Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nikon D7000 – Battery Tips

This article is an excerpt from Mastering The Nikon D7000, published by Rocky Nook and NikoniansPress.

Many of us have purchased or received new cameras recently. The Nikon D7000 is certainly one of Nikon's most popular cameras at this time. This article describes the care and feeding of the lithium-ion battery and how to use it in the camera. However, since all Nikon DSLRs use lithium-ion batteries and have similar chargers, menus, and insertion methods, the principles in this article can be applied to virtually any modern Nikon.

If you’re like me, you’ll open your camera’s box, attach the lens, insert the battery, and take your first picture. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to wait an hour to charge the battery, and only then take the first picture? Sure it would, but I’ve never done that, and I bet you won’t either. Nikon knows this and doesn’t send out new cameras with dead batteries.

Most of the time the battery is not fully charged, but it has enough power to set the time and date, then take and review a few pictures. Think about it. How would you test a brand new battery? You’d charge it and see if it will hold a charge. Do you think Nikon is in the habit of sending out batteries that are untested? No! So most of the time, you can play with your new camera for at least a few minutes before charging the battery. I’ve purchased nearly every DSLR Nikon has made since 2002, and not one of them has come with a dead battery.

When my latest camera arrived, the battery was about 68 percent charged. I used the camera for an hour or two before I charged the battery. However, let me mention one important thing. If you insert the battery and its charge is very low, such as below 25 percent, it might be a good idea to go ahead and charge it before shooting and reviewing lots of pictures. You may be able to set the time and date, and test the camera a time or two, but go no further with a seriously low battery.

Included in the box with the camera is the Nikon Battery Charger MH-25. The battery will only fit on the charger in one direction, as shown in figure 1.1. An orange indicator light on the charger will blink until the battery is fully charged. When the blinking stops and the light stays orange, the battery is ready for use.

Figure 1.1 – Charging the camera’s battery with the MH-25 charger

The D7000 uses a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack. While this type of battery doesn’t develop the memory effects of the old Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries from years past, there can be a problem if you let them get too low. A Li-ion battery should not be used to complete exhaustion. It has a special protection circuit that will disable the battery if one of the cells goes below a certain key voltage. You’d probably have to run it all the way down and then store it in the camera for a few weeks to actually cause the battery to disable itself. However, a good rule of thumb is this: When your camera’s Li-ion battery gets down to the 25 percent level, please recharge it. I don’t let mine go below 50 percent for any extended use.

If you can hold yourself back from turning on the camera until after the battery is charged, that would be the optimum situation.

Figure 1.2 – Examining and inserting the battery

Figure 1.2 shows how to insert the battery into your camera. On the left side of the image you can see the battery from the top and bottom. Notice that you insert the battery with the rounded side up and the flat side down. Below the word “Nikon” on the battery’s top is a small, faint arrowhead. Insert the battery in the direction of the little arrow, as shown in figure 1.2.

In the picture, the little door on the bottom of the camera’s grip is open and the battery is partially inserted in the correct orientation. Push it all the way in until the yellow battery-retention clip snaps into place, and close the Battery-chamber cover (battery door).

The yellow battery-retention clip holds the battery in place even when the Battery-chamber cover is open. To remove the battery you will need to open the Battery-chamber cover and push the retaining clip toward the door hinge. The battery will pop out when you have done it correctly.

Figure 1.3 – Battery info screen

Please use only a Nikon brand EN-EL15 battery pack in your camera. This particular battery has a special circuit that talks to the camera and enables the 0–4 Battery age scale shown on the Battery info screen (see figure 1.3). It tells you when a battery has outlived its usefulness and should be disposed of—going beyond just telling you when it’s low on power.

In figure 1.3, image 2, you can see a picture of the Battery info screen. Notice that it shows the Bat. meter, which gives you the amount of voltage charge or power the battery has left as a percent value. The Pic. meter shows the number of images taken since this battery was last charged and inserted. Finally, the Battery age scale tells about the life of the battery and whether it needs to be replaced. It uses a scale of 0 – 4, or five steps of life. The Battery age scale has nothing to do with the amount of power that the battery currently contains. It shows how much useful life the battery has left until you need to recycle it and buy a new one.

My Recommendation: A genuine, new Nikon EN-EL15 battery for the D7000 is usually less than $60 USD when purchased online. Why buy a cheap aftermarket battery made who-knows-where and use it to power the circuits of your expensive camera? How can you be sure that a cheap non-Nikon battery even has the correct circuit for Battery info communication? How can you know that the cheap cells won’t short-circuit and burn your camera to a cinder? Li-ion cells are somewhat finicky and require careful manufacture and charging control. Personally, I’ll only trust the real thing—a Nikon brand EN-EL15 battery—to power my expensive camera.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Using a Macro Lens or Closeup Diopter Filters

Sometimes you want to get very close to your subject. Maybe you've found a flower that is attractive to you, or a bee taking pollen. Maybe you need to photograph some coins or stamps from your collection for insurance purposes. Any time you need to take a picture up close, you need a macro lens.  A macro lens is especially designed for close-up pictures. Most genuine macro lenses are also prime lenses (see previous section) not zoom lenses. They don’t look much different from a regular prime lens except that the internal lens elements are designed in such as way that it is easy to make “life-size” images.

A true macro lens (figure 1) has a 1:1 ratio, which means it can take a picture of an object and render it in its normal size. A bee on a flower is the same size in the picture as the real bee on a flower. That is hard to do with a zoom lens—or a regular prime lens—because they will not focus close enough.

