I want to start experimenting with off-camera flash and have a Nikon SB600 + D3000. I plan to upgrade my body in the next year so would like to purchase something which is:

a) wireless, and

b) will be compatible if I upgrade to a D7000 or the D300s/700 replacement when it comes out.

Any recommendations appreciated. Thanks!

  • Depends on your budget. If money is no object then the SB900 is the obvious choice - about £325 at the moment. – ElendilTheTall Mar 25 '11 at 10:47

You have a number of choices depending on the way you want to trigger the flash.


Cheapest: buy simple optical triggers that are attached to the flash shoe and are triggered by the built-in flash on the D3000. Cons: you can't use the E-TTL flash protocol.

More expensive: buy the SU-200 commander flash unit. This can be used to trigger and control higher-end flashes through TTL. You'll have to read up on the SB-600 to see if it's compatible.

The D7000 and D300/D700 have command mode built into their pop-up flashes.

Wireless radio

There are any number of cheap radio triggers floating around on Ebay. The basic ones can't use E-TTL.

More expensive: Pocket Wizards! There's a lot going on there regarding E-TTL compatibility, and there are issues concerning which wireless bands are in use in the US and the EU.

  • Does the built-in flash have to fire for these optical triggers to work? Or the optical trigger fires instead of the popup flash and triggers the SB-600? – codecowboy Apr 3 '11 at 11:04
  • The triggers react on light pulses, so they'll be triggered by the built-in flash. They then deliver a trigger voltage to the SB-600. – gerikson Apr 3 '11 at 18:37
  • what if I dont want the built-in flash to fire i.e emit light? – codecowboy Apr 6 '11 at 7:16

Your SB-600 is already compatible with Nikon's CLS wireless (infrared) flash control system. It's a pretty good system to build around; you get TTL (ie: automatic exposure), multiple flash capability, and remote control of your flash level. I own one of these flashes myself, and it's definitely a nice option to have.

Unfortunately, your current D3000 body doesn't support CLS. (My D90 does, as does any of the bodies you mention in your upgrade plans). You can buy an add-on adapter (Nikon SU-800)(http://www.nikonusa.com/Nikon-Products/Product/Flashes/4794/SU-800-Wireless-Speedlight-Commander.html) that will act as a "Commander" for your CLS-enabled flash.

I personally wouldn't spend money on it, depending on how soon you plan to upgrade. CLS is nice, but there are downsides:

  • Nikon-only. You generally can't use 3rd-party flashes with it.
  • Preflashes. The flash flickers a couple of times before the actual exposure happens. This introduces a delay, can potentially trigger blinks in people, and can interfere with optical triggers (which other posters have discussed).
  • Need line-of-sight, which won't work in all lighting situations.

If these aren't a big deal to you, then you might want to build around a CLS system. If that's true, and you want to go off-camera right away, and you don't mind spending some extra money, then the SU-800 is a great way to start. Note that it will be compatible with your new body. It'll be unnecessary (since those cameras use the built-in pop-up flash as a CLS commander), but still useful (you get extra control options on the standalone commander unit).

  • Actually, and I must add that I would like to find the opportunity to test this, the SU-800, coupled with a radio trigger like a pocket wiazard or similar system, should allow you to use the CLS system with any other camera as well, provided there is a radio trigger fitting the camera you are using... Also, I find that the added flash from the pop-up flash, even when set to -- in commander mode, can affect some exposures negatively, so, given the budget, I may eventually get an SU-800 to use with my D90 myself... – Roland Sep 5 '11 at 8:17

There are a few options for that. You need to figure your budget first.

1) On the cheap side of the scale, there are the optical slaves that can trigger an off camera flash when detecting another flash fires.

2) Similarly, there are cheap radio triggers that let you connect a transmitter to your camera's hot shoe and trigger a flash that is mounted on the receiver.

The CTR-301P combines both, plus a PC-Sync connector for wired off-camera flash.

3) More expensive is a branded flash for your camera can give you I-TTL support for the off-camera flash (SB-600 or similar)

4) Radio Poppers or Pocket Wizards are considered advanced and reliable radio triggers, with some models supporting I-TTL.

  • Thanks - the CTR-301p is more in the budget range I was thinking about. I don't want to spend £200+ when I won't need it after upgrading the body. Thanks to the other posters too :-) – codecowboy Mar 27 '11 at 5:15
  • @codecowboy - note that the regular optical slaves and the CTR-301P's optical slave are not compatible with Canon flashes, due to the pre-flash triggering them. You ask about Nikon equipment so you should be fine. There are slaves compatible with Canons. The I own the CTR-301P and used it successfully with the RF mode on my Canon equipment. – ysap Mar 27 '11 at 5:26
  • @codecowboy - I'm curious, though, why you are interested in such when you have a SB600? Doesn't it give you the wireless control you need built-in? – ysap Mar 27 '11 at 5:27
  • the D3000 can't trigger it wirelessly – codecowboy Apr 3 '11 at 7:59

You may also want to take a look at Strobist http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

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