This is a quick review of the Nikon Wireless Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1, which has been kindly provided by B&H – the largest photo reseller in the world that we use more than any other to buy our photography gear.
If close-up or macro photography is your passion then this lighting system is an accessory you may wish to consider. The set-up (camera body and lens not included) offers flexibility to explore and maximize your creative talents so let’s take a closer look at the Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1.
1. What’s Included in the Kit
• (2) SB-R200 Wireless Remote Speedlights
• SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander
• SX-1 Attachment Ring
• SS-MS1 Close-Up Speedlight Kit Case
• (2) SS-R200 Soft Case
• SS-SU800 Soft Case
• SS-SX1 Soft Case
• SG-31R IR Panel for Built-In Flash
• SW-C1 Flexible Arm Clip
• (2) SW-11 Extreme Close-Up Positioning Adapter
• SW-12 Diffuser
• (2) SZ-1 Color Filter Holder
• (2) SJ-R200 Color Filter Set
• (2) Speedlight Stand
• SY-1-52 52mm Adapter Ring
• SY-1-62 62mm Adapter Ring
• SY-1-67 67mm Adapter Ring
• SY-1-72 72mm Adapter Ring
• SY-1-77 77mm Adapter Ring
2. Handling or “Some Assembly Required”
When you first open the box and look inside the kit case, it is a bit intimidating with so many parts, but as soon as you start to put it together, it becomes very straightforward.
There are 5 different adapters according to the filter size of your lens. These adapters screw on to the end of the lens like any filter and the SX-1 Attachment Ring then pinch clamps onto the Adapter ring. With the SX-1 Attachment ring on the end of the lens, you are ready to place the SB-R200 wireless remote speedlights by inserting them into a track on the SX-1 attachment ring. Finally, the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander is attached to the camera’s hot shoe and you are ready to go!
I just described the basic set-up but the beauty of this system lies within the multitude of ways in which you can utilize the kit. The SX-1 attachment ring will hold up to 4 SB-R200 lights while on the camera and up to 8 off camera. The attachment ring easily rotates around the end of the lens to switch from landscape to vertical orientation. Each individual light can be moved around the ring for multiple positions and moreover, each SB-R200 can pivot down 60º and up 45º to further customize your lighting.
The system is part of the Nikon Creative Lighting system and thus you can add any number of other compatible speedlights or use one of the supplied speedlights for top, side or backlighting, should you desire. Lights can be handheld or placed (two stands are supplied) in varying positions so as to create different effects. If these combinations and possibilities are not enough, throw in the color filters (color filters are supplied or you can make your own gel filters) and you have endless possibilities.
The SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander is a non-strobe unit that controls the entire system. However, according to the Nikon website, for those who want to use an SB-910/900/800/700 or a built-in flash of D700/D300 -series/D200/D7000/D90/D80/D70-series cameras as a commander, there is also the Nikon Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit R1, which comes without the SU-800.
The SU-800 Commander’s LCD interface is intuitive and straightforward and allows you to command up to 3 groups of lights. By naming the groups of lights, you can vary the flash output as you desire by a simple adjustment on the back of the unit. Assigning an SB-R200 to a group is an easy switch found on the top of each light. There are also 4 channels to choose from in case you are operating in an area where other photographers might be using the same system.
3. Build Quality and Value
Here is where it gets a bit crazy because as much as the system works well, you equally get a distinct feeling of “cheap”. Most everything is light plastic and it just doesn’t convey a feeling that normally would be reflected by the price of $719 which isn’t cheap. In the short time that I have used the kit, nothing has broken, but at times you get the feeling that it could. That said, there are no wires getting in the way, there is incredible flexibility and one obvious trade off with light plastic is that it isn’t heavy. Thus, in considering the price to functionality ratio, the value is still good for a system that is this simple to use and yet offers so much in terms of creativity and expandability.
4. A few quick examples of lighting the same object with different set-ups.
I have used ring lights in the past but one problem with a ring light is that it tends to give a flat feel to the image. With this kit, you can vary the lighting to give the image some depth and so here are some examples:
Second, with just the right flash firing:
In this second shot, you can see the depth that the shadows add to the image. The shadows are harsh in this image and ideally, I would have used two flashes and dialed back the left flash but I have left it so as to maximize the effect.
Finally, in this example the left flash is removed from the attachment ring and hand held to the side of the flower to illustrate the flexibility that the easily detached SB-R200 lights bring to the kit. Notice that the side lighting has eliminated some of the harsh shadows.
There are 4 different gel filters supplied in the kit but you can cut any gel filter of any color and fit it to the system for a more dramatic effect. The first image was with an orange filter while the second was with the supplied green filter
Next are some examples of a vase taken with the flashes positioned differently.
While close-up flash photography is not my expertise, I have included these examples just to illustrate its flexibility and now it is up to you to create. Those of you who do a lot of close-up photography will enjoy this kit. As stated, the Nikon R1C1 Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit isn’t inexpensive but if you are seriously into close-up or macro work then the kit is well worth the investment for the variety and flexibility it offers.
If you have the R1C1 Kit, feel free to share your experiences with us.
6. Where to Buy
B&H Photo currently sells the Nikon Wireless Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1 for $719.00 (as of 4/28/12)