Some zoom lenses are advertised as "macro" zoom lenses. Those lenses can focus closer than most zoom lenses but they are not true macro lenses. Most macro zooms are limited to about half-life size or a 1:2 ratio, which means a bee on a flower would only be half its normal size in the picture. You just cannot get close enough with most zoom or regular prime lenses. For maximum close ups only a true macro lens with a 1:1 ratio (lifesize) will do.
Figure 1 – AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

In figure 1 is a picture of a real Nikon macro lens, the AF Nikkor 60mm "Micro Nikkor." Nikon calls their macro lenses by the name Micro Nikkor. Most other lens brands use the word Macro. In figure 2 is a macro image of a compact flash memory card with a couple of SD memory cards lying next to it. Notice how realistic the close up image looks. It is a true macro shot taken with the Nikkor macro lens above.

Figure 2 – A picture taken with the AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens

Real macro lenses are a bit more expensive than standard prime lenses because they are a specialty prime lens. They have special features to make the picture look its best, such as “flat-field” design, which keeps the edges of the picture from curving in a distracting way. Macro lenses are highly corrected lenses, which mean the lens elements are carefully designed to give maximum quality and lack of aberrations (color shifting or shape warping). They are optimized for up close work. That does not mean you shouldn’t use a macro lens to take a picture of a more distant object, they do fine there too. They are simply made to do their best work at 1:1 distances (extreme close ups).

For maximum image quality, it is a good idea to use a real macro lens. However, there are substitutes that cost a lot less money. Let’s consider one low cost way to get extreme close up images without the expense of a macro lens, screw-on closeup filters.

Close Up Diopter Screw-On Macro Filters

The lowest cost way to take close up pictures is to use a set of close up diopter filters on your lens, such as the four pictured in figure 3.
Figure 3 – A set of close up diopter filters for macro shooting on a budget 

These filters cost only a few bucks online and do a reasonably good job with making extreme close ups. I bought a package of four filters with diopters (magnification factor) running from + 1 to +10 (figure 3).

These filters simply screw into the front of your prime lens (or zoom lens) and add magnification to the lens. It is sort of the same principle as using a magnifying glass. You screw the filter onto the front of the lens and it magnifies the close-up subject. There are different diopter “powers” in the filter set so that you can increase or decrease the magnification. The main limitation of diopter close-up filters is a very limited amount of focus control and somewhat lower quality images. They are not as convenient to use by any means, in comparison to a true macro lens. However, they do a pretty good job on taking extreme close up pictures and are much lower in cost.

Figure 4 – Same subject as in figure 2 shot with diopter close up filters

With a diopter filter on your lens it cannot focus sharply on anything farther away than a few inches; therefore, the filter cannot be left on a lens for any other purpose than shooting the macro shots. While these filters can’t possibly give you the same quality edge to edge as a true macro lens (figure 2.30), they do provide the photographer on a budget with a way to make interesting close up pictures without spending a lot of money.  Look on the back of your lens’s cap to see the correct size of filter to buy. The filters must match the screw-in filter size of the lens you will use them with.

Extension Tubes and Lens Bellows

You can get by without a true macro lens or screw-on filters—by using either extension tubes or a lens bellows. I’m not going into any detail about these two options in this article because they require knowing some advanced techniques, such as stop-down metering (no automatic lens aperture), and how to shoot without your camera’s light meter active. I'll cover these ways of shooting macro in a future article. However, remember that these two alternatives exist and check them out when you feel ready (do a Google search on the terms for info).

If you are serious about excellent macro photography and can afford to buy an extra lens, get yourself a true macro lens. It is a lot less hassle to use and gives you much better quality.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GB Wi-Fi SD Card Review

Have you ever needed to transfer images to your notebook computer, but had no USB cable with you?  Have you ever been shooting an event and thought how nice it would be if your images could quickly show up on a nearby computer?  Would you like to shoot in your home studio and have the images go directly to your laptop for processing, with no wires or extra software purchases needed?

Until recently, there were only a few choices that would allow you to do the things mentioned previously. You could buy a Nikon® WT-4 Wireless Transmitter for about the same cost as a mid-level DSLR camera body.  Or, you could plug in an actual wire and hope you don’t trip over it.

For most of us, wireless (Wi-Fi) image transfers were a pricey proposition—until Eye-Fi® offered a low-cost solution. For a very reasonable price, you can buy an Eye-Fi® wireless memory card for a camera that supports SD/SDHC; such as the Nikon D300S, D7000, D90, D5100, D5000, D3100, and D3000. They are virtually identical to a normal SD card, but allow you limited-distance wireless image transfers directly to a Wi-Fi enabled computer of your choice.

The Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 Wi-Fi Card for Nikons that can use SD cards

The Eye-Fi® company makes several SD/SDHC cards with built-in Wi-Fi transmitters.  The picture above shows my personal Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 high-speed “Class 6” level card (6 MB per second write speed). With an Eye-Fi card inserted, and Eye-Fi software installed on your laptop computer—or any computer connected via a wireless network connection—you can take pictures and they are automatically transferred to the computer.

Most lower-cost Eye-Fi cards require a local wireless network to transfer the images. However, recently Eye-Fi came out with a card that will do “Ad Hoc” transfers; meaning that they don’t need a wireless network connection via a wireless access point.  The Pro X2 card will send pictures directly to a computer with wireless capability with no intermediate network required.

Eye-FI separates their Ad Hoc transfer capable card(s) under the “Pro” moniker.  The other cards have names like Connect X2, Geo X2, and Explore X2.  Only the Pro X2 cards can do the “no network required,” direct to notebook computer Ad Hoc file transfers.

Since memory cards are extremely volatile, price-wise, I’m sure that capacities and card names will change quickly.  However, just be aware that only the cards considered pro-level by Eye-Fi will do Ad Hoc transfers.

The Eye-Fi card partially inserted into a Nikon D300S's SD slot

I’ve been using an Eye-Fi card for quite some time and wanted to give you some information on how they work:

Eye-Fi Card Cost & Availability – According to which card you purchase, Eye-Fi cards cost from $49.95 to $149.95 USD, and are available for purchase at most online camera stores and many brick & mortar stores.

