In my last post, I was disappointed that the new “affordable” Nikon D600 full frame DSLR had such a low flash sync speed of 1/200 among other shortcomings. Even as a Nikon guy I was hoping that Canon’s answer to the D600, the Canon 6D, would shame Nikon by being a “photographer’s” camera and have at least a 1/250 shutter speed. Boy was I wrong.
It turns out Canon’s new offering only has a flash sync speed of 1/180! What is flash sync speed you ask and why does this matter? You can google it and get pictures with the explanation but the fast gist of it is that it is the maximum shutter speed you can use with the flash. You see, the shutter is a mechanical device with two curtains and in case of the D600, at 1/200 second and slower, both curtains are out of the way. If you go more, part of the shutter stays closed so you get a black bar on part of the picture where the flash didn’t reach.
Also remember that flash is a very very quick burst of light so the only way to control it (besides flash power) on the camera side is to control the aperture. In other words, shutter speed doesn’t change the effect of the flash output. Why does THIS matter? (seriously, google is your friend)
It matters because shutter speed still controls the ambient light. The faster shutter speed your camera allows you to use WITH flash, the more you can kill ambient light while at the same time giving extra power to your flash. This is important when shooting in bright light where you want to balance your subject with the ambient light. The sun, is very very strong. Here is an example:
This picture was taken with my old D40. On the D40, the maximum sync speed is a whopping 1/500 when just using the flash in iTTL mode and pretty much unlimited in manual modes.
This was taken 4 years ago when I wasn’t really sure what sync speed was and even in an auto mode of sorts, the camera shot this at f/10, 1/500th of a second, 10MM, and all with just a single lower powered SB-600 flash on camera! I just wanted enough fill so the sky wouldn’t be blown out and it did the job. At 1/500, the motion is frozen pretty well too. Truth be told, I could do a much better job than that now that I shoot raw and have the tools that I have, but still, not bad for program mode.
Now the D40 had a CCD sensor so it used a hybrid electronic shutter. The next pro cameras that came out had a CMOS sensor so mechanical shutter was the only way and the cameras like D300 had a 1/250 maximum sync speed. For this picture, if I had a professional D300 camera, I would have had to used one stop higher f/stop so it would have been around f/15 and there is no way an SB-600 flash could have enough power to cover f/15.
This was last year. But notice what I had to do. I had to keep the subject in the shade. The subject is not moving (except for the tail wagging) I had to shoot early in the day before daylight had become too harsh. I had to keep the flash closer and have two. In other words, a lower sync speed limits creativity. It limits the photographer.
1/200 sync speed sucks. It stinks. 1/180 on the 6D is a just a joke. I’m sure many will argue that only a small percentage of photographers care about that and to that I say so what? Why cater to those who don’t know how to use their flash properly and ignore photographers who know what they’re doing? Available light is nice but you can’t stop shooting because it’s too bright outside.
There are gimmicks like High Speed Sync and AutoFP and they may work for certain situations, but in my estimation I get 1/5th of the power I’d get out of the flash as I would in regular sync mode.
So I have to ask both Canon and Nikon. Why are you forgetting about the specs that matter and instead focusing on the megapixel war? Speaking of which, Bravo Canon for keeping your camera at a more manageable 20 MP’s instead of the idiotic 24 MP that Nikon has.
I’ve noticed people still view this page even though it’s 3 years old. Just as an update, I’ve had the D600 and later the D610 now for 3 years or so and honestly, I’m ok with the 1/200 sync speed. Part of that is because I’ve changed my shooting habits to more natural light and not trying to fight the sun just to show that I can, and the other part is that sensors today just have so much dynamic range that often I don’t even need fill flash. A simple reflector will do magical things.