Hands-On Review: Nikon SB-900 Speedlight

I got a chance to play with a new Nikon SB-900 speedlight over the last few days and I gotta say, it's a pretty sweet flash. Long story short: Nikon has just extended their lead in the flash department.

The only drawback I can see is the "perfectly good" status of the current SB-800. And that $500 price tag, of course.

Should you get one? Swap out all of your SB-800s? Be on the lookout for cheap, used SB-800s and add more?

Hit the jump for the Full Monty review, and a few things you might want to consider.

First impression: It is much bigger than the SB-800. Didn't really seem any heavier, but definitely takes up more space. This is a consideration for a couple of reasons. One, cubic inches matter when on the road. Not so much on a single flash basis, but if you are packing half a dozen SB-900s, you could probably cram seven SB-800's in the same space.

Also, the head is a totally new design and size. This means that your current light modifiers may or may not fit the SB-900, depending on their size and/or mounting flexibility.

So here's that big ol' honker of a head. First glance, it looks to be pretty much the biggest speedlight head going, save maybe the Vivitar 285 HV. It looks bigger than an old SB-26, and certainly bigger than an SB-24.

If you can get past the size, they have done some really cool things with the extra space. The 200mm zoom rocks. Not because I am gonna direct flash with my 70-200 racked out. But because it will concentrate the beam, of light into a smaller area when used off-camera.

Why would you care? Because it effectively gives you a more powerful flash when large swaths of light are not needed. Like doing a hard-light, multi-flash portrait outdoors, for example. You usually would not want to light their feet anyway.

Rather than eat up that needless beam angle with a snoot or grid, you can zoom it in, and get some extra f-stop with the more concentrated beam. This translates into more control over the ambient light level (you can get a darker working f-stop at 1/250th, for example) for more choices in your ambient tones.

Of course, you can get a Better Beamer to stick on just about any flash to do this, but it is not built-in.

The Big Head Advantages do not stop there. It's the most sophisticated refractor/reflector system I have ever seen on a flash. They actually modulate the tube with respect to both the front fresnel and the polished, rear reflector. This gives you the ability to shape the internal qualities of the beam, too.

You can choose a normal (slightly concentrated) pattern, an even more concentrated pattern (again, yet more energy to the center for situations described above) or a near-perfectly even light distribution depending on your lighting needs.

That's a real breakthrough in speedlight design, and brings to a (relatively) small package more of the capabilities of an interchangeable-reflector studio strobe. Big props to Nikon for that.

Other advantages that argue for switching are the new CLS interface. You'll get back the time you spend wading through the CLS menus on your master flash. This would not be a reason to swap out, say, four flashes. But it might be good reason to get one to use as a master.

It's basically a manual switch and a wheel dial -- a very fast an intuitive combo for switching setting in very little time. It took a little digging to find the SU-4 mode, which we like because it activates an awesome built-in slave, but I can confirm it is included and does work it's manual-power slaved-flash magic.

I actually used that mode to sync all of the flashes used to make the shots in this post. More on that later.

Big on the advantage list: Recycle time absolutely rocks at 2 seconds with no accessory battery back. Better circuitry uses the same power source -- with much faster recycling. This is a dream with Ni-MH batts, and the fifth-wheel option is no longer needed for fast shooting. For some, this will warrant swapping out their main, on-camera flash.

The accessory SD-9 battery pack walks that already fast recycle time down to about a second at full power. And it can hobble along on just four extra batts if needed, according to the Nikon guys I spoke with.

Interesting point: The power plug on the SD-9 has two extra nubs which means it will not fit other flashes. But the design looks as if the current SD-8-type plug may fit the SB-900. This is important if you are going to be migrating other existing battery packs to the SB-900.

Thankfully, the PC jack is still there. Big ups to Nikon for including the old-school synching, in addition to the fancy-pants CLS stuff.

One other noteworthy change is that the SB-900 swings both ways -- you can go reverse 180 in either direction. This is especially useful, in that whichever way you mount a remote flash you can have the receiving window facing the master light source.

Before, there were situations in which you had to cheat that angle and lose wireless range as a result. Every flash should have this feature, IMO.

In Sync:

1. It comes with a gel holder, which totally rocks. No more tape and/or velcro. And the dome diffuser fits right over the gel holder, allowing both to be used at once. The bar-coded Nikon gel thing is a little gimmicky -- it sets your camera's WB to the "appropriate" setting. The special Nikon gels could easily be duped with a template and some liquid paper. You will not need to re-up with the official Nikon gels ($$) if you do not want to.

2. Goofy, but cool: At full power, the discharge sounds like a blaster from Star Wars ("pew, pew, pew"). Recycling is almost silent. And oh-so-fast.

3. My seven year-old boy loved the battery compartment: Individual cylindrical battery holes -- like loading a revolver.

4. Thermal shut-down protection -- which can be disabled if you are completely stupid. Cool detail: A "thermometer" in the rear display shows you if you are starting to red-line it.

Out of Sync:

1. Five. Hundred. Dollars.

2. The hot shoe is a new, thicker size that will not fit many current accessory shoes. McNally dropped one out of a Justin Clamp, which is a staple lighting tool. (The Nikon guys mentioned that about 5 times this weekend, Joe. They might be sending the black helicopters after you shortly...)

3. The new AS-21 foot must be used because of the new shoe size. Which would be fine, except for that the metal female 1/4 x 20 insert in the AS-19 has been replaced by mere molded plastic in the AS-21. This will be a problem for people who repeatedly use the AS-21 on an umbrella swivel. That's a design whiff that should not have happened. (More on that here.)

Decision Time

So, that to do?

My biggest problem is, I absolutely love the SB-800s. IMO, many of the added features are great. But I do not think I can justify switching everything out wholesale. Buying just one might be a very good idea -- I can see many instances when those extra features would make for a more useful single flash.

My other problem: They may well choose to discontinue the SB-800, which would be a crying shame. It's either that or create a whole new production line for the SB-900. The SB-800 is small, powerful and does everything. Many will continue to prefer it to the SB-900, given price difference and the fact that the core functionality is the same. Seriously, what's so wrong with this current flash?

But of course, that's how my grandmother felt about her rotary-dial ATT phone, too. I am officially old now.

I know one thing -- if they do drop the SB-800, the '900 is gonna sell a crapload of SB-600 flashes. Thats a huge price gap which many amateurs will not be able to rationalize. And the smart move for new CLS'ers might be one '900 and a few '600's. Who knows.

The SB-900s are already pre-selling like crazy. So Nikon is clearly doing something right. My hope: SB-800s go out of vogue with the doctors, dentists, and rich soccer moms and they all wind up in the used dept and on Ebay for $200 a pop.

'Cause if that happened, I'd pimp out my lighting bag like McNally's. (Only, he'd have 72 SB-900s by then...)

Lighting These Photos

For the top photo (shown again here) I set the subject flashes on SU-4 slave mode in manual, at 1/128th power. Since they were only a few inches away from each other this would be my limiting factor, even dialed down to 1/128th. A quick pop-and-chimp, and I was adjusted to the aperture that gave me a good exposure from each other's close-in light.

