The Nikon R1 Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit

Wireless...

Wireless…

Note that this review is for R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System that is triggered by the on-camera flash. If your model of Nikon camera does not have wireless flash ability, you will need the R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System. (10/03/2016)

As a new bug season draws closer, I am beginning to turn my mind to equipment to fill the gaps that I experienced while taking macro photographs last year.  I have used several flashes to provide lighting for macro, with various degrees of satisfaction. However, there are times that a flash rig becomes overly cumbersome in certain conditions, and I have long been eyeing a dedicated flash system for some of my photomacrography. Last week I finally caved in and purchased the Nikon R1 Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit — a wireless macro flash system. The system consists of two SB-R200 flash units with stands, filters and extreme close-up adapters, a shield for the on-camera flash as well as a flexible arm with a small diffuser panel. The two flash units and the flexible arm can all fit on an attachment ring that screws into the filter mount of your macro lens. Nikon provides five different sizes of adapter ring, which allow the unit to fit on most applicable Nikkor lenses.

Self Guiding Tour

More photographs and information below…

Installing the attachment ring.

Installing the attachment ring

In my case, I use a Tamron 90mm macro lens with a 55mm filter mount, so I needed a 55-62mm step-up ring to link to 62mm adapter ring. The attachment ring clips on the adapter ring by pressing in the two mounting buttons on the side and then releasing them once in place. The flashes can then clip on the attachment ring and locked down. The mounting foot of the flashes have two buttons which, when depressed, allow you to move the flashes around the ring to the position you prefer. The flash-head can be tilted to the angle that best covers your subject.

With extreme close-up positioning adapters

With extreme close-up positioning adapters

Each flash has click-stop adjustment to allow it to be tilted and aimed at the subject. When working with subjects that are very close to the lens (roughly under 10cm/4″) and/or under higher levels of magnification, it can be difficult to get the typical hammer-head flash into a position to proper light. Nikon has largely overcome this problem by providing extreme close-up adapters that use a mirror to reflect the light through a diffuser toward the subject. These sit so close to the front of the lens that dentists and orthodontists sometimes use them for taking photographs of the interior of the mouth .

SB-R200 Controls

SB-R200 Controls

The whole set-up is wireless, controlled by the on-camera flash. Each SB-R200 flash has a dial for selecting a channel and a group. The channels (1 to 4) allow you to choose a frequency that does not clash with other photographers that may be using the same wireless system. The group settings (A, B or C) allow you use different flash output levels for each head or group of heads. Using my Nikon D80, I can control the output of each flash in the R1 system in the menu settings. The D80 is limited to just two Groups, A and B. Each group can be set for TTL, Manual or Off; and the power output can be adjusted +3/-3 stops. The on-camera flash which controls the  wireless flashes can also be set to TTL, Manual or Off. The Off setting will still trigger the wireless SB-R200’s, but will not add greatly to the exposure. To make sure that the on-camera flash does not contribute to the exposure, Nikon has provided the SG-3IR panel for a shield. Also included on each SB-R200 flash is a button for a preview light which can be activated to make sure the flash is aimed correctly and to assist with subject illumination.

IR panel and flexible arm with diffuser

IR panel and flexible arm with diffuser

Another convenient accessory included with the kit is the flexible arm clip and the diffuser panel. This can be used to diffuse or reflect light from the flash or to hold a background panel to avoid black backgrounds. The full potential of the flexible arm and clips is open for exploration…

We are still in the depths of winter in Alberta, but I hope put this macro flash rig through its paces indoors very soon.

N.B.– the attachment ring can hold up to eight SB-R200 flashes, making it a very complex ring-flash indeed! However, the weight of this would put undue stress on the lens. Nikon has recommendations for the maximum amount of flash-units that each of their Nikkor lenses can support. I would also recommend turning off the auto-focus function to avoid stress on the lens.

All the information above is based on my first use of the Nikon R1 Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit and may contain errors– refer to the Nikon manual for complete–Nikon approved–information.

 

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21 Comments

  1. roast garlicious 20 February, 2010 at 10:26 AM #

    i love your blog!!! that attachment for your camera sounds like something i’d save my money for!! here on the westcoast (vancouver island) the insects are just waking up… some have been awake for quite awhile!!

