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Nikon D7000 with monolights

Written by Mark Holmes on .

I arrived at my client's yesterday to do a product shoot. They have recently invested in their own Nikon D7000 camera with the objective of allowing their technical authors to grab photos and videos for instructional materials. As I teach photography classes in San Diego, I am always looking to try out new cameras and the D7000 is a new camera model, so why not make use of it and leave my camera safely at home?

No pc flash synch port - naughty D7000!

What? No socket?

After I had my studio strobes set up, I picked up the D7000 and the bad news struck me immediately. No pc synch port on the camera! I don't use wireless triggers to fire my strobes, relying instead on the old fashioned method of plugging in a synch cable to the back of the studio flash and the other end into the camera. Unfortunately, the new Nikon D7000 lacks the pc flash synch port.

Back at my office I had a hot shoe adapter for pc synch. It was a long drive back downtown and I did not want to abandon the shoot to go get it. After a quick think I came up with a solution.

My Alien Bees studio flash units can either be fired in a wired together mode or as wireless slave units. I usually connect my synch cable to just one of the units. When that unit is fired by my camera, the other units fire in sympathy as slaves. This works fine as long as there are no other flashes in the vicinity. Another camera flash will set off my strobes. Once, I was photographing on a stage in Korea when a family came into the hall and started photographing a couple they had brought along. My flashes went crazy and I had to link them all with sych cables so they ignored the extraneous camera flashes. An older set of monolights I worked with would also flash if they were positioned too close to flourescent lights.

I decided I could use this problem to my advantage. I went into the custom settings menu on the D7000 and turned the built-in flash mode to manual. Then I turned the power down all the way to 1/128 power. I was using my Alien Bees at full power, so the minimal power setting of the flash was not going to affect the exposure. Manual flash also has no TTL pre-flashes, so my strobes fired at the correct time.

Problem solved. However, when I had finished I discovered that my client had also bought an SB900 external flash. This has a built in pc synch socket, so I could have just mounted that on the camera and plugged my synch cable into it. You live and learn!