Thursday, 9 December 2010

Nikon Speedlight Sb-900 flash review (and everything you will need to know)

Here is Nikons Blurb and My thoughts (in red)

Key features (after the break)

•Extended zoom range of 17-200mm (very handy)

•Improved booster circuit for high-speed recycling time (but has an over heat issue now boo!)

•New AF-Assist illumination covers 20-105mm focal range (very nice)

•Built-in thermal sensor to prevent overheating (never had a flash die yet from over heating but the sb900 dies stops after about 20 full power shots)

•Colour-temperature control via colour filter auto-detection (tiny bit useful but bearly ever used it)

•World's first flash unit firmware update function from the camera (great a flash that can crash!)

Now for some confusing power terms!
Guide number (20°C/68°F)

34m/111.5ft (ISO 100, m/ft), 48m/157.5ft (ISO 200, m/ft) (nikon d300 or d700 all have a base iso of 200 so work with the iso200 reading,  (but it is definitly not as powerful as the Canon 580ex2)

The older version the sb-800 has a power/guide number of 38m/125ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F) and to confuse things with the zoom ability of the flash head that some how increases the guide number to 53m/174ft. (at ISO 100 and 105mm zoom-head position, 20°C/68°F)

But more powerful than the new sb-700
m/92ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 39m/128ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

here is a better website giving a more understandable idea of the power

To put it simply
sb900 =34  sb800 = 30 (so at the most a tiny 1/8th increase in power)

Here is an idea of the power difference

and here is an older version

Flash mode

TTL, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL auto flash, Distance-priority manual flash, Manual flash, Repeating flash

Other functions

Test firing, monitor pre-flashes, AF-assist illuminator, and Modeling illuminator

Multiple flash operation

Advanced Wireless Lighting, SU-4 type wireless multiple flash

Loads of videos on this

And here is the details about the recycle times regarding which batteries you use
Alkaline-manganese (1.5V) 4.0 sec. 110/4.0-30 sec.

Lithium (1.5V) 4.5 sec. 230/4.5-120 sec.

Oxyride (1.5V) 3.0 sec. 125/3.0-30 sec.

Ni-MH (2600 mAh) (rechargeable) (1.2V) 2.3 sec. 190/2.3-30 sec

and the updated version

Now there is an over heating issue that everyone should be made aware off and here is an explanation

Now another interesting use of the speedlights is the speed of the flash
Look at the flash duration (remember the more powerful the flash the longer the duration)
1/880 sec. at M 1/1 (full) output

1/1100 sec. at M 1/2 output

1/2550 sec. at M 1/4 output

1/5000 sec. at M 1/8 output

1/10000 sec. at M 1/16 output

1/20000 sec. at M 1/32 output

1/35700 sec. at M 1/64 output

1/38500 sec. at M 1/128 output

Now check out this amazing website for tips on using the nikon speed lights and how their speed is more advantageous than big powerful studio lights

It also has an FP mode where it can shoot faster than its normal sync speed usually 1/250th of a second and here is a video showing how much that sucks out of the power output


  1. Wotcher Dom.

    I could probably (induce a serious migraine and) look this up in the SB-900 manual myself, but I'm hoping you'll know the answer off-pat: when using the flash remotely, I haven't been able to figure out how to access flash compensation. The on-camera setting only seem to have an effect on the camera's in-built camera, and the compensation controls that you normally get when the flash is mounted on the camera aren't available when it's off the camera. Any thoughts?

  2. Gah. *blush* Ahem.

    I was wrong: the in-camera flash compensation (when you're using the SB-900 remotely and the built in as command) does actually take care of upping or downing flash compensation.

    On the D90, go to custom setting e2 set to commander mode, and tweak it up or down 3evs to your hearts content. Sorted.