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TTL in 2007


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#21 CeeDave

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:18 PM

I had good luck with the Ike TTL controller in shots last summer at Cocos, including some difficult wideangle shots with high contrast and a good bit of negative space. Sometimes this involved using some flash compensation, but that was fast and easy. For more confined shots (with more uniform reflectivity) the TTL was fast, easy, and spot-on. I still use manual sometimes (even on the surface!), but expect I will use it less and less (and I even shot manual a lot with the Nikonos, back in the day...).

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#22 dhaas

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:34 PM

Bart, (and others)

I'm not the only one using digital TTL exclusively........

Dave Fleetham, making his living shooting UW for many years now and who lives on Maui is an eTTL2 devotee with his Ikelite housed Canon 20D. I know Doug Perrine uses it, maybe not exclusively. But I saw a Whale Shark sequence he shot off Kona where he said dialing in minus EV and concentrating on the world's biggest fish certainlly worked for him!

Scorpio_Fish's comments are on point, too. We seem to hold the old and familiar too close sometimes....You should have heard the cries when AF came of age in SLR cameras.....

Those without Ikelite TTL housings, I hear you. But I wouldn't design circuitry for my housings and then give it away to be used in competitor's products either. I also don't know if the market for Nikon iTTL in a cord is significant enough to warrant developing it. Or maybe this isn't as easy as some would think it is to be manufacturable...

Many people "get it" about FEC (flash exposure compensation in Canon-speak) but refuse to believe it works underwater.

Hell, Jim Church (may he rest his soul as the most giving teacher of UW techniques) wrote about dialing a higher ISO (doubling your value) in many, many books to "fool" the flash into cutting off sooner avoiding overexposure in WIDE ANGLE SHOOTING OVER 10 YEARS AGO!!! It worked with Nikonos V cameras and TTL connected SLR cameras in housings....

I used this technique in my SLR AF film cameras, dialing in anywhere from - 1/3 - 2/3 of a stop in the overall exposure compensation before you could adjust FLASH compensation separately. And it worked producing about 80-90% GOOD exposure with narrow exposure latitude slide film.....

These are exciting times in UW image making. The tools are here NOW if people will just try them....And it makes it easier, especially for the once or twice a year UW photographer trying to bring home great pics......

I LOVE Scorpio_fish's comparison to manually inflating your BC versus the power inflator. Hopefully as safe divers you can still "do it". But would you WANT TO as long as you have AIR in your tank?

I don't think so :wacko:

dhaas


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#23 Bernard Picton

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 02:42 PM

I've been a fan of TTL since the Olympus OM2. When I put that in a case to go underwater I butchered an olympus flashgun and rebuilt it in a perspex tube with some bigger batteries and a focusing light. I later did the same thing with the Nikon F3 and some vivitar guns. I mostly shoot macro. I was usually hard up and hate throwing away wrongly exposed pictures, most people were surprised at how few badly exposed shots I got on a roll. In 2005 I bit the bullet and swapped to digital with the Nikon D70 (from F3/Aquatica and home made TTL flashes) so I didn't want to lose TTL. There wasn't much choice, but I went with the SB800 and Subal case for it.

I needed it specifically for a project where we were collecting small sponges for the museum collection, photographing them first before disturbing them. We were working at 30-35m almost exclusively as there aren't many sponges above that depth at our sites. That means you get 25 minutes of useful time per dive, so you need to work fast. I am delighted with the results, really consistent exposures, normally shooting quickly at three or four different distances on the same subject, then moving to the next. My colleague was using the same camera in Ike housing with no TTL, also not an experienced UW photographer. Still they got some good results, but much slower as they needed to check exposure and adjust a bit. I had the luxury of being able to go in close on a small nudibranch or out for an octopus (between sponges!) without needing to change settings, so ended up with a lot more useful frames at the end of the season. I mostly just left it on manual F22 1/250 ISO 200, TTL flash. If I backed off for a bigger subject then the flash ran out of power, so sometimes needed to open up to F16 or F11, but that's only one small thing to think about.

