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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 05:52 PM

I intend this discussion as a public service! If it is popular, I hope it will become a sticky.

The topic of TTL and digital comes up again and again here at Wetpixel. When we switched to digital, many of us film converts couldn't imagine UW photography without TTL. We bought Fuji S2s, housed land strobes or bought extra "TTL" sensors so that we wouldn't have to go underwater without those three letters.

Then we learned our lesson and found manual strobe settings were just easier and better.

This is your chance to own up. Get it off your chest. And perhaps stop others wasting the cash we did on gear or settings we no longer use.

#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 05:59 PM

My name is Alex and I have been off TTL for 10 months now. Here is my story...

When I first bought my D100 housing in 2002 I could not believe I could get by without TTL (or dTTL as it would have to be). I love shooting fish behaviour - action that often happens in an instant. I could not believe I could get by with manual settings.

So I bought a SB80DX flashgun and put it in an old flash housing. I shot dTTL through out 2003. Until I went to Dahab (Egypt) in October. Luggage allowances and a mainly wide angle brief for the trip meant I didn't take my housed SB80DX. I tried macro for the first time on that trip with manual strobes and I have never shot dTTL since.

My name is Alex and I have been off TTL for 10 months now.

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#3 Rocha

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 06:02 PM

Hi Alex,

This is a popular subject indeed. I think TTL is not a big issue for people that shoot mostly wide angle and a few fish portraits. However, for those who want to register fish behavior****, or not so common fishes (those that you see only once in a 10 day trip), geting the correct exposure on the first shot is essential, and that's when TTL becomes *very* useful.

****Only now I saw your second post, so let me add to mine. This is the first time that I hear about fish behavior without TTL, how do you achieve this? Do you try to keep the same camera-to-subject distance or you just get a feel about the exposures and sets the flash accordingly? My system does very reliable TTL (F100 with Ike ss200), and I am always pleased with the results. The only reason I didn't upgrade to digital was the lack of TTL.

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#4 MikeVeitch

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 06:45 PM

TTL? What's TTL? I've actually never used it, probably have 10 000 or more slides in my collection too. Mostly from Nik V but also an N90.
The switch over to Digital for me is new, haven't bought a housing yet...so the whole lack of TTL issue doesn't bother me in the slightest.
When i teach students i never let them use TTL either, the whole point of taking a photography course is to learn how the camera works isn't it?. In my opinion, it doesn't work well for wide angle anyways.

Rocha does make a good poing though. That once in a life time shot could be tricky to get the right exposure in a one off. But once you get used to using a camera on manual it doesn't take long to figure out the correct exposures within an f stop or so in any situation. And with the beauty of digital, if you are only off by one f-stop fix it later on the laptop!

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#5 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 06:46 PM

Hi Luiz,

I also own an F100. Let me reassure you that I would also always shoot TTL with film. And most of the time I would get my behaviour shots. But not always - sometimes TTL gets it wrong and there is no persuading it otherwise. Of course on film you don't know this till later and anyway it probably worked on 34 of the 36 exposures so why worry. When I shot dTTL with my digital D100 i did occasionally miss shots and could do nothing about it. Of course dTTL nailed many images - I would never say that TTL is not suitable for behaviour. I'm just saying that on digital I prefer manual.

I think what film photographers don't realise is that flash exposures don't vary as much as they think. When I am shooting behaviour - I very rarely change either my aperture or my flash settings - once I have determined the correct exosure with a test shot. Often of just a rock close to the subject.

Below is a collage of fish behaviour shots I have taken this year. All on manual. They show mating RS purple tangs, shy hamlets, Emp Angels, Anthias, Parrots, peppermint bass, 4 eye butterflies, fighting flounder and mating lancer dragonets. Hope that you find them persuasive.

Alex

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#6 Craig Ruaux

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 06:50 PM

My name is Craig and I have never used TTL with a dSLR

Of course, my total experience with a dSLR underwater encompasses five days at the time of this posting, and on two of these days I did no shooting underwater at all, but it was a close thing...

