Canon MT24 flash on Nikon camera

A Canon MT-24 flash can be used in Manual mode on a Nikon camera. In fact I prefer it over the Nikon Macro flashes.

[Post carried over from my old site on 2013-11-09. Original post: June 2012]

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Macro photography is my thing. So naturally I got myself a Nikon SBR200 flash system a few years ago. However it has not been a happy relationship. On the positive side, when my SBR200 flashes worked they made beautiful light. But that’s the catch – when they worked.

  • The main thing that caused them to fail, is battery failure. Unlike most other flashes, these units require special, small batteries that are usually only available in the big cities of this country, and I have learned to keep a few pairs of these expensive batteries. I cannot tell you how many times even my backup sets failed with me in a rural area where I am kilometers away from any shop. Forget about trying to find those batteries in a small town, even if it has a photo dealer.
  • The second cause of failure on these flashes is blockage or disruption of the wireless signal between the camera and flashes. Nikon’s wireless TTL system is ingenious, but for flash work outdoors a wired or radio system beats their line-of-sight wireless system hands-down.  A wired system is 100% reliable, whilst the angle towards the sun, or one of my hands, or an extra flash diffuser got in the way and blocked the optical signal in the Nikon system just when I least expected it.
  • the Nikon SBR200 flashes are also a bit under-powered compared to the Canon MT-24 and the Olympus STF-22. So I find myself shooting it at full power most of the time, and recycle times are slow; causing misfires when I shoot too fast in succession.
  • Lastly the Nikon SBR200 flashes in some respects bear more resemblance to a toy rather than a professional tool.The way they clamp to the lens ring, the way the diffusers and filter holders clamp to the flashes are just too flimsy, almost toy-like; and a couple of times a diffuser, flash or filter panel and even the entire assembly came loose from the lens ring and fell off, especially when I was in a hurry and did not check each fitting properly. You have to be just too careful when you assemble these flashes, and I started loosing patience.

I eventually decided to investigate my alternatives.

  • Using the Nikon SC29 cable and a single SB-800 (or now SB910) flash. I found it 100% reliable, full TTL automatic flash is supported, the setup is rugged and visual results are very pleasing, but a single-flash solution. A second SB-800 will add considerable bulk for a monopod/hand-held shooting situation in the field.
  • Radio triggers. The new CLS compatible products from Pocketwizard and Radiopopper look attractive; It seems the SB-400 flashes can be shot in Manual and automatic modes if you use the Pocketwizard controller as well. The SB-400’s are smaller than the larger Nikon flashes, but adding triggers and their batteries to the total weight and you may perhaps just stay with  SB-800’s.
  • I finally found a used Canon MT-24EX. I taped up the Nikon hot shoe, leaving only the center contact open, and the flash left me in awe. Although you only get manual flash with such a combination, I did not mind, as I shot the Nikon flashes in Manual anyway.

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Taping up the flash hot shoe

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The benefits I found from this change are:

  • the flash has a slightly higher Guide number, so recycle times are shorter, and that’s a benefit for stacking and for continuous-mode shooting.

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First of two consecutive shots on Continuous High with a Nikon D200 (i.e. about 5 fps).  Hand-held.

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Second of two consecutive shots on Continuous High with a Nikon D200 (i.e. about 5 fps).  Hand-held.

  • the flash uses four penlight batteries, which are much more readily available. In an emergency, even remote towns will have some penlight batteries in a store; or if there’s a crisis, I can recover batteries from my Nikon SB800.
  • the flashes are controlled from the controller by cables, so there’s no issues with line-of sight or the sun overpowering the infrared signal.
  • the flash mounting rings as well as the lens assembly are much smaller, making for a compact, sturdy package. To fit the Canon flash on Nikon lenses, some step-up rings may be required. I used 62-67 rings.
  • Build quality of the MT24 is superb. Compared to the Nikon version, this kit has a sturdiness, and a smoothness of operation that puts the Nikon version to shame, especially if work in a rugged terrain is required.

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This spider was photographed at about 3x Magnification: MT24 is a bit harsh used without diffusion, but the Canon flash was used on 1/32 power – leaving plenty of power for light modifiers. LED focusing lights made focusing very easy. There are several Canon forums with ideas for nice diffusers.

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Although this example was better diffused than the previous one, due to the Nikon close-up diffusers on their macro flashes, these flashes had to be fired at full power, and the image was still slightly under-exposed, giving me long recycle times and some post-processing work to recover the image.  60mm Micro + PN11 + Kenko 36mm tubes. The Nikon LED focus lights illuminated behind the subject, making focusing very difficult (subject was very close to lens).

Results?

In the studio I could not find much difference in the final illumination. The Canon flash heads are closer to the lens so at higher magnifications the Nikon flashes require the close-up diffusers to fill in from the front, but the light loss is then significant. The higher power, fast recycle time, rugged build and cabled solution means I can relax on the technical issues and put my mind again on the subject. If I need TTL, I use a SB800 and/or SB910.  I sold the SBR200 about six months later. The example images show the Canon light still without diffuser. A SB 800 was mounted to the left.

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Posted in Nikon hacks