Nissin Di700A and Air 1 Commander: Master and Commander

Nissin Di700A and Air 1 Commander

Nissin Di700A and Air 1 Commander

The Nissin Di700A
and Air 1 Commander looks like the future for wireless flash photography. Aditya Nair finds out.

Flash photography fascinates me as much as, and sometimes even more than, natural light photography. A photographer who understands and can manipulate available light with the use of a flash will always have an edge over those who can’t. And as far as creative tools go, the Nissin Di700A and Air 1 Commander make up one of the most fun flash systems out there today.

The Di700A has a Guide No of 54 (200mm at ISO100), which is slightly less than the more expensive proprietary flagships from camera manufacturers—Nikon SB900 AF Speedlight and Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT. However, with flash units at its only price point, it more than competes. It has a focal length coverage of 24– 200mm with a in-built diffusing panel for when shooting at 16mm. Here is something peculiar though, if you are using the flash on the camera, with a lens that is under 100mm, you can only zoom the flash head to 105mm, using the camera menu system. There is no way to override this, when the flash is mounted on the camera. However, using the Nissin Air 1 Commander on the camera with he flash off camera, you can manually zoom across the range. Flash output can be controlled using Auto, TTL, Manual and includes firsttest curtain, rear-curtain and high-speed sync options to fire the flash at 1/8000sec. There is also the Digital Slave mode in which the Di700A ignores the preflash emitted by the built-in flash.

With the help of the Air 1 Commander, I had the flashgun in one hand and the camera in the other. I was able to position the flashgun, such that I didn’t get too much of a reflection off the varnished doors. Exposure: 1/150sec at f/4 (ISO 500)  Photograph/Aditya Nair

With the help of the Air 1 Commander, I had the flashgun in one hand and the camera in the other. I was able to position the flashgun, such that I didn’t get too much of a reflection off the varnished doors. Exposure: 1/150sec at f/4 (ISO 500)
Photograph/Aditya Nair

The Nissin Air System (NAS), found in the Air 1 Commander, uses a 2.4GHz radio transmission, which the company claims makes it less susceptible to angle and obstacle limitations as it does not require line-of-sight transmission. Simply put, I could keep the flashgun in different room and trigger it! Now, this depends on the number of obstacles between the commander and the flashgun, but in a roomful of people, there wasn’t much trouble triggering the Di700A. Without obstacles and awkward angles, the flashgun can be triggered to a distance of around 100ft (30m). The Air 1 Commander lets you fire a total of 21 flashguns in up to three groups (seven each). You can control limited settings in each group independently. But you cannot change settings for individual flashguns within each group.

The Di700A uses four AA batteries while the Air 1 uses two AAA batteries. When I was loading batteries into the Di700A, it reminded me of a cartridge being loaded in to a pistol. There are colourful LED panels on both the Di700A and the Air 1 Commander that show you the different settings. The panels themselves are very easy to learn and are designed for one handed operations. Although, for some reason, when you set the flash at 0Ev, no light shows up. This confused me initially, because I was left wondering whether the settings change had registered or not. It is quite a bulky flashgun, and the shooting experience tends to be quite unbalanced it is used with a light camera with a small lens. This is also true for other flashguns of this nature. There is a PC Sync and 3.5mm Socket for studio setups. The Di700A has an in-built diffuser but doesn’t come with any coloured gels. The flash head rotates horizontally 270°, tilts up to 90° and downwards by 7° for the benefit of macro photographers. The Air 1 Commander isn’t compatible with older Nissin flashguns. However, Nissin will be releasing a receiver unit soon.

The Di700A has an AF assist beam to help with focusing in low light that is effective to about 6m. Interestingly, the Air 1 Commander has an AF assist light as well. With the four 2000mAh batteries, I was able to get about 200 shots out of the flashgun. When firing at full power, it would take about 2-3sec to recycle. The temperature of the light is 5600K. The exposure compensation is limited to +/- 2Ev at half-stop intervals.

While the Di700A is a great flashgun in itself, the inclusion of the Air 1 commander at a USD 299 (approx. Rs. 19,500) price makes this an unbeatable system. It is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras. Here’s your reason to buy it: it’s effective, inexpensive, and has creative potential that goes beyond the norm with regular flashguns.

Radio frequency transmission, high-speed flash sync, Manual, Auto and TTL modes
Good colour balance, fast recycling time
Build Quality
Metal shoe, feels sturdy, versatile tilting angles
All control can be done by easy to use dials, LED panels are a nice touch
Warranty & Support
One service centre               
MRP Rs. 19,500
Who should buy it? First time users to pros, this flashgun can be easily used by anyone looking to add flash photography to their repertoire.
Why? It is a fantastic combination of innovative technology, good design, great features while being inexpensive.
Tags: flash, Flash photography, July 2015, Nissin Di700A, Air 1 Commander, Aditya, how to use flash