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.
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.
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?