>Q. 1) If I understand your explanations right, I will have to >buy triggers for anything other than SB 800. ?? If yes, can't >I just use 433 the same way? Or do you think 383 which does >not have a TTL but a manual mode will be a better choice? btw >383 does come with a PC cord.
Such slave "triggers" only work in manual flash mode. The 433 says it does not have a manual mode (specs on B&H page).
I worry that the modes are not clear... I am sorry I am not able to make the big picture clear. Forgive me, but to be sure you get it, I strongly suggest you play with your D80 internal flash for a test, this way. Custom Setup menu 22, D80 page 95, Built-in Flash. There you can select TTL or Manual or Commander mode there. This is for the internal flash, when the flash door is open.
It is surely now already in TTL mode, which is like automatic Point&shoot flash, in that it simply just works automatically by itself. Probably use camera mode A (aperture) mode, and pick a lens aperture, maybe f/5.6, then open flash door, and in TTL mode, take a couple of indoor flash pictures with it, of anything - of your desk or the door or some guy in the hall, or anything, with the flash. See, it just works, right? Automatic, like any point&shoot flash camera. It still works if you instead set f/4 or f/8 - The TTL automation meters the flash and sets the flash power to be right power level to give the right exposure for the aperture you select. This automation is very convenient.
Now change the flash mode menu there to Manual mode. Then it has a submenu to select flash power level to be used, like perhaps 1/2 power level. Take same pictures with the internal flash. See? Not so easy. I worry that maybe you have not seen this before. Do you know what to do now to get the picture? I worry that maybe you have not realized what Manual mode is, or what you would do with it or how you would use it. Nothing is automatic now, you are going to have to set the exposure yourself. You set power level yourself. You set lens aperture. Both in such a way to balance to give the right picture exposure. If you had a handheld flash meter, it is very easy. Otherwise, we experiment with trial and error pictures, probably by watching the exposure result and histogram while we try different settings until we get it right. This will be different in every frame of something different.
Or, manual Guide Number is on D80 page 143, GN 42 ISO 100, which implies at full power level. This means that if subject distance is 10 feet, then GN 42 / 10 feet = f/4.2 for a starting point. The internal flash is not a strong flash. Take a few manual pictures of different things in Manual mode to be sure the concept is clear.
I would feel much more at ease if I was sure that you understood that there is this difference in modes. I would like to hear you report back, "no problem, I understand all of that, dont worry your little head, I've got it". Or it could be a shock, and the questions suggest you may not have seen this manual flash mode thing before, and I worry that the right idea may not be coming across.
The internal flash in TTL mode is like the external flash iTTL mode on the hot shoe, working on auto pilot. Same thing, full automatic flash exposure, pretty much same as any point&shoot camera works. Just more power and you have tilt for bounce with the external flash.
But manual is manual, and it aint like that. Nothing is done automatically in manual mode.
Dont forget to reset the internal flash mode back to TTL for next time.
So yes, you could get a flash that does Manual mode. SB-800 is one that does. It already has its optical trigger built-in, which is named SU-4 mode, and it is manual flash mode. Put it in SU-4 mode, set its power level, perhaps to 1/2 power, and set it out there pointing where you want. When it sees another manual flash fire, it will trigger in sync, at the specified power level you set. It is up to you to make that be right.
Yes, you can add optical slaves to other flash units which are in manual mode, and they should work the same, in manual mode.
Or other modes:
You could put a iTTL flash on the hot shoe, in iTTL mode, and it will work like the internal flash works in TTL mode, automatically. This is one flash in the hot shoe.
Or - the biggie - really really big - you could use a couple of SB-800 or SB-600 (or one of each), and set them to Remote mode and set them out there (one in Group A and one in Group B). You set the D80 internal flash to Commander mode (with submenu on page 96, for TTL mode). This makes the two remotes work as wireless remotes in TTL mode, automatically. This is Nikons system to do this. And this is astonishing stuff. Like the automatic internal flash, but with more powerful external flashes you can position better, like in umbrellas or bounce. An automatic wireless remote multiple flash system. It is simply awesome.
>I have a D80. So I guess I can use the on camera flash in the >commander mode but the previous question (Q. 1) still remains, >i.e. can't I just use it remotely in the auto mode?