Initially I was suspicious, I did not believe that it was possible to shoot small fish (like sailfin blennies displaying) without the benefit of TTL. I was used to the idea that I could set the lens on f22, the strobe(s) in close to the port, fire away, and let the F100 deal with it... much like Rocha.

The first four or five shots were a bit wobbly, but I just hit the delete button and the embarassing evidence was gone. Eventually, I realised that setting the flash power and aperture without TTL was really very similar to the way I usually work in macro: Set the reproduction ratio/point of focus, then move the camera to the correct camera/subject distance. I just had to add the additional quick check that the strobe to subject distance was correct. Once I had the correct strobe to subject distance, the exposures came out spot on...

I knew I wanted to shoot at about 1:3, so I found some small sponges, dialled in the strobe position and focus, then adjusted the aperture to get the exposure correct. The histogram display really helped to get things right.

I found I was able to shoot a sequence of the blennies popping out of the hole, displaying and returning, and almost all of them were correctly exposed. I was using an ss100, so I did not have the power and fast recycling ability of the ss200... from my experience with that strobe, at 1/4 power, it will probably "recycle" fast enough to get a full buffer on the d100.

I am used to shooting wideangle without TTL, shooting macro without it was an eyeopener, but in the end a pleasant experience.

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#7 james

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 07:16 PM

Ha! Alex, eat your heart out. Craig: I salute you Mr. Sailfin Blenny-on-your-first-digital-dive man!

:-)

FWIW, I have been on some dives where I could literally not take my hands off of the housing handle. In situations like that, you need either TTL or a Titan housing w/ handle-mounted strobe controls.

TTL is great for behavioUr shots, but I have shot my last three trips without TTL and haven't missed it. Shoot, my last trip with the Fuji S2 was back in September of 2003! Yikes!

When I house my Kodak (hopefully this month) then I won't get to shoot TTL either. That doesn't mean I don't like it though. If my camera supported TTL, I'd probably use it some of the time (maybe 25%) but now, it's no longer THE important feature for me.

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#8 chrism

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 09:23 PM

TTL? Heard about it. Never had it on the 5050. Don't have it on the 300D/A300. Maybe I don't know what I am missing, but I'm still in guessing game exposure land anyway, so...... The delete button is my friend.

Chris
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#9 herbko

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 09:26 PM

What is TTL ? :)

I think this is an important thread. Based on posts I see from people just getting into this obsession, TTL seems to be a large factor in their decisions.
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#10 Giles

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 09:56 PM

My name is Giles ... I laughed at Alex when he brought his housed land flash gun down for his D100, i told him manual was easy and more fun and more creative. (or thats how I wish it had gone, actually I was amazed that someone had TTL for digital as I never got it working with the D1X in a seacam housing with housed flash)

I lost out ... he got better at it than me.

I have shot one roll of film underwater with TTL, 2 rolls on manual, and every digital shot out of god knows how many thousands all in manual due to lack of choice originally, but then kept with it because it gave me more options.

I have made more mistakes in manual than i did in my one roll of TTL, but thats not fair as I only ever took 35 shots in TTL. I however would not know what I know now if I had always shot TTL, I wouldn't know by looking at the scene what settings to use, where to put my strobe, or what mood the shot is gonna take (I like creating moods with one strobe as thats all I have)

The bootom line as far as I am concerned is that Digital brought about art and vision in underwater photography.

It took away the machinery of TTL and forced the skills back into our hands, and many of us have embraced it and used it to it's benefit.

Amen to manual control.
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#11 Helge Suess

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Posted 23 August 2004 - 11:19 PM

Hi!

My name is Helge ...

and I managed to get off TTL due to the fact, that my Metz (top side) strobe doesn't support the Olympus E-1 yet and that I had a strange experience using a Subtronic strobe topside recently.
I used to have HLX video lights with my housed E-20 but I will use a strobe with the E-1 in the future. I'm in the process of housing the camera so my experience with TTL is pretty dry ;-)
I had an indoor shooting recently where I used a Subtronic strobe in slave mode to cover the fisheye I had to use. That was when I realized, that fiddling with strobe compensation is as much work as setting the strobe manually in the first place. Getting the hang of the right power setting wasn't really hard to achieve. The histogram was a great help.

