Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) allows a photographer to control remote flashes wirelessly via infra-red signals. CLS also allows the photographer to centrally control the settings of each group of flashes from the commander.
The following are cameras that have the built-in commander - D70/s, D80, D90, D200, D300, D700. The D50, D40/x and D60 does not have the commander mode built into the camera. Nikon flashes SB-800 and SB-900 also have the commander built into the flash. Oh... the pro range of Nikons (e.g. D3, D3x) also do not have a built-in commander because it does not have a pop-up flash to send the pre-flash signals. In anycase, if you can afford the pro range of cameras, what's a SU-800 to you? The SU-800 is a device that is built specifically to be the commander.
For a camera with the built-in commander mode, it is via the pop-up flash that the infra-red signals are sent to the remote flashes. However, the pre-flash that sends out these signals are often captured as a light source, and Nikon made the SG-3IR to block the light but still allow the IR communication to happen.
There are some pros and cons to the CLS.
- Once you have the commander (esp. for those in-built with the camera), you can control your CLS flashes remotely.
- You do not need to buy additional devices to remotely trigger your CLS flashes.
- You are able to use TTL with remote CLS flashes.
- Line of sight between the commander and the remote CLS flashes is necessary.
- In outdoors environment, esp. under strong lighting, the communication between the commander and the remote flashes would be compromised.
The current line up of CLS enabled flashes are: SB-600, SB-800, SB900.
If you are able to get your hands on the DVD "Nikon School: A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting"... watch it! It features Joe McNally and Bob Krist teaching about lighting and also on how to use the Nikon CLS. The 2nd part of the DVD takes you to watch Joe McNally live in action on location shoots.
You can watch a trailer of this DVD here.