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TTL in 2007


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 11:06 PM

Two and a half years ago I started a discussion to canvass opinion on whether TTL strobe control was necessary for digital underwater photography:
http://wetpixel.com/...?showtopic=6199

At the time many people were scared to go digital because TTL was not available. The aim of the discussion was to allay their fears, with examples from people who had been through the same worries and had happily come out the other side.

30 months on and digital underwater photography has progressed a great deal. First, nearly everyone has switched from film to digital and second many manufacturers have cracked the TTL codes producing reliable converters or TTL compatible strobes.

As a result I think it is well worth starting a new discussion to find out how many people are happily using TTL and want to encourage others to do so, too.

Personally I still shoot my strobes on manual, but I do this as much because I am too poor to buy some newer TTL strobes!

So as a counter to the earlier thread I think it is well worth hearing some more upto date opinions on the advantages and capabilities of using TTL strobes with digital cameras. Please add your thoughts!

Alex

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#2 MikeVeitch

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:20 AM

well... this should be interesting

i still shoot manual as well (due also to the poor factor) but wouldn't mind a Heinrichs converter somewhere down the road for macro.... i will always shoot manual on wide...

That said, i always teach my students to use and shoot manual. Then they are "allowed" to shoot TTL if they want to once we are satisfied they have an understanding of manual, strobe to subject distance, and controlling the strobe output with fstops.

I find most stick with TTL on macro but move to manual on WA

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#3 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 01:34 AM

Hi Alex

As far as I am concerned TTL is just another form of automation - acceptable for many things but in need of fine tuning to produce the results I personally want much of the time - so I'm with you on manual flash control. Whilst I thought that TTL on macro subjects was very useful when I was film based, this was because it was probably as accurate (inaccurate?) as shooting manually - I never found it viable on wide-angle. Given instant feedback via the lcd and histogram, I am far from convinced that TTL is useful for me now or in digital based 2007!

However, for photographers who are starting off and who are on the steep learning curve involved in underwater photography, TTL certainly has its place. But I do think it very important that people understand that TTL will give an exposure based on the camera's electronics and whilst this might be acceptable, it may not be the exposure which best suits the subject - this is especially important when using TTL in a balanced light image. In theory given the same set of conditions, TTL will always produce the same results, and it can of course be fine tuned by dialling in appropriate exposure compensation if possible - but its often simpler to shoot manually.

So I'd sum up by saying that TTL has its place but also its inherent limitations - especially on digital.
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#4 markhardy

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:40 AM

Alex,

My F100/Subal N10/Subtronic Alpha combo is being relegated to the back of my kit cupboard as I build up my new DSLR system. I've got the D200 and Subal, and have been taking way too long over my strobe purchase decision.

I'm pretty sure I'll be going with Inon Z-240s with no digital TTL capability but, as a one-big-trip-a-year diver, flying without the safety net of TTL is not something I am used to.

I've read everything that has been said in wetpixel on this subject and am adamant to go the manual route, but (contrary to what you have said) I would pay a premium to have digital TTL on tap for those occasions when I could use some help. But the electronics would have to be reliable and (based on your and others' experience) that's one reason why I don't think I will go for a Subtronic again for now.

So I'll wait a few years until the perfect power-packing, warm-light, wide-beam, fast-recycling, lighter-weight, reliable digital TTL strobe hits the market. Until then, I'll make the most of the Inons and hopefully become a better photographer as a result.... although I do fear there will be a significant reduction in the number of keepers.

Meanwhile, I will be monitoring this discussion with great interest!

My 2 cents worth from the perspective of a keen but only occasional diver.

Cheers,
Mark
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#5 DuikKees

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:30 AM

I don't miss TTL at all. I have the Heinrichs installed, but that is just to have more manual controll with my strobes.

With the Heinrichs I can now use another system nowadays that works flawlessly, it is called TTM and it is perfect. TTM is so good that others are willing to pay for it, but I don't want that. Everybody gets TTM for free, although the copyright stays with me.













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#6 Rattus

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 05:52 AM

Digital TTL is an interesting beast. I've probably maintained a significant bias towards TTL, aprtially due to all the anti-TTL teachings that have been prevalent since the start of the DSLR revolution. I think the "TTL is for the weak" mantra came from the lack of TTL, followed by the realisation that you can chimp exposures on the back of the camera.

The problem as I see it with manual strobe exposure is the reliance upon a steady strobe-subject distance, and the need to test fire to check exposure. Now I work that way in the studio. I'll set up my monoblocks and fire them from my meter, to get the ratios as I want them. Then I'll take some test shots and chimp the histogram to check my exposure.

