Reading
blue-triangle-element

Articles

PFRE is the original online resource for real estate and interior photographers. Since 2006, it has been a community hub where like-minded professionals from around the world gather to share information with a common goal of improving their work and advancing their business. With thousands of articles, covering hundreds of topics, PFRE offers the most robust collection of educational material in our field. The history of real estate photography has been documented within these pages.
All Articles
blue-triangle-element

Latest

The Render Flames tool in Photoshop is a very powerful and dynamic tool that lets you add fire in just a few steps where there otherwise wasn't one in your photo. In this video, I demonstrate step by step how you can have Photoshop render a fire into a ...

COMMUNITY
blue-triangle-element

Forum

The PFRE Community Forum is an online resource for discussing the art and business of Real Estate and Interior Photography.
Join The Discussion
blue-triangle-element

Latest

View Now
Contest
blue-triangle-element

OVERVIEW

For over a decade, photographers from around the world have participated in PFRE’s monthly photography contests, culminating in the year-end crowning of PFRE’s Photographer of the Year. With a new theme each month and commentary offered by some of the finest real estate & interior photographers anywhere, these contests offer a fun, competitive environment with rich learning opportunities. 

Contest Rules
blue-triangle-element

CURRENT CONTESTS

View / Submit
blue-triangle-element

PAST CONTESTS

View Archive
Conference
blue-triangle-element

Conference

PFRE’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas provides real estate and interior photographers from around the world an opportunity to meet on an annual basis, to learn, share best practices and make connections. Many of the leading names in our field are selected to speak on topics aimed at improving our craft and advancing our business. It’s a comfortable, relaxed environment that is fun, easy to get to, and affordable.
blue-triangle-element

Upcoming

PFRE Conference 2020

Registration not open yet
App Store
blue-triangle-element

Latest News

PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 Announcement: Presenter Line Up Part 2 of 2

*Early bird tickets go on sale September 28th* Here are the remaining ...

PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 Announcement: Presenter Line Up Part 1 of 2

We're a few short months away from the PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 an ...

Reader Poll: Which Topics Should Be Covered at the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference?

Planning is well underway for the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference and we' ...

PFRE Conference 2020 Announcement

As many of you know, last year we hosted the first-ever PFRE Conferenc ...

Podcast
blue-triangle-element

Podcasts

The PFRE podcast is focused on having meaningful conversations with world-class photographers, business professionals and industry leaders, with the goal to inform and inspire.
All Podcasts

Coming Soon...

Resources
blue-triangle-element

Resources

PFRE prides itself on the depth and breadth of the information and professional development resources it makes available to our community. Our goal is to help real estate and interior photographers be successful while bringing the community together and elevating the industry as a whole.
blue-triangle-element

Directory

Coming Soon...

What's So Special About The Nikon SB-80dx Flash For Real Estate Photography?

Published: 28/06/2011
By: larry

For those of you that have Scott Hargis's Lighting Interiors eBook or have been hanging out in the PFRE flickr group for any amount of time, you understand why Nikon SB-80dx manual flashes are THE small flash of choice for real estate photographers so move along, there's nothing here for you. However, the questions I've gotten recently about, "why not use some of the SB-80DX alternatives", indicate it would be good to recap what's so special about the SB-80dx and how do you set them up.

First of all let's get some of the basic assumptions out of the way:

  1. We are talking small manual flash here. Scott's eBook makes the case for using manual small flash and shows you how to do it. Nikon CLS and Canon E-TTL is just not reliable enough for interiors. The infrared signals will work OK some of the time, but they work best with line-of-sight conditions. The signal will bounce around corners, but not reliably. With interiors work, we rarely have line-of-sight.
  2. This manual small flash approach is for any type DSLR: Canon, Nikon and all other DSLR bodies. Optical triggering is not brand-specific.
  3. Flash triggering is as the diagram from Scott's book above illustrates. Some kind of radio triggering from the camera to the first flash and optical triggering for all other flashes. There are many alternatives (Cybersyncs, Skyports, Cactus, RadioPoppers, etc.) for the triggering of the first flash. Pocket Wizards are the "gold standard" for radio triggers. You could also mount a flash on the camera's hot-shoe (when the on-camera flash fires all optical triggered flashes will trigger), and eliminate the need for any radio trigger at all!