Memory Capacity – Current Eye-Fi X2 cards are available in 4 and 8 GB memory capacities. Eye-Fi previously made a series of older cards that do not bear the X2 monikor. The standard capacity on the early cards was 2GB. These older cards may not support some of the following Eye-Fi standards. Buy the X2 cards for best functionality!

Image Transfer Range - Wi-Fi publishes on their website that their cards can transfer images from 50 feet (15.2m) when shooting inside. If you are outside, with nothing between you and the receiving computer, the card can transfer images from up to 90 feet (27.4m) distance. In actual use, I’ve found that while the Eye-Fi card can indeed approach a 50 foot range indoors, the speed drops as you move farther away from the receiving computer. To get the best use out of the card, I would recommend staying within eyesight range of the computer (20-30 feet), and keeping it in the same room, if possible.

The Eye-Fi is a unique card with a built-in transmitter – It makes your images fly (through the air)

Card Profile Required - When you set up your card, using included software from Eye-Fi, you create a profile on the card that matches it with a particular computer. It will not transfer images to any other computer except the one that has the proper profile. That’s a good thing! Otherwise, anybody with a wireless device could grab your images as they fly through the air.

Private Wi-Fi Networks – You’ll need a Wi-Fi network to transfer images for the non-Pro X2 cards. You can configure the card to work under up to 32 specific private Wi-Fi networks. If the networks are security encrypted, you’ll have to know the proper key name/password to use it. You specify these details in the card’s profile for each private Wi-Fi network you often use. When you take pictures and come within range of one of those networks, the camera will automatically begin downloading images to your computer. There is a bit of handshaking with Eye-Fi servers that can take a few minutes sometimes.

Ad-Hoc Networks – You can configure a “Pro X2” Eye-Fi card (only) to do ad-hoc file transfers.  In effect, the Eye-Fi card become a wireless transmitter that can talk directly to a Wi-Fi enabled notebook or desktop computer—without an intervening network.  This is a more professional way of doing things, and allows you to take your computer and camera to places where there are no Wi-Fi networks, and still wirelessly transfer images. I configured my notebook computer so that it finds a normal wireless network, when available, so that I can browse the internet. However, even if a wireless network is currently available—an ad-hoc transfer does not use it—and does not interfere with normal internet usage, either. As soon as you turn the camera on with an enabled Eye-Fi card, it makes an Ad Hoc connection to the computer and they shake hands. When you take a picture, the download begins almost immediately. The Ad-Hoc connection is completely separate from normal wireless computer to internet connectivity. Currently, only one card, the Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 ($149 USD) will transfer directly to a notebook computer without needing a wireless network as an intermediary. The other cards cost less, but require a wireless network connection to move images.

Open Wi-Fi Networks – You can specify in the card profile that it is allowed to use open networks freely. If you are in range of an open Wi-Fi network the card will do its job immediately. Lots of places provide free internet connectivity. In fact, with all the people out there using wireless networks without a clue about security, you could probably drive through an average subdivision and transfer your images.

The Eye-Fi card is exactly the same size as a normal SD card

Hotspot Access Service – Eye-Fi made a deal with AT&T that gives you access to over 21,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the USA. That means you can upload images at places like Starbucks, Marriott Hotels, and Barnes & Nobles bookstores (being sure to browse the Mastering The Nikon DSLR books from NikoniansPress while there, of course). Eye-Fi Explore X2 and Pro X2 cards come with one year of included hotspot access. The service costs money after the first year. However, it is only $29.99 USD per year, currently.  Connect X2 and GEO X2 cards require that you purchase hotspot access initially.

File Formats (RAW vs. JPEG) – Eye-Fi cards generally work only with JPEG files.  However, the new 8GB Pro X2 card now supports both JPEG and NEF (RAW) files. If you shoot mostly in RAW, you’ll need to use a Pro X2 card to transfer your images.

Endless Memory - The Eye-Fi card offers a mode called “Endless Memory” on their X2 cards.  If you activate this mode, the card will intelligently make room when it is nearing capacity.  It will remove old images that have been successfully transferred, to allow room for new images. You can shoot endlessly without filling up the card.  Would that be convenient—event shooters?

File-Sharing Websites - If you really want to, you can have the Eye-Fi card transfer images to file sharing services like Flickr®, SmugMug®, Zenfolio®, and facebook®. You can send the images to 25 different file-sharing websites.  You can even transfer your videos to YouTube®!  This is configured in the card’s profile at setup.

Network Speeds Supported – The Eye-Fi card can support most of today’s network speed standards. Specifically, they support 802.11b (11 megabits per second), 802.11g (54 megabits per second), and 802.11n (300 megabits per second).  I recommend using the fastest speeds you can get! An 802.11b  network can be frustratingly slow with large RAW files. In fact, I wouldn’t use an 802.11b network for anything but small JPEG file transfers.

Camera Battery Life – According to Eye-Fi, when using the Eye-Fi Card to take photos, “a camera’s battery life will not be noticeably shorter than when using a standard SD memory card.” However, when you are actively transferring images to your computer battery usage goes up. Any time you fire up a radio signal, which is what an Eye-Fi card and Wi-Fi network uses, you’ll have significantly larger requirements for power. I heartily recommend having multiple batteries when doing extended shoots with full-time image transfer. Your Nikon DSLR's accessory battery pack would be a great help. The card itself does not drain your batteries excessively during normal picture taking. However, the process of transferring images will have you sending images by radio to a computer, so the battery drain is naturally higher. I would recommend using an Eye-Fi card on 803.11g or 803.11n (54 or 300 MB per second speed) Wi-Fi networks, or you may experience excessive battery drain—merely because it will take significantly longer to transfer the images.  In other words, leave 803.11b (11 MB per second speed) networks alone, when possible.

An Eye-Fi card is a great addition to your Nikon armory

Internal Memory Type – I read a review of an Eye-Fi card where a fellow pulled his apart to see what was inside. His card was using Samsung® memory. This could change at any time, of course.