However when I'm out and about shooting moving targets in low light, I'll be running my speedlight in TTL. The camera will generally stay in manual, so I have control over the ambient lighting just like underwater, but I'll trust the e-TTL II in the 5D and 580EX to get me a well exposed subject. The e-TTL II, which also works with the Sea&Sea TTL can use either centre weighted average or evaluative metering for the flash and I find the latter, while not recommended by Sea&Sea or Matthias actually gives me what I want. That is, pretty optimal exposure without burned out highlights.

What this means in practical terms is that I can point my strobes where I want them for the coverage I want and the FIRST shot I take actually has an odds on probability of being well exposed. For flighty subjects this can be the difference between a shot and no shot. The TTL was fine with shiny subjects like tarpon. Obviously, once you ask the system to kick out more light than it can give you run into underexposure, but then the story is the same with manual, but it happens a touch sooner due to the wasted energy in the short preflash pop.

The system is so flexible that the other weekend, before Mark and Susanna Webster's talks, I hooked up my rig to an Inon Z22 quadflash. It worked just great on TTL. Oh and 2nd curtain works right out of the box (not that its a particularly useful feature 99% of the time, you need to allow the subject to move into its end position during the exposure and have predicted where that will be, etc).

As I've said numerous times, one of the nice things about the Sea&Sea TTL converter is the ability to switch it to manual and also to switch it off. The two are different, as manual allows full manual control of any attached strobes, with no preflash wastage, whereas 'off' allows the 5D to use any shutter speed you like once the strobes are no longer needed.

Kees, how does the manual adjustment work on your Heinrichs install, and can you use TTL or manual in the same dive? I could never quite work out some of the details of Matthias' instruction sheet for the Canon OEM adapter when I was setting it up for the 20D.


Did I miss anything?

Oh yeah, the TTL converter gets in knickers in a twist when you dial in super hi ISO ratings and try macro. This is because it is unable to turn down the main burst accurately enough to match the exposure. That's a gotcha that bit me when I hooked up my new YS-110s after using the 5D on ISO 1600 for a while. Took me a while to figure out what was going wrong. Anything at a distance was fine, but close up it was all over the shop, usually underexposed as the flash didn't fire a main burst at all.

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#7 KenByrne

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 05:57 AM

Like many I was concerned about going digital and not having TTL. I think with film it was a big advantage because you could shoot off a whole roll of film and not know if you had a single correctly exposed shot. On macro at least TTL gave me a degree of confidence that the exposure would be right. Mind you I had a couple of occassions when due to dirty contacts or a drop of moisture the flash fired at full power or minimum power every time.

Now I've been shooting digital for 2 years with manual flash I've found that

1) I'm better at judging the correct settings for flash and aperture than I thought.

2) the instant feedback on the LCD means I can try again if the exposure is wrong and I can try a few different settings I probably wouldn't have done with film.

3) Shooting RAW gives me a degree of flexibility in adjusting the exposure in post processing which compensates in some degree to the lack of TTL.

I won't pay to get TTL, for example I'm not shelling out £200 to have my Ikelite D70 housing upgraded to TTL. However when I replaced my flash recently I bought an Ikelite strobe because if/when I upgrade my camera and housing if I buy Ikelite again I'll get TTL for free. How much I'll use it when I have it remains to be seen.

My name is Ken Byrne and I have not used TTL for 2 years.
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#8 dhaas

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 05:59 AM

Amigos,

Great discussion topic Alex........

OK, I'll "stir the pot" and take the opposite opinion. I think eTTL2 (Canon) and Nikon's iTTL is so advanced that it can produce more properly exposed photos, especially in fast situations than any manual shooter ever can.

Being biased to Ikelite's developed in-housing circuitry and their DS series strobes, I've used these as I do my Canon dedicated land flash units. NO ONE, and I repeat NO ONE shoots land units on manual so why do we cling to this technique underwater? You can bias in any amount of TTL flash compensation via underwater systems and achieve your own "look" as easily as above water.

I have shot TTL with dSLR cameras since 2004 when Ikelite cracked the code for the original Digital Rebel, dialing in -.5 - 1.0 for wide angle and sometimes macro. I even wrote an article that appeared here on Wetpixel about it and the feedback was Nada', Zippo, Zero......Pretty funny seeing as how many were clamoring for TTL back then.....The ability to get in a range of subject distance and chosen f-stops (maybe 3 stop range) and then concentrate on composition is IMHO the best thing about TTL. If you learn how to use it....

