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Nikon R1C1 Close-Up Flash System

Butterflies are (Almost) Free

Introduced in 2006, the Nikon R1C1 is Nikon's latest solution for macro (micro in Nikon-speak) and close-up photography. At approximately US $650 it isn't exactly inexpensive, but one gets a lot for the money, along with some unique features and capabilities.

In May, 2008 I had an opportunity to work with the R1C1 kit for a week, and that timing coincided with a shoot in the Niagara Peninsula area of Southern Ontario where a Butterfly Conservatory is located. The occasion for the shoot was an opportunity for Jeff Schewe and me to produce some fresh images for use as part of our taping of a new multi-hour video tutorial on Lightroom 2.0.

I had shot there before, in 2002, when I tested the Canon MR14EX Ringlight. A brief piece on Macro photography with Canon gear (the D30 at the time) proceeded it the year before.

As you can tell by the six year hiatus on this type of shooting and article, macro (micro) work isn't exactly my forte, though I do enjoy doing it from time to time. When an opportunity to try Nikon's latest flash system came up though, once again butterflies seemed like a perfect fit.

Butterfly #1 - Niagara, Ontario. May 2008
Nikon D3 with 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor @ ISO400
with Nikon R1C1 Flash System


Nikon R1C1

The R1C1 is a kit, which comes in a fitted carrying case designed to hold all of its many components. These include two small flash guns, a wireless commander unit, a variety of lens attachment rings and adaptors, and more little bits and pieces and gizmos that one can immediately digest.

While the system may appear intimidating at first, in practice it is simple to use. The commander unit attaches to the camera's hot shot and wirelessly triggers compatible Nikon flash units, including the two supplied SB-R200 units. These can be placed almost anywhere that they can pick up the infrared triggering signal from the commander.

Adaptor rings in a variety of common sizes (provided) allow the R200 units to be attached to the SX-1 mounting ring that goes on the lens. The R-200 units are designed so that the are articulated, and can point in various angles, including almost directly in front of the lens.

Each R-200 can be set to a different channel and each can be easily configured to a different lighting ratio. This allows for attractive subject modeling with little effort. The SX-1 rotates easily and thus hand-held shooting is possible with the lights swinging round to both horizontal and vertical positions.

Faded Butterfly - Niagara, Ontario. May 2008
Nikon D3 with 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor @ ISO400
with Nikon R1C1 Flash System

For extreme macro work there are adaptors provided that focus the light right down to 1:1 distance, and there are provided coloured gels also provided that allow for creative effects.

My recommendation is that users purchase an additional SB-R200 flash unit. The Commander can control up to three of these, and having a third unit allows one to be used as a back light or rim light. Small stands are also provided in the kit for mounting the R-200s on any level surface.

Sometimes it's easier to simply show a brief video of how something works, rather than go into a lengthy description, so below you will find just such a demonstration, showing the various components and how they go together as well as some footage of the R1C1 in use on location.

Click Image Above for a 3' 40" Video showing the R1C1 in use and its Components

Caution – this is a 175MB streaming video that requires Quicktime
A fast broadband connection is recommended

If close-up and macro photography are your thing, and you're a Nikon system user, the R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System is a kit that will likely meet your needs and challenge your creativity.

June, 2008


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Concepts: Macro photography, Camera, Photography, Ring flash, Photographic lens, Flash, Close-up, Photographic techniques

Entities: Nikon, Canon, close-up photography, Niagara Peninsula, Jeff Schewe, Ontario

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