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Re: Shadow on image when using built-in Speedlight
The built-in Speedlight on many Nikon cameras is designed to be a convenient way to either light up a dark subject or to add fill light to a daytime scene. The built-in Speedlight cannot replace a full size, external speedlight which should be used when more power or coverage are needed.
Because the built-in Speedlight is compact and close to the camera it cannot be used under all conditions. When using a lens that is physically very long, a subject that is very close, or a wide lens hood it is possible that a shadow may be cast upon the subject. Notice, in the sample below, the round shadow in the bottom center of the photo.
When the lens is too long or the coverage is too wide with a close subject a shadow of the lens itself is cast. In figure "A" below the lens is casting a shadow. Switching (or zooming) to a shorter lens (figure "B") prevents the shadow and allows even illumination.
If your lens, subject, or lens hood choice create a shadow, an external flash (either on the camera's hot-shoe or connected to the camera by a wire or wirelessly) should be used to fully light the subject.
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This is more than likely a shadow from your lens. The on-camera flash is in a fairly low position, and I am able to duplicate your description when using my D200 on-camera flash and a physically longer lens- in my case a 28-70 F2.8 lens. Using a hot-shoe mounted flash will clear this issue up completely and give you more control options as well. Worth the money that one costs, in my opinion.
I have the same camera and have had the lens cover get stuck and it will leave the dark shadow in the pictures like you describe. It doesn't always happen, but when it does I just gently push the lens cover all the way open with my finger.
Look carefully at your images taken with flash... on the horizontal image is the lower part of the image slighty darker and have a rounded fall off at the edges? Is the vertical image dark side a straight hard line or is there a rounding to the top and bottom?
What we are looking at is if you have a very wide angle lens with the lens shade attached to the lens, then the built-in flash catches part of the lens shade and make a shadow on your subject... take the lens shade off and try the same shot and see if that makes a difference...
The camera has a main mirror that you see with the lens off and a sub-mirror underneath the main one. It may be the sub-mirror is not flipping up completely when you take a picture. It could be off its hinges or damaged. Any good camera repairman in your area should be able to confirm this
Shadows, especially circular shadows, are pretty common with the pop-up flash. What you are seeing is actually the shadow cast by the end of the lens. This happens especially on wider angle shots.
The solution is to find a way to get the lens out of the way of the flash. You can get an external flash, like a 430ex or 580ex, which elevates the flash far above the lens. That is an expensive option so first you might try making a diffuser for your pop up flash, which softens the source of light and helps eliminate some shadows:
As is common in many compact digital cameras where the built-in flash is very close to the lens strange reflections can appear in images under certain conditions.
Particulate matter in the air in front of the lens (between the camera and subject) such as water vapor (as in a cloudy day), smoke, dust or other items can reflect light directly into the lens causing neutral colored white/grey semi-transparent spots to appear in the image.
In extreme examples there may be many of these spots in an image or there may be only one per image. Also, since these spots are completely random they will move or disappear from image to image. For example, if two images are shot consecutively with the same camera settings one image may have spots while the other is clean.
To avoid these spots:
When possible, avoid photographing in smoky, dust, or cloudy areas
Do not use the camera's flash in locations such as above
Use an external Speedlight flash if a flash is needed
Review images on the camera and re-shoot if spots are visible
Cleaning the lens will not have an effect on these spots, as the particles that cause this are not on the lens itself.