I have shot the 12-24mm on TTL and was surprised how well the iTTL coped, I could never do wide angles with TTL before. Given that you can set the camera on manual and choose aperture and shutter speed and still have TTL flash fill I reckon it might have application in this situation too.
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#24 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:10 PM

Its interesting to see that although in another topic in this forum most people seem to think that innovation in underwater photography is important, many in this topic are happy to rely on TTL flash exposure which must, inevitably, mean that the exposures are all decided electronically and end up with the same overall balance and feel to them! Whilst I accept that dialling in exposure compensation can alter the flash exposure, this is little different to using manual flash control in reality, as it is simply moving the decision making process back to the photographer rather that the camera's electronics.

Whilst I also accept that I am stirring things, I wonder how many people are prepared to use fully auto exposure (in alliance with TTL flash exposure) when taking underwater photographs? As I said before, TTL flash exposure is merely another auto exposure mode and removes control away from the photographer. I'm NOT saying that it does not have its place, just that any form of auto exposure, including flash TTL of any variety) is far from infallible. To appreciate the benefits of TTL flash exposure I would suggest that it is important to understand its deficiences and how to use manual flash exposure if and when needed. For what it is worth, I used a Fuji S2Pro with both TTL and manual flash exposure before switching to the Canon I now use. Despite having flash housings for Canon's own flashes I use manual flash exposure by preference and find my flash exposures as consistent as those shot with TTL on the S2Pro, but, and very importantly, I find that I shoot my own choice of flash/available light balance which I find I much prefer doing.

This said, if you find a type of TTL flash exposure that does what you want it then great!
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#25 dhaas

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:32 PM

For the fun of debating Paul's insights I'll only state:

Dialing in EV flash compensation to achieve your "vision" is no different than adjusting manually, especially when we can insantly see whether it resulted in the effect we wanted. If you know you need EV adjustment for a white fish on white sand, this is no different than knowing to dial up or down your f-stop or strobe output. But with TTL I'll bet it's faster.........Especially when the adjustment is right there on the housing.

If you really want to bracket, simply set up your camera to do this in the menu. Then shoot 3 photos of everything! One or more will likely be the exposure, shadows, oer whatever you envisioned.

No shooter I know, and especially manual flash guys gets it right anywhere near the percentage a properly dialed in TTL system can.....And I'll bet all UW shooters today STILL post process for their own optimally creative final output.

I would much rather concentrate on composition, especially if the critter is not sitting still than worry did I set the correct f-stop or strobe power output. TTL is dynamic, easily adjusting to you moving back or forth a foot, the cloud coming over, or whatever......

That is the most mind-freeing aspect of this creative tool.......

YMMV

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#26 photovan

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:45 PM

For those wanting to get the most out of TTL flash, I'd advocate learning about subject reflectivity/tonality and its effect on correct exposure with any auto exposure system. That way you can evaluate your subject first, decide for yourself if the system is going to do the job. If it's not, and is going to under or over expose, then dial in compensation before you take the picture. Personally I hate reshooting; anything that wastes time when time is so precious, or makes me miss the moment, sucks.

If you want pictures where the subject and the moment are king, choose the system that gives you the least number of controls to fiddle with in order to get the exposure of YOUR choice.

For some that will be TTL, others it might be manual, and sometimes circumstances will dictate.

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#27 scorpio_fish

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 10:49 PM

when taking underwater photographs? As I said before, TTL flash exposure is merely another auto exposure mode and removes control away from the photographer.


Exactly, no argument from me or anyone else. Like any automated tool, if it doesn't give you the results you want, don't use it.

As Mr. Haas pointed out, many well known pros used TTL for wide angle beginning with the Nik IV. They would dial in negative exposure comp. I was taught this technique by a well known pro. I found I didn't like the approach, as the amount of EV comp needed to be varied by some cryptic formula.

Unless you are using guide numbers to calculate the proper amount of flash for your given exposure settings, then you are just guessing. The creative part comes on the second shot. Sometimes there just isn't a second shot.
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#28 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 11:55 PM

It is fantastic to see such a lively discussion with such different views.

One of the reasons I brought this topic up (apart from the ones mentioned at the top) is that I am taking an Ikelite D80 TTL housing and strobe to Cayman at the weekend. It is my intention to write an article revisiting TTL on digital.

For me one of the biggest limitations of shooting TTL underwater is when using two strobes. If you are using TTL then in nearly all cases both strobes have to give the same power output. While this may be fine much of the time, there are also many occassions where it will not be ideal.

