Saturday, May 26, 2007

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight

I have been looking around to make my setup more complete and so I had been considering Speedlights or flash strobes. With my D200, there are only 2 options for me, Nikon SB-600 and Nikon SB-800. But of course, there is the very basic SB-400 which is too simple for my consideration. Actually, there are older models of speedlights that can be fired from my D200. However, only the SB-600 and SB-800 support the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS), a wireless mutiple flash strobes network that can be triggered to illuminate the subject from various angles that are 'off-the-hotshoe'. To learn more visit the demonstration at Nikon School featuring 'The Speed of Light' LOW Bandwidth / HIGH Bandwidth.

I was deciding between the SB-600 and an SB-800. The differences are addressed and reviewed at KRW. Almost quite significantly, the differences are the performance and price.

  • SB-800 functions as a commander (which can trigger other flash strobes in CLS) while SB-600 can only function as a slave. However, the built-in flash on the D200 can be used as a commander to command multiple groups of flash strobes in CLS.
  • SB-800 has a higher Guide Number (GN, aka fire power) 125 compared to SB-600's 98(GN compared at ISO 100, 35mm)
  • SB-800 zooms further to 105mm compared to SB-600's 85mm, giving more coverage.
  • SB-800 has a repeating strobe feature that allows multiple fires in one exposure, while SB-600 does not have this feature.
  • SB-600 gives a faster recycling time* of 2.5s compared to SB-800's 4s.
    *SB-800's recycling time can be improved to 2.5s by the use of an external power supply pack such as the SD-8A or using the 5th battery.
  • SB-600 gives more shots of 220 compared to SB-800's 150.
  • SB-800 comes with a omnibounce, built-in bounce card, a set of color gels and 5th battery cradle, but not the SB-600.
  • SB-600 is cheaper S$330 (street price) compared to SB-800 S$580 (street price).
  • SB-600 had a higher resale value at S$250 compared to SB-800 S$450 (wiithout warranty).

After much homework, I believe that I do not require that much power of the SB-800. I only fancy it being a commander, slightly more power and the free omnibounce. However, I can find alternatives for the omnibounce by getting the after-market Stofen Omnibounce or Gary Fong's LightSphere. I intend to DIY my own bounce devices later on. I will have to fork out almost double the amount to get the SB-800, when most of the time, I believe that I will only be using lesser power. Hence, I opted for the SB-600.

After almost a few weeks of waiting, I finally found someone letting go SB-600 again. The reason for having second-hand flash strobes is because flash strobes have a limited life span and after which the flash tubes would need replacement, hence people tend to let go after the warranty is over for more than a year. I found my SB-600 slightly above 2 years old and the condition being rather minty.

A not-so-perfect condition box
Included are the instructions manual, a creative lighting tutorial, AS-19 Speedlight stad and SS-600 soft pouch

Creative tilting and swivel angles.

SB-600 (with built-in 14mm diffuser on) on D200

I took my SB-600 for a trial to compare the Differences between Direct Flash and With Flash Bounce*.
*I have not made my own bounce and diffuser device. Hence, I set the speedlight to bounce off the ceiling.
Here goes, Left images are with SB-600 pointing directly at the subject while Right images are with bounce off the ceiling. No image enhancements have been made.

SUBJECT: Fried Swiss Brown Mushrooms
VENUE: Manhattan Fish Market

SUBJECT: Grilled Seafood Platter for two
VENUE: Manhattan Fish Market


VENUE: Home studio

Verdict: I do not require a bounce card if I know how to position my flash head such that I can bounce off the walls. However, there are scenarios that can complicate flash bouncing, such as tall ceilings, coloured walls or outdoors. That is when I would require a diffuser such as the Stofen Omnibounce to diffuse the light out into multiple stray angles, thus reducing harsh direct flash.
Keep a lookout while I engineer my own Omnibounce and Gary Fong's Lightsphere.
Meanwhile, I am going freelance photography for cheap hire and to build up my portfolio ;)

technorati tags


Ken said...

Thanks for great consise information. I am buying my SB600 tomorrow (9/16/09) with the SC28 Cord(I will be using a stroboframe). 90% of my use of this will be indoors at high school reunion parties. 2 to 10 people in a low lit ballroom.


Excellent choice!