I shot these with a new Nikon D700, BTW. We were absolutely swimming in new toys this weekend at Shoot! The Day in NYC. Awesome little camera, that '700. D3 guts in a D300 body. Expect iPhone 3G-esque wait times for a while if you want one.

Anyway, once I got the best shooting aperture for the flash-to-flash light from the subject flashes, I manually adjusted the other lights to look good at the chosen aperture, which I believe was f/16. I shot at a 250th, to nuke the ambient away. I put the flashes on a shiny black table and shot low, to maximize the reflection.

Other lights were:

• An SB-800 aimed at the background from under the table, using the frosted diffuser for an even gradient.

• Two SB-800's as rim lights, which edge-lights all of the shiny black surfaces.

• An on-camera flash in a Ray Flash adapter, which gave me the specular highlights on the front surfaces.

You Tell Me

Nikon shooters: Are you gonna get one? Are you gonna swap out your SB-800s? Why? Why not?

I'm on the fence, and looking for feedback...


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Blogger swanky said...

First off..I am a Nikon Shooter, Pro, and have been for a jillion years.
I am sick and tired of Nikon and their two bit changes..They do some great stuff, no doubt about it. But each time they make changes, that are "good for us" they screw up on other area's..like why does that small flash holder. As. whatever, have to be a different size? Yeah, they make the shoe Flash attachment thicker. Now the flashhead itself is bigger.Nice, if you have no other flashes in your bag, Or your Big Joe, and just go and jettison all your other stuff, and get new. Us mortals cannot do that. Each evolution they come out with, makes it hard to work with the past one. Progress?? or money grab..hummmmmm, Nikon does not give a damn for the shooter, the customer.
I will start a collection of just fine SB 800's, and with luck the next evolution of camera's that almighty nikon makes will not in some way make them all redundant. They make me sick. I do like my 800's, and anyone wanting to sell to move up..I am in.
Oh, and Joe is my hero..Love the guy, I mean what is there not too like.
Just Nikon gives me the s#%ts...

July 23, 2008 12:36 AM  
Blogger C2 said...

OK. I'm waiting for the doctors to dump their SB-800s so I can pick them up cheap... Yeah right... but I can dream can't I?

-- C --

July 23, 2008 12:37 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

Cheers for the quick review Dave. I like you am on the fence. I have ordered two SB-900s and will keep two SB-800s the extra power, recycle time, zoom and controls are selling points enough for me. Especially the controls, I hate the controls on the 800!

July 23, 2008 12:41 AM  
Anonymous Robb K. said...

I think at this point David with all your fame and connections now, you could just autograph all of your old SB-800's and make a killing selling them on Ebay! ha ha! "Exclusive David Hobby owned collection...." ;-)

July 23, 2008 12:43 AM  
Blogger Nick O'Donnell - 808 STUDIOS said...

David, I gotta agree with you. The 900's size is an issue, its definitely going to lead to the purchase of new, larger accessories when that money could just go to another light or a tank of gas. The 800 is as good as it gets for my pocket book. I've got 5 in the arenal and can't wait till the soccer moms and docs sell them off, cause honestly I've not been too kind to mine. They're covered in gaffers goo, have more velco than a pair of 80's kids shoes, and dents and scratches from some of the worlds finest pavement! I'm also digging the new D700, Hoping they bring down the D3 costs to add a third. What body are you shooting with these days, You have a 700 on order?

July 23, 2008 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Kenneth Wilcox said...

I think I'll have to get at least one... but that's what I said the last time I got a flash... or four.

I have been thinking about getting one for a "master" just because it would save me valuable seconds every time I needed to change a setting. Replace my whole set? No, I still like my SB-600's they are worth more to me than what I could get for them.

July 23, 2008 1:05 AM  
Anonymous John Mielke - Ottawa Canada said...

Thanks, as always, for the review!

I currently have 4 SB800's, 2 SB600's and even 2 old SB28's (one's a DX.)

The SB800 is all that (and a bag of chips) as far as I'm concerned. While the bells and whistles on the new SB900 sound pretty sweet, the $500 price tag is pretty steep.

Your review has convinced me that I'm much better off putting that $500 into my "I want a 200-400VR lens" fund.

Besides, I just bought your Strobist DVD set... and there's no SB900 training in there. LOL

July 23, 2008 1:05 AM  
Blogger Ernie Rice said...

I'll probably end up with one sooner or later, but I'm not replacing my 800's for them. :)

July 23, 2008 1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll make do with another SB800. What I'm really saving up for is a D700 or a 200-400 afs vr.

July 23, 2008 1:14 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

I can see ONE as a master,as you mentioned. That would be mean I would have one of each 600,800 and then 900. The fast recycle times would be great when cranking the light out.

July 23, 2008 1:18 AM  
Blogger Rollasoc said...

I don't think I can justify buying one.

Given the amount of cash it costs, if I had the money, I'd probably use it towards better glass.

Although I only have one SB800, I use it a lot less than my SB28s, I don't know why that is.

I'll add it to my wish list though, maybe Santa will be kind this year.

July 23, 2008 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Panascape said...

I am planning to get two 900’s to use as key lights due to the improved light handling abilities but I think more at this stage may be an over kill so I will keep my 800’s to all the dirty work.

July 23, 2008 2:32 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Heh, I've been wanting to try out this CLS system for the high speed auto-FP sync and if there's a deluge of 800's on the used market I may just get my chance to snag a pair. Still, my old White Lightnings put down more lumens per dollar...

July 23, 2008 2:39 AM  
Anonymous ShaolinTiger said...

I can see myself getting one too for on camera use, the faster recycle without the 5th battery will be very useful as I shoot a lot of low light events/concerts.

I don't think it's really worth it for the CLS/strobist stuff I do though, I'll stick with SB-800 master and SB-600 slaves.

July 23, 2008 2:53 AM  
Blogger Eskil said...

Your son is not the only one who loves the revolver-like battery compartment. Sounds like something similar to the Vivitar 285HV and it was probably my first comment when I opened mine up! :)

July 23, 2008 3:14 AM  
Anonymous Mario said...

$500? - thanks, but no thanks.I doubt it is $200 better than SB-800, and since I have one SB-600 and one SB-800 - I wouldn't like toggling through 3 different menus anyway.
I'll wait for my next SB-800.And the next, and the next...

BTW - so far I didn't need extra power (knock on the wood) from my current flashes, so I don't see a reason to buy more expensive, shinier and faster sports car if all I drive is at most 80 MPH (unless you wanna impress your neighbors, but that's different story...)

July 23, 2008 3:26 AM  
Anonymous Tarjei99 said...

I have a Canon 30D with a 580EX II and some 300TLs.

I'm green with envy.

Will stay with Canon though.


July 23, 2008 4:34 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Right, well. I had an SB-28 because I was using a Fuji S2, and recently upgraded to the D300. Last weekend I found myself finally needing an iTTL flash to shoot a couple of events, and I was left with a triplet of choices:

1) wing it with the popup flash as best I could

2) buy some sort of tiny on-camera iTTL flash (SB-400, metz thing, nissin, whatever) and wait for the SB-900

3) buy the SB-800.

Reluctantly (because I always feel silly making an investment purchase of an old model right before the new one comes out) I talked myself into 3) because the price difference couldn't (at this point) really be justified, and option 2) would likely have left me with an underused flash unit.

