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Nikon Flash Models

by Gisle Hannemyr

This page is part of a series of articles about using flash on digital cameras. The complete set of segments in this series is:

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Nikon Dedicated Flash Models
  3. SB-600 vs. SB-900
  4. Review Site Link farm

1. Introduction

This note lists dedicated flash units for Nikon's CLS system that are made by Nikon.

Disclaimer: I have not tested all the units discussed in this note myself. The data have been copied from various sources, such as Nikon's web site, private communica­tions, manuals, discussion forums, and other sources. I've included it here “as is”. The information may not be complete or correct, and corrections are welcome.

For corrections, or if you want to share a review about one of these units, or just would like to comment, please user the blog (public) or the feedback form (private).

How to read the tables

If you are use GNs for doing comparisons, note that the guide number you'll find in most manufacturer's literature is for the zoom head at its maximum setting (e.g. f=105mm). This makes it difficult to make direct power comparisons with flash units from other manufacturers, who may list use another zoom setting as reference for GNs. I try to list the GN for three different settings of the zoom head (35mm, 50mm, and maximum), with a “centre weighted” illumination pattern.

The tabulated summaries only lists some of the features of each flash. If you want to know all the technical details and features, please see Nikon's specification sheets.

2. Nikon Dedicated Flash Models

ModelCoverageGN (ISO 100/meter)WLCostNotes
f=35mmf=50mmf=max
SU-800 - - - - m/-USD 250(1)
SB-R200- - - 10-/rUSD 160(2)
D90 bi 27mm 12- 12m/-- (3)
SB-400 27mm 21- 21-/-USD 110(4)
SB-600 14, 24-85mm 303640-/rUSD 220(5)
SB-800 14, 24-105mm384456m/r,sUSD 315(6)
SB-900 14, 17-200mm404658m/r,sUSD 450(7)

For more detailed specifications, see the Nikon website.

Notes:

  1. AWL Speedlight Commander SU-800. LCD. Infrared control of SB-R200, SB-600, SB-800, or SB-900.
  2. Macro flash. No LCD. AWL remote unit only. Cannot be attached to accessory shoe, but use a special mount around lens rim.
  3. D90 built-in pop-up flash. GN in i-TTL mode. As far as I know, the built-in flash on all current Nikon models have similar GN and coverage, but the built-in flash on Nikon's entry level bodies do not offer commander mode.
  4. No LCD. Tilt (4 steps), no swivel. No zoom. No AWL. Manual mode only available on D40/D40x/D60. All five contacts must be connected to a Nikon body to fire.
  5. GNs taken from p. 35 in the manual.
  6. Discontinued 2008. Also Non-TTL auto. PC socket. GNs taken from p. 42 in the manual.
  7. Also Non-TTL auto. DX/FX aware. Firmware can be updated. PC socket. GNs taken from p. F-18 in the manual, center-weighted illumination.

If you plan mixing Nikon Speedlights with third party flash using plain optical slave triggers, see notes on compatibility.

Usage notes

Nikon's older zoom head flashes SB-600 and SB-800 do not take the sensor size into account when zooming. This is not a problem with Nikon compact cameras because their interface seamlessly convert actual focal lengths to FX FOV – but it wastes power when the flash is used on a DX digital camera by zooming out too wide. The SB-900 is designed to be DX/FX-aware to compensate for this.

The SB-800 have a fifth battery option for those that want shorter recycle times. It is a hassle to install the holder for the fifth battery (see below), and my SB-800 works well enough with just 4 NiMH batteries. However, if you want to fit the holder for fifth battery on the SB-800, here's how:

  1. Open the cover as usual and then firmly continue the rotation past 90°. Do not twist the cover since you will induce stress fractures on the tiny plastic knobs that will break it off eventually.
  2. Fit the holder for the fifth battery in the place of the lid.

You use the same procedure to remove the holder and re-install the lid.

Review Links

3. SB-600 vs. SB-900

The AWL Speedlight Commander and macro units are clearly not mainstream units.

The SB-400 has no zoom or swivel, and does not support AWL. I think that this puts it into a class of its own, for those that want a lightweight no-frills shoe-mounted flash with i-TTL.

The SB-800 is discontinued.

This means that the two Nikon units most buyers consider is the SB-600 and the SB-900. The table below gives a detailed comparison between the two:

 SB-600SB-900
Coverage (FX)14, 24 - 85mm14, 17 - 200 mm
GN (ISO 100/m, f=35mm)3034
GN (ISO 100/m, f=50mm)3540
GN (ISO 100/m, f=max)4356
Movementstilt, swiveltilt, swivel
Tilt Angle0 to +90° -7 to + 90°
Weight w/o batteries300 g.415 g.
W x H x D68 x 123.5 x 90 mm78 x 146 x 118 mm
Battery life (1)220 flashes 190 flashes
Recycle time (1)2.5 sec.2.3 sec.
Trigger voltage3.0 volts3.5 volts
i-TTLyesyes
D-TTL & TTLyesno
Non-TTL autonoyes
Manual power ratio1/1 - 1/641/1 - 1/128
FOLCyesyes
FX/DX awarenoyes
Overheat protectionnoyes
Firmware update (2)noyes
Manual distance prioritynoyes
High Speed Sync (FP)yesyes
Manual stroboscopic (RPT)noyes
AWL master / remoteno / yesyes / yes
SU-4 master / slaveyes / noyes / yes
LCDyesyes
Modeling lightnoyes
Bounce cardnoyes
Coloured gel filtersnoyes
Diffuser domenoyes
TTL cord socket (3)nono
PC sync socketnoyes
External power socketnoyes
Tabletop standAS-19AS-21
Soft caseyesyes
Cost, Aug. 2009USD 220USD 450
  1. With 4 NiMH 2600 mAh batteries. The figures assume that every flash is a full discharge. Note that these figures does not mean that the SB-900 will give you fewer flashes than SB-600 during normal i-TTL operation. They simply reflects the fact that the SB-900 outputs more power at each full discharge.
  2. Firmware update via compatible cameras (e.g. Nikon D3, D3x and D700) is possible.
  3. Not compatible with CLS.

4. Review Site Link Farm


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