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Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) for your Nikon d SLR - sb600, sb700, sb800 and sb900 Flash SpeedLights - Portraits

Updated on July 12, 2011

Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)

The Nikon Creative Lighting System, or CLS for short, allows photographers to easily create advanced lighting setups using one or more Nikon Speedlight. 

This system is less expensive, more compact, and not as complicated to setup as traditional flash strobe systems.

While you may not want to replace your studio lights with Nikon Speedlights. These handy little flash units are great when shooting on location.

Nikon SB700 Released

Nikon has refreshed their DSLR lineup. Along with the release of several new cameras Nikon released a new SpeedLight, called the Nikon SB-700. This model is lightweight and has a quick recycle time.

This Speedlight is a nice upgrade to the SB-600, with a new interface. It also has some additional features that the SB-600 is lacking, including the ability to act as a commander and 3 different flash patterns.  

What you will need to use the Nikon CLS System

To start using the Creative Lighting System you will need a Master Unit and at least one Remote Flash.

The Master Unit, or Commander, triggers the other units when you take a picture. The Master unit can be your Nikon Camera, if you have a Nikon D70, Nikon D80 or a Nikon D200. If you do not have one of these models you can also use either a SB-800, or SB-900 speed light attached to your camera's hot shoe. Alternatively, there is a SU-800 which is just a commander unit without it's own flash.

The Remote Flashes receive the wireless signal from the master unit and fire on command. There are 3 Speedlights that work with the CLS system, the SB-600, SB-800 and SB-900. The SB-600 is the cheapest as it is the lowest powered and can not operate as a master unit. The SB-800 and SB-900 are very similar. The SB-900 replaced the SB-800, so it has some improvements, like a 360 degree pivoting head instead the 270 degrees on the SB-800.

Getting Started using the Nikon CLS System

To start using the Nikon CLS system simply set your Master Unit to Commander Mode and set Group A to iTTL mode. Next, set the Remote Flashes CLS mode to on and put it in Remote Mode. Now take a picture and the remote flash should automatically fire. If the remote flash did not fire, check that both the remote flash and the master unit are set to the same channel and try again.

iTTL and Manual Mode

In iTTL mode the system will automatically calculate the exposure for you. The CLS system does an impressive job at this. But, if you do not like the exposure it automatically calculated for you, you can set compensation to each group, increasing or decreasing the power to each unit in that group.

If want you full control you can manually program the flash using the Manual Mode.

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