Nikon Has Officially Dropped 'Master' and 'Slave' Terms

Nikon Has Officially Dropped 'Master' and 'Slave' Terms

After news came last week from Canon that it's officially dropped the terms "master" and "slave," so too has Nikon. In fact, if you thought Canon was ahead of the curve by dropping the terms three years ago, you're going to be shocked to find out when Nikon dropped them.

For a long period of photographic history, the terms "master" and "slave" were used in cameras and flashguns to denote which device was the controller and which was the responder. For example, a master flashgun may be in control of triggering multiple slave flashes so that they all illuminate simultaneously, thus reducing the need for multiple, complex wireless triggering systems. But since the global Black Lives Matter movement with large-scale protests earlier this year, terms deemed racially derogative have been dropping from the lexicon of some big camera companies.

Nikon speedlight sb-500 flashgun

Flashguns have been the most commonly used devices to feature the terms due to their wireless control of other flashgun devices

I spoke last week with Canon, who informed me they'd dropped the terms back in 2017, with only legacy kit continuing to hold the terms due to the fixed hardware limitations. However, this week I spoke with Nikon who assured me that not only have they dropped the terms "master" and "slave," but they did so back in the early 2000s, nearly two decades before Canon. Here's Nikon Corporation's official statement on the drop:

These terms were removed from Nikon products in the early 2000s — in the context of the negativity around their connotations. We no longer feature these terms in/on products.

Nikon speedlight sb-5000 flashgun

The Nikon Speedlight SB-5000 flashgun user manual still features the terms, but only where referencing a now discontinued device by name

A quick look through recent Nikon manuals, and you'll quickly be scratching your head. That's because some relatively recent manuals still feature the terms, as is the case for the popular Nikon Speedlight SB-5000 flashgun. So, after further investigation and discussion with a Nikon Europe Spokesperson, I found out why:

For the flashlight like SB-5000, it is true that there is [the] term 'slave' [is] in the manual because it mentions the end-of-life product called 'Wireless Slave Controller SU-4.' Nikon Corporation believes this is the only part where Nikon mentions the term slave... It is already an end-of-life product and we are not using the term 'slave' in the current products. Nikon removed the conventional electronics and technological terminology of 'slave' from our products in the early 2000s in consideration to the term’s negative context. All current products refer to the function as 'Remote.'

So, this explains the occasional mention of the terms in newer manuals. Similar to Canon's reasoning, they only refer to the terms if it's a product name and they specifically discuss the device or if it's an end-of-life product, i.e. a discontinued item.

Overall, Nikon seems to be the first camera company that I'm aware of to drop the terms "master" and "slave" in their photographic lexicon due to the negative connotations associated with the racial terms. Time will tell whether this is an industry-wide trend, but the two biggest names in the photography world dropping the terms surely sets a precedent for the rest of the industry, doesn't it?

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VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

My grandmother's grandmother was a black slave here in Brazil.

Why do you care? Do I have to pass your purity race tribunal to be considered something? I am Brazilian and couldn't care less about race. I'm a human being. No other distinction needed.

Dale Karnegie's picture

I care because you tried to use your heritage to give weight to your argument, mr. "i am an actual descendant of a slave." fwiw, your hypocritical outrage over the question made me laugh. thanks for making me smile, chuckles

VINICIUS YUZO ZUCARELI's picture

I was just pointing that you're the hypocritical racists that only see skin color. You can't look under to see the human. But you do you.

Dale Karnegie's picture

you: "I descend from a slave"
me: "what's your heritage?"
you: "you are a racist for asking!"
me: ...

this conversation has only taught me one thing: the internet is full of people who think they are smarter than they really are

STEVE SLATE's picture

when they eventually drop the term “negative” from the film developing process because it’s too negative, Will that eliminate all the labs that still process film?

anthony marsh's picture

It may well eliminate black and white film,replaced by black and neutral.

regan albertson's picture

So I guess the terms master/slave in relation to controller/actor are only currently associated with products from communist oops, I mean progressive China?

Mr. T's picture

Sigh!

Some of the comments here seem a bit ill thought out.

As much as I know, all the uses of the word “slave” are derived from the meaning of keeping people as property whereas the word “master” is actually derived from Latin originally meaning ”chief”, ”teacher”, ”leader”, which has, over the years, morphed into the current meanings where “owner of people” is only one.

The implication is that “slave” has always had an inherently negative connotation at any time (please refrain from asinine comments like “oh, but it is not negative to me”, “not to the master”, and any BDSM references — if you like the word, use it freely …when you are alone or in like-minded company; and if you like to be a slave, fine with me, that is just not the subject of nor relevant to this discussion) and all references to slave are somehow derived from the fact that it basically means a human being being owned as property by other human beings.

The lowdown: “Master key”, “master bedroom”, “Master's degree”, … are all OK whereas “slave”, unless used as a factual reference to someone held in slavery, is not really OK. There is a huge emotional difference, just as there for many years has been with the word “negro” and its very derogatory derivatives.

And why on earth people try to bring “black” and “white” into this discussion is pretty much beyond me. Those words in photography are clearly used in an entirely factual context of their original meaning, the “colour”.

The world is changing, be brave and change with it.

The reeds that bend survive the storm.

Carel van Huyssteen's picture

Why should the silent majority (who by the way are not slave owners) change language because of a very vocal minority? These are just words, slavery ended hundreds of years ago, well in the USA at least (there are still people who own and trade slaves in Africa). These words are descriptive and users can understand it, if the company wants to change it, good, if they don't want to change it, it makes no difference to anyone. If terms like master and slave offend you, you should really look deep withing yourself and look why you are so offended, because really there is nothing to be offended about.

