Super Cheap: Replacement Tubes for Your Broken Speedlight
When it comes down to it, there aren't a ton of things that can go wrong with a speedlight. And if your flash appears to be in working order (i.e., charges, zooms, etc.) but won't fire, it is probably a bad or broken tube.
While you are probably looking at a three-digit repair bill from your OEM manufacturer, you can also DIY the repair for next to nothing.
First off, the normal disclaimer: Don't open your flash up if you are not familiar with electronics. Charged capacitors do not taste like chocolate. They taste rather more like getting kicked in the face by an MMA fighter.
And make sure you bleed the cap. And if you do not know what I mean by "bleed the cap," then have someone else do this.
That said, many properly workingflashes (especially old Nikon flashes like the SB-800) go for a princely sum used -- or next to nothing when sold for "parts." And often, this means a broken tube.
But as it turns out, you can get tubes from a variety of sources for less than $10 each. Here is a sample search on eBay for replacement tubes for a Nikon SB-800. Apparently, the same tubes fit Nikon SB-600's and -900s. So be sure to research a little if you are having trouble finding your own model.
A bit of searching shows you can buy many parts for popular flashes (including entire tube/reflector/zoom motor assemblies) for your broken baby on eBay. They typically ship from China, so probably don't be in a hurry.
Welcome to the Speedlight Surgery Channel
And the internet being what it is, you can also find tutorials on how to do your flash tube surgery, too. There are a decent number, too:
The one above is by Robert Nemeti, and shows how to swap out a tube on a Nikon SB-800. But there are also vids for the Canon 580 (flash head assembly) and a Nikon SB-600, seen below:
The Nikon SB-600 repair vid above, by "Lens Myth," is particularly good, and shows how to discharge the capacitor before opening up the flash. Maybe a good primer to watch before doing any speedlight tube surgery.
While not for beginners, it's a pretty straightforward process that can revive an otherwise dead piece of gear for almost no money. And if you are into it, you might be able to pick up a bagful of "parts" flashes for next to nothing and revive them on the cheap.
Previously, on the Speedlight Surgery Channel: How to Make Your SB-800 Rotate 360 Degrees
New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Next live event: GPP PopUP Berlin (Oct. 29-30)