My logic:

- to me, the recycle time difference is not quite significant enough; the SB-800 is still faster with five batteries, and the SB-900's battery-pack-recycle is a very expensive option for an extra three quarters of a second or so.

- nice though the frame-sizing, zoom and shaping features are, I will be OK with snoots and manually adjusting my zoom for a while

- the price difference is equivalent to the cost of an SB-600.

- I will need another iTTL flashgun in the future anyway, and the price situation should be a bit less evil by then.

Now that I have the SB-800, I must say I am not annoyed at my decision, and had I really had the opportunity to wait, and try an SB-800 in the meantime, I'd probably have gone with it anyway.

The SB-900 surely is a thing of gorgeousitude though, and will surely be in my kit bag one day.

July 23, 2008 4:40 AM  
Blogger photographyandyou said...

Thank's for all of the great information you give David It has given me much in put for the past year. I have 2 SB800's and 3 SB600's and they work just fine for me I'll pass on the SB900 for now.

July 23, 2008 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Pat Morrissey said...

I've just ordered an SB800 to compliment my SB600 and SB80DX.
Maybe should have waited! The cost of a 900 is out of my bracket.

July 23, 2008 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Tharizdun said...

I'm going to get me a SB 900 to complement my three SB 800's.
I wonder what the introduction price of the SB 800 was in 2003. It must have been higher than it's current price. Also, the low dollar also will have impact on the introduction price. As I live in Europe, I intend to buy mine in the states, where the price is the same as a SB 800 overhere.

July 23, 2008 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$500?? Is that all? Cheap.....try living in Europe where an SB-900 is $670... http://tinyurl.com/6j7cyt

Seriously, you people don't know the half of it. The rest of the world is being rooked.


July 23, 2008 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Ian Phillips said...

Heh, that first photo should relly be captioned "no, I am your father".

July 23, 2008 6:42 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I may get one to use as my primary on camera, but the price tag is what is keeping me from jumping on the band wagon now. I like the new swivel option, button interface, but I think Nikon severely overpriced the unit and I will wait out the "must have now" price tag.

July 23, 2008 7:17 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

It's products like this that make me wish I was in the Nikon camp sometimes. From everything I've read about Nikon's Flash system and everything I've experienced with Canon's... it sounds like Nikon is miles ahead.

July 23, 2008 8:02 AM  
Blogger Fearghas said...

$500? At that price, it almost seems appealing, given that here in the UK it'll be £350, or $700.

Having said all that, I'm hoping that with people will change up, and we might see more SB-800s on the market, and then perhaps a follow on so I can buy more 26/28s, as the 28s can still be >$150 over here...

July 23, 2008 8:03 AM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

I don't see the need, I mean for $500 I can replace my dropped, I mean non-working 85mm. No in all reality, it has some super cool functions, but I love my Sb-800s and traveling size matters. But that won't go to say when the local dentists sells all his gear on Ebay I might not buy one or at the very least play around with it.

July 23, 2008 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My request would be for a bare tube so I could use parabolic reflectors. That's really the only limitation/ accessory/modifier issue, I have with the miniature strobe units.

July 23, 2008 8:51 AM  
Blogger brian said...

I'm planning on picking one up as an on camera flash. I like the beam modification built in and fast recycle times. Perfect for corporate war photography.

July 23, 2008 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Robert Jordan said...

Yawn, so disappointed. I was really hoping Nikon would put at least two (if not three) CLS sensors of the follow up to the SB800. Huge oppportunity missed IMHO.

July 23, 2008 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Stephen Hooker said...

Well, with any luck this will mean the ignorant masses on ebay will stop bidding used 800's up over the cost of a new one.

Hey, I can dream, right?

July 23, 2008 9:14 AM  
Blogger Rich Graves said...

I'll stick with my SB800 and hopefully this might somehow drive down the SB600 price (wishful thinking) so that I could pick up a few of them. ;-}

July 23, 2008 9:24 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Flashes are still just tools that make light. CLS is a big help since I can adjust levels from the camera. As long as a flash has that functionality... I think I'm fine.

July 23, 2008 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Nas said...

The SB900 will have to come down in price before I get tempted. For you guys thinking of getting one to use as a CLS commander, why don't you get the SU-800 for half the price? That's what I use and it's great! You don't get your subjects blinking either because the SU-800 doesn't use a visible flash to trigger the other flashes, it's all infra-red.

I see that the SU-800 is sold out at both Amazon and B+H as I write this so obviously some people have cottoned onto the idea :-P


July 23, 2008 9:25 AM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

500 clams,, i don't think so!
I'm still loving my SB800 and see no reason to update,, yet.

July 23, 2008 9:31 AM  
Blogger Giles said...

I still stand by my original thoughts, posted a month or so ago, which were:

It's interesting, isn't it, that just as soon as a new product is released, a whole raft of photogs rush out to buy it - as if their current gear suddenly isn't up to the job.

Sure, in some cases there is good argument for this, but remember what we're dealing with here - light. Plain and simple. And light hasn't changed for millennia! Learn how to harness it, think laterally, and you find that technology will only take you so far. Call me traditional, but there you go.

Certainly, my take on the SB-900 release is as follows: I'm going to wait a couple more months for the SB-800 to come down in price (and you know it will!) and then buy another 2, which is what I was planning to do anyway. That'll take my location strobe kit up to 6 units (currently 2x SB-800, 1x Vivitar 285, 1x Metz 45-CL4).

This is the same approach that David and others quite rightly advised in the past with regard to some of the older (SB-26, SB-28, SB-80DX etc) models - so long as you are taking control of the light, do you really need all the bells and whistles? I'm guessing not, and I feel so sorry for all those people who get caught up in the hype of a new release and who are all too quick to part with their hard-earned cash - all for the sake of very little advantage.

By far one of the greatest features of the SB-800 is the SU-4 hack (I gather Nikon have quite wisely integrated this feature in the new model). This works extremely well for all manner of work I do, and combined with the use of Pocket Wizards, I feel no desire to jump on the band wagon and... dare I say it... 'upgrade'. I just don't see the advantage for me personally.

Currently in the UK you can get SB-800s for around £175 per unit - that's about half what they were even a year ago.

So unless you reeeeeally feel that you need those extra bells and whistles that the SB-900 offers, my advice would be to cash in on other people's knee-jerk reactions.

July 23, 2008 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Skunk said...

Hello David,

My biggest concern is the size. I'm one of those guys who weighs everything on a postal scale before packing it anywhere.

The 200mm beam is nice for the built-in simplicity, as is the analog dial for switching modes. I really want one, but already have 2x SB800s, so will probably get an SB900 as I break my SB800s.

How is that D700?? Are you using the 24-70?

July 23, 2008 10:12 AM  
Blogger smoothatwork said...

Great review. I plan to add 2 900's to my collection for the controls alone. I hated the controls of the 800. The versatility of tilting it 180 is nice aswell as the lighting controls.

1 question though... you stated in your light setup that you used the Ray Flash. You used it on the 900? Does it even fit?


July 23, 2008 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Chris Collins said...

