Flash Photography with Nikon F4, Nikon F5 and/or other Nikon AF SLR models.
Nikon first designed a flash for the rangefinder cameras back in 1951. The first generation Nikon flash was using disposable flash bulbs. They are either with a disc-type with bracket handle mount (BC-1/BC-B//BC-2/BC-3)and/or having a collapsible fan-type (BC-4/BC-5/BC-6/BC-7). The second generation Nikon flash are electronic Speedlights which cable of providing auto and manual control (Nikon original SB-1 Speedlight onwards to Nikon SB-5 (handle flash) and Nikon SB-10 (compact version). In between, there were two specialized units in Repeating Flash, Nikon SB-6 and Nikon SR1/SM-1 Macro-Rnglight. The period between SB-1 to the birth of SB-10 covers the Nikon F and Nikon F2 which spans across from 1959 to 1980.
* Nikon never addressed whether all those older Nikon manual and/or auto flash can be used (and one way or another via the use of Flash Coupler and/or flash cords) or not. Well, I am still trying to figure whether those very old Nikon flash bulb models such as Nikon BC-X Series flash units can be used with the F4 via proper sync.
Credit: Images of the flash coupler appeared at the top-center section courtesy of Mr. Sambor Photo® <firstname.lastname@example.org> f Image copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Both the images BC-7 flash unit from my copyright-free image collection.
Resources: Instruction Manual(s) for other old Nikon BC-series flash units | Nikon BC-B | Nikon BC-5 | Nikon BC-7 | Nikon SB-1
The third generation Nikon flash units were essentially designed to supplement Nikon SLRs that started to offer TTL OTF flash exposure control along with auto and manual flash control. The Nikon F3 was the first Nikon SLR that offer TTL flash while the Nikon FG was the first mid-range Nikon bodies that provides this feature. The first of such series with TTL configuration are hammer flash-type Nikon SB-11 and Nikon SB-12 (for Nikon F3's shoe) and Nikon SB-14 and Nikon SB-15 (ISO-type) Speedlight Well, you cannot missed without mentioning the longest serving Nikon MANUAL FOCUS TTL flash , Nikon SB-16A/B which has a separate module interchange to be used for the Nikon F3 as well as other ISO-type Nikon SLRs that offer similar TTL flash capability - it was also Nikon most powerful MF compact TTL flash thus far (however, the handle/bracket mount SB-11 is the most powerful among all TTL capable Nikon Speedlights).
You can regard the autofocus flash as the forth generation of Nikon Speedlight as, apart from encompasses all previous features found in the MF TTL flash models, it adds a layer of Autofocus control to enable Nikon AF SLRs to handle AF flash photography in dim or even total darkness. ("Speedlight" is a term Nikon used to classify their own flash units, it is just a brand name/business labels and doesn't mean anything at all, similarly, the term "ringlight" for the Nikon macro-flash is also a very-Nikon term; other camera manufacturer does the same, for an example, Canon's version in terming theirs as speedlite as "speedlite" and/or "modulite" for macro-flash series, etc.). Although Nikon F4 is not Nikon's first AF SLR (the honor actually belongs to Nikon F3AF but the Nikon F501 (N2020) was the first among a new generation of body-driven Nikon AF cameras). But of the most interesting aspect provides by the Nikon F4 is its awesome flash compatibility - as virtually ALL* Nikon Speedlights are usable with the Nikon F4. Regardless whether they are Manual Focus and/or Autofocus, the series of Nikon Speedlights with Nikon TTL Control can operate with the Nikon F4's various fill-flash functions, including both Matrix and Center Weighted types.
Personally, I think one of the most appealing element is the decision to revert the flash accessory shoe of the Nikon F4 back to ISO-type Standard hot shoe design. It is beneficial not just to users but also to the Company as Nikon does not have to carry and maintain a separate inventory/production line for another series of flash units with similar design that carries a differing flash foot design for the entire product cycle of the Nikon F4 (as they experienced with the Nikon F3 - a good example is the Nikon SB-16 A/B - the flash has one version which has its bottom module designed for F3's customary flash foot and another series for the ISO-type accessory shoe used by other Nikon SLRs). Naturally, photographers equally benefit as there is less investment cost to own two flash units with identical design/performance and offer greater mobility.