You can shoot TTL in "M" mode on any dSLR and still have the camera and strobe working together for sophistcated flash fill. Controlling your background lighting via shutter speed and f-stop and EV flash compensation controlling foreground strobe lit exposure. So what's the real issue on using TTL with our digital cameras underwater? Here's the main one I see traveling and trying to help many shooters.

Just like we had to learn how to verify our TTL systems were working before we loaded up 36 exposure rolls of film, you can (and SHOULD!) now test your TTL system and verify the camera and strobe are "talking" to one another, even taking test shots above water! But for some reason people don't seem to know how to test it, or want to learn how to harness this incredible tool.

I've always preached your camera / flash / underwater TTL housing / Underwater strobe manuals are a 3 beer read :wacko: Sit down with fully charged batteries, a highlighter marker and start reading and trying what the dang manual describes! It isn't that hard, folks.....By the 3rd beer you're falling asleep and can take a nice nap ;)

Evidently 99% of people spending lots of $$$$ don't bother to read the manuals manufacturers spend lots of time and $$$ to help them get the most out of their products. Then they wonder why the system they bought itsn't taking photos as they want them.

I think TTL in Ikelite's housings, Heinrich's converter (which I think is in Sea and Sea's) has come of age. When the Nikonos V came out with TTL it spawned the likes of Photo shootouts, more traveling divers and most important injected FUN into shooting images underwater versus the manually adjusted wasting of film (meaning $$$$) for thousands of underwater shooters. I think if TTL was understood and taught with digital systems we'd see even more of a surge in digital UW photography....

But hey, I just got a new photo toy and have to go chill 3 beers :angry:

dhaas

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#9 photovan

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:04 AM

I love TTL auto flash in suitable situations (mostly close up) as long as I can easily override it with flash exposure compensation.

But.. there is always a but... I agree it's pretty easy to divide a guide number by a distance to get an aperture, so a good range of manual settings is also handy UW.

TTL auto flash exposure came of age when flash exposure compensation was introduced. Up until then it was a lemon. The easier the flash exp comp control is to get at, the happier I am. Whether by design or not, the shift to big flash exposure comp dials that are easy to get to: on the back of the ikelite housings, or the separate controllers like the sea and sea, is fantastic. Anything to make the process of fine-tuning exposure quicker, easier and less of a hurdle in the picture making process.

The same thing happened a long time ago with ambient light exposure compensation. Olympus were ahead of their time in '76 when, with the OM2, they stuck their giant exp comp control up on top where everyone else was putting their shutter speed dial. Then in '87 Canon caught on, and introduced the quick control dial (the thumbwheel to some) on the back of the EOS650, allowing exp comp without taking your eye out of the viewfinder. Ambient light Exposure Compensation Nirvana.

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#10 DuikKees

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:19 AM

Kees, how does the manual adjustment work on your Heinrichs install, and can you use TTL or manual in the same dive? I could never quite work out some of the details of Matthias' instruction sheet for the Canon OEM adapter when I was setting it up for the 20D.
Did I miss anything?


I don't have TTL with Heinrichs. I have a couple of Ike 100A's wich normally only have two powersettings: Half and Full. With the Heinrichs installed I can now controll the strobepower by 1/3 increments in camera. This works great. True TTL is not supported with the 100A and the Heinrichs convertor.

Offcourse TTL would be nice in some occasions, but for me it is not worth the money to upgrade (housing and strobes).

#11 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:40 AM

:NO ONE, and I repeat NO ONE shoots land units on manual"

I hate to disillusion you but..... I most certainly do.

Raw conversion allows adjustment of many parameters, except:

Aperture, Shutter Speed, Focus AND the balance of available light and flash illumination. With TTL this balance is not predictable in as much as you cannot know exactly how it is going to affect the shadows (I find it overpowering and too harsh much of the time). In the future it may well be that manufacturers offer a balance degree control which allows toning down or increasing the amount of flash illumination in the mix, akin to flash exposure compensation in another guise (I hope the marketting guys don't read this), but if user input is required at this level then isn't manual a viable option anyway?
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#12 Lionfish43

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:43 AM

I completely agree with Martyn and DHaas. Would I shoot topside with my SB800/ D200 on maual....don't be silly. TTL is a valuable tool and I would purchase strobes that had I-TTL capability if they were available at a reasonable price. I think Ikelite has the capability to do it but they're using TTL built into the housing as a marketing ploy to get you to buy their housings. That's too bad because I like their strobes and I would buy a couple if they had I-TTL.
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#13 cronix

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 08:02 AM

I have TTL with two strobes (Seacam 250TTL Digital) on a cable; I am spoiled. I still use that for 95% for my close-ups. I will never ever use TTL for wide angle (that's what I think now).
Heinrichs is nice, but its not Seacams digital solution.
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#14 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 08:33 AM

Can't we all just get along? With the Ikelite, or S&S TTL system you have Auto (TTL), Manual, and semi-auto (FEC) all at your finger tips. There is really no need to decide.

