Nikons Creative Lighting System Review Using Electronic Flash Speedlights

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Nikons Creative Lighting System

With the introduction of the D2 series of cameras some years ago, Nikon introduced their Creative Lighting System (CLS) to give full control over our lighting, which we previously could never achieve. The technology of the Nikon Creative Lighting System is very sophisticated and there are effectively two separate systems available, one for standard photographic shooting such as portraits and the other for macro or close up shooting.

The standard components of the system consists of either a master flash such as the SB-900, SB-800, SB-700 or SB-600 flash units or alternatively the SU-880 Flash Controller or Commander as the main unit and either one or many other flash units as slave units. The slave units can be any of the SB-900, SB-800, SB-700 or SB-600 and the SB-400 and SB-R200 macro flash units. The number of slave units that can be used is really unlimited.

All the slave flash units can be divided into up to three groups and each group can be independently controlled by adjusting the output levels of all the flashes in each group. So the output of each of the three groups can be controlled in level and also the output of the main flash can be controlled in level if the master flash is a flash such as the SB-900 or SB-800, so effectively there can be up to four groups of controllable light sources. These groups can be controlled with adjustments of -3.0 to +3.0 EV in increments of 1/3 steps.

The SU-800  can be used as the flash controller on the camera when a flash is not required on the camera. All the flash units are controlled by infra red signalling between flash units and also between master slave flash units.

This Creative Lighting System allows us to set up very complex systems for very dramatic effects.
In the remainder of this article I will consider several different options which are available with this creative flash system.

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The Studio Flash System

In this typical example we can have either a flash or the SU-800 controller from the camera and up to three groups of flashes which can which can be
independantly controlled to give multiple controlled groups. All adjustments can be made from the master flash or the SU-800 controller set in standard commander mode. For example the four groups (master plus three slave groups) can be as follows:
  • Main lighting
  • Background illumination
  • Side lighting
  • Back lighting
With this type of setup there is even provision for a strobe preview of the scene.

Ths Daylight Flash System

The CLS stystem has excellent capabilities for daylight fill flash.
In this type of setup an SB-900 or SB-800 can be used as the master and several other flashes in groups for suplementary fill lighting and the flash levels being adjusted accordingly.

The Macro Flash System

An ideal set up for macro shooting is the R1C1 kit. An important part of the Nikon Creative Flash System is the macro kit, R1C1 which comprises a pair of R-200 flash units, together with a selection of adaptor rings available to fit most Nikon lenses. There is also available a set of color filters for the flash plus other available accessories.The SB-R200 units are controlled by either an SB-900, SB-800, SB700 or the  SU-800 infa red control unit. Each flash of the macro set up can be independently adjusted in a group to achieve the desired lighting ratio.

When used with  the SU-800 commander in macro mode together with SB-R200 units either two mounted on each side of the lens or one mounted on the lens and one used for back lighting.

The Micro Nikkor 105mm VR lens is an ideal lens for use with the macro flash system. With the Nikon Creative Lighting System it is so easy