Useful accessory:- Nikon original Flash couplers for various flash models foot incompatibility
The whole problem for adoption of two flash foots concept was Nikon's inability to offer a proper flash coupler in order the features of a particular flash units be usable on another camera. For an example, when you intend to use Nikon flash with TTL function onto a Nikon F3, you can only make use of Auto, Manual and repeating flash feature in auto setting. (the Nikon Flash Coupler AS-7 eventually solved this incompatible issue 5 years later after the debut of the Nikon F3 and the more recent AS-17 was introduced after 15 years later... Errr..). Anyway, I think the lesson of the F3 was bad enough to influence Nikon decision makers to drop the unpopular decision of another possible round of a proprietary accessory shoe design for Nikon flagship F-model - possibly even before the basic design/framework of the Nikon F4 was taking shape.
Nikon provides two ways - an ISO-Standard accessory shoe as well as a conventional PC-terminal for photographers to handle flash photography with the Nikon F4. Each of these connecting terminals have their respective functions in terms of compatibilities.
The first that sits on top, center of the pentaprism of the camera is a dedicated ISO-standard accessory shoe which has a hot shoe design to accept all Nikon Speedlights which carry the ISO-standard flash foot. Although theoretically, this would enable F4 to accept , not just only old and new versions of Nikon Speedlights (with ISO-type flash foot) but also many popular flash units with third party labels (Sunpak, Vivitar, Metz etc..). Naturally, with the advent of autofocus that spearheaded by the Nikon F-501 in 1985, there was a new crop of dedicated Nikon AF Speedlights emerged to supplement the use of these autofocus Nikon bodies (in a way, they also replacing all the previous MF Auto thyristors because AF flash can also provide similar manual and Auto flash control for essential Nikon MF bodies).
The Nikon Speedlights SB-20/SB-22/SB-23. Each of these unit is equipped with an illuminator that enables autofocus even in total darkness. The TTL capable MF Nikon Speedlight SB-16B (at far right) which came without AF function has remained as a popular supporting flash for photographers with its powerful flash output, multi-auto settings, manual control and a useful repeating flash features.
However, the early AF flash models, such as Nikon SB-20, SB-22 and SB-23 Speedlights provide essential basic AF assist control for the early Nikon AF bodies and they can still provide various types of balanced fill-flash photography with the subsequent AF Nikon SLR cameras introduced at later stages. If I am not wrong, the balance filled-flash feature was first being introduced, strangely in an entry level Nikon F401 in 1987, but in the subsequent F-801 instruction manual tat followed, it states clearly the various types of balanced fill-flash photography can also be utilized with the camera (and other Nikon AF bodies that follows).
Original Nikon F-801 and F-801s flash compatible chart scanned from Instruction Manuals from both bodies with SB-20, SB-22, SB-23 and SB-24.
Whatever it is, the real breakthrough for flash photography came when Nikon F801 was introduced - the camera has given an indication on one of the core direction in future Nikon's camera - one of the mainstream design was centered with flash photography. As in the case of F801, when it is used with a capable Nikon speedlight, F-801's on board computer circuitry will automatically sync camera's shutter and lense aperture to provide precise controlled flash exposure, a feature which was not entirely new but the camera also started to provide a new innovative flash feature where an automatic balance fill-flash in TTL-mode will ensure both camera/flash will provide a natural looking, balanced foreground and background flash pictures. More amazingly, the automatic balanced fill-flash will provide photographer a choice of any multiple flash options, i.e. matching the TTL Speedlight with the appropriate metering system and exposure mode. (Matrix, center-weighted and spot in PD/P/PH, S, A and even when operating in manual exposure control) - these functions were deemed like a dream flash setup for photographers at the time of its introduction.
