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I've noticed that, with the Z7 and my SB-300 flash, it is always set to Balanced-Fill flash mode. There seem to be three settings I can change, but all in different spots.

  • Flash Control Mode (Menu -> Photo -> Flash Control): only gives me TTL or Manual (and all other settings on that page are greyed out. I leave this on TTL to get this behavior.

  • Flash Mode (Menu -> Photo -> Flash Mode): Only have "Fill-flash," "Red-rye reduction," "Rear curtain sync," and "Flash off." I set this to either Fill or Rear; either way, this issue occurs.

  • Flash compensation: not particularly relevant to this test.

When I cycle through the displays to get to the flash interface (for the unified flash control), it shows TTL BL. Nowhere in this screen nor its info menu can I see anything about BL.

The Z6/Z7 manual says that the SB-300 is supported with the Z7 in the following modes:

  • "i-TTL balanced fill flash"

  • "Standard i-TTL fill flash"

  • "Manual"

However, I cannot find a single setting anywhere on the camera that even contains the phrase "Balanced Fill" or its acronym "BL," let alone a setting where I can turn this off.

How do I turn this off? How do I make it stop using the Balanced-Fill mode and go back to the standard mode?

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The Nikon metering system is balanced fill flash.

Balanced flash means the flash level is adjusted to lower level to not overexpose the area also illuminated by the ambient metering.

I don't have a Z7, I just looked in the manual (PDF version is text searchable). I do have other Nikons.

Z7 manual page 351. Last sentence: "Standard iTTL fill flash is activated automatically when in Spot Metering is selected." This same is true of the Nikon DSLR models too.

The SB-600, SB-800, and SB900/910 flash units have a switch to select balanced nor not balanced flash, but 3 of the 4 are discontinued now. The cameras have no way to select non-balanced other than to specify Spot Metering. Seems poor to me too. The camera needs that switch or menu.

That has more meaning. The Flash is NOT spot metering, period, never ever. The flash metering system has its own larger central spot it always uses. But the ambient is spot metered, if selected. And fill flash metering is not compatible with spot metering, different concepts, so the flash still does flash metering in that mode. Says there, this Spot mode means the background illumination is not taken into account (by the flash metering). Meaning, not balanced flash.

Indoors, where we use flash, the ambient is low and will be underexposed, so it really does not matter what it meters, or if Spot or not (the camera settings are set for the ambient metering, but then in dim light that metered slow, the Minimum Shutter Speed With Flash increases to a faster minimum, underexposing ambient... E2 menu, page 264). Meaning, with flash detected present (communication), all indoor flash pictures will likely be 1/60 second shutter (or faster in brighter light), regardless if dim ambient actually metered slower. Slow Sync mode will use the actual metered ambient shutter speed, or possibly E2 menu can allow it. But we are using flash instead.

So Spot metering will normally have no effect on ambient indoors with flash, which is normally where you want non-balanced flash anyway. It is just a very awkward way to get it there.

But spot metering will have very great effect outdoors in sunlight, so you absolutely need to understand spot metering there (it does NOT mean the spot is correct exposed, it means the spot will come out middle gray, whether it should or not). And really need to remember Spot might be on when going out the door.

  • Hmmm. My biggest issue with this is that, when I put the SB-300 on the camera, it chose to use ISO 14,400 and a tiny bit of flash instead of putting more flash there and using a lower ISO. I'm using the flash because I don't want to use that high of an ISO to use ambient light. This balanced-fill greatly diminishes my willingness to use their flashes. – iAdjunct Dec 30 '18 at 17:02
  • I did just set it to spot-metering and, sure enough, it changed from TTL-BL to TTL... Which seems to be a really stupid way to turn off BL, as you also commented above. – iAdjunct Dec 30 '18 at 17:03
  • It is not the flash that does the balanced flash, it's the camera metering. The TTL flash level just does whatever the metering instructs it to do. You can always of course turn Auto ISO Off, and use any lower ISO you want. Cameras really do still work without Auto ISO. :) Indoors, lower ISO typically reduces ambient because of the E2 Minimum Shutter Speed increase, but TTL flash level automatically corrects for the lower ISO, if it has power capacity to do it. This is typically best, because incandescent light is typically orange anyway, a mixed white balance problem if suitably exposed. – WayneF Dec 30 '18 at 17:22
  • The camera behaves different with the SB-300 than it does with other, non-Nikon flashes. In TTL-BL, the camera seems to determine the "right" ratio of ambient-to-flash light, and does not adjust when I adjust ISO - so, for lower ISOs, it is underexposed. In TTL with the SB-300 - or TTL or TTL-BL using my Godox flash - it adjusts when I adjust the ISO (so higher ISO has lower flash power and therefore more ambient light in the picture, and lower ISO ends up being almost entirely the flash). The SB-300 is only 3.5 stop dimmer than the Godox, and it didn't come close to its max power. – iAdjunct Dec 31 '18 at 22:32
  • I have no SB-300 to know about it, but the flash meters nothing. The camera does all metering and decisions. You describe it acting same as Manual flash mode, which is very puzzling for TTL. It could be less (and constant) exposure due to insufficient power for lower ISO, but the Ready indicator should blink warning. If Not bounce flash, TTL BL is frequently affected by incorrect lens distance reports reducing TBL flash level incorrectly, but plain TTL mode (or FV button) ignores lens distance, and even in BL, third party flashes don't have the head tilt switch to be affected. – WayneF Jan 1 at 15:49

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