Geotagging of Images – If you don’t use a Nikon GP-1 GPS (or other brand) and would like to have latitude and longitude information added to your image’s EXIF metadata, you’ll find Eye-Fi’s geotagging services convenient.  Eye-Fi cards do not have built in GPS sensing equipment, so it is not as accurate as a normal GPS unit. Instead of GPS, Eye-Fi uses what’s called the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS).  It works a little like GPS by sensing the positions of surrounding known Wi-Fi networks—even ones that you do not have in your list of approved uploading networks. When you upload your images via the Eye-Fi card wireless transfer, each image has positioning information written to the EXIF header metadata of the image. One problem I can see with this service is that you must be in an area with multiple Wi-Fi networks in order to use geotagging.  If you are shooting in the wilds of Africa, Yosemite, or the Great Smoky Mountains you’d best have a real GPS unit. There are no Wi-Fi networks hanging around the wilderness areas.  City dwellers should be able to use geotagging with ease. Eye-Fi has partnered with Skyhook Wireless who has mapped millions of geographic coordinates around the world. Skyhook estimates that is has 70% of the populated areas of the USA, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK covered. In other areas of Europe only the top 50 metropolitan areas are covered. The GEO X2, Explore X2, and Pro X2 cards all have free, unlimited, lifetime geotagging included. If you use a lower-priced Eye-Fi card you can buy the geotagging service for $14.99 USD per year.

Eye-Fi cards work with's Annotate software

Nikonians® Annotate Expert Software and Eye-Fi Cards – If you’ve used the excellent Nikonians® Annotate Expert software to write annotations on your images for sharing and educational purposes, you may be using the convenient tethered mode. In that mode you connect your camera to your laptop computer and images flow directly into Annotate Expert. Well, things just got even more convenient!  The latest version of Annotate Expert now has built-in Eye-Fi functionality.  Instead of having to plug your camera into the computer with a wire, you can let your Eye-Fi card handle the uploading wirelessly and Annotate will pull the images in automatically. When you select tethered mode (Ctrl-T), you can choose two new selections from the list of cameras, Eye-Fi JPEG and Eye-Fi RAW. Annotate seamlessly imports the images into its tethered mode window for your immediate use. Bo Stahlbrandt—co-owner of—reviews Annotate Expert here:

Should I use an Eye-Fi Card Instead of a Nikon WT-4 Wireless Transmitter? – For a professional living by his images, I would say no. The WT-4 is a very fast, long range transmitter, with multiple modes, designed to let a pro control where when and how his or her images arrive at a receiving computer. Its price reflects its power. The Eye-Fi card is slower and has significantly shorter range.  However, it works well with the faster network types, and will provide advanced amateur and semi-pro level functionality. I bet a few pros also have an Eye-Fi card in their bags for an emergency backup.

Can I Transfer Images Wirelessly to a Non-Wi-Fi Computer? – I’ve not figured out how to do it, yet, although I wish I could. If you figure out how, let me know, please! The whole Eye-Fi process requires either a wireless network, or an Ad Hoc configuration to a computer equipped with wireless capability. I tried installing the Eye-Fi software on my main computer with its wired network; hoping I could transfer the images to the internet, and then have them appear on my internet connected non-wireless computer. Instead, once installed, the Eye-Fi software is completely non-functional. It opens with frustrating blank screens that do nothing. I wish the software would open and say something like “Hey dummy, why are you wasting your time installing me on a non-wireless computer?”  I wasted a good half hour fiddling with the software on my non-wireless computer before my brain finally reminded me, “You need a wireless computer for a Wi-Fi connection...duh!”

Can I use an SD to CF adapter? - Most SD/SDHC compatible cameras can use an Eye-Fi card to transfer pictures wirelessly.  Some people use an SD/SDHC to CF card converter and use the Eye-Fi cards in cameras with only a CF port (like the Nikon D300).  This may or may not be a successful operation.  Here are some comments from Eye-Fi’s website ( on the subject of using the SD/SDHC-based Eye-FI cards in CF converters:

Eye-Fi does not support the use of SD to CF card adapters with the Eye-Fi Card. Eye-Fi has not tested the Eye-Fi Card in cameras designed to use CF cards and has no explicit knowledge to share about the success of these adapters when used with an Eye-Fi Card. We only support the Eye-Fi Card in cameras designed to use SD or SDHC cards. We are aware that many users want the Eye-Fi Card functionality in their CF-based cameras and have opted to use a CF card adapter to get the functionality offered by an Eye-Fi Card. The following list of known issues with CF card adapters is a collection of information gathered directly from customer and blogger descriptions of issues they have experienced. By sharing this information Eye-Fi accepts no responsibility for problems encountered when using the Eye-Fi Card and a CF Card adapter.
  • Wireless range of the Eye-Fi Card is noticeably reduced.
  • Formatting the Eye-Fi Card in a CF adapter has caused the Eye-Fi Card to fail.
  • File corruption of photos.

Eye-Fi Card Advanced Use – If you’re intending to use your Eye-Fi card as a serious wireless device, and have no interest in all the bells and whistles like hotspots, geotagging, uploading to file sharing sites, etc.—you may want to consider the Pro X2 card and disable various features. I’ve found that Eye-Fi’s normal Wi-Fi “Relayed Transfer” is simply too slow for large RAW or JPEG files. You see, when you take a picture with Relayed Transfer enabled the image must flow to Eye-Fi’s servers out there on the internet before being transferred back to your computer. Imagine the time and battery drain involved with files larger than small point-and-shoot’s JPEGs flowing across the internet and then back to your computer. That’s like an upload and download—and we know how long that can take. Relayed Transfer doesn’t work fast enough on a 11-25 megabyte RAW file, yet it’s the default mode for Eye-Fi cards. The best (and quite usable) transfer speed I’ve achieved is by using an Ad Hoc wireless connection directly between the camera and computer with no Relayed Transfer.  This makes the image go directly to your computer with no internet flow involved.  With this type of setup the Eye-Fi card is pretty fast, and even large RAW files only take a few seconds each to wirelessly upload to your computer. You can disable Relayed Transfer under the Transfer Mode tab of the Eye-Fi software.  Unfortunately, when you disable Relayed Transfer, you lose all the neat little things like transferring files while you have a Big Mac® at McDonalds.  Instead, in non-relay mode your camera and computer are married and depend on each other for file transfer. As a pro shooter, you’ll find the Eye-Fi card very usable in Ad Hoc non-relayed mode.  Only the Pro X2 card allows for Ad Hoc connections, so a professional should consider no less.  It’s only $149.99 USD for adding Wi-Fi to your camera.

