Nikon D750 and flash xsync speed

To D750 or not? That is is the question.

I think I am by far not the only one that has been wondering for quite some time whether to buy a D750 or not. For me, looks like an excellent package, I have however a couple of issues with it. I am sure that these are also in common with many others:

  1. 1/200 x-sync speed…
  2. 1/4000 max shutter
  3. To a lesser extent: flipping screen is both good and bad

But the main thing is that crippled shutter Nikon decided to serve us with a $2000 otherwise beautiful package. So I bit the bullet and preferred to buy a brand new D750 rather than a used D800 although I think this is still an option for the future.

What I noticed first about the camera is that it is too light, at least for my hands. I’d rather have some more weight in my hands than this. But I will skip the D750 review for others and jump to the subject matter: x-sync speed.

X-sync speed of 1/250: how bad is it?

So this is my number one concern with this camera. With the 1/4000 shutter speed you can do something simple, which is go to lower ISOs than 100. That works fine. I don’t shoot sports or fast moving projectiles and if I did I still have my trustworthy D7000. So no problem here. But what to do with the flash sync?

Why would you need a flash sync of 1/250 or higher?

Strobist says the most important drawback of 1/250 compared to 1/200 is the ability to balance flash in bright ambient. When shooting outdoors this is clearly a deficit, as it forces brighter backgrounds. I admit that for me that’s not the biggest problem as I can do the job with HSS, this makes flashes less efficient but I don’t shoot anything that far and with new cheap portable barebulbs, I will probably not care at all. Another cited reason is that it practically forces you to use a different aperture than what you would like. 1/3d of a stop is not the worst that can happen.

For me the problem is mainly that 1/200 is a limiting speed if you want to shoot people that move in the studio with studio lights. It is marginal with the 70-200 on 35mm and what’s worse, this is the upper limit. Which means technically, you might not be able to sync at 1/200 but need to go down to 1/160 which is too low.

So I tried different combinations of flashes, triggers, powers, to see what would be the operational envelope of this camera.

The results

In the studio I quickly noticed some shadows at 1/200. I am using Elinchrom DLite4 flashes. So I put together some tests and here are the results:

Elinchrom DLite4

First I tried with a single flash, at full power, flashing on a white background. I used the EL-Skyport normal mode. At 1/200 there is just a tiny bit of shutter shadow at the bottom of the frame but negligible. 1/250 is useless.

Elinchrom Dlite4 Full power El-Skyport Normal
1/160 1/200 1/250 1/320

Then I tried with  the Speed mode of EL-Skyport. 1/200 is clean and even 1/250 is not so bad. Portraits on a black background are possible. Of course this is not a good solution but it might work. I did the same tests with external Skyport receivers and YongNuo triggers with the same results.

Elinchrom Dlite4 Full power El-Skyport Speed
1/160 1/200 1/250 1/320

The surprise came from the “old” alternatives. At 1/250 the Dlite4 as optical slave can sync almost perfectly. Even with a PC cord it is not that bad.

Elinchrom Dlite4 Full power
1/200 Optical slave 1/250 Optical slave 1/250 PC sync

At minimum power, the results are not as good. One must use the flashes at 1/200 with EL-Skyport Speed or optical…

Elinchrom Dlite4 Min power
Normal Speed Optical PC sync

For comparison, you can see some shots with an SB-28 and an SB-700. The SB-700 as optical slave is perfectly usable at 1/250, slightly worse for the SB-28 with a PC cord.

SB-28 Full power
1/250 PC sync 1/250 EL-Skyport
1/250 Optical slave


So, after all, can we use D750 at 1/250? Short answer is, at mid-full power using optical triggering this is possible. At lower power this is not possible and better opt for the 1/200. I wonder if Nikon will give us a break and allow the use of the electronic shutter with these cameras…

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