Coolpix 990, 995, 5000, and 5700 all have the ability to use external
flash. We'll start with the simplest method. To use external flash
- For the
990 and 995: the AS-E900 cable, a Nikon-compatible flash, and something
to hold the flash (such as the SK-E900 Multi-Flash Bracket).
- For the
5000 and 5700: a Nikon-compatible flash with a standard hot shoe
issue you'll face is what is a "Nikon-compatible flash?" The
answer depends a bit upon what you want the flash to do. If you want the
flash output to be controlled by the Coolpix, you need a flash that is
capable of Nikon TTL modes. All currently available Nikon Speedlights
fit this bill, as do a few third-party flashes, such as the well-regarded
If you don't
care if the Coolpix controls the flash, virtually any flash capable of
Automatic flash mode should work (but you should turn off the internal
flash when using these units). While the Nikon manual warns of possible
damage using third-party flash units, this warning is a bit outdated,
as virtually all flashes currently manufactured adhere to a low-voltage
standard (years ago, many flashes placed high voltages on the contact
pins, which could damage the low-voltage electronics of modern equipment).
have a tendency to describe a mishmash of "modes." Some things
they call modes are really just option settings. Here's a quick overview:
flash mode. Stands for "through the lens," though this
is NOT how flash measurement is done on the Coolpix models! When you
set a Coolpix to TTL mode, that means that the camera controls the amount
of flash by watching the flash reflection with a camera-mounted light
sensor and shutting off the flash when the camera calculates that enough
light has reached the subject.
The built-in flashes always
use TTL--it cannot be canceled. If your external flash is Nikon TTL-compatible,
the camera can control it directly, and you generally don't have to
fiddle with any extra settings.
In Automatic flash mode the amount of flash is calculated and controlled
by the flash (it, too, has a light sensor). Thus, in automatic flash
mode, the only thing the flash really needs communicated from the camera
is when to start the flash. If your external flash is Automatic mode
only, you usually have to set ISO values on the flash and to match aperture
values on both the flash and the camera. This extra work can slow you
down and keep you from shooting quickly in candid situations.
to be confused with Automatic flash mode! If the Coolpix displays Auto
along with the flash symbol, that means that the camera will determine
situations when it thinks flash is necessary and use it. You have no
control over when the flash is and isn't used.
the Coolpix displays only the flash symbol (no Auto), the camera will
fire the flash for every shot.
isn't really a mode, but the removal of a camera-imposed limit. In Program
and Aperture-preferred exposure modes, Nikon cameras usually impose
a lower limit on shutter speeds. Setting slow sync on your Coolpix removes
not really so much a mode as an option. With red-eye reduction, the
flash is fired prior to picture being taken (attempting to make the
subject's pupils smaller), then again during the picture. Red-eye reduction
only works with internal flash units. I generally advise against using
this function, as it introduces additional shutter lag, annoys the subject,
and still doesn't remove the red-eye!
Which Flash Should
all you'll ever use the flash with is your Coolpix, fancy features such
as flashtube zoom, repeating flash, rear sync, red-eye reduction and
autofocus assist, and so on, can't be invoked from the Coolpix so are
you're paying for that you can't use. In general, a simple flash capable
of TTL and/or Automatic mode is about all you need. Nikon has just introduced
just such a flash, the SB-30, and of the current Nikon offerings, it
is the most suitable if all you'll ever use it on is a Coolpix. The other
flashes in the Nikon lineup that make sense with a Coolpix are the SB-50DX,
mainly due to its ability to be used wirelessly, and the SB-22s, which
is a basic flash with more power than the SB-30.
Coolpix models can trigger external flash units wirelessly (the SB-50DX
or SB-80DX being the models of choice, with their built-in wireless controllers).
That's because flash units emit a significant pulse of infrared light,
which wireless remote sensors can detect, even in bright situations. One
common method of triggering a remote SB-50DX is to put a filter over the
internal flash that blocks all but the infrared spectrum (a piece of processed
unexposed film works pretty well as a filter). Make sure NOT to block
the TTL sensor on the Coolpix, however, as it is still controlling the
overall exposure if the remote flash is set to TTL (or Auto Wireless in
the case of the SB-50DX). Already have a flash but want to make it wireless?
Nikon sells the SU-4 accessory, which has the sensor and a hot shoe to
mount your flash on.
Flash must be popped up. Even if you have turned off the internal
flash, the Coolpix 995's flash must be popped up, as the TTL sensor
is next to the flashtube.
- Watch the zoom position.
Most Nikon and third-party flash units allow you to "zoom"
the flashtube to specific 35mm lens coverages. With a Coolpix you should
probably manually zoom the flashtube to the 28mm position or wider.
the TTL sensor. First,
it should be unblocked. Second, the external flash shouldn't be pointed
in a way that stray light from it can directly enter the sensor.
Automatic flash mode, you need the camera to be in aperture-preferred
exposure mode. Because
apertures aren't communicated directly to the external flash, you'll
need to be able to set a specific aperture on the Coolpix.
how close you get. All Nikon Speedlights have minimum limits in
the amount of flash they can produce. If you're trying to use a Speedlight
to light macro photography shots, you're likely to find that you need
to move the flash 2' or more away from the subject in order to avoid
overexposed photos. The more powerful the flash, the greater that distance
is likely to be.
messes up wireless flash. The
Coolpix 775, 880, and 885 fire a pre-flash prior to the actual exposure,
which is used to help calculate the exact balance of flash and existing
light exposures. Unfortunately, these preflashes are seen by wireless
remote flash units, and the remote flash typically fires before the
shot! Coolpix 99x models don't have this problem, however.
Lee asks: In the Coolpix 995 manual, p.70,
"Check points" reads: "The Flash output of other Speedlights
connected to the sync terminal is synchronized with the built-in Speedlight."
When in slow sync mode, will external flash (say, PZ-5000) sync accordingly?
Slow sync seems to be Nikon's name for "rear sync," which you
said Coolpix won't support.
Response: First, slow sync is only the removal of the lower limit of shutter
speeds on the camera body (Nikon bodies usually limit shutter speeds to
1/60 second with flash). Rear sync does the same, but also moves
the point at which the flash is fired during an exposure to the last possible
moment. For slow sync, only the body has to support it. For rear sync,
both the body and the flash have to support it. Thus, the answer to your
question is yes, you can use slow sync with your camera/flash combo.
question: what's the maximum sync speed of a Coolpix? Answer: usally
the fastest shutter speed. Coolpix models don't have mechanical shutters,
so aren't restricted in their flash use. However, in practice, about 1/500
is the practical limit if the flash fires at full power.