Welcome, nikonians, to the world of Canon. The 580exII is huge and about $500. Nikon KILLS Canon in features though... I am contemplating the switch with this new round of goodies but I think I would stick with the SB-800's until someone can show me something unobtainable with the SB-900.

July 23, 2008 10:38 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I pre-ordered my SB-900 yesterday and had to make sure they had my NPS number to ensure me getting one. i want one for high-school football. This flash won't replace my 800s but will be added to the collection. At $500 this is in the same price range as a very capable studio mono-light. I had to do some serious thinking before going with the 900

July 23, 2008 10:41 AM  
Blogger The Art We Breathe said...

David, I remember a while back you mentioned applying strobist light controlling techniques to interior lighting design. Well I found something you might enjoy:


July 23, 2008 10:43 AM  
Anonymous jcv said...

I'll get one, not immediately, but after a few months. Only to use on-camera or as a master. The SB800's fit the slave function just as good imo.

I agree with Nick's post of July 23, 2008 6:27 AM:

In the US it's $500, in Europe it's € 525, what is $815. Offcourse that includes 19% VAT, but even without it it's still $680

July 23, 2008 11:09 AM  
Blogger Chris Honour said...

1 900 or 3 600s... ok almost 3 600s!! If you all ready have an 800, I would choose the multiple 600s any day.

I am too, concerned on what future the 800 has, but not 500 bucks worried...

For $500, I'd rather buy a nice 20 f2.8 prime or other nicer glass.

July 23, 2008 11:11 AM  
Blogger SevilleMedia said...

I wonder if the will be compatible with the Radio Poppers.

July 23, 2008 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review (And AAAAAll your great reviews). I will probably get an SB900 but I must ask why doesn't Nikon simply put an IR point on either side of a flash unit in the first place to dramatically cut down on the time a photographer must fiddle with optimal slave to master flash position?
BTW I dislike the button layout and design on the back of the 900. Not very elegant I think.

July 23, 2008 11:26 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Fearghas said:

"$500? At that price, it almost seems appealing, given that here in the UK it'll be £350, or $700."

Again with the false comparisons. I'm in the UK, and the price seems fairly reasonable.

For one thing, you are comparing a pre-tax price with a post-tax price. In the states people could be paying around 8% sales tax on top, depending on where they live.

As to the cost: Park Cameras has it for £340, which is about £290 + VAT.

£290 is currently about $580. Factor in the fact that it costs nikon a bit more to sell them here (they aren't immune to import duty, the flash has to have multilingual documentation and someone has to pay for the CE certification, advertising costs are higher, the individual markets are smaller) and they are hardly gouging us. It just costs a bit more. Suck it up.

If you don't want to pay VAT, go live in the US. Then do _true_ cost of living calculations. I don't think we're as bad off as you think. Besides, we get to live in the UK.

July 23, 2008 11:35 AM  
OpenID almostinfamous said...

i wonder what would happen if they actually phased out the SB-600s?

July 23, 2008 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Harry said...

I could see buying one, maybe two. But the SB 800 works so nicely it may be a long time before I buy a 900. I do hope this means they will be making a new su 900! The controls on the su 800 are frustrating as hell!

July 23, 2008 12:38 PM  
Blogger Photobox Studios said...

I have always loved the Nikon speedlights. They are one area that Nikon has always been a leader and continue to remain committed to. I love my SB-800 and my two 600s and my 28 and 80DX and even my old 25. I love that Nikon has remained committed to the PC sync (wish it was in the 600 :) so that we can use radio controlled receivers without having to use the hot shoe versions. Pocketwizards and the new Alien Bees CyberSync that's battery powered will work wonders with any of the these flashes and I'm excited that the 900 has this feature. Canon finally added it to the new 580EX II so they're sort of catching up. The biggest drawback for me will honestly be the price. That's getting up there. Of course it's not much more than the 580EX II from Canon, but I liked it better when Nikon's high end was less expensive... made it even better.

I can see the advantages of using this for indoor sports on a remote as well as for wedding work, even though it's got a honk'n price tag, I'll likely get one eventually as my main. I will not REPLACE my current line up, but I will move this to the prime and let the 800 move into a close second.

It looks to be a wonderful tool. Not sure I'd switch out my entire gear bag to get several of them unless I were Joe McNally or someone really special. I can see where having a slew of them would be awesome - even if the benefits were for just in case situations. Better to have too much than not enough in lighting situations I guess.

Count me in. I think it will be a nice addition to any photogs gear bag.


July 23, 2008 2:07 PM  
Anonymous ReflexN said...

My fear is the upgradable firmware. The only reason i see for using this feature is to update the way CLS works. And that would mean that one day the CLS of the SB-800/600/etc. will be obsolete.

July 23, 2008 2:08 PM  
Blogger David said...

I thought about the firmware thing, too. But they are still supporting SU-4(!!!) and that tech is 20 years old.

Makes me a little more comfy.


July 23, 2008 2:18 PM  
OpenID dickgtm said...

Rats, now I have to buy an SB 900 and a D700 and a Rayflash and a set of Radio Poppers! Will this never end?

July 23, 2008 3:27 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

Well, I'm a Canon (camera) user, but I use Metz54 flashes and now have two Nikon 800's. The new 900? What more does it (can it?) do than the 800? Yes, some interesting and convenient features, but let's face it guys, flashguns do have their limitations, and there comes a point where you either use more powerful lights, or your strobes (flash guns here in the uk). I don't see the point of the buying a 900, not at that price, I can't see where the money is going, and the benefit it'll give me

July 23, 2008 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Kathleen Andersen said...

Thanks for all your info, David.

I don't upgrade my equipment very often - I'm using an SB-25 from my Nikon F4 days but it doesn't work very well on my D2X!

I think I'll get the SB-900. The price is OK with me (in Canada) as I'm unlikely to buy a number of units unless I'm totally inspired with David's DVD and decide I really need multiple units.


July 23, 2008 4:37 PM  
Anonymous bhk said...

I'm an amateur and beginner. I have bought two SB800s this year and it's obvious I'm not gonna change it. SB800 is all I need untill SB900's price go down :)

July 23, 2008 4:38 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Half a $K and all that extra space inside, but no built-in pocket wizard receiver / transmitter?? Sigh.

BTW, while CLS is wonderful for certain things it's NOT recommended for portraits, I've had one too many occasions where people with sensitive eyes are just beginning to close their eyelids when the capture happens, due to the pre-flashes from the master flash.

July 23, 2008 5:12 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I can work quickly juggling my SB24 or SB800 and not have sweat bead on my head for fear of losing a $500 investment which can so easily happen when handling small flashes. My SB800 meets my needs just fine and the new features of the SB900 don't justify an upgrade at this time.
Also, the increased size of the SB900 is a drawback for my Int'l photo trips.

For me, the $500 price tag is better spent toward a camera. D700 Mmmm.... :-)

July 23, 2008 5:14 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'm a Canon shooter - it seems you guys have finally joined our world, price wise.

That being said, I don't own one Canon flash. I do happen to have 6 SB-26's and 2 SB-28's - 8 flashes, that I bought for grand total of about $650. Let's see, that's about a 7-1 price ratio. I'll stick with the older and live with the recycle times. Besides, my SB-26's will slave with anything :)

July 23, 2008 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Brandon D. said...