Eye-Fi card – The easiest way to backup and share

About Eye-Fi - Founded in 2005, Eye-Fi® is dedicated to building products and services that help consumers manage, nurture and share their visual memories. Eye-Fi’s patented and patent-pending technology wirelessly and automatically uploads photos and videos from digital imaging devices, including digital cameras and the iPhone, to online, in-home, and retail destinations. They are headquartered in Mountain View, California, USA. More information is available at

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nikon Releases the New SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit

Nikon has released a brand new Speedlight flash unit, the SB-910. Here is their official press announcement:

MELVILLE, N.Y. (November 29, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the addition of a new flagship speedlight, the powerful and capable SB-910 speedlight. Building on the versatility of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS), the SB-910 incorporates an enhanced intuitive operating system and graphic user interface (GUI). The SB-910 speedlight comes equipped with a wide zoom range covering the most popular focal lengths as well as FX/DX-format identification that optimizes zoom settings based on the camera body. This new speedlight also provides more efficient battery usage as well as an enhanced Thermal Cut-Out function. [End Press Release]

The new Nikon SB-910 Flash Unit 

The new SB-910 is an accessory-shoe mounted Speedlight made for both FX and DX format Nikon DSLR cameras. It will work with the COOLPIX P7000 camera also. It has both wireless remote commander and slave unit capabilities with up to four channel (1–4) operation. When used in Commander mode it can control up to three groups (A, B, and C) of an unlimited number of other Nikon speedlight units. It can control remote Speedlights of the following types when used as a commander:

  • SB-910
  • SB-900
  • SB-700
  • SB-R200

Any particular group can have any number or mixture of the speedlights in the list. Nikon does not specifically list the SB-800 Speedlight in its specifications, but since the SB-800 is fully CLS compatible, you should expect that the SB-910 can control it too. Nikon calls this "system integration." I call it cool!

It uses Nikon iTTL (intelligent through-the-lens) metering when used on-camera or in a group of remote slave flashes. This allows the flash to share exposure information with any Nikon camera compatible with Nikon CLS (creative lighting system). It has manual mode with "Power Ratio", three illumination patterns to allow for specific lighting arrangements, and a wide zoom range (17–200mm).

The controls on the camera have been "strreamlined" by Nikon for easier operation. They added a dedicated Menu button to make it operate more like Nikon DSLRs when accessing the menu system. Here is a look at the back of the SB-910:

Nikon SB-910 back, showing the streamlined controls

Nikon has "improved" the thermal cutout protection on this flash. If you recall, when the older flagship SB-900 flash was released, there was a great outcry about the flash unit "overheating" and shutting down at inopportune moments. The SB-910 changes how the flash reacts to high-heat situations. Instead of cutting off the flash when it gets hot, the flash merely slows down recycling time to prevent overheating. Sounds like a good idea to me, as long as it is not too overenthusiastic in preventing minor overheating.

Some have complained about Nikon flash filters fading or wearing out. Nikon has solved that issue by creating two "hard" color-correction filters specifically for the SB-910 Speedlight: the SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter and the SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter. Both snap on like the diffusion dome. They should be easier to use and last longer in high-volume usage environments. Also, here is a look at the new SJ-3 regular filter set for the SB-910 Speedlight:

Nikon SJ-3 Color filter set for the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight

The SJ-3 Color Filter Set allows you to modify the SB-900 Speedlight flash output to match the lighting of the background scene when shooting under fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It includes eight colors: FL-G1 (fluorescent), TN-A2 (incandescent), Blue, Yellow, Red, and Amber. There are a total of 20 filters in the set.

Additional accessories include (see: : 
  • SU-4 Wireless Remote TTL Flash Controller (US$120)
  • SC-28 and SC-29 Coiled Remote Cords (US$81 and US$112)
  • SW-13H Diffusion Dome (US$16.50)
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand (US$9.50)
  • SZ-2 Color Filter Holder (US$13)
  • WG-AS1, WG-AS2, WG-AS3 Water Guards (US$35.50 each)
  • SS-910 Soft Case (US$36.50)
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)

Of the above mentioned accessories, these are included in the box with the SB-910:
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case

Technical Specifications

Commander Function:  

Remote Function:  

Guide Number:
34 m/111.5 ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48 m/157.5 ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Electronic Construction:
Automatic Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and series circuitry

Flash Exposure Control
  • Distance-priority manual flash
  • i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash with CLS compatible cameras
  • Manual Flash (with Nikon Creative Lighting System digital and 35mm SLR cameras) 
Lens Coverage:
  • 8 to 11mm (DX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 17mm (FX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 200mm (DX-format, Automatic mode)
  • 17 to 200mm (FX-format, Automatic mode)
Illumination Pattern:
The light distribution angle is automatically adjusted to the camera's image area in both FX and DX formats:
  • Standard
  • Even
  • Center-weighted
Other Available Functions
  • Test Firing
  • Monitor Pre-flashes
  • AF-assist illumination for multi-point AF
  • Modeling illuminator
Bounce Function (Tilt)
Flash head tilts down to 7° or up to 90° with click-stops at -7°, 0°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°.

