Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Why would you want to put a great big Speedlight on a little bitty Nikon compact?
1. Because you can. The Coolpix P7000 hot shoe will take all Nikon speedlights.
2. To dress up the Coolpix. Add some paparazzi panache for your street photography. (Of course you lose the stealth factor, but you shouldn't be sneaking up on people anyhow.)
3. It's lighter than putting a Speedlight on a DSLR. Which, given the P7000's capabilities you might not need to lug around anyhow, especially when traveling.
4. Using fill flash with high-speed sync in bright daylight with something more substantial than the emergencies-only onboard flash.A real boon for fill flash in bright daylight at wide apertures is the P7000's ability to sync at 1/2000 -- much faster than most DSLRs, and that's with full power output, too. With the onboard flash, however, you have to be pratically in a subject's face. With an attached speedlight, you can shoot pleasing portraits with a soft background in bright sunlight -- or you can use it to tame the shadows on a sunny day at the farmers' market. Or any place where you need more firepower
5. Using bounce flash with a point-and-shoot. The biggest drawback of the built-in flash of most point-and-shoots is that it can't be used for bounce flash. Sure, you can rig up some sort of little reflector, but the flash simply isn't powerful enough to illuminate a room at a reasonable ISO. Previously you had to lug around a DSLR to get a reasonable bounce flash effect. Not anymore.
6. Extending the range of your built-in flash. Given it's tiny size, it's not surprising that the P7000's pop-up flash peters out pretty qucikly and is mostly unusable at greater distances than 10 feet or so, especially at the tele zoom setting. Trying wihout success to get some night shots of that shy raccoon in the backyard? Clip the big gun into the hot shoe, and your troubles are over.
7. Using off-camera flash. A speedlight on top of a camera is better than a pop-up flash, but it's still a compromise -- especially for portrait lighting. You'll get better results with a hot-shoe cable that lets you use the Speedlight off-camera, which provides much better modeling than straight-on flash.
8. Putting less of a drain on the camera's battery. The camera's lithium-ion battery holds a pretty good charge for a compact. If the internal flash is not used, you can usually shoot all day without draining the battery. But if you're going to take a lot of flash pictures, like at an event, it's better to shift the load to an external flash, or you'll burn through your battery all too fast.
Nikon Speedlights work with the camera's iTTL exposure system. It's a nice match. Similar capabilities are provided by the Canon G11 and G12, as well as other high-end compacts. When you first put one of the bigger Speedlights on the camera, it unbalances the camera and it tends to tilt forward (the smaller SB-400 is better matched to the camera but lacks a bounce head). But if you cradle the flash, instead of the camera, in your left hand, the shooting ergonomics are surprisingly comfortable. Give it a try.