As a Nikon shooter, for what I'd pay for an SB-900, I might as well start looking at purchasing studio flashes. But since my current shooting style is usually characterized as spontaneous, unpredictable, and ultra-quick paced, hot shoe flashes will suit me better than studio flashes will (especially due to portability).

Maybe next year, I'll find use for a studio flash set-up. But for now, I just plan on buying a couple more SB-800s by this year's end. And hopefully, we'll start to see a price drop on the 800s around Christmas time.

Btw, the SB-800 menus aren't the best designed menus in the world, but they're worth putting up with in my opinion.

July 23, 2008 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have several Canon 580EXii flashes and while the menu system leaves a lot to be desired (no physical master slave switch???) the only feature it really lacks (that I care about) is a built in optical slave. That said- the SB-900 has a GN of 132 feet. The 580EXii has a GN of 190. It's an absurdly powerful flash and that is definitely something I care about.

July 23, 2008 6:51 PM  
Blogger Roddy said...

I'm a Nikon guy, and I shoot with a couple SB600's. I'm no pro, that is for sure, so money is a issue for sure. The cost alone will really limit my interest in the 900's. I'll admit that I'm thrifty, and I'm looking to add a more versatile commander unit, but I think that the 800 will suffice. The added features on the 900 look good, but IMO it's just icing on a cake that I can't eat all of yet anyways.

PS. I think that signing and selling your used gear on ebay for charity would be a great idea!

July 23, 2008 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Dan Landau --New Jersey said...

You are certainly right about Nikon selling 600s because of the 900. Five-hundred bucks is way too much for a strobe. Come to think of it, that is close to what I paid for camera.... I'm buying one or two 600s; no 900 for me.

July 23, 2008 7:50 PM  
Anonymous mizz maze said...

I'd much rather save the $$ and put it toward a D700.

I could see picking up 1 or 2 used SB800s (I have 2) and holding off for quite a while on the SB900.

I'm sure I'll eventually get at least one, though.

July 23, 2008 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Safety Bill said...

The 900 looks good, and I have only one 800, so there's room in the bag. I like the new interface (it's about time Nikon came off that mini-button fanaticism); the zoom to 200mm rocks (dovetails very nicely with my 18-200VR and my future 70-200), and so does the 'area concentration' control (although I'll probably still cop a a Better Beamer for my 80-400VR...a BB would be just awesome with the flash starting off zoomed to 200!).

The shorter recycle time is way attractive as well...thinking about shots not lost at wedding reception fistfights and other events.

Still, Nikon are just a little too proud of it for the total wattage output. Think I'll stand pat with one 800 and three Sunpak 383s, and see what '09's economic outlook is. Right now, the label on my piggy bank reads "D700", but I won't pass up a used 800 for the right price...good thing I know a coupla doctors and soccer moms, eh?

Now, if only Nikon would have thought to jack the SB900 into a D700 battery grip for mo'power and a faster recycle time for those moments when you just gotta have it...it was right under their noses, literally!

July 23, 2008 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I really wanted from the post-SB800 is more power. This one doesn't have sufficient gains there (okay, maybe at a distance with the fresnel changes) to be worth anywhere near $500. For that, you can have your choice of 400 Ws monoblocs. Yeah, yeah, I hate the cord, too.

July 23, 2008 8:43 PM  
Blogger LERtastic said...

I am just starting to make some money with my photos, and in turn, am finally able to buy some equipment. I will probably get a couple SB-800's and maybe a 900 as a commander for CLS (w/ RP of course.)

July 23, 2008 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see no advantages that justify the extra $150 over the SB800. The only aspect of the SB800 I don't like is the foot design which is inferior to that of the 580EX II with it separate lock mechanism.

The wheel (like that of the 580EX II) is nice, but what is a bit interesting and not a positive is having 3 different user interfaces for the SB600, SB800, and the SB900, and two different battery packs, two different modifiers and gels to use.

I am not about to dump my 4 SB800s and replace them all with SB900's - especially at $500 a pop, and replace my SD-8a battery packs and my Justin clamps etc. to get features like the 200mm setting that are not necessary in the least for wedding photography. I don't even use the beamer indoors for flash using a 200mm lens as I do not need a blast of light.

I get better than 2 second recycle time with my SB800s and I use them for fill light and not a full capacitor dump. Shooting indoors my ISO settings are between 400 and 4000 so the flash is always used for fill.

With the D3 I can shoot 3 shots in under a second at ISO 4000 and have less than 5% exposure variation from the flash output between the 1st and the 3rd image in the series. So the SB900 is overkill for my needs and will just take more room in my bag - which is not a positive thing by any means.

July 23, 2008 9:14 PM  
Blogger Andrew Y said...

So here's a silly question... maybe.

It's nearly universally accepted that the Nikon flashes are "better" than Canon flashes. Problem is, any discussion on the matter ends rather quickly at that point since it's "so obvious".

Well, as a Canon user with a measly 285HV, it's not so obvious to me. I hear that CLS is better than E-TTL II, but given the audience here, who cares?

So what's the obvious answer to the question, What makes Nikon flashes obviously so much better?

July 23, 2008 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me do the math - I can buy ons SB800 or five Vivitar 285HV's and still have $40 left in my pocket. And the Vivitars work the exact smae way with any camera that I own or might use. This is not a difficult decision!

July 23, 2008 11:10 PM  
Blogger jasphoto said...

Abdrew Y - From my experience Canon units have consistently been less consistent in TTL exposure. Multiple shot in a row in unchanging sceen would be each slightly different. And no PC connector.

What I wanted was a SB-800B - an upgraded SB-800 - WITH BETTER MENU functionality and responsive keys.
I may get a 900 as a main on camera controller/flash to go with my 3 800's but I'm in no rush.

July 23, 2008 11:53 PM  
Anonymous san francisco photographer said...

my vivitar 285's are workin just fine, thanks.

but 2 second recycle times WOULD be nice. for $500? nah.

san francisco photographer

July 24, 2008 12:08 AM  
Blogger Drewmon said...

I still rely on my SB-80 and two SB-24 heads for off camera lighting on the fly... Run out and buy a SB-900?


But I will anxiously await the anticipated downward spiral of SB-800 prices to grab a couple of those.

I don't doubt the SB-900 does more but one can get reaaaaaally far with less "capable" gear like my 80/24 collection.

And besides, if I accidentally hose one of my current flashes on a shoot I won't be too sick about it - the whole collection cost but fraction of the SB-900. If something caused a SB-900 to take a dump into water or pavement... Ooof.

July 24, 2008 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jasphoto: The Canon 580EXii has a PC sync port- the only thing it doesn't have is an optical flash (and a physical master slave switch like it use to have). It does, however, have a GN of 190 which is an impressive bit of power- and if the numbers are right, that's almost 50% more than the SB-900.

July 24, 2008 12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the SB900 looks promising and all. But because of the hefty price tag, I am going to leave this one alone and go with SB800 instead.

July 24, 2008 12:59 AM  
Blogger Ken Lopez said...

I'm sticking to my two Vivitar 285HV's and my three canon 166a's, Dave (Total Price = $188 + whatever shipping & handling was back when I got 'em). Call me crazy, but I believe that having and understanding your limitations sparks creativity.