Bounce Function (Rotate)
Flash head rotates horizontally 180° to the left and right with click-stops at 0°, 30°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°

Minimum Recycling Time
  • 2.3 sec. (approx.) with Ni-MH (2600 mAh) batteries
  • 3.0 sec. (approx.) with Oxyride™ (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.0 sec. (approx.) with Alkaline-manganese (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.5 sec. (approx.) with Lithium (1.5V) batteries
Flash Duration
  • 1/880 sec. at M 1/1 (full) output
  • 1/1100 sec. at M 1/2 output
  • 1/2550 sec. at M 1/4 output
  • 1/5000 sec. at M 1/8 output
  • 1/10000 sec. at M 1/16 output
  • 1/20000 sec. at M 1/32 output
  • 1/35700 sec. at M 1/64 output
  • 1/38500 sec. at M 1/128 output
Required Power Source:
  • Four 1.2V Ni-MH (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Alkaline-manganese (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Lithium (AA-size) batteries
Optional Power Supplies: 
  • SK-6 Power Bracket Unit, SD-9 High-Performance Battery Pack
  • SD-8A High-Performance Battery Pack
Flash-ready Indicator
  • Rear and Front lights blink: Insufficient light for correct exposure (in i-TTL, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL Auto flash, or Distance-priority manual flash operations).
  • Rear lights up and Front blinks: recycled and ready to fire.
Ready Light:  

Flash Compensation:
–3.0 EV to +3.0 EV in increments of 1/3 steps in i-TTL auto flash, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL auto flash and Distance-priority manual flash modes

Custom Settings
  • AF-Assist Illumination
  • Modeling Illuminator
  • Monitor pre-flashes
  • Test firing
Minimum Number of Flashes / Recycling Time
  • 110/4.0 – 30 sec. (1.5V Alkaline-manganese)
  • 125/3.0 –30 sec. (1.5V Oxyride™)
  • 165/2.3–30 sec. (Ni-MH (eneloop))
  • 190/2.3–30 sec. (2600mAh Ni-MH)
  • 230/4.5–120 sec. (1.5V Lithium)
Wireless Flash Modes:
  • Master
  • Master (RPT)
  • Off
  • Remote
  • SU-4

Wireless Communication Channels
Four: 1, 2, 3 and 4 Channels

Wireless Groups
Three: A, B and C

Other Functions

  • Firmware update
  • ISO sensitivity setting
  • Key lock
  • Recalling the underexposure value in the TTL auto flash mode
  • Resetting the settings
  • Improved Thermal Cut-out

3.1 x 5.7 x 4.4 in. (78.5 x 145 x 113mm)

Weight (Approx. without batteries)
14.8 oz. (420g)

Supplied Accessories
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case


The SB-910 is Nikon's new flagship Speedlight Flash Unit. It is going to sell in the US$500+ range, with a suggested retail price of US$549.95.  With Nikon's new minimum pricing structure, I wouldn't expect a lot of discounting. Here is a link to for the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit. Support this blog by buying from my link, please ( It is currently listed at US$549.00.

The Nikon SB-900 and SB-800 should now drop in price as the market is flooded with older flash units, so those wanting a more powerful flash unit can look into the new SB-910 or find a good used SB-900 or SB-800.  The SB-900 is going to remain available as new stock, at least until stock runs out.

You can view sample photos created with the Nikon SB-910 at the following website (case sensitive):

We have an excellent choice of Speedlights available for our Nikons. Now is the time to get a new flash unit for yourself. Check out the new flagship SB-910, or find a less costly unit. Either way, why use anything but a Nikon flash unit on your Nikon camera?

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Friday, November 25, 2011

PhotoPlus Expo 2011 and New York City

During the recent PhotoPlus Expo in New York I was privileged to spend three days with Jorg Muhle and Julian Buhler of Germany; and Devon Bell of California. My publishing company, Rocky Nook of California, had a booth at the Expo and I had the privilege of being one of the hosts.

The booth presented Rocky Nook's books for photographers,'s Fine Art Photography, and c't Digital Photography magazine, which Rocky Nook is co-publishing. Here's a picture of the crew in our booth at the Expo:

Left to right: Darrell Young, Jorg Muhle, Devon Bell (and baby), Julian Buhler 

Since this blog is about both the PhotoPlus Expo and New York, I'd like to discuss a couple of favorite companies of mine in the early part of this blog (part 1) and later show you some pictures from two enthusiastic Nikon photographers—my wife and I—as we experience the fast times of New York with our cameras up to our eye (part 2).

Part 1 – PhotoPlus Expo 2011

There were a lot of people at the Expo and hundreds stopped by our booth to get discount coupons for Rocky Nook books (including mine),'s Fine Art Photography, and to see the newly introduce c't Digital Photography Magazine. I had the opportunity to meet several readers of my Mastering the Nikon DSLR books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Darrell and Brenda Young at the PhotoPlus Expo Booth

Left to right: Brad Berger of, Hendric Schneider of, Jorg Muhle and Julian Buhler of c't Digital Photography Magazine

Darrell Young and Brad Berger of Berger Bros Digital Photography & Video 

I was pleased to meet Hendric Schneider of and Brad Berger of Berger Bros Digital Photography & Video of Long Island. I have spoken to these friends on the phone but was especially glad to see them in person. I buy all my Nikon cameras and accessories from Brad Berger, so he made a special trip to meet me when he heard I was going to be at the Expo.

Each morning of the Expo hundreds of people assembled just outside the main entrance. As soon as they dropped the rope the mad rush began:

Attendees waiting patiently for the rope barrier to be removed.

Here they come! See all the new Nikon bags, ready to collect goodies?

The Nikon booth was very popular

People lined up all day long at the Nikon booth to see presentations and experiment with all the current Nikon DSLRs, Nikkor lenses, and the new J1 and V1 ILC cameras. It was gratifying to see all the interest in Nikon.We had a great vantage point being just across the hall from Nikon's huge area.

