[ Last Updated on June 22nd, 2017 ]
Nikon Commander Mode allows you to control the remote flash unit from your camera wirelessly. If you use an external flash unit with your Nikon camera, this article might be helpful to you to understand what is commander mode, what is it used for and how it works with Nikon D90, other Nikon semi-pro and pro body cameras.
Commander mode is one of the very powerful feature available in most of the advance Nikon DSLR cameras including Nikon D80, D90, D200, D7000, D700 and D300 that allows your camera’s built-in flash to control the remote (off camera) flash by sending an infrared signal over the wireless media. Most of the today’s advance flash unit like SB-600, SB-800, SB-900 and SB-R200 supports commander mode except SB-400. Nikon SB-400 is not considered as an Advance Wireless Lighting strobe. It can only be used in the hot-shoe or on a sync cord connected to the hot-shoe. Nikon SB-900, SB-800, SB-600 and SB-R200 speedlights can be set as a remote wireless units and triggered in three different ways. First scenario – if you have Nikon SB-600 and SB-900 (or SB-800) units with you, you can place a SB-900 or SB-800 on your camera hot shoe and set it in a “Master Mode” to trigger a SB-600 unit wirelessly. Second scenario – if you have a SU-800 Wireless Commander Unit and any of other external flash units, you can place a SU-800 on your camera hot shoe and control an external flash unit wirelessly. Third scenario – and if you do not have any of these extra devices but only one speedlight, you can directly control or trigger it using the built-in flash of your camera and that’s when we use commander mode option in your camera.
SB-800 or SB-900 unit can also be used as a master unit (like built-in flash in a commander mode) to control other flash units like SB-R200, SB-600 or even other SB-800 and SB-900 units wirelessly. But SB-R200 and SB-600 can’t trigger other units and can only work in a slave mode (to be triggered by either built-in flash in a commander mode or other master unit like SB-800 or SB-900).
In this blog, we are going to discuss about the commander mode for built-in flash unit and go through the camera settings for Nikon DSLRs to set it up so that we can control an external flash unit using camera’s built-in flash.
How to set the commander mode in Nikon DSLR?
In this setup, I am taking Nikon D90 as an example but you can use this setup for any other Nikon DSLR that has a commander mode in it. Let’s go for the setup now.
1. Press the Menu button on the back of your camera.
2. Go to Custom Setting Menu option (pencil icon).
3. Select e, Bracketing/flash, menu and press OK.
4. Select e2, Flash cntrl for built-in flash, and press OK.
5. Choose the Commander Mode.
When you are inside the Commander mode, you can set different parameters to control the remote flash unit. Note – You have to be careful about which Group and Channel you select because you are going to use the same Group and the Channel settings in your remote flash unit as well. Group is set to combine the multiple flash units in a single or different groups for the exposure settings and the Channel is used to avoid any interference with other camera’s settings around you (used by different photographers if there are any). Now, let’s discuss about the different options your Built-in flash can be set to.
- TTL – Through The Lens. If you select this option for the built-in flash, it will fire the pre-flash, collect the exposure information from your subject Through The Lens (TTL) and send that information to the external flash unit(s). Then your built-in flash also fires the main flash along with other external flash units to illuminate the subject.
- AA – Auto Aperture Mode. This is an older implementation of the TTL system and not used much these days.
- M – Manual Mode. It allows you to set the flash power manually rather than auto adjust based on TTL information your camera gives.
- – – If you set the Built-in-Flash into – – mode, your built-in flash will fire the pre-flash, collect the exposure information from the subject and send that information to the external units so that external units can set the flash power to illuminate the subject properly. In this setup, built-in flash doesn’t fire the main flash to control the exposure but only send the exposure information to the external units. But if your subject is too close to the camera, pre-flash might have some influence on the exposure though.
After setting up your camera’s built-in flash into the commander mode and an external flash unit to receive the signal, please do not forget to pop-up your camera’s built-in flash. When you are ready to trigger an external flash unit in this mode, it’s important to pop-up built-in flash of your camera because this is how your camera sends a signal and the exposure data to an external flash. It works great with my Nikon D90 and D700 using a SB-600 as an external unit and controlling it using camera’s built-in flash. If you are having any problem working with this settings, please let me know and I will be happy to help you in any way possible.