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#29 vannar

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 02:59 AM

Good point Alex... This may be one of those occations where TTL limits your creativity.

With the ike housing the easy alternative is to swich to manual for those particular shots...

But with the "inhousing" heinrich weikamp converter I dont think that this is possible...

But I guess it is possible to carry an extra set of diffusers... but that means even more gear to carry with you.

#30 dhaas

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 05:32 AM

Alex,

Good to hear you will be actually trying iTTL underwater :wacko:

As far as dual strobes and the same power ouput from each....There are many, many methods for "cheating" strobes on TTL to achieve ratioed lighting. Here's a few I've used.....

1) Pull the one strobe back further.

2) Have mutiple diffusers rigged up you can slap on with bungie cords to decrease light output

3) Aim the strobe you want to emit less light away from your subject using "rim" lighting.

Even an iTTL strobe can't put out more tha a full power dump....You just have to figure ways to keep the light away from your intended subject / lighted area.....

You will love the Nikon D80. Carlos Villoch shooting many articles for Sport Diver articles was picking up a couple Nikon D80 bodies and his new Ikelite housing and dual DS125 strobes last month. I'm looking forward to seeing his work created with these fantastic tools ;)

Looking forward to seeing your TTL article!

dhaas

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#31 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 07:51 AM

Great Alex,

I can't wait for my next issue of Underwater Photography! Personally I think you will never go back.

For ratio-ed lighting there are several more ways to do it. The suggestions that David made are probably the easiest. But with the Ike housing and iTTL you can switch the primary strobe to TTL and the secondary to manual (on the strobe) and select the power level (one of 4 levels onto 1 of ten however). This can give you ratioed lighting. Its not written in the manual but it works.

Expanding on David's technique, I have one of my strobe arms rigged with one of Ikelite's release handles. This makes it quick and easy to handhold the strobe for even more ratioed lighting positions.

To make uw TTL a truly mature technology it would be convenient to have FEC on each individual strobe. Subtronic is the one to do it, as they have all the TTL circuitry built in to the strobe.

Remember there is no possible way to make ratioed lighting automatic. There are too many variables and the photographer will always want to change them. Think about how this is done with iTTL land strobes--by adjusting FEC for each flash separately on the commander. But its still TTL because although the ratio is decided by you the system still outputs the required light for perfect exposure. Its the same underwater. For a given setup by either adjusting strobe angle or power you will get correct exposure in the ratio of lighting you prescribe.

The main point is that with S&S, Ikelite and Subtronic TTL you don't have to decide between manual and TTL. You can use it sometimes or all of the time to get what you want. All SLR cameras have auto exposure, manual, S and A modes--with a switch for the intelligent photographer to change between them. They are tools, and TTL is a great one to have in the toolbox.


David I love the creative use of WA distortion in that last shot!!! :wacko:

It reminds me of a point that I never bought into in Jim Church's otherwise excellent book "Jim Church's Essential Guide to Composition". He recommends having the diver look away to put a reflection in their facemask to hide the eyes. Had you followed that advice this shot would not have worked. Nicely done.

Edited by UWphotoNewbie, 06 December 2006 - 07:56 AM.

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#32 dhaas

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 08:16 AM

Chris,

Good comments, I forgot about just turning the secondary strobe (red band one) to a manual power setting.

Thanks for the kind words on my wife in "Diana Meets Napoleon". Is the main page in DAN's 2007 calendar for November. She tells everyone her measurements are 36-24-36, airbrushed!!! :wacko:

Was really a lucky shot as the danged Napoleon Wrasses above the S.S. Yongala in Australia were skittish.

Looking forward to Alex's use of iTTL....

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#33 EspenRekdal

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 12:10 PM

Hi Everyone!

Here is my unsensured rambling on the subject...

When I first started out with digital I didn't have the option of manual. For wide angle this didn't matter much as I dialled in the same I did with film and god good results out of the box. However though I got good shots in manual after I homed in on the right exposure in macro, I did loose some oportunities. Another drawback that brought me more headaches was the ****** lying lcd screen. The fix was to use the histogram. All went well! :wacko:

A couple of months back I got a sea&sea converter and a couple of Inon 240s. The converter puts the spike of the histogram smack in the middle. This is usually ideal, since we really don't want to change the exposure in raw if we don't have to. Right?