From the amateur perspective I really appreciate having TTL. This has more to do with my shooting style than any inherient impression of ultimate quality. I dive about 1-week out of the year. And with 4 lenses that means I get 1-2 days/lens per year, 2-4 dives usually on a cattle boat at a new site I've never been to before and didn't get to choose or have advance knowledge of when I set up my rig in the hotel room. Playing "follow the leader" and with random targets appearing from all sides I don't have the time nor discipline to kneel in the sand and spend a whole dive adjusting manual power on my strobes. Often I get one lucky pass of a manta, shark or even a christmas tree worm before either the critter splits or the DM bangs his tank. Yes its very nice to be able to get decent exposures of the flounder on the white sand and the frogfish inside a hole without changing settings.

And when I want to spend 5 minutes (that's my tolerance limit :wacko: ) futzing with settings its nice to be able to adjust FEC at the touch of a button. Given the trial and error nature of manual digital metering FEC is just as good as manual. Even better you can also use it to calibrate your shots as David Haas suggests above.

Now with my P&S Canon camera it is very nice to have manual control. I get MUCH better shots because in this case I have at least one parameter that I can control. I could never get TTL to work right on this thing. Manual exposure control on a DSLR gives me many options to control exposure. But the auto everything Canon without manual strobe control is frustrating underwater where the camera metering was not optimized.

But getting here was not easy or inexpensive and I hope the adopters of the next generation of DSLRs will have it much easier. I think I've finally worked all the bugs out of my Ikelite TTL system. In many respects manual was more reliable and simpler to use even if I missed many shots. I chalk all of this up to growing pains and predict that mature TTL systems will be standard equipment soon.

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#15 jkane

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 09:07 AM

I would snap up a pair of Ikelite's DS strobes to use with my D200 Nexus housing if Ikelite ever comes out with the "TTL sync cord" they were quietly discussing sometime ago.

The alternative of buying one of their housings just to get their built-in TTL technology is not a good one for me because I prefer a smaller metal housing. While getting good exposures with manual strobe use is not the big challenge I expected when I switched to digital, there are occasional fast moving situations in which having TTL would be nice.

The never released TTL sync cord was expected to somehow include technology to enable TTL when used with an Ikelite DS strobe and non-Ikelite housings, but for some reason it fell off the radar. Anybody know what happened?? Is Ikelite's goal to increase sales of their housings as one commenter suggested? If so, it didn't succeed with this shooter.

#16 Claude

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 09:08 AM

I'm digital for 8 months now... and I'm using for macro and wide angle 1 housed SB800 set to iTTL, and one other strobe (SB105 or Z240) set to manual ! I'm shooting as well, according to my mood, with 2 manual strobes ! For me, both way of working have their advantages... I don't need or expect more yet !
Cheers :wacko:
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#17 loligo

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:06 PM

I have always thought that TTL in the didital realm was a bit of an anachronism -- what with the immediate results. It's not like we're wasting film here.

On a recent dive in California's Channel Islands, a fellow shooter had Sea and Sea's new converter and his exposures were no more consistent or greater than mine shot manually; and, after his converter failed on the second day, he had a full chance to appreciate manual shooting. I think that TTL had its role in the 36 exposure film days but my own experiennce (limited to Nikonos) also had me shooting manually . . .



Two and a half years ago I started a discussion to canvass opinion on whether TTL strobe control was necessary for digital underwater photography:
http://wetpixel.com/...?showtopic=6199

At the time many people were scared to go digital because TTL was not available. The aim of the discussion was to allay their fears, with examples from people who had been through the same worries and had happily come out the other side.

30 months on and digital underwater photography has progressed a great deal. First, nearly everyone has switched from film to digital and second many manufacturers have cracked the TTL codes producing reliable converters or TTL compatible strobes.

As a result I think it is well worth starting a new discussion to find out how many people are happily using TTL and want to encourage others to do so, too.