It's not what new toy you have, it's how you use it. I have yet to face an assignment that I can't tackle with a little bit of creativity and some gaff tape. =o)


July 24, 2008 2:15 AM  
Blogger Prcek said...

David and others, are you sure 500$ for SB-900 is too much? SB-800 costs almost 700$ here in Czech Republic. This is TOO MUCH...

July 24, 2008 2:16 AM  
Blogger Prcek said...

David & others: Are you sure 500$ for SB-900 is too much? Here in Czech Republic SB-800 costs almost 700$ - this is TOO MUCH...

July 24, 2008 2:35 AM  
Blogger Pixyst said...

No doubt Nikon is good at making highly desirable shiny toys. But at just under the cost of three (3) SB-600's I may have to pass on this for now.

July 24, 2008 6:11 AM  
Blogger Eritrea said...

I am cool with SB-800 until i need more power and it is a much better to pay for another Strobist DVD set if David is working on it.

July 24, 2008 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

guess you are really starting to cash in on your little site here. it used to be about lights, now it is about reviews and products. don't blame you, though. good luck with the biz...

July 24, 2008 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why not just buy some real lights for a little more?

July 24, 2008 8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i heard about the new 900 i was hoping for RF instead of IR. This would have made the 900 the dogs b(&*^*^ks and would have swayed many a shooters.

I like the fact i can control my 3 800's from my su800 but imaging a radio version would be champagne.

Its the loss of on camera control that puts me off all of the current RF products.

People say that RF systems would cause issues with teritory distribution and individual country regulations, but surely this can be solved somehow.

July 24, 2008 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Markus said...

Well well, I live in Bangkok and I just have another couple of beers before I consider switching. And even then, I will have some more beers before I am switching. I love my SB800 and 80DX and the beer I can buy by not switching to SB900 is more than you can buy on the more profit you make on your SB900s. Cheers, Markus

July 24, 2008 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's crazy money. At $500 you're within spitting distance of a really nice Profoto or Speedotron monolight which would be much more powerful and versatile and have real accessories that you don't have build out of FunFoam and plastic real estate signs.
The philosophy of strobism is 'more brains, less gear, better light' and this strobe is the very antithesis of that. It's huge, expensive and tries to do the thinking for you via CLS which everyone complains doesn't work in realworld situations without the help of a RadioPopper.

July 24, 2008 1:49 PM  
Blogger tikal said...

It's good to know the 800 I just got for 300$ wasn't a total waste of money hehe..

July 24, 2008 1:51 PM  
Blogger christopherbautista said...

I have 4 sb800's. For the price of 500 I think I'd go with a powerful strobe like an AB1600 or something :)

July 24, 2008 3:18 PM  
Blogger Mark William said...

Not a chance, SB800's are awesome little machines. I have four of them and they are flawless. I know the output, what I'm gonna get, and the quality of the light. If I need something other than the SB's, I'll be reaching for my Dynalites.

July 24, 2008 8:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

Special, to Anonymous @8:47 AM:

Dude. I count four tutorials linked off of the front page right now. Your refund is in the mail...

July 24, 2008 11:20 PM  
Anonymous PPGMD said...

I agree with others for strobist users the SB-900 may be a bit too little for the money. Your better off with a few 800s or 600s for CLS users, and 28s and 80s for radio users.

But for a Nikon shooter, as their main strobe the SB-900 is great. I will likely get one to use when I can only bring (or use) one speedlight.

July 25, 2008 11:48 AM  
Blogger Nikhil said...

Sounds great to me. I just ordered mine through Norman Camera (they have 'em in stock with free shipping). Will give this baby a workout this coming week

July 25, 2008 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My D1H, D200 and D2X can hardly wait for my en-route SB-900 to arrive. It's not that they don't love the SB-800, but the ability of the SB-900 to better control the light beam is the deal maker.

July 25, 2008 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

I'm curious to see some results of shooting some HS football with the Sb900 and a 70-200mm inside these dungeons we are often times put in. With the new high ISO capabilities it may not be an issue anymore, but I'm still curious about how it will perform under those conditions. I guess we'll see in September!

And no, my 80dx's and 26's are working fine! no need to upgrade for me! I can buy 5 more 28's for the price of one 900!

July 25, 2008 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

enjoying all the posts and info what an awesome blog, McNally's my lighting hero...
I agree the price tag of the sb900 is a bit high, I have 2 sb800's & 2 sb600's all work as advertised, when I need more distance I use Elinchrom Universal Flash Trigger / receiver set with them without any problems around corners or stuffed deep inside umbrellas, like you maybe an SB-900 will find its way into my bag as a master, just worried about the foot size, for now all the shekels are going towards a D700 ... keep up the great blog ... all I can say is MORE ... MORE ... from TJ in central Cal

July 25, 2008 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Sasa Pahic Szabo said...

just to let you know . i've checked the sb900 manual and it says that you can use the sd-8 but the recycler will be longer than with the sd-9

July 26, 2008 12:26 PM  
Anonymous dreadboy said...

good review and news btw.
funny thing is that the d700 is already in the camera stores here in romania. so is the sb900

July 26, 2008 2:04 PM  
Blogger laramib said...

Excellent review of the 900. Too many issues with the new strobe to make a switch at this time. For me, I do news and corporate photography, the SB-800 has become as much of a lighting staple as the old Vivitar 283 was many years ago. I have multiple SB-800s and love every one of them. I plan on buying up a few of the "want-a-be" shooters hardly used SB-800s as they begin flooding the used market. Will take a wait and see attitude on the 900's for now.
--Bob Laramie

July 27, 2008 10:41 AM  
Blogger paparazzo1 said...

Added 3 SB900's to my kit. Keeping the 5 SB800's already have, so you won't be finding those on e-bay anytime soon. That said, LOVE the SB900!!! SOOO much better than the SB800, it's the difference between a D2Xs and the D3. Recycling time and frames per second with Hi Voltage battery (DCB or Jack Rabbit) give me 8FPS and 9FPS respectively on D700 and D3 - at 400-640ISO - 250th second - f8/f9 with 14-24 f2.8 lens on 14mm at 10 -12 feet and closer. THE PERFECT PAPARAZZI / NEWS Flash! OMG - NIKON NIRVANA!!!

July 27, 2008 4:14 PM  
Blogger Marcin said...

I paid AU$500 locally for an SB-800 about this time last year, which would have been roughly US$350. Today US$500 is AU$525, so I could import an SB-900 from the US for roughly the same price as I paid for the SB-800 I guess! :)

Of course today you can get the SB-800 for under AU$400..

July 28, 2008 2:49 AM  
Anonymous Mario Moschel said...

David wrote: "Interesting point: The power plug on the SD-9 has two extra nubs which means it will not fit other flashes. But the design looks as if the current SD-8-type plug may fit the SB-900. This is important if you are going to be migrating other existing battery packs to the SB-900."
On a german forum site, a friend of mine wrote that he shipped his two ordered SB-900 back directly, because the SB-900:

-Doesn't support SU-4-mode with PW connected in a hotshoe
- Much (for him too much) bigger than current SB-800
- No tonal signal in M mode
- Doesn't work with external Quantum Turbo SC

Can this be true? Nikon's flagship no longer supports Quantum's external batteries???????

