UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Unlock The Superslave in Your Nikon SB-800

Money being no object, I think the Nikon SB-800 is the best speedlight on the planet. It should be, for the $300.00+ price tag. But money is usually an object, and what you have to consider is whether an SB-800 is worth, say, three SB-26's.

But if you already have an SB-800 (I have a couple) there is no reason you should not squeeze every penny of value out of it that you can.

I love my old SB-26's in part because of their built-in slaves. They are pretty sensitive - certainly good enough for close quarters. And I use that feature in conjunction with Pocket Wizards whenever I am using more flashes than I have receivers.

A good example is this shot, which used six flashes. Three were PW'd and three more were slaved. Thank you, SB-26.

But the ordinary slave in the SB-26 cannot hold a candle to the superslave built into the SB-800. We have talked about accessing it via the SU-4 mode on the Flickr groups, but never on the main site. So let's take a look at exactly how to do that right now, and see just how good it is.

How To Slave an SB-800

1. First, turn on your flash.

2. Now get into the submenu by pressing and holding the "sel" button for 2 seconds.

3. Arrow right (the "single tree" button) to get the upper right quadrant highlighted.

4. Push the select button again.

5. Scoll down ("-" button) until "SU-4" is highlighted.

6. Push "sel" again to select.

7. Push and hold "sel" for 2 seconds to get out of the submenu.

8. Your flash will now say "REMOTE."

You are now in SU-4 mode, a legacy, wireless, quasi-TTL mode for which the SB-800 is backward compatible. But you are not going to use it for TTL. By pressing the "mode" button you can toggle between automatic and manual. Choose manual.

By pressing the "+" or "-" buttons, you can change power in 1/3-stop increments all the way to 1/128 power.

You now have a flash that'll slave to any other flash. You want to use both in the manual mode, so they will not influence each other's output.

As far as I can tell, the "eye" of the slave is the circular optical port on the left side of the lash if you are facing the front of the flash. So you will want to rotate the flash body so the window faces the master flash.

So, How Good Is It?

Real good. Take this shot, for example:

I made this frame in full daylight, with the master flash on camera and set at 1/2 power. The superslave fired the SB-800 from about 110 feet away. In darker light, the range is much further. Line of sight is best, but it reaches well around corners indoors.

This thing rocks.

So, if you have a mix of SB-800's and other flashes, PW the others and slave the SB-800's. They work great together. If you slave an on-camera flash, make sure you set on manual and avoid TTL preflashes. This thing is sensitive enough to fire from those little winks.

SB-600... Meh, Not So Much..

Here is the bummer: The SB-600 does not have this feature. I can only guess that it was neutered. It has all of the hardware built in because of the CLS capabilities. I think they could have done it for free (or darn near) but for some reason chose not to do so. So now I have to go out and buy the 2x-as-much SB-800's.

Oh, wait. That's a reason right there...

C'mon, Nikon, unleash the SU-4 mode in the next version of the SB-600. You don't short change people on flash features -- you're the Good Guys. It's the other guys who do things like that.

Oh, and while I am thinking about it, to get out of SU-4 mode, do the following: Go into the submenu the same way as above, and scroll up to "off" from "SU-4." Hit "sel" to choose it. Press and hold "sel" for two seconds and you are back to normal.

Try it out. It's amazing.

And every SB-800 owner should know about this feature. If a flash costs as much as a car payment, you should know everything it'll do. So please help to spread the word.


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