I also have to admit that there's a sample of the latest TTL converters for Olympus waiting to be tested with the E-1 but this thread and my recent experience doesn't put that pressure on the topic anymore. I think that TTL may have its place but I experienced also lots of situations recently (black sand in Lembeh Strait) where you have to set the camera manually to get proper results.

Thanks, Alex. You've really got style, both behind your keyboard and your camera. Kept me laughting until I scrolled down to your pictures. That's when the laughter was replaces by breathless admiration.

Helge ;-)=)
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#12 SharkyUAE

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 02:45 AM

Hi my name is Gordon,

I only ever used TTL once (F801, 60mm Micro, Aquatica housing with SB103 strobe).

My mentor Kevin Metcalfe hit me over the fingers with a fin and I never did it again :shock:

All my film shots were done on manual controls with exception of the focus on WA.

My first digital shots using auto everything except the strobe were lousy and the Sea&Sea D70 housing does not support TTL, however as soon as I switched to manual aperture and shutter speed I gained at least 90% control over what I was doing, all I need now is manual focus :)
Gordon T. Smith

#13 whitey

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 02:58 AM

Hi, my name is Rob but you may call me 'Whitey' or 'Mr Whitey' or 'Mr EWA-Bag Man'

I'm in the unusual situation of having gone from digitaL ttl with the EWA-Marine to non-TTL now I'm shooting with the Ike.

So unlike most of you, I know what I'm missing. And let me tell you - TTL is a good thing. There's a bunch of shots I could take with the bag-TTL that I just can't contemplate with the non-TTL housing. So I don't even try them.

Non TTL digital is fine for digital shooting of slow moving or stationery subjects. Is crap for close macro of moving subjects. If you are cleverer than me you may be fine with non-TTL, but I will continue to long for true Canon eTTL support.

Rob Whitehead

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#14 Giles

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 04:11 AM

There's a bunch of shots I could take with the bag-TTL that I just can't contemplate with the non-TTL housing.  So I don't even try them.


Really, being someone who has never fully gotten to love TTL .. or really even used it that much I find that hard to understand, could you elaborate ?
maybe even an example.
In my mind and someone correct me if I am way off base here, but TTL is just like P mode (auto) for ya camera it just takes the information it is reading from the lense and makes it's best decision about how much light to add onto the subject. I understand how that gives you a 'perfect'ly exposed shot. (I also can see how limiting that can be ,kinda like driving an auomatic car, you'll never get the same results from that car as you would a manual)

But at the same time, TTL being an electronic thing I have never understood why there is such a big deal about it with digital cameras ... why did it take so long and why are they still working at it ? isn't it easier to make now the cameras are digital ?
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#15 scorpio_fish

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:00 AM

TTL is a wonderful thing. If I had it, I would use it.....except when I found it easier to get the desired results using manual strobe control. For me, this was always the case with WA, where the flash is fill. Having said that, not having it hasn't been that big a burden.

Those that view TTL as a crutch or training wheels not to be used by "real" photographers are off base. It's like saying AF is for losers. I shoot mainly MF on land, except when AF works better.

I think I really want to write a really long post about the subject, so more later.

BTW, how many topside shooters use their respective speedlights in full manual mode? The only time I do is when I take the strobe off the camera and have it in my hand pointing at a particular object in the scene.

#16 james

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:35 AM

I agree with George. Don't just say "TTL, bah!" just because you think you sound cool...;-)

If TTL doesn't work underwater, that is one thing - but it does. It does all of the same "thinking" that we do when we set strobe power, it just does it faster and get's it right the first time.

Getting it right the first time is something that we have discounted as "not important" because hey, we can always review on the LCD and reshoot, right? Wrong.

Firstly, there are some shots that you will never get to reshoot. Once you have spooked that shy fish, it's just not coming back.

