************UPDATE, September 17th 2013***************

The CLS problem has been solved. On some early D800 cameras a circuit board which controls the popup flash must be replaced. That is what Nikon did with my camera. Read the full story here and a summary here. With some D800 bodies the replaced circuit board solved the problem, with my D800 body it only solved the problem partially. CLS in manual mode only works when the aperture is fully open. The Nikon technician told me that this will be fixed with another firmware update in late 2013.

For the hassle (I sent in the camera twice and was in contact with Nikon for over a year) they compensated me with a free SB-910 (no kidding !). Now that’s perfect customer care !


Today I played around with the D800 again and gave it a test run in the studio. I encountered problems triggering the flashes via CLS reliably (read below the dashed line if you do not know what CLS is). Here is a video to illustrate the problem.


For any non-Nikonians: CLS stands for Creative Lighting System. It is a protocol which allows the wireless control of flash units. The internal camera flash (or a flash mounted on the camera) acts as so-called Master flash and “morses” light signals to all other flashes, the so-called Slave flashes. After this the flashes fire with the strength the master flash indicates. If flashes were humans, it would work like this:

Master: “Hey Slaves, listen up. We are going to fire now. Flashes assigned to group A: Upon the signal you will give a burst with 1/10th strength. Flashes assigned to group B: You will fire with 1/20th. The signal is 1-2-3-fire, understood ?”
Slaves: “Ok master, waiting for your signal !”
Master: “1,2,3-FIRE !”

And off they go. This happens within fractions of a second and is usually not noticed by the photographer.