The new development, in particular when mixing Matrix metering (camera) with TTL (Flash) has created something quite original called "Matrix Balanced Fill-Flash". Something that the F4's five-segment computer-controlled matrix sensors and on board computer which capable of defining more areas such as lighting/contrast conditions, to be used for fill-flash photography (Flash photography in F4 remains just operating in TTL flash with center-weighted system). Previously, Fill flash is generally reserved for controlled conditions because for Manual operation, it can be very complicated. Nikon has simplified this by incorporating Matrix Balanced Fill-Flash in F4 and enables balanced, correct exposure for both foreground subject and background, even in demanding, quick changing situations. As long as the flash is within a working distance, the F4 will determines the appropriate exposure value and the TTL flash exposure level for pleasing, natural-looking effect. In such flash/camera combination, the F4's built-in computer automatically adjusts the camera's shutter speed and lense aperture to correspond to exposure requirements. And the beauty of it all is that Matrix Balanced Fill-Flash works with all AF, Ai-S and Ai Nikkor lenses. You can shoot in bright light, twilight or at night. Of course, if and when you wish, you retain full Manual control.
There are two sensors locate at the bottom section of the mirror box. The F4's flash sensor is faced background towards the shutter curtain to measure light reflected back from the film plane which occurs during a flash exposure i.e. the reflex mirror will flip upward to expose light to the film. You can view the sensor(s) by turning the shutter speed dial to T setting and release the shutter once then only open the camera back (otherwise the shutter will remain close if you attempt this with the camera back opened).
This new possibilities have enabled, regardless a beginner, advanced amateur or professional to master flash complex photography with more assuring and satisfying results (in a big way, high-tech performance/capabilities of Nikon Speedlights/camera combinations play a bigger role than the photographer). For an example, to create brilliant flash pictures by using an advanced flash techniques such as syncro-sunlight photography and/or assembling a series of flash in a multiple flash setup, you'll be able to overcome complex lighting conditions and tedious exposure calculation while you'll always be assured of well-exposed (if not great-looking) pictures - lastly, it even saves you the trouble of finding appropriate distance estimation such as how we used to handle manual flash photography those days.
Please Note: With the Nikon F4, flash photography is always operated in Center-Weighted Metering, even when a Balanced-Filled flash is at work. The ambient and flash metering use the separate metering cells for their purpose and the computer metering circuitry will determine exposure independently based on each metered light levels and then controlled and balance the two readings. With any non-AF Nikkor lenses, TTL flash metering will still be operative (just as how a Nikon F3/FE2/FA works, the difference is, F4 offers spot metering as well).
Okay, let us go back to the our original topic - although all the previous three Nikon AF Speedlights may be good at their respective technical specifications but amidst the time of the F801 and F4 , there was a new Nikon flash model, Nikon SB-24 Speedlight, which was more or less serves like a dedicated module specifically for the Nikon F4 to unleash enormous potential in a new form of flash photography with the camera. Well personally, I'd really don't like some very specific terms Nikon used on their flash system, words like "Cybernetic Sync", "Matrix Balanced Fill-Flash with Cybernetic Sync" has actually added a layer of mysterious and often "scary" kind of thoughts to users. The actual flash operations designed around Nikon bodies such as F801(s) and Nikon F4 are actually very friendly to use (only complicated by the enormous combinations the functions the flash provides) and it does no good to a relatively new user.
Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Steven G. MAKA ® <email@example.com>. Steven is a professional photographer and has an excellent online image gallery on his own at http://www.MAKAphotography.com. Image copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
Don't be confused by all these terms, if you are new to the AF flash operation in a Nikon, just start by turning your speedlight on (TTL), set the camera to Program (any P settings on your camera, say on a F4's mode selector), ensure your AF-Nikkor lense is lock at AUTO setting, and simply fires away. Learn from this way onwards..and pick up the skill later. (If operating a Non-AF Nikkor - it will also work, just select a preferred aperture corresponding within a workable flash range, flash/camera will determine exposure and amount of fill-in flash output). Update: A Limited Edition of the Nikon F4P that recently surfaced that designed specifically for NPC members has TWO additional shutter speed settings of 1/350 sec and 1/750 sec. see the Variant Section for more info, naturally, both speeds are out of normal sync.
| previous | NEXT | 1/3 Flash Photography with Nikon F4, its various functions outlined.