If the histogram needs to be a little more to the left just reach out for the ev-controller on the converter and turn it down - the histogram moves slightly to the left. Same with if you need more light on the subject turn to the right.. This has however never been the case and I have set the cameras Ev to -1 now, so that I can use the full range on the controller to go in small increments from normal to -2..
If I encounter a subject that is small/clear/in open water TTL doesn't work (It didn't with film either)... Ok I'll sett the converter to M and shoot away with full "no flawed electronics" to get what I want. But theese cases are rare and manual is a option easy to revert to.
So far however, the TTL system has prooved much more reliable than my 10 years of manual shooting with film and digital. And I have yet to revert to manual once (in this short time). In macro the exposure is usually solely flash and can easily be adjusted so exposure done manually or electronically doesn't matter. The controlling of lightdirection and power differences between the strobes (controlled by strobe placement) are the tools of creative control IMHO, not the exposure itself. Also you retain the light ratio between the strobes at different distances with TTL, with manual you would have to adjust both strobes as distance increased.

As a photographer I try to use the tools that best manifest my ideas into a picture (a piece of art), be it film, digital, warm/cold flash, 1-2-3 strobes, shutter arperture, lens etc... More tools - more creative control - more options - more visions?

TTL is a tool (a very good one) that does not PRECULDE manual control.

TTL or manual? yes please!

Cheers,
Espen ;)
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#34 Aqua_Ape

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 09:57 AM

Hey All,

Maybe someone can enlighten (no pun intended) me. I'm a Photo J guy and I live and breath eTTL for surface shooting. I shot allot of DVCAM underwater, but am yet to get a housing and strobes for my DSLR's. Help me out here:

The general theme is that TTL is good for macro, but not wide angle. I would have thought that would be the reverse. Macro subjects tend to not move around allot, allowing you to chimp your exposure. Wide angle subjects, like big critters, do tend to move around allot making TTL useful.

Does anybody make an actual U/W TTL system? The more I look into it, the more I find the need for "converters." One of which looks like it has an "eye" that judges flash exposure. Is there a housing/strobe combination that will let me plug my 5D into a housing, a cord into the hot shoe, and a cord into a TTL strobe?

Has anybody had any experience housing an actual 580EX or SB800 flash and using it underwater? Seems like it might be a big pain in the sense that your tripling the number of O-rings that you need to prep and that might fail. But it looks like it might solve allot of the TTL issues.

I almost never shoot "raw" strobes on land. I'm a big fan of soft, diffused light. The only problem is, that the minute you put anything in front of that flash head, it's not a point light source anymore and guide number math goes out the window. How do you deal with that without TTL or chimping in the case of subjects where you have a second shot.

Phew, that's a lot of questions. I feel like a Trekie that's got Shatner cornered at a sci-fi convention. ;)

#35 derway

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 11:05 AM

The general sentiment that is pro-TTL for macro, and anti-TTL for WA, is not to do with subjects, but with what works.

In general, the entire frame is filled in macro, and the subject is a good part of it, so TTL systems tend to work well.

In general, the entire frame is less filled in WA shots, with lots of open water. So TTL systems tend to have a harder time getting the exposure right. Though I find this far less true than it used to be.

Many macro subjects too, can swim away and hide quickly, like long nose hawkfish, or tiny baby wrasses, so you may only get one shot at them.

I wish there were a TTL system that would just apply the F number guide rule, based on focal distance as measured by the lens, apply the right amount of light accordingly.

Yes, there are lots of uw true TTL systems. They are mostly for DSLRS by canon & nikon. Ikelite makes housings and strobes that do proper eTTL or iTTL with their respective cameras. A few canon P&S digicams also work with TTL.

I gather sea and sea makes TTL solutions that work with canon & nikon, in their housings as well.

Housing a land strobe is not often good, because the color temp is wrong, and the power is not there. But since there are lots of TTL solutions that work fine, it is not a concern.

Many or most folks shoot sometimes/often/always with diffusers over the strobes. Not a problem with TTL. Not that much a problem with manual - just adjust by the right number of f-stops...
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#36 Paul Kay

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 11:10 AM

"TTL is a tool (a very good one) that does not PRECULDE manual control."

