Friday, January 15, 2010

Sync Speeds Nikon D3 vs. Canon 5D Mark II

David blogged about this over on and I have to chime in a little about the sync speed issue.

Sync speeds aren't that important to me in the studio. I can sync at 1/60th or I can sync at 1/200th. It makes no difference to me.

But I was "brought up" with the knowledge that sync speeds are important because small strobes like the Nikon Speedlights don't have the power to overcome the sun... unless you "turn down" the power of the sun with faster shutter speeds. This is of course only possible when you sync your strobe to your camera. The faster the camera/strobe syncs, the faster the shutter speed you can use, and the darker you can make the sky.

My Nikon D3 syncs with Nikon Speedlights at 1/250th easily. With the AlienBees, I've only been able to consistently use 1/200th. With Winson's studio strobes in Taiwan, we were syncing 1/160th.

But not every camera is the same. Not all strobes are made equal. Apparently many users are reporting that their sync speeds are 1/160th and not the supposed 1/250th. Here's a great post about the Canon 5D Mark II that you guys should read:
Know your sync


  1. I just spent 2 days reading through every single post you've made on this blog, and now I have to go back through all my pictures and declare that it's all crap! Your work is awesome and I love that you've shared so much post processing information's extremely frustrating that this is an area that I find a lot of pro's are a little secretive about. Anyway I wanted to ask if there was any specific reason you shot at ISO200 as opposed to 100 (I'm sure the noise level is marginal, if not non-existant, but wouldn't it matter just a little bit in print?)

  2. Charles, so funny that I read this today. I shot in a photo workshop with my less than 24-hour old 5D Mark II (incredible camera, btw -- I am officially in love). When it came my turn to shoot, the other 5D Mark II owners all quickly chimed in to sync at 1/160. I'm glad that they knew or that would have been very frustrating. Can't wait to share some of the photos with you.

  3. Hi shamigo! Glad I can be of service. There's a lot of information on the web, but you're absolutely right about pros being well, I think "a little secretive" is putting it nicely. The only one I know of that reveals their secret sauce is Amy Dresser.

    The Nikon D3's best ISO with greatest dynamic range is ISO200. We can shoot down to ISO125 or ISO100 but it's not optimized for that ISO. In fact, it will say L0.3 or L0.7 or L1.0 when you get under ISO200 in the same manner as when you get to H1 or H2 when you exceed ISO6400

    Gregory, I was really excited on Friday because I knew you'd be getting your 5DMII, welcome to full frame :) Looking forward to seeing all 21.1 megapixels in action!

  4. The workshop was great: 8 models, 6 stylists, 18 looks and 10 hours of education and shooting. The 4DMII was incredible -- I cannot believe the difference it made. Loving the full-frame and low-light capabilities. While others had their turn shooting the strobes, I was able to handhold the 70-200 2.8L at 400 and 800 and shoot the models under the modeling lights.

    I really love the shots in-camera, but still need to get the 18 GB (yes, 18!) into Lightroom. I am really a newbie to LR and PS, so I feel overwhelmed by them. I am hoping for some "tough love" feedback from you once I get processing the photos.

    I learned a really cool trick at the workshop -- not sure if your Nikon can do it. In the 5DMII, you can hit the Live View key, then zoom in twice so that the model's eye fills the frame. Manually focus on her eye, click off the Live View and you are ready to shoot with a perfectly in-focus eye. Great for shallow depth of field portraits.

  5. Hi Gregory,

    I've always hated Live-View. It's so clumsy and laggy. I much prefer looking through the window. But perhaps the Canon version is better. I am not sure what Live-View offers to shallow DoF portraits over regular view?

    I only use Live-View when I can't look through the window... like from the ground.

    Sounds like a ton of fun. That's a lot of models, stylists, etc... incredible! :) But 10 hours of that kind of constant education is INTENSE! LOL!

    As far as Lr and Ps are concerned, don't sweat it. Start slow. Pick my brain if you wish :)