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TTL vs Manual


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#1 scottyb

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Posted 27 October 2002 - 02:59 PM

After several years of using a Nikonos V and with encouragement of a photo pro, I finally broke my TTL habit and have been shooting exclusively manual. Now that I'm entering the digital relm, does this old standard still apply? I was very much pleased with the results with film. :blink:

#2 Kasey

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 05:19 PM

Much more so. If you shot manual film, you will definitely shoot manual digital for 2 reasons. 1) Digital doesn't offer as much lattitude - so you will need to judge your exposures and re-take when possible. As with film, it is easier to manually change your exposure using strobe-subject distance or, preferably, a highly variable strobe output, than to try fooling the camera into a different TTL exposure.

2) TTL on digital cameras is inferior to film TTL, so if you were unsatisfied with film TTL, you will be dissapointed with digital TTL.

Manual is much easier with digicams because of the ability to judge your exposures - err on the side of underexposure, which is easier to correct than over-exposure with most software apps.
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#3 james

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 07:24 PM

Hi Kasey,

What are you basing your statement #2 on? In order to compare film TTL to digital TTL you have experience with both, right?

I haven't replied to this post yet because I've been doing a lot of thinking and "trying some things" to determine which I like better. I'll reply w/ some more detail soon.

In the mantime, I'd love to hear your comparisons guys.

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#4 wetpixel

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Posted 28 October 2002 - 07:55 PM

1) Digital doesn't offer as much lattitude - so you will need to judge your exposures and re-take when possible.

I believe that this is true for color depth, but not so much for exposure. A considerable amount of latitude is available in post-processing of the image (Photoshop is awesome!), and if you are shooting slide film, it isn't going to be very forgiving, either. :blink:

TTL underwater is moot for all dSLR users who aren't using the S2 Pro, anyway. :)
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#5 Kasey

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 03:34 AM

[What are you basing your statement #2 on? In order to compare film TTL to digital TTL you have experience with both, right?]

I don't think that there is much debate that digital TTL is still a work in progress at this point. Just peruse this forum for TTL problems! I don't have TTL capabilities on my digital system, but for the 10 months that I've read this forum it has been clearly a problematic technology.

Film TTL is a 20 year old nicely refined technology that still has its quirks. For someone that preferred manual while shooting film, digital TTL would be frustrating. Personally, I used TTL while shooting a Nikonos V macro setup, but I know that many or most pros prefer manual. I think you would be hard pressed to convince those guys to roll the dice on digital TTL.

Are you suggesting that digital TTL is as good as film?!? Better :blink:

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#6 Nemo

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 03:35 AM

Manual is the way to go. TTL may give resonable results in Macro but when shooting WA it is useless. Since this type of UW photography is meant to be an artistic expression why would you want a micro chip making these judgements for you.
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#7 Kasey

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 03:46 AM

While I also choose to shoot manual, keep in mind that TTL, if executed perfectly, would actually free us to artistic expression by allowing us to focus on composition rather than exposure. Taking your statement literally could be furthered to say that we shouldn't be using autofocus either. Technology, executed well, makes our art better.

One other point, I'm not suggesting that TTL has no function in digital photography. Especially to beginners, it can really enhance their production. My point is specifically to Scott, who shot film without TTL automation, and without the benefit of the immediate exposure evaluation provided by digicams.

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#8 tshepherd

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 05:00 AM

TTL underwater is moot for all dSLR users who aren't using the S2 Pro, anyway. :blink:


I know this is the case with any hardwired strobes, but shouldn't the Ikelite wireless TTL sensor and the built-in flash on some of the dSLRs provide TTL, at least in theory?

#9 james

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 06:19 AM

Hi y'all,

If you guys want to read some (more) glowing testimonials for the Fuji S2's TTL system, drop by DPreview and read some of the posts by the wedding photographers. Somehow Fuji nailed TTL on this camera while Nikon and Canon haven't quite gotten it yet. We're talking about taking a picture of a bride in white and a groom in black, in a big room. It doesn't get any harder than that.

One thing that really cracked me up about Phil Askey's review of the S2 vs the D100 is in the D100 review. He shot a bunch of indoor flash pictures with the D100 that are underexposed. So he added a section underneath that says something like "Here are the same shots, but properly exposed. These were taken by the S2." :blink:

As far as I know, most film shooters use TTL for macro because they can. When trying to get the eyes on a shrimp in focus it's just one less thing to worry about. When the subject fills or almost fills the frame, it works really well.

Most people shoot manual strobes for wideangle, so why change. Why should digital be any different?

The original poster stated he already shoots manual strobes with his film cameras - so heck, then I'd recommend he shoot manual with digital too - it's what he's used to. But that's not to say that TTL on digital cameras doesn't work. I think maybe it doesn't work on SOME digital cameras.

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#10 yahsemtough

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 07:10 AM

I believe you even stated in the past that you shot TTL with your cp5000 with great results.

Correct me if I am wrong?
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#11 james

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 07:49 AM

You're right. Here's a link to the pics from the CP5000. It only have one flash sensor and it's on the outside of the camera:

Flowergardens Coolpix 5000 Photos

Notice that the shots are from all the way out at 28mm to extreme macro. Of course the macro exposures are better, but that's because I'm just not a good wideangle shooter.

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#12 scorpio_fish

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 11:47 AM

2) TTL on digital cameras is inferior to film TTL, so if you were unsatisfied with film TTL, you will be dissapointed with digital TTL


Depends on the camera. Fuji S2 functions the same way as TTL.

