Why do the 6D and D600 have low Flash Sync Speeds? @Canon_Camera, @NikonUSA

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.
Alaskan Malamutes
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.

So as you can see, 1/250 already is pushing the limits. 1/200 is unforgivable. I should know. I’ve had it on my D90. Can I still take good pictures? well, sure:
Malamutes!

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.

*edit* 8-31-2015

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.

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12 thoughts on “Why do the 6D and D600 have low Flash Sync Speeds? @Canon_Camera, @NikonUSA

  1. It’s very simple why: to avoid cannibalizing 5D and D800. Anyone serious about photography will be forced to buy the higher models while aspiring amateurs will jump on 6D and D600.

    It’s called market segmentation, Canon always did this. Remember when 5D (Mk1) had worse AF and much slower FPS than the much older 20D? This was done on purpose, to keep sports and action shooters away from 5D and to position it as an entry-level pro studio-only camera.

  2. Raf, I agree, the interesting thing is that most say this FF enthusiast camera is basically a FF 60D…yet the 60D APS-C has a sync speed of 1/250th… I agree with your logic on segmentation however, in this case I think it will hurt part of the 6D’s market. In addition to a FF upgrade option other than the crop 7D for enthusiasts moving up from an x0D series body or maybe even up from a Rebel, I $felt the 6D would be an excellent B or C camera for event photographers looking for a second or third body to park a portrait prime on, etc. With such a price drop from the 5D3, a wedding photographer could buy a 6D as a B/C body and still have $1500 to spend on new glass or new strobes. But with the lower sync speed they make think twice.

    1. Let me start by saying I wrote this 2.5 years ago so a few things have changed. I’ve been using the D600 and D610 cameras since they both came out (long story short, the D600 had the dust issue and it eventually got replaced with the D610 by Nikon after some arm twisting, but they are essentially the same camera) and I’ve completely changed my mind about the megapixel war and am glad Nikon picked 24 MP instead of 20. Most of my lenses tap out in resolving power around 20-25MP so it seems to be the sweet spot and if I do some minor cropping, I still have a very nice picture to work with.

      Regarding ND filters, as I’m sure you know, it’s a global filter so if you kill the ambient light with it, you’d have to raise your flash power to ungodly levels too and whereas with say my old D40 where I could have a lot of control in sunlight with just a single speed light (The D40 had a 1/500 sync speed using iTTL and 1/4000 in manual mode due to it being a CCD sensor and different shutter), I would have to really bring in the big lights to do this.

      Now, in the last 2 1/2 years, has it been an issue? Just a little when I use wide apertures during daytime, but I don’t put people in the middle of the sun at high noon with a reflector on their face anyway so it’s rare when it’s an issue. I’ve also switched back to doing a lot more natural light photos since I got tired of the cliche “strobist” look with the sky dark blue in the middle of the day when it’s not like that in real life…not sure if it’s evolving or devolving.

  3. I don’t agree entirely with this review any photographer worth his cents will know how to work around a problem like beeing explained here.

    1. You can always work around problems, but why have them in the first place? My old Minolta manual camera gets 1/1000 max shutter speed and has a sync speed of 1/60 and it got nice pictures but just seems odd that technology would move backwards rather than forward.

    2. exactly…. as if 200 vs 180 makes a difference.
      i have to use HSS anway most of the time when i want to kill the sun.
      and everyone who does it on a regular basis knows that too.

      the whole article is just a useless rant.

      1. Well of course if you look up the definition of the word “Blog”, you’ll see “Useless Rant”. Not only that, it’s useless rant from 6 months ago, but I guess google still finds my post! The points of the useless rant ARE valid however. My D40 along with the D70 had 1/500 sync speed and that was in regular iTTL…it could be virtually unlimited if used in manual mode with a strobe. Then the next wave of high end cameras that came with CMOS sensors had a Maximum of 1/250 true sync speed. One full stop was a big deal but it seemed like a fair tradeoff to getting many more megapickels and better high ISO performance. Now it’s 1/200 for all but the highest end cameras that are still 1/250. There IS a noticeable difference between 1/200 and 1/250 and given that Canon’s goes down to even further, it just seems like a bad trend. So yeah maybe there is little difference between 1/200 and 1/180, but there is a 1/3 of a stop (give or take) difference between 1/250 and 1/180. Maybe next time it’ll be 1/150…not much difference between 1/180 and 1/150…

        High Speed Sync is nice but you lose a lot of power unless you are relatively close to the subject which isn’t always possible. You may be able to “kill the light” in the evenings or mornings but I doubt you can do more than get a little fill light mid-day and even worse with a modifier given how much power you lose in HSS or AutoFP. And what about Monolights? you’d have to stack on a few ND filters to be able to shoot at f/1.8 or even 2.8.

  4. This is one of the main reasons I am not buying a 6D. I like to control all the lighting in my scene yet also shoot with a shallow DOF. In order to do so I need to kill all the ambient light. High sync speed is one of my most necessary features.

    1. then why dont you know what HIGH Speed sync means?

      1/180s is the SYNC Speed….. high Speed sync is something different!

  5. Lol and there are things called ND filters. No one seemed to mention that very easy solution to this problem. I have a Canon 6d and have never had a problem with 180 sync speed with a ND filter on my lens. You can spend 2000 more bucks on a 5d iii or less than 100 bucks on a good b&w ND filter depending how dark you really need it to be.

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