So, you can see from the diagram that the only requirement for the first flash is that you can connect your radio triggering device to it. But the requirements for all of the rest of your flashes are:

  1. Very sensitive, reliable, built-in optical slave.
  2. The optical triggering should be good enough that it works around corners.
  3. You want to have total and complete control of power adjustments for these flashes.
  4. Doesn't cost an arm and a leg because you want to carry a bunch of them.

Here is a list of all the flashes I know of that are a possible fit:

  1. Nikon SB-80DX - Cost about $180-$200 on Ebay, Amazon, Keh.com
  2. Nikon SB-26 - Cost <$100 Ebay - This flash is not as powerful as the SB-80 and the power is not as adjustable as the SB-80.
  3. LumoPro LP160 - Cost $159 - David Hobby gives this flash a positive review but I hear other complaints about build quality.
  4. Yougnuo YN-560 - Cost $75 - David Hobby's review reports this flash has build quality issues.
  5. Vivitar 285HV- with Wein Peanut optical trigger cost $110 - David Hobby reports some quality control issues with this flash.
  6. Nikon SB-800 - Does everything you want, but expensive!
  7. Nikon SB-900 - Does everything you want, but really expensive!

The bottom line is that the SB-80dx is reliable, has great optical trigger sensitivity, has excellent build quality so even at $180 to $200 that it has become these days, it is one best small flashes for real estate photography.

5 comments on “What's So Special About The Nikon SB-80dx Flash For Real Estate Photography?”

  1. I feel partially responsible for inspiring this post with an embarrassingly n00bish question regarding flashes. Though, thank you, Larry, for posting this up. For me, finding the right equipment is the most challenging part of getting started, since I've never, ever dealt with using small flash for anything before this, besides one external mounted to the camera.

    Hopefully, others can learn from my errors:
    I own an LP160 - build quality is mediocre... but it performs wonderfully. I baby my equipment, so durability wasn't a huge factor in my decision. Overall pleased with it. Very powerful, too.

    I also managed to borrow an SB-800 from my work at the newspaper. Best flash I've ever used, period (though not saying much - still a n00b). Too bad they're so expensive and I couldn't keep it.

    Avoid Bower brand flashes...

    Here's an interesting solution I came up with for getting powerful, well-built flashes that will flash every time for less than $150 each:

    Used Canon 540EZ ($110) plus Cactus V5 radio triggers ($65 for a set of two, which is only $32.50 per flash... plus one for your camera of course). They're $40 if you buy them each one at a time.

    I own the Cactus V5 system - they work just like pocket-wizards except they can use just the hot-shoe connections if you like. And, they're not $180 (!) a piece, which is nice if you want to branch out and do some other strobist-style stuff on the side.

  2. I just picked up my first SB80dx to use with 2 SB600s and a 900. I have to use radios with the 600s, or a cable or have one on camera. I'd trade them for SB80's in a heartbeat! The optical slave is SO much more sensitive or reliable than the CLS version in the 600s. I guess it isn't having to be so clever but still, the SB80's slave is super sensitive.
    I'm slightly puzzled by being able to see my flash fire in the viewfinder.. sort of suggesting it's pre-flashing before the mirror comes up (in manual mode). Any idea why? It's still being recorded in the image as expected, but I didn't think I'd see it fire in the viewfinder. SB900 behaves the same so I can see I'm being ignorant but I'd love an explanation.

  3. Charlie: A lot of the newer speedlites, especially when using TTL, use a less intense pre-flash on the subject in the photo to work out how much light the actual flash pulse needs to output. A good resource on this issue is here: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-flash-2.htm. Sometimes it's not desirable, for example in portrait shoots when you want the person's iris to remain dilated in a dark setting. It can also interfere with optically-triggered slave units, i.e. they may trigger on the pre-flash rather than the main one.

  4. Great article! Thank you so much for all your help. My question is this; I shoot with a Canon 5D mark iii, if I purchase a couple Nikon sb80dx flashes will they work with my camera being that the brands are different?

  5. @Jason - Yes, the sb80dx's are not physically connected to your Canon body and except for one they are triggered by a flash of light so they have to physical connection to your Canon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrossmenucross-circle