I couldn't agree more Espen - but what worries me is that it is all too easy for underwater photographers to become reliant on TTL without ever learning how it operates, its limtations and how to deal with them when they are encountered.

In regard to the last poster's question the answer is yes (I admit bias as I'm the British/Irish disributor for Seacam) in that Seacam do produce a wide beam flash unit which has full TTL capability - I have one on order for myself (it has full manual control too!!!) and will give it a thorough testing next year. On this note, the big Subtronics give a very wide beam - so that no diffuser is needed. I've maintained for a long time that the quality of light produced by horseshe shaped tubes and good reflectors is far better than that produced by diffusers - but at a cost. I've also tried an Ikelite DS125 which gives a pleasant output quality too.
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#37 EspenRekdal

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Posted 09 December 2006 - 04:17 PM

- but what worries me is that it is all too easy for underwater photographers to become reliant on TTL without ever learning how it operates, its limtations and how to deal with them when they are encountered.


True.. Most people new to uw-photography have lacking knowledge of how the camera works. One very common example, perhaps more common in the old film days, were the light meter. Many photographers thought this controled the flash meetering. TTL had more followers in the film days for sure, and films dynamic range meant that it had a very good success rate with macro. Photographers understanding how TTL worked compensated by using ev-flashcompensation on -.3 or .7 in wide angle. My own preferance was to use my wide angle flashes with the aperture that equalled full power, but set the flashes to TTL as an overexposure prevantive.. that worked great!
Digital is more tricky because the chance of overexposure are much greater. I think therefore that in order to do well with wideangle todays photographers have to rely on manual for wideangle. Thus, I dont fear photographers will rely too much on TTL in the digital era..

Regarding the horse-shoe shaped flash tubes, I couldn't agree more!

Cheers,
Espen ;)
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#38 John Bantin

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Posted 10 December 2006 - 08:12 AM

For someone very opinionated, I actually find myself without an opinion!

I think that what you produce is what counts. I use digital cameras exclusively now for magazine pictures, when probably as recently as two years ago I was still advocating film for some subjects. However, my epiphany came when Kurt Amsler said to me that if I was not shooting in RAW mode, I was completely missing the point of digital photography.
So, I now find I can do it anyway you want. I rarely take a meter reading with studio flash now and when I recently jumped in with my flashes set to 1/16 power and found myself on top of an oceanic white-tip, even though the dive guide said it was a pity my flashes failed to go off (they were so unbright), I got a very nice picture thanks to the CS2 RAW converter.
So...whatever floats your boat - use it.

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#39 Alvaro Velloso

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 03:38 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


Hi Alex,

I was looking for iTTL protocol details, but now I see it has to be cracked first.
I think this kind of information should be shared by the manufacturer, saving OEM engineer's time.
I can try do crack this protocol, but I have to buy an expensive Logic Decoder first, and it's not feasible for me now.
If you find this information somewhere, please let me know.

Have a great 2007 !

#40 buzo

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 02:10 PM

I have been a professional photographer for over 20 years and a diver for even longer, but I have not taken many photographs underwater. I have spent most of my time spearfishing. However, I have just recently started photographing underwater, and I have decided to hang up my speargun.

I am in the process of shopping for an underwater strobe, and I am leaning towards the INON Z-240.

I am using a Nikon D2X inside a custom built aluminum housing I made in my machine shop. I have a 5 pin Nikonos V strobe cable that attaches to accessory shoe on top of my camera. As I understand it, this connector will not give me TTL capabilities with the INON strobe, I will need to use a ttl strobe connector between the the Nikonos connector and the strobe.

I don't think that the manual setting on the strobe will work for me, since I find that the light conditions I have been shooting under, change quickly and dramatically, as does the distance to the subject.

So far I have been shooting available light only, and although the results have been pretty good, the slow shutter speeds and wide apertures necessary result in a large number of soft images, not to mention some dark shadows, low contrast and poor color.

I've had good luck shooting above water using ttl. so I hope to be able to use the same method underwater.

Will I be able to use the automatic settings on the strobe using the 5 pin Nikonos V cable without the ttl connector?

The ttl connector is a bit pricey at over $500.00, so I may want to get it at a later date.


Thanks.