Much more so. If you shot manual film, you will definitely shoot manual digital for 2 reasons. 1) Digital doesn't offer as much lattitude - so you will need to judge your exposures and re-take when possible.

I believe that this is true for color depth, but not so much for exposure. A considerable amount of latitude is available in post-processing of the image (Photoshop is awesome!), and if you are shooting slide film, it isn't going to be very forgiving, either.


I agree with Kasey. Consumer digicams do not provide the dynamic range of film and tend to be very light sensitive. It is very easy to overexpose with far less light, partly because of the larger apertures being used.

TTL underwater is moot for all dSLR users who aren't using the S2 Pro, anyway


Not so. The Nikon Coolpix 995 and 5000 utilize their own version of TTL.

I know this is the case with any hardwired strobes, but shouldn't the Ikelite wireless TTL sensor and the built-in flash on some of the dSLRs provide TTL, at least in theory?


S2 only. (for now at least)

As to the original question; Even if your camera supports TTL control, manual strobe control may provide better exposure if done properly. For most macro work, TTL works as well as manually adjusting your strobes for every shot. When you go wider, or anything with a blue water background, TTL isn't that accurate.

With consumer digitals, I always wonder how one can possibly use existing guide numbers to determine strobe output. F/stops just aren't comparable. Manual trial and error I guess. That is what I did. I would have rather had a less than perfectly accurate TTL and my finger over the EV button rather than try to adjust strobe power by having to reach up and turn a dial every time. Just my $.02
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#13 james

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 11:59 AM

Eric Cheng got a chance to shoot E-TTL with a housed Canon land flash. Let's see what he thinks. I'm sure it's not as powerful, but probably sufficient for macro.

Has anyone here ever housed a land flash like the SB28DX or the SB80DX (new) before? That might be an alternate for D100 shooters. What's the guide number for the SB80DX?

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#14 wetpixel

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 12:10 PM

Actually, I was really happy with that flash combo, but at that point, we didn't have access to flash-exposure lock in the housing, so it was sort of a pain for housed cameras (most off-center things became overexposed unless you changed the focus point).

Great for macro, though. Perfect exposures.

Let's hope Ike or the Sea & Sea guys reverse engineer E-TTL. Unfortunately, I hear Nikon's D-TTL is much easier than Canon's E-TTL. :blink:
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#15 Kasey

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 12:37 PM

[quote][quote]2) TTL on digital cameras is inferior to film TTL, so if you were unsatisfied with film TTL, you will be dissapointed with digital TTL[/quote]

Depends on the camera. Fuji S2 functions the same way as TTL.

[quote]Much more so. If you shot manual film, you will definitely shoot manual digital for 2 reasons. 1) Digital doesn't offer as much lattitude - so you will need to judge your exposures and re-take when possible.[/quote]
[quote]I believe that this is true for color depth, but not so much for exposure. A considerable amount of latitude is available in post-processing of the image (Photoshop is awesome!), and if you are shooting slide film, it isn't going to be very forgiving, either.[/quote]

I agree with Kasey. Consumer digicams do not provide the dynamic range of film and tend to be very light sensitive. It is very easy to overexpose with far less light, partly because of the larger apertures being used.

[quote]TTL underwater is moot for all dSLR users who aren't using the S2 Pro, anyway[/quote]

Not so. The Nikon Coolpix 995 and 5000 utilize their own version of TTL.

[quote]I know this is the case with any hardwired strobes, but shouldn't the Ikelite wireless TTL sensor and the built-in flash on some of the dSLRs provide TTL, at least in theory?[/quote]

S2 only. (for now at least)

As to the original question; Even if your camera supports TTL control, manual strobe control may provide better exposure if done properly. For most macro work, TTL works as well as manually adjusting your strobes for every shot. When you go wider, or anything with a blue water background, TTL isn't that accurate.

With consumer digitals, I always wonder how one can possibly use existing guide numbers to determine strobe output. F/stops just aren't comparable. Manual trial and error I guess. That is what I did. I would have rather had a less than perfectly accurate TTL and my finger over the EV button rather than try to adjust strobe power by having to reach up and turn a dial every time. Just my $.02[/quote]
[QUOTE]With consumer digitals, I always wonder how one can possibly use existing guide numbers to determine strobe output. F/stops just aren't comparable. Manual trial and error I guess.

I've wondered about that as well. I've found that with my diffusers on, I can follow the guide numbers as if it is off. Since the strobe control on my Titan is on the handles, it is actually easy to adjust strobe power and re-shoot. Adjusting the EV control on another system seems like a good alternative, but so many posts on this forum complained that cameras can over-expose even with the most negative compensation. Then what?
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#16 james

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 12:56 PM

Yeah, I remember that problem Kasey - that was with my coolpix 990. It would overexpose unless you had your strobe backed WAY out and the camera at -2.0 stops of EV.

Not so w/ all digitals though.

Because the larger sensors on DSLR's have more dynamic range, they don't get "blown out" as easily as a consumer camera so overexposure is not a problem.

Actually, from my experience I had VERY LITTLE problem w/ overexposure - my shots tended to actually be underexposed.

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#17 Harald

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 04:02 PM

I had a 990 with a Hartenberger flash, worked like a charm on TTL in Macro.
Did good on wider angle's, except for in pool shots and sandy pathces because of reflection.
True TTL though !

Harald van Buel