Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I'm thinking about getting a speedlight to use for off-camera lighting, perhaps the SB700, but I don't understand its different wireless triggers, this website says:

For off camera use, the SB700 can be controlled (1) via Nikon’s wireless AWL mode using TTL or manual mode, (2)... or (3) with the simple optical “SU-4″ slave mode.

If I it understand correctly, AWL is not radio, right? so is it necessary to fire the built-in flash to control it, what if I don't want the light from the built-in flash, do I have to use an IR Panel or is there any other to turn off its light only?

I'm also concerned about the optical receiver on the speedlight, apparently it is on right side of the SB700′s body, then how can I position the flash in right side of camera? can the optical receiver still receive the command if it's not positioned in line with camera?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As Imre said, AWL is an optical wireless protocol, and requires the IR panel to face the on-camera flash for line-of-sight communication.

Getting that IR panel to face the camera is pretty easy: rotate the flash to point the IR panel correctly, then separately turn the flash head to point where you need it. You may have to do some acrobatics with the flash to do this, and something like a Manfrotto Justin Clamp with its small ballhead can be instrumental in getting the correct position.

Experience also says that, depending upon the environment/conditions, you don't quite need line of sight to get the flash to trigger. Using it for a bit you'll find the conditions where it works better or worse, and therefore where radio triggers are a better choice (such as outside in bright conditions, with the flash IR panel facing towards the sun).

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Yes, AWL is an optical wireless protocol and you have to use IR panel if you use built-in flash as commander. The on-camera flash will trigger on low power in commander mode during exposure even though the camera manual may state it stays off. Alternatively you could use another flash on hot-shoe (you might be able to shield and bounce it so the command signal is not visible on photo) or the SU-800 infrared commander.

You can also use third-party radio triggers, such as PocketWizard or RadioPopper, or the hybrid Aokatec AK-TTL triggers that translate AWL signals on commander into radio signal and back to infrared signal on receiver.

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