Secondly, digital photographers are often accused by "old timers" of taking too many photos and overwhelming/blinding the subject. Based on my experience with new digital divers, this is a valid gripe. Sometimes, shoot, review, shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot just isn't cool.

Anyhow, I'm interested to see what else George has to say on this one as I'm one of the few who's actually had a GOOD working TTL system for the DSLR.

Cheers
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#17 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:38 AM

Ha! Alex, eat your heart out. Craig: I salute you Mr. Sailfin Blenny-on-your-first-digital-dive man!


Yeah Craig's shot is definitely better than mine. Damn you, Craig! I feel another dusk dive lying on the sand coming on...

I am glad that this discussion is attracting both sides of the TTL argument. I think that my introduction was a bit biased - and should have said that this is the place for people to state their feelings for either side of the argument, so that new digital photographers can read and learn from their opinions - whatever they be.

Alex

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#18 Craig Ruaux

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 05:57 AM

Damn you, Craig! I feel another dusk dive lying on the sand coming on...  


Just don't go into 15 minutes of deco, as I did...

Ooops, hope the gulf-diving people don't read this board :)



Scorpio_fish: Yes, I use the ole' SB80DX in matrix-metered balanced fill flash mode all the time, on the F100 where it belongs :P and I wouldn't be without it. TTL, on high end film cameras as a mature technology is a very useful thing. I also take the flash off the camera, put it on a stand, measure the flash to subject distance and set "manually" in some instances, such as lighting hummingbirds coming to a feeder...

As to the point and tone of this thread, I think the slightly strident tone that Alex used to commence the discussion is quite similar to, and in some ways satirises, the strident tone that many new-to-digital shooters use when the insist that they "have to have TTL". If TTL control of flashes for digital cameras was more mature, then I'm sure we would be more likely to embrace it.
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#19 Giles

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 06:45 AM

I agree with George. Don't just say "TTL, bah!" just because you think you sound cool..

I don't think you will find many people saying it cause it sounds cool,what you will find is people like myself who never really did film photography, and used digital underwater when there REALLY was NO TTL, there really wasn't and the funny thing is ..manufacturers lied and said there was ! Anyway .. I'm not trying to be cool. It's just i have never used it and don't have the ability to use it, i like the artisitic qualities a manual strobe gives me, not from settings but more from positioning, I don't turn down the settings (limited on the YS120) unless in macro I move the strobe further back, kinda like a singer playing with the mic to get different effects. Even when i get my Canon D60 in a housing or (if i can get my hands on one for free a MkII 1D) I will stick to my manual ways as I find it more satisfying, and if i mess up a one off shot because i didn't use TTL, well i'll wait, those are normally like Alex said behavioural shots, and fish behaviour does repeat itself. (i'm lucky i can go diving in grand cayman whenever i like)

I'd also like to say although I have never been accused of blinding fish .. I am sure I have done it and that is a valid accusation, but don't get me started on what the old school film guys get up to underwater trying to guarentee their shots.

BTW, how many topside shooters use their respective speedlights in full manual mode? The only time I do is when I take the strobe off the camera and have it in my hand pointing at a particular object in the scene.

Although I am still trying to master my Canon 550 (more controls than a space ship cunningly hidden in very few buttons) I always put it on auto mainly cause i haven't got a clue what I am doing with it. I'll read the manual one day properly rather than just for the bits i need.
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#20 scorpio_fish

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Posted 24 August 2004 - 06:59 AM

Teaser.... Food for thought.

How many discrete strobe power settings do I have with my DS125 in manual mode? If I were able to shoot TTL, how many possible strobe output powers (i.e. output durations) am I able to achieve?

Suppose I am shooting wide angle. The left side of the scene has a yellow sponge one foot away. The right side of the scene has darker red sponge which is one foot away but angled away such that part of the sponge is 3 ft. away. How do I properly light the scene using TTL? (OK, this is a quickly thought of example, maybe with a little time I could come up with a better one).