I recently upgraded from D300 to D800 and I was very excited about the new auto ISO feature that automatically sets the maximum shutter speed based on focal length (including an adjustable multiplier). This is really convenient, especially for zoom lenses where focal length can vary rapidly.

However, it seems like when I attach a flash (SB600) that clever logic goes out the window. The flash shutter speed (option e2), which determines the maximum shutter speed while using flash, is a fixed setting buried in the menus and the smallest possible value is 1/60, which is not fast enough for a long lens. I can switch to Manual and set shutter speed myself, and auto FP (which can be enabled in setting e1) definitely helps since it only switches to high speed sync if I go under the flash sync time. But ideally it'd be nice if flash shutter speed were automatically set based on focal length using the same mechanism as auto ISO.

My main question here is: what is Nikon's motivation for this limitation? And why can't option e2 be set faster than 1/60? Are there other vendors who do something more clever? The final question ended up being more like: what's an efficient way to shoot with flash on Nikon in situations where 1/60 isn't fast enough to freeze motion, e.g. when shooting a closeup with a long lens?

6 Answers 6


The maximum sync speed is the speed where the whole sensor is exposed. At higher speeds, the two shutters form a slit as they cross the sensor. But most modern cameras have a max sync speed of 1/250 or so. 1/60 is really slow, I think my 40 year old Nikon F could do that.

When you use a flash, its the light of the flash that stops action/motion. Most flashes are lit only for 1/1000 or shorter. Look at the T.1 time of your flash's specs.

  • 1
    The flash sync speed is 1/250 out of the box and appears to go down to 1/320, and it supports high speed sync too at any shutter time, but the flash shutter speed (which determines the maximum shutter time during flash shots in aperture-priority or program modes, rather than the minimum) is what the 1/60 is. This does partly answer my question though - in a dim environment camera shake isn't going to be an issue because most of the light is collected during the flash burst. But it might still be an issue when using fill flash. Jul 14, 2012 at 0:17
  • Note: according to SB600 manual, flash duration is 1/900th sec at full M1/1 output, dropping to 1/25000 at M1/64 output. In a dim environment even 1/900 should be good enough to freeze almost anything. Jul 14, 2012 at 16:45
  • Fill flash is still a flash, and will be very quick. True, if the ambient is fairly bright, then you need the shutter to be fast enough to freeze motion. Most flashes simply cut off the electricity/light more quickly when doing lower power, so they will freeze better at lower power. Jul 16, 2012 at 2:12
  • Yeah my concern in a nutshell is: it seems like the only way I can shoot with flash with a long lens in bright ambient light is in manual or shutter priority mode, since in aperture priority and program mode the camera will simply refuse to go faster than 1/60 (unless the light is so bright that it needs to go faster for exposure). I'd understand though if Nikon considered this scenario exceptional. Jul 16, 2012 at 2:18
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    Using manual is not hard, and its a skill we all need. For fill, just use the camera's auto exposure, find out what it will set, and then set the camera to that manually. Take a few sample shots and make the fill work, adjust to suit. Jul 16, 2012 at 2:21

Briefly summarizing solutions by cases following discussion with @PatFarrell in other answer (embellished with my own understanding):

  • In dim environments flash will always freeze motion because the flash itself is around 1/1000th sec and most of the light collected during the exposure is from the flash.
  • For fill flash in a brighter environment, if 1/60 is fast enough to freeze motion, e.g. a still subject at 50mm, program and aperture priority mode should work fine with flash on out of the box.
  • If 1/60 is not fast enough to freeze motion, compose (or shoot) with flash off and auto ISO on, then copy aperture/shutter/ISO settings to Manual mode and shoot with flash on and auto ISO off, adjusting slightly as needed. I did a test shot of a lamp at 200mm below (see on Flickr) with that technique and got reasonable results.

Test shot of a lamp with fill flash at 200mm taken using the last-mentioned technique.

200mm on full frame, 1/200, f/7.1, ISO 100, flash bounced at compensation -2, distance 2.7m


In the Custom Settings Menu look for section "e. bracketing/flash" and the option "e1. flash sync speed" -- I'm guessing this is set to 1/60. I leave it set to 1/250, FWIW.

  • Flash sync speed (e1) is set to 1/250 (it can also be set to 1/320 auto FP, which allows an arbitrarily fast shutter speed). Changing this option doesn't affect the available options for e2 though. Jul 14, 2012 at 1:41

Here's something straight from Nikon. If the stock flip down diffuser is used on the SB800 (probably the 600 as well) then the camera is programmed to only sync at 1/60. There is a sensor in the flash that limits the camera. I flipped mine back up took a shot on a sunny day and the flash sync'd at 1/250

Hope this helps

  • In my case the diffuser was not down (and believe it or not, I never even realised I had a flip down diffuser - I feel dumb now). I appreciate the info though. Aug 22, 2013 at 23:53

Setting e2 is where you select the "slowest" (e.g. the longest) shutter speed you want the camera to use when an active flash is detected by the camera. You can still use a faster (e.g.shorter) shutter speed when e2 is set to 1/60!

If e2 is set to 1/60, you will be locked out of selecting shutter times of 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, etc. (although in certain shooting modes 1/30s will still be allowed even if e2 is set to 1/60s). You will NOT be locked out of using shutter times of 1/100, 1/125, 1/160, etc.

From page 300 of the Nikon D800/D800E User's Manual:

Manual p.300


OP: There is more to how the camera works than you described. The exposure automation (for example, aperture preferred mode lets metering set the shutter speed and the Auto ISO value) is based on ambient (any metered camera settings are NOT about flash). NONE of this about flash. The TTL flash has to work into whatever ISO and aperture it discovers AMBIENT has set (the TTL flash does meter the preflash, and adjusts power level accordingly for the situation).

But flash does have a Maximum sync speed (1/200 or 1/250 second), so this can limit the shutter speed. In bright sun, hopefully you stopped down more than f/5.6 in aperture preferred mode, otherwise A mode cannot do it at f/5.6.

The 1/60 second is only seen in camera A or P modes.

Speaking Nikon, in very dim places (places where with flash turned off, you see a very slow shutter speed, like 1/4 second), because it is dim. You are using flash because it is dim. But when your turn the flash on, then in camera A or P mode, you see shutter jump to probably 1/60 second shutter (default, E2). Flash does not care what the shutter speed is, this 1/60 is NOT about metering anything, but this is just a convenience because you are using flash, and you don't need 1/4 second, cannot hold 1/4 second still, and you don't need ambient (ambient will be underexposed, except for what the flash covers).

If desired, you can instead select Slow Sync mode, which will retain the slow shutter speed even with flash.

Or Nikon has a E2 menu (Flash shutter speed) which lets A or P modes use a slower shutter speed than the 1/60 default (maybe you do want slower). But the ONLY way to make the shutter faster is to either go out into brighter ambient that will meter higher (metering is about ambient), or to use Manual mode and set any shutter speed you want (up to maximum sync speed).

Indoors, camera M mode is popular with flash, because the indoor ambient is dim, and underexposed, and not important, and we can set any shutter speed we want. But outdoors, we likely must match ambient. See my site http://www.scantips.com/lights/flashbasics4.html for more.

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