Photography For Real Estate

Tips and techniques for real estate photography

The Importance of Flash Sync Speed

Posted by larrylohrman on August 26, 2006

Marc Lacoste’s comment on my last post refers indirectly to a very significant article on for real estate photographers. The article explains several reasons photographers should care about flash sync speed. The most important reason for real estate photographers is flash range. As Ken’s excellent article explains, faster sync speed means longer flash range. The point of Marc’s comment is that the older Nikon DSLRs (D50 & D70) have a flash sync speed of 1/500 and above… good for real estate photography!


8 Responses to “The Importance of Flash Sync Speed”

  1. I’m planning to buy a camera outfit and I’m going back and forth between D50, D70 & now D80. I just read the article. Should I nix the D80 from consideration because of the reduced flash sync speed? Thanks.

  2. On the other hand 🙂 this caught my eye from’s review of the D80,

    “Being a D200 at heart also likely means warmer color rendition than the earlier cameras like the D70, D1X, etc. When I got my D200 I got rid of the glass 81A warming filters I used all the time.”

    So perhaps the tradeoff is better flash range versus warmer color rendition.

    Thanks for your help.

  3. John,
    I highlighted this point because Marc Lacoste raised it in a previous comment.

    However, I am a Canon shooter (limited to 1/250)and have never enountered any difficulties being limited to 1/250th sync speed (most professional shooters have this limitation). If I were in your shoes, I doubt that I’d pass up some of the new features on the D80 for the higher sync speed. Marc might have another point of view.


  4. Disclaimer: I have added myself the reference in wikipedia. Feel free to do the same if you have other relevant sources.

    The only significant difference between the D70s and the D80 is the sensor: the D80 have 3872/3008 pixels = 29% more resolution (and so smaller pixels, and more difficult noise behavior), and trade this losing the CCD shutter permitting unlimited flash sync.

    High flash sync does not mean longer range, but less ambient light, and so it’s easier to fill a room with flash. You have four times the artificial light power with a 1/1000s sync than with a 1/250s, and then four times less units, or four times smaller units, or four times faster recycle, or four times longer battery life.

    The ‘warmer’ color isn’t the fruit of the sensor, but white balance adjustment. The automatic WB of the D200 seems pretty good, but it’s easy to set the proper one.

  5. OK, here is a visual explanation.

  6. better anchors closing

  7. Dave Johnson said

    Late to the party but found this thru a search for D80 + sync, ( it does tick me off that nearly all camera mfgs leave off a PC flash connection as a means of drawing thte ‘prosumer / pro’ line), and as a professional illustration shooter for 16 years or so thought I would leave a comment ( or two!)
    1. the above article referenced at is confusing and poorly written, filled with misused terminology and a smattering of irrelevent information. Only towards the end does the simple point of balancing shutter speed / aperture / flash output / film ( or sensor ) sensitivity (ISO) in relation to ambient light… it’s science, but not rocket science!
    2. With all that pontificated about flash output, battery life, range, et. al., you’re only talking about, roughly, a stop and a third from the D80 1/200th vs another camera’s 1/500th flash sync speed. Think about that for a moment…. and about the way you shoot, say, interiors.
    3. Everybody has a different way of seeing, and visualizes a different result ( you do visualize the result, right??) When I shoot interiors, it’s almost always a case of filling shadows, and basing the exposure on ambient values; or said another way, the existing light provides the main lightingl, and the flash merely fills the darker areas… thus a slow shutter speed ( often slow enough to demand a tripod or or steadying method) is required to record the ambient light. One mistake I often see is overlighting a set; the old saying that ‘less is more’ often holds water!
    4. On the flip side, I’m often called to shoot large groups in bright daylight, and thus am indeed put in the position of having to call upon studio strobes to produce a lot of fill light to open up shadows in faces .. or am I? The math says I have to pump out an equivilent sun eposure to bring up shadows to the same ambient ( in this case, full sun) exposue; but in practice, I only have to fill the shadows so that the viewer can ‘see’ into them, or discern detail. Indeed, producing a group shot with a 1:1 lighting ratio generally produces a horrific ( and unsellable) rendering! A better approach is to get your strobe output 2 to 3 stops under the ambient level – it produces a pleasing level of contrast that the eye expects to see, and that is mechanically reproducible.
    5. On a closing note, one camera, or lens or format or lighting technique will not be the best for all situations; compromises are to expected!
    6. OK so #5 was the last but really, people! Sharpen your CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS!!!

  8. Much more is needed than to fill shadows, the goal is not to supplement natural light but to see outside. The light difference between the outside and the inside is large, and you need fast shutter speed to use sufficient apertures and sensitivity to use battery-powered strobes, often diffused, robbing more power. 1/200 is usable, but doesn’t leave much headroom.

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