Nikon’s advanced Creative Lighting System (CLS) offers improved communication between the camera and compatible flash units for improved flash photography.

CLS-Compatible Flash Units

The following features are available with CLS-compatible flash units:

  SB-5000 SB-910, SB-900, SB-800 SB-700 SB-600 SB-500 SU-800 SB-R200 SB-400 SB-300
Single flash i-TTL i-TTL balanced fill-flash 1
Standard i-TTL fill-flash 2 2 2
qA Auto aperture 3
A Non-TTL auto 3
GN Distance-priority manual
M Manual 4 4 4
RPT Repeating flash
Optical Advanced Wireless Lighting Master Remote flash control 4
i-TTL i-TTL 4
[A:B] Quick wireless flash control 5
qA Auto aperture
A Non-TTL auto
M Manual 4
RPT Repeating flash
Remote i-TTL i-TTL
[A:B] Quick wireless flash control
qA/A Auto aperture/
Non-TTL auto
6 6
M Manual
RPT Repeating flash
Radio-controlled Advanced Wireless Lighting 7
Color information communication (flash)
Color information communication (LED light)
Auto FP High-Speed Sync 8
FV lock 9
Red-eye reduction
Camera modeling illumination
Unified flash control
Camera flash unit firmware update 10

Not available with spot metering.

Can also be selected with flash unit.

qA/A mode selection performed on flash unit using custom settings.

Can only be selected using the camera Flash control option.

Available only during close-up photography.

Choice of qA and A depends on the option selected with the master flash.

Supports the same features as remote flash units with optical AWL.

Available only in i-TTL, qA, A, GN, and M flash-control modes.

Available only in i-TTL flash control mode or when the flash is set to emit monitor pre-flashes in qA or A flash control mode.

Firmware updates for the SB-910 and SB-900 can be performed from the camera.

The SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander

When mounted on a CLS-compatible camera, the SU-800 can be used as a commander for SB-5000, SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600, SB-500, or SB-R200 flash units in up to three groups. The SU-800 itself is not equipped with a flash.

Flash Photography

Flash photography cannot be combined with some camera features, including:

  • Silent photography
  • Movie recording
  • HDR (high dynamic range)
  • High-speed continuous (extended)

Flash Compensation

In i-TTL and auto aperture (qA) flash control modes, the flash compensation selected with the optional flash unit or the camera Flash control option is added to the flash compensation selected with the Flash compensation option in the photo shooting menu.

Other Flash Units

The following flash units can be used in non-TTL auto and manual modes.

Flash unit

Flash mode

SB-80DX, SB-28DX, SB-28, SB-26, SB-25, SB-24 SB-50DX, SB-23, SB-29, SB-21B, SB-29S SB-30, SB-27 1, SB-22S, SB-22, SB-20, SB-16B, SB-15
A Non-TTL auto
M Manual
G Repeating flash
REAR Rear-curtain sync 2

Flash mode is automatically set to TTL and shutter-release is disabled. Set flash unit to A (non-TTL auto flash).

Available when camera is used to select flash mode.

Using FV Lock with Optional Flash Units

FV lock is available with optional flash units in TTL and (where supported) monitor pre-flash qA and monitor pre-flash A flash control modes (see the manual provided with the flash unit for more information). Note that when Advanced Wireless Lighting is used to control remote flash units, you will need to set the flash control mode for the master or at least one remote group to TTL, qA, or A. The area metered for FV lock is as follows:

Flash unit Flash mode Metered area
Stand-alone flash unit i-TTL 6-mm circle in center of frame
qA Area metered by flash exposure meter
Used with other flash units (Advanced Wireless Lighting) i-TTL Entire frame
qA Area metered by flash exposure meter

Notes on Optional Flash Units

Refer to the flash unit manual for detailed instructions. If the unit supports CLS, refer to the section on CLS-compatible digital SLR cameras. Note that this camera is not included in the “digital SLR” category in the SB-80DX, SB-28DX, and SB-50DX manuals.

i-TTL flash control can be used at ISO sensitivities between 64 and 12800 (Z 7) or between 100 and 12800 (Z 6). At values over 12800, the desired results may not be achieved at some ranges or aperture settings. If the flash-ready indicator (c) flashes for about three seconds after a photograph is taken in i-TTL or non-TTL auto mode, the flash has fired at full power and the photograph may be underexposed (CLS-compatible flash units only).

When an SC-series 17, 28, or 29 sync cable is used for off-camera flash photography, correct exposure may not be achieved in i-TTL mode. We recommend that you select standard i-TTL fill-flash. Take a test shot and view the results in the camera display.

In i-TTL, use the flash panel or bounce adapter provided with the flash unit. Do not use other panels such as diffusion panels, as this may produce incorrect exposure.

In mode P, the maximum aperture (minimum f-number) is limited according to ISO sensitivity, as shown below:

Maximum aperture at ISO equivalent of:
64 100 200 400 800 1600 3200 6400 12800
3.5 4 5 5.6 7.1 8 10 11 13

If the maximum aperture of the lens is smaller than given above, the maximum value for aperture will be the maximum aperture of the lens.

AF-assist illumination is provided by the camera, not the flash unit; the SB-5000, SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600, SB-500, and SB-400 do, however, provide red-eye reduction.

Noise in the form of lines may appear in flash photographs taken with an SD-9 or SD-8A high-performance battery pack attached directly to the camera. Reduce ISO sensitivity or increase the distance between the camera and the power pack.

Modeling Illumination

Pressing the control to which Preview has been assigned using Custom Setting f2 (Custom control assignment) causes CLS-compatible flash units to emit a modeling flash. This feature can be used with Advanced Wireless Lighting to preview the total lighting effect achieved with multiple flash units; the effect is best viewed by looking directly at the subject rather than at the camera display. Modeling illumination can be turned off using Custom Setting e5 (Modeling flash).

Studio Strobe Lighting

To adjust the color and brightness of the view through the lens so that shots are easier to frame, select Off for Custom Setting d8 (Apply settings to live view).