Nikon didn't release any new DSLRs at the Expo, although I can understand why due to the massive flooding in Thailand and recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Nikon did have up for display their new Nikon 1 (J1 and V1) Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILC). I recently blogged about this new line here. Although not DSLRs the new Nikons are an exciting addition to the line for Nikon shooters. The cameras are small, high quality, and have interchangeable lenses. They ought to make excellent party and vacation cameras for those times when you don't want to carry a larger DSLR.

Devon Bell and Brenda Young prepare the Nikon bag full of hundreds of entries for the Rocky Nook and c't Digital Photography sweepstakes drawing. Expo attendees wait in hopes they will be the winner. (You didn't have to be present to win.)

Rocky Nook and c't' Digital Photography held a drawing on Saturday at noon for some nice items. Here is the winner announcement from c't' Digital Photography's Facebook page:

"Congratulations to B. Carmine, the winner of the Sigma Corporation of America 50mm lens and Lowepro Pro Runner 200 backpack as well as other goodies from Rocky Nook, photography, and c't Digital Photography."

Overall, PhotoPlus Expo 2011 was a great success and a really good time for all involved. I can't wait until next year!

Rocky Nook Publishing Company

Rocky Nook's books are very popular with photographers. They are very high quality in print, and many come in eBook formats too. The authors publishing with Rocky Nook are some of the best and most experienced authors and photographers around.

I've been writing for Rocky Nook since my first book, Mastering the Nikon D300, was released in October 2008. The company is rare in its concern for both authors and readers, in my opinion. The staff at Rocky Nook—including Joan Dixon, Managing Editor; Gerhard Rossbach, Publisher and CEO; and Devon Bell, Sales and Marketing Manager—are all exceptional people.

My experience with the company has been a pleasurable one. If you really want to learn the deep techniques of excellent photography, buy a few Rocky Nook books. Download their 2011 catalog (PDF), and from the subject matter you'll see what I mean:

The visitors at the Rocky Nook booth were many and varied and, in addition to the Rocky Nook books, seemed especially interested in c't Digital Photography magazine.

Devon Bell discusses c't Digital Photography magazine with an Expo attendee

A local New Yorker examining a c't Digital Photography Magazine.  Many people subscribed on the spot!

c't Digital Photography Magazine

Let me tell you about the new c't Digital Photography magazine. They are a quarterly German magazine brought over to English, new to the USA, and somewhat different from most American magazines. You are familiar with the German attention to detail, I am sure, and the magazine is no different from other fine German creations. It is a physically larger magazine than most, along the size of the photography magazines from the UK. It is also much thicker than most magazines, with extremely in-depth articles. For instance, the article on 3D photography in the 5th issue goes out to 35 pages, with several sections. In fact, the magazine averages about 20 pages per article, which is unheard of in American mags.

When you sit down to read c't' Digital Photography you'll feel more like you are reading a book. That's been my experience, and I'm totally hooked. I am keeping each magazine on a shelf, sort of like a reference book. It costs a little more than many American magazines at US$14.95 per issue, but there is so much more reading material that I would dare say that one issue of c't Digital Photography magazine is equivalent to three or four issues of most American magazines.

Each issue of the magazine comes with a DVD including video tutorials, software, and sample photographs. Here's a PDF file showing the contents of the DVD from issue six, which includes a complete eBook copy of Torsten Andreas Hoffmann's new Rocky Nook book The Art of Black and White Photography, not even released until January 2012 (a US$44.95 value). The DVD by itself is worth the subscription price!

This is no light weight, advertising filled, fluff magazine that is encouraging you to feel good about the latest camera release (buy, buy, buy!). Instead, it is designed to actually teach enthusiast photographers several new things in each issue. In fact, it is billed as an "in-depth quarterly for the photo enthusiast." I heartily agree! I just got an email from Devon Bell about a special subscription offer for the magazine, good until December 31, 2011 (I get no commission). Here's what she wrote:

Subscribe now through December 31st and get a 5th issue free - a savings of over 30% off the newsstand price! 

Please enter Offer Code 1104DD05 in "Comments" field of the online order form to receive your 5th issue. The Comments fields is found at the bottom of the order form here:

Subscriptions are $49.95, with 4 Issues per Year – Offer Expires 12/31/11

Learn more about c't Digital Photography by visiting them at or joining them on Facebook or Twitter:

I highly recommend c't Digital Photography Magazine to my enthusiastic photography friends. Its value exceeds the cost of the subscription. You'll prize each issue like a book and keep them for future reference.

Special note: I need your help! I really want to see c't Digital Photography Magazine survive and thrive here in the USA. Subscribe, or at least pick up a copy on the newsstand. If you like it (I know you will), please let other photographers know about the magazine. Word of mouth means a lot for the success of a new magazine. Will you help spread the word, please? As photographers with Facebook, Google+, and blog accounts, we are a force to be reckoned with. Please help me take this viral. Thanks!

Part 2 – Touring the Big Apple

Moving on to some experiences with the incredible New York City. My wife, Brenda, and I enjoyed Wednesday October 26th and Sunday, October 30, 2011 in the Big Apple. We traveled around New York on the subway and had some great experiences.

Here is the camera equipment we were carrying for the New York excursion. Brenda packed light, I had a lens in each coat pocket to keep from attracting any attention to myself with a camera bag:

  • Nikon D300S body
  • AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens (Read my review of this lens here)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX lens
  • 32 gig memory card and spares

  • Nikon D7000 body
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • Nikon SB-400 flash unit
  • 32 gig memory card and spares

Our first stop in Manhattan was the World Trade Center site and the new enormous World Trade Center buildings. Here is a picture of them under construction. They are standing in the original locations of the former Trade Center buildings:

World Trade Center Buildings under construction on October 30, 2011

If you want to visit the actual Trade Center Site you must arrive early or schedule in advance. They only allow a limited number of people on the site each day. You can get more information about visiting the World Trade Center site here:

Here are a couple of pictures of the World Trade Center Memorial Center on 20th Avenue with one of the new buildings in the background and inside the memorial center:

The World Trade Center Memorial Preview Site on 20th Avenue in New York with one of the new Trade Center buildings in the background.

