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


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Blogger John DM said...

geez, David, When you first started Strobist with recommendations for the older Nikon flashes, their prices soared on eBay. Now i suppose the same will be true for flashes sold for 'parts'...but thanks, i may someday need this post

September 27, 2013 6:23 AM  
Blogger Felipe "Avatar" Arruda said...

Did that with a 580EXII. Just the bulb replaced. Flash like a new one.

September 27, 2013 6:34 AM  
Blogger Paul S said...

Very useful information, I have a couple of old SB's that need tubes replacing... While we are on the subject, does anyone know if you can get cheap replacement Lumedyne tubes in the UK or Europe? I have recently had to replace two Lumedyne tubes and they are £117 ($180) each to import to the UK from the US.
Any help greatly appreciated..

September 27, 2013 11:51 AM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

I'll be referring back to this column when my stable of SB-28s starts to get unstable. Great advice, can't beat saving money on repairs.

September 27, 2013 1:07 PM  
Blogger david said...

I had a dead SB600. It apparently fell or experienced some kind of shock and it would turn on or do anything.

Perusing the web, I found that someone else had the same symptom, opened it up and found a broken inductor in the power supply board. I opened mine and found that very same inductor broken on mine. (Here's where I found it:

(Aside: Nikon did not design the physicals of the SB600 well because the battery box floats in the middle of the boards and can move just a little. The clearance is such that it can shear off the top of that inductor or break the diode next to it.)

After getting hold of the service manual for the SB600, I was able to determine the value of the inductor and find a replacement that I was able to shoehorn into place. Others have found better replacements.

I've been picking up old Norman 200B hardware and repairing them, too. I can't affort to have GAS over new hardware...

September 27, 2013 5:51 PM  
Blogger lv pg said...

How are you at troubleshooting a bad PC connection on a flash? My 580II works with a hot-shoe sync, but the PC connection sync is shot. Got a quote from my vendor...the last customer sent 2 580 units... Each had a "greater than $200" repair bill from Canon.

Frankly, at that cost, I would have just picked up a couple of Lumopros and be done with the TTL.

Thanks if you have any repair info...Thanks if for posting this if you don't.

September 27, 2013 8:25 PM  
Blogger JimDonahue said...

Not wanting to blow my face up I'll just buy a new flash when the time comes

September 27, 2013 10:34 PM  
Blogger DArt said...

So it's actually possible. Great!

October 01, 2013 7:39 AM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

good post!
it was never mentioned but i am assuming you never want to actulay touch the tube itself as you could get finger oil on it?

October 02, 2013 12:53 PM  
Blogger Greg Mooney - Atlanta Photographers said...

I've worked on simpler flashes but never the 800. I'll give it a go after seeing this.

However, I need SB-800 screws. Mine keep coming loose and falling out while working. And I cant find them online. Anyone else sources screws on Ebay?

October 15, 2013 12:50 PM  
Blogger mkiss said...

Awesome post!
I have a little addition, in case replacing the tube does not fix your flash. I wrote it up here:
I hope it helps some of you who might have gotten into the same situation as me.

October 18, 2013 2:17 PM  
Blogger Monsieur said...

Hey all,
I dropped my canon flash a few months ago, today I received my brand new flashbulb for my 430EXII

feel free to see my video on youtube:

October 29, 2013 10:55 AM  

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