Personally I still shoot my strobes on manual, but I do this as much because I am too poor to buy some newer TTL strobes!

So as a counter to the earlier thread I think it is well worth hearing some more upto date opinions on the advantages and capabilities of using TTL strobes with digital cameras. Please add your thoughts!

Alex

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#18 vannar

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 12:18 PM

Im shooting my strobes on manual! I started this way (never shoot film) and Im getting some resonable results from it.

But I must say that it took me a while before I started experimenting with the camera settings and strobe power.

I will probably get the heinrich converter for my macro work, the reason for this is to be able to focus less on the exposure and more on the composition.

#19 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 01:07 PM

... <snip>... On a recent dive in California's Channel Islands, a fellow shooter had Sea and Sea's new converter and his exposures were no more consistent or greater than mine shot manually ... <snip> ...


If TTL is equally consistent and accurate as a competent UWphotographer shooting manual then I would consider that a compliment for TTL. Like cropping and zoom lenses one can argue that TTL is an "easy solution" that does not force you to think about exposure and its impact on the image. But although it is good to tell users/trainees not to become lazy by sheepishly depending on technology, that does not mean there is anything wrong with the technology if used properly. There is also a risk for the "I-still-orally-inflate-my-BCD" syndrome. Although you may be proud to have learned things the hard way, it is silly to not consider the possibility that newer technologies can do things better and/or easier. I'm not saying that TTL has reached that stage yet but I think that Alex's message was meant to find out what 30 months of improvements have done to the consensus on TTL quality/reliability/practicality compared to manual strobe settings.

David has apparently switched almost completely from manual to TTL. I've heard one other Pro say the same in a recent issue of Scuba Magazine ("What the Pro's shoot" article) and I believe Martin Edge was positive about TTL as well. It would be interesting to hear from people that have given both an honest try:
-Anyone else here that used to shoot manual and has now switched fully or partially to TTL?
-Anyone that really wanted to switch to TTL but after giving it a good try decided it wasn't up to par yet?
-If you use TTL part time, what factors make you decide when to use TTL and when to uses manual?

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#20 scorpio_fish

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:07 PM

If you shot TTL in the film days because it worked out better for you, (i.e. use for macro and don't use it for wide angle), then it still works better for you in the digital age.

TTL is superior to manual. Like all tools, if you need to use manual to get the results you want, then use manual. Else use TTL. This of course relies on a functional TTL system.

I've been wanting to write an article on the superiority of TTL for a couple of years. Now it seems that it would be viewed in the same regards as an anti-global warming paper.

Answer the following questions:

1) Which is greater?
a- 4
b- infinity

2) Which is easier/faster to do?
a- Reaching up and changing the power settings on two strobes
b- Nothing

3) How do you adjust your exposure?
a- I change the power setting on my strobe(s)
b- I change the aperture setting

4) The eel has opened its mouth. The shrimp has started crawling across the inside of the mouth to the other side. Which of the following will have a higher probably of a great result.
a- Shoot, adjust exposure, shoot again, adjust exposure, shoot again.
b- Determine best composition, shoot, see the shrimp exit the eel's mouth

5) When shooting on land with a speedlight attached, is it set to...
a- Some form of TTL with or without FEC
b- total manual settings

6) Where is it easier to do creative lighting?
a- Underwater with a limited air supply/dive time, subject that moves and/or other photographers waiting to shoot the same subject
b- Sitting behind your desk with a mug of coffee and Photoshop on your computer and reasonably well exposed image on the screen.


There is a point to each of these questions that supports TTL versus manual, but I'll have to elaborate at a later time.

I haven't used TTL since I went digital. I miss it, but I'm not crying about it. I wouldn't change housing manufacturers just to get it. I always used it for macro. I never used it for wide angle.

The snooty, look down your nose, "I'm sooooooo much more creative now that I use manual" mantra is a bit much. If using it makes me some uncreative, worthless, "not-a-real photographer", jellyfish sucking, total loser not worthy of my DSLR, then so be it. If it becomes available to me, I'll use it.

The reality is that most shooters go on 1-3 dive trips a year. They aren't trying to become underwater Picassos. They want to get the shot when it presents itself. It's a disservice to them to discourage the use of TTL. Those who are able to dive often or have been shooting underwater for quite some time can far more easily pick up the nuances of manual strobe control than a newer shooter or one who dives less frequently.

Elaboration on the above questions later.

In the meantime, Ike, keep the TTL housings coming.
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