Can anyone test this, please?

Thank you.


July 29, 2008 2:20 PM  
Blogger Doc Tony said...

i got one today and one weird thing. i get this electronic buzzing sound when zooming. is that normal???

July 30, 2008 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez, I've got two SB 80's and trying to catch up with SB 800's of which I have only one.

And now they have the SB 900 for $500?

You've got to be crazy or rich, or a little of both, I think.

July 31, 2008 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Damon said...

Uhh, I feel a little out of place amongst the obvious photography experience throughout this blog, but seeing as it's there, as a complete newbie to the sport/profession I'd be mad not to ask this question.

I'm just getting started in photography (in any serious sense anyway), and I'm buying kit for the first time. I've got a D300 with a Nikkor 18-200 DX VR lense, and now I want to pick up a Speedlight. I know that with my level of experience I don't need a SB-900 (obviously), however, the reason I've been buying reasonably good kit is that I don't want to have to do it all again in 12 months. So, to the point, as a first Speedlight, should I get the SB-900 thing out of the way with the idea of adding 600's or 800's later as I get more sophisticated, or should I not worry about it for now and hope they come down in price later?

All advice gratefully received.

August 03, 2008 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Curtis said...


Go with the 900.

I bought one to compare the ease of use compared to my SU-800.... (NOT SB-800) Because of this exercise I now have three of SB-900's.

The reason is that I shoot weddings and quite often use them both on camera and then as remotes. Even if you know the hold the two button tango like a pro you just look unprofessional going around changing all of the set ups on all the lights. Takes too much time.

Now I have the dial. literally 1-2 seconds per strobe. Easy fast and besides the cost issue no downside. (I see the size as a plus as it helps get over the sizable shadow of the built in 14-24 lens hood.

Since you are just starting the interface alone will save your brainpower for composing good shots. Plus we have all felt the frustration of missing a great candid moment because we were fiddling around with our settings. A few seconds could mean the difference between getting the money shot or getting nothing. I put the old 800's on CL and with tax and pro discount it cost me $200 a pop to upgrade.

Upgrade to an sb-900? Not even a question in my opinion. Now if i shot travel rather than weddings.... that would be a discussion...

Happy shooting,


August 10, 2008 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for that price you can get a 285 and 2 pocket wizards

August 12, 2008 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Billy MItchell said...

The Nikon SB900 does not fit many cold shoes like the Justin Clamp or Crane cold shoe. It does fit the Really Right Stuff cold shoe perfectly. And of course it fits the camera hot shoes.

After looking at it and trying on several shoes I thought it was because the body of the flash was lower to the flash shoe and most of the shoes it would not fit were plastic and had a thicker top lip than is on a camera hot shoe or the RRS cold shoe.

So I took a Crane cold shoe for Nikon flashes and sanded down the top. And now the SB900 fits the shoe. Same for the Justin Clamp shoe. I started with coarse sand paper then to medium then to very fine and it worked great. If you do it just keep the shoe level and only do enough to get the shoe to fit. Too much and you will weaken a plastic shoe. Be sure to finish with the very fine so the flash will slide on easy.

While I can't guarantee this is the only solution, it worked for me. I'm sure that Bogan and other companies will modify their cold shoes to work in the future.bq

August 13, 2008 3:47 PM  
Anonymous André said...

I've ordered one, just for the excellent recykling time! And it'll work just fine with my Sb-800, too.

August 20, 2008 1:17 PM  
Blogger Nick Strugnell said...

Hi, I am a press photographer based in the UK and have recently switched from Canon to Nikon. Love the D3 and SB800's. However, one thing I noticed right away was the poor design of the D3 hotshoe. It is set so far back on the pentaprism that when I bring the cmera up to my eye the locking switch hits my forehead and when you are waiting for 'The' picture to happen it can really dig in. Is it me or do any of you guys have this problem? Is the SB900 any better? Canon's do not have this issue and wondered if you have any suggestions. Great site BTW. Nick

August 28, 2008 6:11 PM  
Blogger Jos van Zetten said...

I don't know yet.
At the moment i own a SB-600 and 50dx and wat thinking allready to buy a 800.
I will keep the 600 and sell the 50dx.
I have 2 options, buy 1 SB-900, or buy 2 SB-800's.
The last option is the best for me i think.

Amsterdam, the netherlands

October 05, 2008 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I purchased one in an emergency, O am a fuji shooter s3 and found out the flash was not both Ittl and D ttl compatable. I went back to old fashion a mode and the flash was very accurate.

I was using the latest Metz shoe mount loved it but I am the 5th person to have tube die woth in a year and a half

Ron Kotar
Studio K
Mentor , Ohio

October 12, 2008 2:29 PM  
Blogger AlphAlphA said...

I think the SB 900 is short of one important feature, a wink light, which for the price, ought to be there.
As Nikon flash units evolved, Metz scores high with 2-tube flash units that make bounce lighting a real pleasure. It's nothing new. They've been including wink lights for years. Why can't Nikon do it? For >$500.00, I think there's no excuse.

October 22, 2008 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think, ultimately, I'll buy the SB-900.
I live in Canada; good luck finding an '800 for under $399. The '900 is $500-$540 (depending on how the good the seller feels that day), so a $100 price difference isn't as huge as compared to those of you in the USA.
I can't get the '800 used for a good price on ebay 'cause of the weak Canadian dollar ($0.80 US to $1 CDN).

Then again, maybe the Canadian dollar will spring up in a few months (like it was several months ago); if so, '800 it is, with a couple '600s added later.

October 26, 2008 10:57 AM  
Blogger Helene said...

I feel a bit stupid after reading your comments about the SB900. Maybe I wasn't thinking and got carried away from Nikon's opening show at a new shop in Oslo? I also did pay as much as $500.

I have one SB800 and my intentions with the purchase was to replace my studio lights with the two flashes.

I have lately used an assistant because I carry so much equipment with me to the locations. With only light weighted flashes I hope to save money by doing the shoots by myself.

I tested the flashes when I got back home and I must say that the SB900 was REALLY EASY to use. It took me 20 seconds to learn how to use it and compare to my SB 800 that has been annoyingly unstable with the menu and remote flashing, I believe my SB900 will remove my sweating forehead at weddings when the SB800 doesn't fire when SHE is walking up the aisle...

I do hope my SB900 will be a great Master and maybe my third flash only needs to be a SB400?

December 05, 2008 4:18 PM  
Blogger Albert Brian said...

Brian, mopa media.

I sold off 3 sb600's and purchased two of these sb900's and honestly, I couldn't be more happy with my purchase. They are going for $400 right now which is basically $80 more than the Sb800 so price is not much of a factor. Im using it with a nikon D90 and some pocket wizards when I need to break line of sight. Fire all the time, great recycling time and I havent over heated yet ( knock on wood) Im using adorama brand 2900 mah rechargeable batteries and they seem to be working fine. I may pick up two more to complete the kit.

December 12, 2008 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Boris said...

Hey, just got a new SB-900, and I really like it. Looking at the light shaping feature, it seems to me that the wide oder concentrated setting just adds an offset to the zoom, and nothing else. Possible?
Best, Boris

December 13, 2008 9:24 PM  
Blogger Peter Andersen said...