| Part I | Part II | Part III |
Nikon AF-TTL Speedlights | SB-20 (1986) | SB-22 (1987) | SB-23 | SB-24 (1988) | SB-25 (1991/2) | SB-26 (1994) | SB-27(1997) | SB-28 (1997) | Nikon SB-29(s) (2000) | Nikon SB-30 (2003) | Nikon SB-600 (2004) | Nikon SB-800 (2003)
Nikon AF-TTL Speedlight DX-Series: Nikon SB-28DX (1999) | SB-50DX (2001) | SB-80DX (2002) (updated)
Nikon BC-flash Series | Original Nikon Speedlight
SB-2 | SB-3 | SB-4 | SB-5 | SB-6 | SB-7E | SB-8E | SB-9 | SB-E | SB-10
SB-11 | SB-12 | SB-14 | SB-140 UV-IR| SB-15 | SB16A | SB-17 | SB-18, SB-19 | SB-21A (SB-29) Macro flash | Flash Accesories | SF-1 Pilot Lamp
The Camera Body - Features | Reliability | Focusing | Metering | Exposure Control | Lense Compatibility | Interchangeable Prisms | Data Film Backs | Various Power Sources | Focusing Screens | Flash Photography | Other system accessories | Cases for Nikon F4 Series | Remote Control |
| Specification | Main Reference Map | Nikon F4 Variants
Instruction Manual: PDF (4.5M) - External Link
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Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
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Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
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Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm
MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm
Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E
Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number:
http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-153.html by: my friend, Rick Oleson
http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/lhhansen/photo/fmount.htm by: Hansen, Lars Holst
W A R N I N G: The New G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lense, they when operating in manual exposure control even with certain earlier AF Nikon SLR camera models. Similarly, not ALL features provide in a modern AF-S series AF-Nikkor lenses can be utilized fully with a Nikon F4. Please refer to your local distributor for compatibility issue(s).
PLEASE NOTE: Complimentary links are appreciative but it is not necessary, I have limited bandwidth here in this server... So, PLEASE don't distribute this URL to any bulk mailing list or unrelated user-groups, just be a little considerate, thank you. (The more you distribute, the slower this server will response to your requests...). I am NOT a Nikon nor Nikkor expert, so don't send me any mails, use the Message Board Instead. While the content prepared herein should be adequate for anyone to understand and evaluate whether you should invest into a used Nikon F4 pro-camera system for your kind of photography. Well, IF you like what you have seen so far, please help to perfect this site by reporting any broken links or any errors made.
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Credit: Chuck Hester, US for his patience, encouragement and help to setup the various content in this site; Robert Johnson for some of his original images on the F2H-MD appeared in this site; my ex-staff, KiaSu for his superb 3-D logo appeared in this Nikon F2 site; Marc Vorgers from Holland who generously provide me with some of his images of F2AS; MCLau®, who has so much time with me to re-edit the content in this site and not to mention buying a Nikon Coolpix 990 just for this site; Paul Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org) for his explantion of the FF2 Slidemagic and Nikon F2 Pin Camera Keat Photo, Kuala Lumpur for providing their Nikon F2A to take some images for this site; Mr Edward Ngoh the great camera collector who provides us his collection of F2AS with MD-2; hawkeye.photographic.com for their images on the Speed Magny film backs; Sean Cranor for his image on Nikon F2 25th Anniversary Model; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input on some of the early Nikon bodies; Genesis-Camera for granting permission to use an image of the SS-F2 camera; Mr Sover Wong, Australia for those great images of his rare F2 Gold;CYLeow ®, photo editor of the Star newspaper, Malaysia for some of his images used in this site. Ms Rissa Chan, Sales manager from Shriro Malaysia who has helped to provide some of the very useful input. HiuraShinsaku®, Nikomat ML, Japan for some of his images on various F2 models; my staff, Wati, Maisa, Mai and my nephew, EEWyn®, who volunteered and helping me did so many of the film scanning works; Hong-sien Kwee of Singapore for all the Nikon F2 Pin camera images appeared in this site; Luigi Crescenzi for many of his images on the Nikon F2 Titan; John for two of his images of the Nikon F2/T used in this site; Contributing photographers or resellers: Jen Siow, Foo KokKin, Arthur Teng, Mark Fallander, John Ishii, Ed Hassel, YoonKi Kim, Jean-Louis, M.Dugentas (Dell Corner.com.), Mr "Arsenall", Yang Zi Xiong and a few images mailed in from surfers with no appropriate reference to their origin. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their own work to publish in this site based on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. A site made with an Apple IMac.