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D7100 with SB900 randomly underpowered flash output

FolkPhoto

US
4 posts

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FolkPhoto Registered since 13th Dec 2013
Fri 13-Dec-13 08:03 PM

I'm new here (as of today), so forgive me if this subject has been discussed and I didn't see the existing thread. I'm experiencing randomly occurring low flash output when using an SB900 speedlight on my D7100 body. About 20-25% of my flash exposures are under-lit with no seeming explanation. I'll attempt not to be too wordy, but I'd like to provide all the pertinent info and testing results I've done. I can use the SB900 in question on my D300S body all day long and have no flash output problems. Conversely, I can use an older SB800 speedlight on the D7100 body and again have no problems. I borrowed a friend's SB900 for testing purposes and found that I experienced the same intermittent low flash output. All of these results came from "real world" shooting situations, so in order to provide a much more controlled testing environment I placed the D7100 on a tripod with the SB900 mounted on the camera's hot shoe and aimed it towards a mid-key toned studio backdrop about 10 feet away. ISO 800, Program mode, direct flash with no modification or change in flash head position, 18-105 VR lens. No exposure compensation, no flash compensation. About as basic a set-up as possible. I stood there and released the shutter for 18 exposures with no changes at all to the scene, ambient lighting, camera or flash settings. Exposures were made 4 to 8 seconds apart and at no time did the ready light on the flash turn off or even flicker, so I wasn't shooting so fast or calling on the flash to dump so much power that it wasn't at full capacity between exposures. Of those 18 shots, 5 of them exhibited low flash output randomly throughout the sequence. Exposure of ambient light sources (a small strip of light coming through a window in the scene) remained constant; only the flash power was decreased. In fact, I can visually see the diminished output as I am shooting before I even check the image on the monitor. When I contacted Nikon service and support about the problem back in July, they had me send in both the speedlight and camera. As is often the case with technical service departments, they initially wanted to question/blame my knowledge and techniques but after 20+ years of shooting Nikon I am convinced that user error was/is not to blame here. No problems were found with the camera and the speedlight was refurbished with numerous replacement parts. Upon the equipment being returned to me, the problem still exists. So I contacted Nikon again two weeks ago and they had me submit more sample images which clearly demonstrated the problem, and I documented all the information I've provided here (and then some). Today I was informed that they could not duplicate the problem in their service department and I was just stunned. They plan to return both items with no further service provided. Fortunately I was persistent enough to be put in touch with a customer service supervisor who seemed genuinely interested and said he would try to snag my equipment before it was shipped and try to duplicate the problem himself. He called me back within an hour, telling me he had indeed recreated my controlled shooting scenario and found the same problem by using their own in-house equipment (mine may have already been shipped unrepaired). He also said he found the same problem when he used an SB900 on a D300 body, but I reminded him that the combination that gave me no problem was with a D300S. His next step is to report his findings to a senior service technician and wait for some explanation. So... whew! All that being said, has anyone else experienced this phenomenon using a D7100 and SB900 in combination? I can't imagine that I've left out any details, but I'll gladly clarify or provide any other useful info that I can, and I'll be very appreciative of your feedback and replies.

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