History is history, move on.....

Mr. T's picture

I am actually not offended by the terms and refrain from using them as a show of respect towards people, who have had a heartbreakingly hard time, and as an acknowledgement that slavery (which, despite officially being outlawed, has not ended yet, really) was cruel and that much of the wealth we have today is built on the shoulders of slaves.

There is an English saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This is often used to teach children that (rationally) they should not be concerned about words and bullying — but it misses one major point completely, namely that people are not rational.

Words can and do hurt.

You say “Why should the silent majority (who by the way are not slave owners) change language because of a very vocal minority?” This, to me, is a bit like the English saying above expressing the sentiment that words cannot hurt and by inference that verbal bullying is really not bad, even if it is unintentional.

I very much struggle to see why this is so important to so many people that they cannot and will not show respect to the people that have suffered when changing the description used is really just a matter of changing a habit.

Are people not changing because they are stubborn? ‘I have always said “master/slave”, so what's wrong with that?’ Or is it because they feel they are on the moral high ground? …?

Scott Wardwell's picture

Spoken like an accomplished "greivance-monger".
We may not accept your premise and aren't convinced that you are smarter than we are which would lead to us abrogating our own identities which would turn us into your slaves in other areas.
As a free thinking person, I will use the words I think that will get my point across.
But in the meantime I will not submit to the intersectionalists linquistic tryanny. Most certainly not because of one penned on F-Stoppers.

Mr. T's picture

Interesting.

You say “But in the meantime I will not submit to the intersectionalists linquistic tryanny.”

Does this also imply that you are not giving in to the linguistic tyrrany of saying “please” and “thank you” either?

I do not demand of you to “abrogate your identity” nor to succumb to the “tyranny” of not using the unnecessary term “master/slave” in relation to technology, but I fail to see what hurt it would do you to show the respect — as a choice!

And I also fail to see where the attributed "greivance-mongering" comes in, which probably goes to show that I am in fact not smarter than you — not that I tried to claim it in the first place.

To me this whole debacle is not about forcing an attitude upon other people but rather about arguing for showing respect for other people — a sentiment that seems to divide people no end.

Scott Wardwell's picture

Obviously my remarks are too nuanced for you.

Mr. T's picture

Since that may be the problem, could you please elucidate?

William Faucher's picture

They can just use the terms we use in VFX/CGI: Parent and Child. It is simple, easy to remember, and makes sense to everyone.

Tom Lew's picture

Yo this is pretty good honestly. Parent and child 100% makes sense. And when the remotes don't fire you can just say they're bad kids too haha

Kirk Darling's picture

"Parent" and "Child" have been used. I'm not sure why they weren't use more often.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Then would we assume that the "child" speedlight only fires when it wants to, or when it is bribed with chocolate...? :)

William Faucher's picture

Or if it didn't fire, it's because it decided to get in a sketchy van with a stranger!

Tom Lew's picture

I mean... not gonna lie the first time I heard master/slave in regards to lighting it felt a little weird. Sure I'm used to it now but there's no reason not to just call them master and receiver or the one dude in the comments who said parent/child. Why are people so tilted about change? For everybody saying why change it, well why not? Seems innocuous, no?

Pradipto WP's picture

In my country, the terms master and slave rarely used. Normaly only used in the history class at the school. For normal people, they know the terms transmitter and receiver straight away. Even my girl friend (non techie) understand when i say "this is a transmitter and that is a receiver" refering to a Godox X1T and X1R. But when i say "this is master and that is the slave", people will always be like "what???". Because it sounds funny to the ears.

Scott Wardwell's picture

It is obvious that the only thing most people have "Mastered" is letting the activists lead them around by their nose piercings and shame them into silly destructive concessions. Who are the new slaves now?

Scott Wardwell's picture

Maybe we should do away with "fire the strobe"? Sounds like an assault weapon, don't you think?
No thanks. I will keep referring to the mechanical relationship between my camera and my strobes as "master/slave", just like the master cylinder / slave cylinder configuration on my car's brake system.
Words have meanings other than what you allege they have. That is one of the beauties of a spoken language. If you don't like that; have a lobotomy, stop communicating verbally and devolve back into grunts and wild hand gestures to get your point across.

al bagden's picture

I never made the association before!

Mike Ditz's picture

Since slavery has existed for a very long time, much longer than cars with master cylinders and slaved flashes I wonder what the etymology is regarding mechanical use of the words slave and master.

Jason Parnell-Brookes's picture

Interesting point. The BBC explains it like this: "The term slave has its origins in the word slav. The slavs, who inhabited a large part of Eastern Europe, were taken as slaves by the Muslims of Spain during the ninth century AD. Slavery can broadly be described as the ownership, buying and selling of human beings for the purpose of forced and unpaid labour."
https://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/9chapte....

Mike Ditz's picture

The Romans had slaves long before the 9th century. The Bible has a lot to say about slavery. But maybe they used a different word until the 9th century ...What were slaves called before the 9th century?
When I was a kid my dad was working on a car and mentioned something the master and slave, as a 5th grader I was learning bout the US Civil War, I said like slaves in the south and he said I guess so because one tells the other what to do.

https://www.rbth.com/arts/history/2017/07/17/myths-of-russian-history-do...

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