Great article, thanks. Looking forward to using my new Christmas SB-900! Just a note for you, it appears people love to poach your photos, always tough to find so I thought I'd at least give you one to track down: http://www.nikonsb900.net/compare-vs-sb800/compare-nikon-sb900-sb800/


December 29, 2008 4:58 PM  
Blogger David C. said...

In your review you state:

"My hope: SB-800s go out of vogue with the doctors, dentists, and rich soccer moms and they all wind up in the used dept and on Ebay for $200 a pop."

Are you implying this demographic is fickle? Or that they don't deserve to use good equipment?

January 01, 2009 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got a 900 for $423.00 and a used 900 for $150, anyone recommed this, one 900 and a couple 800s?

February 03, 2009 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I feel fortunate that I bought a SB-800 last September for $265. Saw a few later for 250. Now they are doing for 380 used and the 800 is going for 425. So much fo the rich doctors and all selling their 800s. Guess Nikon had to discontinue the 800 so people would have to buy the 900.

February 23, 2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger ElectraGlide said...

When I bought my D90, I just asked for a strobe (that's what they called them back then). I thought the $500 tag was a bit steep, but I have been away from photography for a while. It works and works great. Next time, I'll spend more time on the front end, but I never seem to get it all straight.

March 07, 2009 1:17 AM  
Blogger Parrot Head said...

Sean Hopkins.

Ill admit im new to Photography. I made the jump just under a year ago and bought a Nikon D300. I have to say I thought i bitten off more than i could chew but wiht time im really liking it. My question is would anybody buy the SB900 as their first flash? Reading the comments It seems the 800 is very popular but if sarting from nothing is the 900 the way to go ??

May 04, 2009 2:46 PM  
Blogger Rick Price said...

I bought a new Nikon SB-900 to replace my SB-800 that stopped working. I wished I had read reviews on the SB-900 before I bought one. I have a Nikon D1X camera and the SB-900 can only be used in the following flash modes: Non-TTL (A), Manual (M) , and Repeating flash (RPT) on my camera. I used the SB-900 on my next job which was a beauty pageant for a grocery store chain. I took around 10 frames and the SB-900 over heated on me. I replaced the batteries and that helped for a few minutes before it over heated again. I had the flash set on manual at 1/1. I reduced the flash to ½ and changed the camera’s f-stop.
The flash didn’t overheat the rest of the night. When a person pays $500.00 for a new Nikon flash it should be at least compatible with all high end Nikon SLR camera’s. The overheating is something that shouldn’t happen.

October 23, 2009 2:05 PM  
Blogger NK94 said...

hey im just woundering. i got a sb-900 does it have a built in reciever?? thanks

December 27, 2009 9:10 AM  
Blogger Ruthless Photography said...

What's with all the negativity towards doctors? Some of us are photographers too and it gets a bit boring hearing the same old "just because they can afford it" rubbish being trotted out. I thought these reviews were about getting the best value for your money no matter what your budget was? I work 60 hour weeks and deal with a lot of high stress situations, so when it comes to buying new kit sometimes I like to reward myself by not just getting the cheapest thing that works when I can afford to buy more. Everyone working every kind of job does exactly the same, as would professional photographers trying to justify the kit they buy.

For the record I shoot with 2 shop-brand strobes and an SB24 on manual and do my own setup. I've been getting fed up with the quality of cheap triggers others keep raving about so I would consider getting branded units with the ability built in especially as my D700 works as a commander. This isn't just because I can, it's because the cheap option is time consuming, unreliable and is hampering my photography. The fact I earn a doctor's wage makes it easier to purchase, but I can think of plenty of other things the money could be spent on so have to justify it just as much as the next person.

Thanks for the review but leave out judging books by their covers.

January 19, 2010 1:07 PM  
Blogger David said...

Relax, Ruth, it's a joke. Except for the rich soccer moms -- they are the scourge of society.

I am guessing you are a new reader -- there's far worse spread out through the 1,000+ posts on this site.

Proceed at your own risk!

January 19, 2010 5:33 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I have the SB-900 and I absolutely love it! It is very diversified, the attachments are great and I have not had any problems with the size of the hotshoe.

January 25, 2010 10:42 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Hello all,
seems the price tag is the biggest problem people have with the 900, fair enough. My partner and i just finished shooting a wedding today. I used the SB800, and she shot with the 900 for the first time. Size: no biggy, Menu and settings: easy. Ok, what else could possibly be wrong with it???? The little bugger heats up way too quick and takes way too long to cool down. In a wedding situation, this is a bad thing. The 800 has never heated up to the point of, and this is a bit of a problem in a quiet church setting, sounding off an alarm. Didn't even know it had this feature, but not enough time during a shoot like this to stop and break out the manual to shut up the little birdy inside the flash. Felt totally like a cell phone abuser in the middle of a movie. If youre shooting anything where you require your flash to work all the time, i might suggest stickin with the old gear.

March 21, 2010 12:03 AM  
Blogger Garza said...

Here's my gear, Canon 5D MKi, Canon EF EOS 35mm 1.4 L,and spare change parts,batteries,cf cards,sd to cf adapters,mem readers,Vivitar 285 HV as prescribed by this fantastic site,and about a trillion photos on two HDD's and external cards. My goal is to be a very accomplished photographer using this combonation,and a future sub 300 second non L lens as in the 50 1.8,1.4,the 100mm f2,85mm 1.8,and so on. the main question is i am Canon4Life will this Nikon work on my cameras hotshoe, or just off camera even though off camera is a best bet to achieve better use? is this the "one" or is the Metz Mecablitz 60 CT-1 or any other grip type including Canons a better choice to enable ever aspect possible? my spend level would be a max of $500usd, but only to invest in the best logical versitile long term use flash! Thank you everyone,and good shooting to you!

January 30, 2011 4:47 AM  
Blogger Rainer said...

I think the comment of SWANKY is unjustified and harsh and does not sound Pro like to me.
Sb 900s is top notch stuff for me. There is no issue with the shoe flash older being slightly thicker in size. That is common sense stuff in order to support a larger size Flash Unit > Daaah!! Instead appreciate the high tech capability of such Flash Units. Where would you be today if yuo did not have them? back doing your own metering e.t.c! The balanced lighting is excellent and an all rounder fantastic Flash Unit! So stop whining.
I only have one Sb900s. The other one is an SB600 and a comander. Would love to have another SB 600 or two to add to my portable flash system.

January 03, 2013 11:54 PM  
Blogger Rainer said...

I think the comment of SWANKY is unjustified and harsh and does not sound Pro like to me.
Sb 900s is top notch stuff for me. There is no issue with the shoe flash older being slightly thicker in size. That is common sense stuff in order to support a larger size Flash Unit > Daaah!! Instead appreciate the high tech capability of such Flash Units. Where would you be today if yuo did not have them? back doing your own metering e.t.c! The balanced lighting is excellent and an all rounder fantastic Flash Unit! So stop whining.
I only have one Sb900s. The other one is an SB600 and a comander. Would love to have another SB 600 or two to add to my portable flash system.

January 03, 2013 11:55 PM  

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