Slave triggers are manual mode. Optical triggers, or radio triggers,or PC sync cords, all are manual mode only. Period. Sorry, but it is so. You can use any flash (3rd party or not) that will do manual mode and can physically connect the slave device. The D80 also must be set to Manual mode. The camera exposure mode can be set to A, P, S, or M mode, and by Manual, I mean M, where you set aperture and shutter speed.
Great on the D80, then you are home free with a commander. That was the main worry here. So to work wirelessly and remotely and automatically (not in manual mode) the Nikon system in the D80 requires a Commander for control (for example, the D80 internal flash commander), and requires the SB-600 or SB-800 model to be the remotes.
Period. This is just how life is. This is the Nikon system. (many brands have no system). We either pay the price, or we forget about it.
Summary... There are really only three main choices:
1. You can use the Nikon Commander system for wireless remote multiple automatic flashes. This needs SB-600 or SB-800 and the D80 commander. Recommended, it is awesome, you will love it, but it is not inexpensive. However you already have the D80 Commander and one SB-80, so what is to debate? You can try it with the one SB-800, it will work fine, but two flashes do add a lot, the system is designed for two, to fill the shadows, to evenly light the scene, to smooth the picture.
For portraits, you can use only the one flash, and a largish white foam board from the craft store for a reflector. See tips here: http://www.google.com/search?q=one+light+portrait But also putting the flash in an umbrella will really soften the light.
You can get a kit of two umbrellas and two light stands to hold them and the flashes for maybe $135, which will give you very soft light for awesome portraits with this two Nikon flash system. Totally first class all the way. Can use the umbrellas for anything else too, the shadows just dissolve away. It is a different world.
2. Or (short of that - the other choices) you can add one flash capable of iTTL mode, and put one of them in the hot shoe for walk-around flash, which works much like the internal flash, but more powerful and it will bounce from ceilng. This is very common use.
3. Or you can buy inexpensive flashes that have manual mode, and use manual mode slave triggers (or manual radio triggers, or manual sync cords) and put the camera exposure mode in Manual, and it can work in manual mode.
>I guess if SB 800 is a better choice and is something people >go for in the long run, I would like to keep my money on SB800 >and look for another possible companion.
If you want two remote flashes used with the D80 Commander (in the way the Nikon cameras do things today), it can be two SB-800, two SB-600, or one of each.. does not really matter. The SB-800 is a bit more powerful, and it has many more features, but the SB-600 is also good for usage choices 1 and 2 above.
>Well almost all the situations. I am mostly interested in >nature and cultures but being a beginner, I'm trying to learn >almost all the fields. I am sure going to do portraits of my >friends (even though all I have is a D80+some cheap lenses) >and some still life closeups for practice.
The Nikon CLS wireless remote multiple flash system will be great. You will be thrilled with it, with the ease of your results.
The point I am trying to make about it is that it is automatic point&shoot flash like the point&shoot camera, or like the internal flash, but with wireless remote multiple flashes.
>Ok one last repetition of my big question in a little >different way. How do I know that a flash can be used as a >slave as well as on the hot-shoe? > >Which specifications do I look at?
For the three useage choices above,
1. For Nikons wireless remote multiple flash, it should say it is a SB-800 or SB-600.
2. For hot shoe iTTL mode, it should say it does iTTL mode.
3. In manual mode, it should say it does manual mode.
Something there (optical probably, or radio) that will fit the flash, i.e., the flash foot, or the flash sync connector. Note that EVERYTHING there is for manual operation.
>If you were a poor grad student like me and had a budget of >less than $100 for the second flash which one would you go >for?
For a $100 second flash, it only allows a flash that can work in manual mode, and all else has to be in manual mode to match it, but that ignores all the benefit your D80 and SB-800 could otherwise offer.
But for $180, you could add a SB-600 for the second flash (or return and get two of them), and you will be awed.
One tiny issue of having both models is that their menus are different, which is a bit confusing. See the Nikonions CLS link above about the menus.
But, if you simply always leave the SB-600 in Remote mode (and always use the SB-800 instead on the hot shoe for other types of work), that confusion is unseen, and largely goes away.