it is better to determine the amount of light of each Speedlight using the EV level. Thanks to these two modes, some users tell us that the R1C1 can be used for photography lessons as a teaching tool.
Is there any feedback from users that particularly stands out?
When we repeatedly hear the same opinions from users through our marketing department or service center, we visit photographers on-site to hear their actual opinions. Without knowing the realities of how are products are being used, we cannot develop better products. We also ask non-Nikon users why they prefer the products of other manufacturers, and factor in those opinions when considering future products, which we hope will be used by current non-Nikon users.
Mr. Matsui believes that we should imagine the world, and the market, of course, five years from now when developing new products in order to avoid making products that become obsolete immediately after release. It might be good to release new products every year, but releasing new products every four or five years also benefits users. In fact, when we released a new Speedlight only two years after the previous product release, we received many complaints from users, who said the launch cycle was too short.
Five years is a very long time in the digital age.
It is a very difficult target. But with such a target, we can recognize what the limits of our current technology are. Then we can attempt to solve the problems we face one by one. It is important to satisfy user demand but we also want to offer the world new photography. So we have set ourselves a very high target.
Although it depends on the individual Speedlight user, digital photography means that photographers take more shots than before, and this includes flash photographs. Each part of a Speedlight has a limited lifespan, and, with heavy use, a Speedlight may reach the end of its life in one year. We offer maintenance, including low-price new parts. Repairing a product two or three times will cost less than buying a new one.
Users can expect many benefits from their Speedlights. Fortunately, some non-Nikon users say that Nikon Speedlights are the best. Some people want to know why they cannot use Nikon Speedlights with their cameras. It is natural to upgrade a product when developing a new one, but our aim is probably somewhat different from other manufacturers. We always keep the basics of the Speedlight in mind when considering the benefits to the user.
The R1C1 has many new possibilities. Each photographer can decide how they want to use it.
- Matsui (r)
“Photography is a world of feeling and
art. The many possibilities of R1C1
depend on the user. However, we can
assure you that you will have no
What is the attraction of developing Speedlights?
I also use Nikon Speedlights, and so can look at them from the standpoint of both user and developer. I believe the kind of Speedlight I would want is what others would want too. That is what has helped me to develop new Speedlights. What is interesting is that I am able to satisfy my own needs. The fun of product development is to design products that I want to have and use. But our new products also give me a lot of concern. For six months after the release of a new product, my stomach is tight with worry over what the reaction of users will be.
Regarding product development, I believe we can achieve anything. I believe it is an honor to work in the development department. Although, of course, no plan is trouble-free, I get great pleasure in moving step by step toward our target. Since I am at the forefront of product planning and development, I hate being behind other manufacturers. I often argue with Mr. Matsui about specifications and costs, but our goal to develop good products in cooperation with other sections is the same.
Do you have any plans for new products?
Usually, we plan the next product immediately after finishing the development and design of the last, and take into consideration how existing products can be improved. We hope to produce products that increasingly satisfy user expectations of performance, price and usability.
We concentrated on detail when developing the R1C1. For example, the kit includes Diffuser SW-12 and the stand-alone Flexible Arm Clip SW-C1. Attachment Ring SX-1 can hold up to eight individual SB-R200s, providing lots of light even when shooting outdoors. Speedlight Stand AS-20 can be used as a camera platform to mount an SB-R200 on a tripod. When choosing the color of each product, we took into consideration the reflection ratio of infrared rays emitted from the SU-800 or SB-R200s to control Speedlights. Furthermore, everything is portable and needs no power source, so the R1C1 can increase photographic possibilities. We recommend the R1C1 for outdoor portrait photography. On the other hand, we hope to develop more easy-to-use and compact wireless systems for everyday photography. For example, if somebody wants photographs of food they have prepared to put on their blog, it is best to light the subject from the sides without using the camera's built-in flash. Side lights make images appear very natural. Using lighting other than front flash may broaden the appeal of photography. We want to provide users with such opportunities.