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.
More photographs and information below…
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.
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 .
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.
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.
- Advanced Wireless Lighting (nikonusa.com)
- Nikon SB-400 Speedlight Flash for $114 + free shipping (9to5toys.com)
- Nikon readies SB-910 Speedlight flash unit for release (gizmag.com)