    • Adrian Thysse 21 February, 2010 at 5:33 PM #

      Great that you have bugs to work with. I’ll be crawling around the nether regions of the basement looking for spiders!

  2. Heather Proctor 21 February, 2010 at 11:51 AM #

    Hi Adrian:

    I tried this system very briefly (borrowed John Acorn’s gear) and found it pretty cumbersome compared to the good ol’ SB-21 macroflash. But given that Nikon isn’t making SB-21’s anymore and the one I have is not immortal, I will be reading your future blogs on the SB-R200 with great interest. As far as indoor subjects go, how about the mycetophilids that are no doubt breeding in your houseplant pots? That would be a good test of any macrosystem!

    Cheers,
    Heather

  3. Adrian Thysse 21 February, 2010 at 5:50 PM #

    The compact lightness of a ringflash would definitely be an advantage in many situations. Sigma still makes a TTL twin-tube ring-flash (http://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/em-140-dg-ring-flash-sigma) should you want to continue that way. The advantage I see with the R1 system is that you can use the second (or third, or fourth…) flash for lighting the background by changing the angle. You can also remove one of the flash heads and place it behind the subject to provide some back-lighting–great for making hairs or bristles stand out, or for adding other effects.

    I will probably have to resort to reversing a lens to get the magnification I need for the fungus gnats, and I still need to figure out the best way to adapt the system for that.

    Now if I can get the cat out of the way, I can start examining my plant pots…

    Thanks for the visit!

  4. T Smith 5 March, 2010 at 10:14 PM #

    Hi,

    I just picked up the RC1 myself, for use with the same D80/Tamron 90 combo you use. My initial reaction is very positive, but I’m a little concerned about the weight of the flashes on the end of my extended 90m lens. I realized immediately that the autofocus motor could not handle the weight of the flashes. Any further insight after using this setup for three weeks? Is the physical connection between the lens and flash unit holding up, or do you get the feeling that your lens is being unduly stressed by the weight?

    Thanks!

    Tyler

    • Adrian Thysse 6 March, 2010 at 12:05 AM #

      I would definitely turn off the autofocus when the flashes are mounted. Personally, I never use autofocus for macro work and I have used the unit with three flash heads without noticing any stress.

      • T Smith 7 March, 2010 at 4:00 PM #

        Thanks!

        It takes some getting used to, but I can’t wait for the flowers to come out so I can get to work.

        Tyler

  5. Ramzan 17 April, 2010 at 8:52 AM #

    Hi Adrian,

    Many thanks for the well written review on the Nikon R1 system. I’ve been looking around for some information regarding this kit since i’m very interested in owning one.

    Currently i am using D300s with Nikkor 105mm macro lens. I’ve built the diffuser which attached to my SB600. This set up can produce quite a good result but still the light is quite harsh sometimes.

    Again, many thanks for the info sharing.

    Happy bug hunting

    Cheers
    Ramzan

  6. Darren 8 May, 2010 at 12:54 AM #

    Hi Adrian. How are you finding the performance of the Nikon R1 flash? I’m looking at purchasing this unit soon.

    • Adrian Thysse 8 May, 2010 at 4:32 AM #

      Very happy with it and the wireless convenience and adaptability. It is most useful for the smaller bugs, with magnifications from 1/2 life size and higher. You will need to mock-up some sort of diffusion system for them though. For larger and more distant critters I still prefer to use my larger Nikon SB-600 with a softbox or some other type of diffusion. Also note that each flash uses a single CR123A (3V) lithium battery, which cost about $10 each. They do seem to last quite long and are said to be good for 200 to 300 flashes.

  7. AikenImagery 27 July, 2010 at 11:44 AM #

    After reading this review it seems that the R1 is definitely more than adequate for most buggy requirements.
    I chose the SB-600 per the several recent positive reviews, that will be mounted with the Kirk flash bracket & diffusion when necessary, or soft light/fill deflection. The lens is a Nikon 200 f/4, just got it so it’s as yet unused, I am excited about breaking some ground and contributing to conservation efforts soon!

    Your blog assists with so many relevant and important choices, particularly macro.

    • Adrian Thysse 27 July, 2010 at 12:03 PM #

      If you mean the Nikon 200mm f4 ‘Micro’ lens, then you are probably better off with your combination of SB-600 on a flash bracket. The lens-mounted R1 system is best for shorter macro lenses with less lens-to-subject distance.

      • AikenImagery 27 July, 2010 at 12:30 PM #

        Adrian,

        Whew yes it’s the micro lens. You don’t know how glad I am to hear you say that! In thinking about your comment, it seems that maybe light diffuses and shadows are less dark from a greater distance. Is that thinking accurate or am I missing something more?
        Thanks!

        • Adrian Thysse 28 July, 2010 at 8:58 PM #

          Actually good diffusion depends on a large light source close to the subject….that’s why the lens-mounted flash begins to lose efficacy with larger subjects and greater lens-to-subject distances.

  8. AikenImagery 28 July, 2010 at 9:12 PM #

    Thanks for clearing that up, I was beginning to think I was right and that can be detrimental to my sanity.

  9. Tyler 28 July, 2010 at 9:30 PM #

    Well, you were sort of right, but for the wrong reason.

    Set up a shot with the subject 5 inches in front the background, with a flash 5 inches in front of the subject. So you’ve got a flash-subject distance of 5 inches, and a flash-background distance of 10 inches. This means the background gets half as much light as the subject, so it’ll be one stop underexposed.

    Now move the flash back another 10 inches. The flash-background distance (20″) is now only 4/3 the flash-subject distance (15″), instead of twice the distance as in the first shot. So the background is getting 3/4 of the light that the subject receives, instead of 1/2, and the underexposure is less (maybe a half-stop, if I’m doing the math right).

    I don’t think you’re losing your sanity, but as Adrian pointed out, it’s not diffusion that makes the difference here.

  10. AikenImagery 28 July, 2010 at 11:06 PM #

    @Tyler. I follow your logic, I think so, the flash to subject ratio is relative to the amount of light that enters the lens and camera.

    Are you sure your sanity wouldn’t go if it came down to pure technique?

    Unfortunately insects and reptiles can’t tell if they’re in the right spot for our pictures.

    You guys have confirmed my fears. Too much intense light and the shadows are harsh. Too diffused and voila, where’s the background?

    Part of me wants to go for the darkened background, sometimes almost like midnight, but it seems that does not sit well in the macro world of photography.

    Ah well, I’ll start a new style, right?

  11. Tyler 29 July, 2010 at 7:32 AM #

    These aren’t problems to worry about, just opportunities to be ready for. If you’re chasing insects on the move, none of this really matters because you don’t have the time to fiddle anyways. But if you’re in a controlled setting with multiple off-camera flashes, or you’re constructing your own multi-flash bracket setup, these are things to play with.

    You only have to please yourself, in any case!

  12. AikenImagery 29 July, 2010 at 8:48 AM #

    Not in my case, I’ve got future clientele to think about!

    Either way, lighting and flash photography is an art and as many of us may know-not an easy one at that.

    We must be gluttons for new challenges.

    I particularly like sites like this for the learning from word of mouth. Sometimes you have to experiment on your own, but there is so much to learn here it’s great.

    Thanks @Adrian & @Tyler–et al.

  13. Renee Davenport 29 June, 2013 at 12:54 PM #

    Hi there:
    I am wondering if you could help me with a question. I own the nikon D7000 and I have the Nikon micro 85 close up lens. I am wondering if the R1 would allow me to take close-up shots of the iris in a crisp and clean way. I am an iridologist by trade and I need to compare iris shots to track progress. I have problems because the lighting is not always consistent with the flashlight I am shining in the eye. I really need a solution.
    Thank you in advance.
    Renee Davenport

    • Adrian 29 June, 2013 at 1:28 PM #

      I believe the SW-11 extreme close-up positioning adapters that come with the R1 kit will allow iris photography, however for the comfort of the subject and to reduce the pupil size so that as much of the iris as possible is visible, I would imagine that a constant LED light source would be better.

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