Inside the World Trade Center Memorial Preview Site on 20th Avenue

I saw something inside the memorial center that was quite humbling to me. They have a piece of one of the beams from one of the towers that fell.  It is warped and twisted like molding clay from the intense heat and pressure:

A piece of a supporting beam from one of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings. It is warped by the heat and pressure of the collapse. Very humbling when you realize what this beam represents.

New York Subway

My wife and I had never ridden the subway before and it was quite an experience. Sort of like riding on a flat roller coaster with very fast starts and stops that will knock you down if you are not prepared. I now understand why the subway cars have hand rails all over the place. You need them!

11-year old subway dancer makes $200 per day

Here is a young lad that we met on the subway. He waited till the cars were rolling, whipped out a boom box, and proceeded to lay some cool Michael Jackson dance moves on us. Of course, everybody in the vicinity added a dollar bill to his cap afterward. We asked him how much he makes per day and he said, "about $200." Not bad for an 11-year old! My wife asked him about school and he said his mom won't let him subway dance unless he is regular at school. His brother makes about $300 per day doing something similar on the subway. New York natives!

We learned all kinds of cool terminology that New Yorkers must know, such as "Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, what a borough is, and how to figure which subway train to take." We found out that if you stand around looking dumbly at the signs saying A,B,C, 1,2,3 that New Yorkers ignore you soundly but other tourists walk up and ask if you know how to interpret the signs. You can tell the tourists by their open maps and confused faces. After a few trips uptown and downtown, we got the hang of how things worked and lost our fear of being trapped forever on a moving subway train going who knows where. If confused, take the A train, it'll get you somewhere eventually!

Central Park

We next toured Central Park only to find that the snow storm from the night before had done some major damage to the trees. I heard there were over 1000 big limbs down in the park. Trees and branches were down everywhere from the high winds and heavy, wet snow.

Here's a picture of the Maine Monument at the entrance of Central park near West 59th street. This monument was created for 260 mariners that lost their lives in the harbor of Havana, Cuba on February 15, 1898. Their battleship exploded and sank. Spain declared war on the USA in April of 1898:

The Maine Monument. The gold sculpture on top was cast from the metal of the Main battleship that sank in 1898 killing 260 mariners. This monument was built from donations over a period of time, including lots of pennies from school children.
Read the story of the Main Monument and the events surrounding the sinking of the Maine Battleship at this website:

We strolled around the partially snow covered grounds of the park. Here is my wife Brenda, with her trusty Nikon D7000 on the famous Pine Bank Arch cast-iron bridge you see in nearly every TV show and movie shot in Central Park:

Pine Bank Arch cast-iron  bridge in Central Park, notice the tree on the left is down across one end of the bridge. We had to climb through the tree to get on the bridge. Brenda is in the middle for this picture.

Brenda with her Nikon D7000 in Central Park on the famous bridge

Central Park with downed tree limbs all around

Staten Island Ferry

After leaving Central Park, we headed back down the subway (downtown) to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Here are a few shots of the ferry ride. It was windy and fun!

Entrance to the Staten Island Ferry

Looking back at the end of Manhattan Island from the outside deck of the Staten Island Ferry

One of the Staten Island ferry boats returning on its round trip from the island to Manhattan. Two ships passing at sunset.

The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry at sunset

Times Square

Next on our tour is the world-renowned Times Square. It's a place of people, noise, movement, and lights; especially at night! As Tennessee hillbillies (Jed Clampett and I are cousins), we just stood around with our mouths hanging open looking at all the lights. People never stop on the square, 24-hours per day. Weather doesn't matter either. New York and Times Square never sleeps! Look at these pictures and a four minute video I shot with my Nikon D300S:

Brenda and her D7000 at Times Square. There is no need for flash here at night, except for a little fill!
Cars and people and bicycle buggies, all night long!

Time Square and New York Never Sleeps!

My Nikon D300S Video of Times Square at night on YouTube (Kindle Touch and Keyboard viewers do not show this video. See it here: online instead)

Empire State Building

Our final event before leaving New York was a trip up the Empire State Building. You can go up to the observation deck on the 86th floor at a cost of US$22 adults and US$15 children. For an additional US$15 you can go even higher to a deck on the 102 floor. Brenda and I dutifully paid our US$44 to go see the sights from on high. We were hearded like cattle around and around, back and forth, floor after floor, multiple elevator rides, metal detector, empty your pockets and remove your belt, x-ray machine of your items in baskets, explain the lenses in your coat pocket, and finally to the 86th floor. Whew! However, the trip was worth it once we got there. Here are a few pictures and a video to see what I mean!

The Empire State Building in New York City

Nikon D300S and AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens handheld shot from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building at Night

Chrysler Building, Nikon D300S and AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens handheld shot from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building at Night

My Nikon D300S Video of Manhattan at night on YouTube (Kindle Touch and Keyboard viewers do not show this video. See it here: online instead)

We greatly enjoyed our trip to New York City and the PhotoPlus Expo and would like to thank Rocky Nook and c't Digital Photography magazine for letting me be a host at the booth. It was fun and exciting to meet so many nice people and even some of my book readers. It was also great to discover what is now my favorite digital photo magazine.

New York was an experience of a lifetime. Everyone should go there at least once. I've never seen anything like it! I can't wait to take my wife and my Nikon back to New York again. Let's hope we can do it again in 2012 at the next Expo. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope I've captured a tiny bit of the flavor of New York and allowed you to take a short trip of your own.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here: