336 of 346 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of misinformation in other reviews of this flash
I can't believe the amount of misinformation presented in customer reviews for this product.
First of all, it is true -- Nikon added a thermal cut-off that allows the customer to be absolutely certain that the flash never overheats. If that sensor is turned on, the flash can't shoot fast enough or often enough for professional usage -- particularly for...
Published on May 4, 2009 by Paul Grupp
141 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looks ready for battle, but turns out to be a delicate flower
I shot two weddings this weekend and the SB-900 didn't even make it out of my case for the second one. It overheats unbelievably quickly, after hardly a dozen shots at full power, and then it does a thermal shutdown -- meaning it emits a series of pinball machine-esque beeps and then refuses to operate for a few minutes until the internal temperature goes down far enough...
Published on August 10, 2008 by R. van Bakel
Most Helpful First | Newest First
336 of 346 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of misinformation in other reviews of this flash,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)I can't believe the amount of misinformation presented in customer reviews for this product.
First of all, it is true -- Nikon added a thermal cut-off that allows the customer to be absolutely certain that the flash never overheats. If that sensor is turned on, the flash can't shoot fast enough or often enough for professional usage -- particularly for weddings. Try shooting the bridal party introductions at a reception, for example. Even if you limit yourself to two flash pops per couple, by the time the third couple is walking in the door, the thermal shutdown will kick in, and you'll be swearing at the thing.
However, you can simply turn the sensor off. In my experience, the flash is no more delicate than previous Nikon and Canon speedlights. Every Nikon and Canon flash has a duty cycle carefully described in their manual that virtually all professionals ignore and exceed, and yet -- most of us get years of usage from the flashes with no problem. I can't tell you the number of times I've taken batteries out of my flashes that were simply too hot to hold, and the flash housing was burning hot too -- but the thing just kept on working. So I think, if you turn off the thermal cut-off, the SB-900 will behave just like earlier flashes like the SB-800, in terms of overheating.
So the simple answer is. . . if you turn off the thermal sensor, the SB-900 is at least as useful as a professional tool as it's predecessors -- no more, no less susceptible to overheating. I don't know why Nikon and Canon are so conservative in the duty-cycle ratings of their flashes, but I've talked with dozens of fellow pros over the years -- we all abuse the flashes, and we rarely have issues. I'm not saying that it's not possible to abuse these speedlights to the point where they will die -- I'm just saying I have used them professionally and repeatedly put hundreds of very fast, high-power pops on them, significantly exceeding the rated duty cycle, and have yet to kill a Canon or Nikon speedlight.
As far as batteries go, Nikon fully supports and recommends the use of NiMH batteries -- both normal and Eneloops. The chart in the manual shows NiMH as being the best combination for a good number of pops and the shortest recycling time. Only the expensive Lithium non-rechargeables have better battery life, but they have a recycle time almost double NiMH. Alkalines give the smallest number of pops, and have the second longest recycle time.
So fear not -- the SB-900 is the nicest speedlight I've owned yet -- I have three of them, and I like it far better than it's predecessors. Turn off the thermal sensor as soon as you take the flash out of the box, load it up with Eneloop batteries, and you will experience flash nirvana.
Finally, I highly recommend the SD-9 accessory battery pack. Load it up with Sanyo Eneloops, and you can easily shoot an entire wedding (actually, probably two weddings) without swapping batteries, while enjoying the fastest recycle time possible with this flash.
Update after using three of the SB-900s for a full wedding season: We encountered some flakiness (random flashing of the flashtube and AF assist lights) which I THINK is related to a loose fit of the SB-900's hot shoe base in the D700 camera's hot shoe. So far, it seems like applying Deoxit contact cleaner to both the camera and flash camera contacts makes the problem go away.
142 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thermal shutdown - fixed?,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)I have an SB900 and agree with all the positive comments posted in other reviews, however I want to challenge those who are posting stories about thermal shutdown to supply some additional information about what situations really cause the flash to shutdown.
I've been using my SB900 for several months now, and I've never experienced a problem with the unit shutting down, so I thought I'd try a simple test.
I installed a set of brand new lithium ion batteries in my SB900, set it to full power manual mode, and hit the flash button manually as soon as the ready light lit - that's about one full-power shot every 1 or 2 seconds. I did this until the batteries were drained (that is, until it got to be about 10 seconds between flashes - that's a few hundred full-power flashes in a row).
Never once did the thermal protection circuit kick in...in fact, the temperature display barely moved for the first 50-100 shots, and throughout the test, even when I could feel the batteries getting warm, it never went much above the 50% mark. My test was indoors at an ambient temperature of about 70 degrees.
I tried other settings - repeat flash, flash with my D3 firing at maximum continuous speed, etc. But I could never even come close to driving the flash to shutdown. So perhaps Nikon fixed the issue, I'm just plain lucky - or it has to do with the type of batteries or maybe other accessories used.
With this issue out of the way, I'm able to give the unit an unqualified 5 star rating as it's simply the most capable and easy to use unit I've ever owned.
79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Far So Good,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)I own 3 SB-800s and I shoot weddings. So far none of SB-800s have quit on me. They are real workhorses. I bought the Sb-900 because i like the ease of switching it from being a regular flash to a master control in a quick flick. If you use this function a lot, it may be worth it to get the SB900. The $130 difference to me depends on how fast you use that function. In a wedding, you could set up some remote lights with your other nikon speedlights...and create some nice lighting. But sometime you want to turn these remotes on/off and it is a real hassle doing it withe the Sb800. Now, it takes less that second...which is essential in a wedding environment.
I read other comments about how their 900s overheated and shut down. I did not experience this for the 2 weddings i shot recently. However, since i'm shooting with a new D700 at ISO 400 - 800, i'm probably not working the 900 extremely hard. Overall, the flash seems to be working well, and apart from its size, i like it. The negatives: The controls needs a little getting used to and the flash case is a little too long too. If it was priced in the 3 hundreds...then it would be 5 star...for this price...it only gets 4 stars from me.
74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SB-900 Flash Creative Lighting System,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)
This Flash is another example of why Nikon is the World leader in innovation for photography!! The Creative Lighting System is totally wireless controlled and you can have multiple flashes controlled via this or another flash. Very User friendly. The overheating issue must have been resolved as I have not had any issues to date. Thanks for watching my reviews.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know the truth please read,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)Okay, here's the (long winded) truth about the flash and it's "thermal shutdown problem".
First off, let me say that I have much experience in using different camera flashes and studio strobes as well as some repairing of them. I will start of by saying that this flash is the best portable camera flash in it's class that I have EVER used. Nikon knows what they are doing. They have an extremely high standard of quality and reliability. When they see a quality improvement / guarantee need, they will apply it. In the case of the SB-800 to the SB-900 one of the biggest and least appreciated quality assurance guarantees is the thermal cut off feature. Which, by the way, can be turned off or on. So all of those who are b****ing about it, just read your manual and turn it off!
Okay, time for a cheesy quote: "With great power comes great responsibility". Nikon knew this. (speculation) They also knew the general public would not really understand the limitations of the flash in hand. So they incorporated a safety mechanism: "Thermal cut off", to prevent overheating due to extended maximum flash output. This sort of "circuit breaker" is also found in some pro studio strobes. Studio strobes usually use AC power and provide a much greater power output and are more likely to overheat and sometimes "blow out", so it is common to see some kind of safety mech built in to them. Portable camera flashes run off batteries and do not produce any where near the kind of power output than said strobes; so there is usually no critical need for such a safety. With the SB-900 however (and SB-800), Nikon has managed to build a very compact flash (yes, I mean compact if you consider it's power capability) that recharges very quickly and sustains a consistent powerful output. To do this, it requires a huge demand on the IGBT (like a capacitor) and sustained overheating would result in failure and eventually even damage to the flash. Of course they could have "pushed it" and programmed it to trigger at a much higher temp threshold or even eliminated the option all together. But it is good to have that feature. It's not that the flash overheats "easily", it's that the flash is offering more than maybe it should. With that much more power, comes that much more heat. (Especially from a compact unit without any cooling fans)
Now for my silly analogy: "It's like the difference between driving a car that only goes 65mph (other flashes) and driving car that goes 100mph (SB-900 / 800). With the 65mph car, you can't get a speeding ticket (overheat / failure) on the freeway with the speed limit of 65mph. With the 100mph car you won't get a ticket either, until you start driving 100mph for an extended period of time on the same freeway. Then you will likely be stopped for speeding. Then, having a radar detector (thermal cut off feature) will warn you when a cop is around the corner and that you should slow down from 100mph to 65mph. You may ask yourself: why that speed limit? Of course, safety: limitations of the car and driver. Then you may ask: why make a car that goes 100mph if it is not safe to go that fast? (here is where my analogy doesn't follow exactly, but you get my point) You may have a need to go 100mph and it is good to have the ability. Often it may be fine to do so. Just know you are running the risks."
If you really need to turn off the thermal feature and shoot at max output consistently, chances are it will function just fine. Yes, it will get hot, yes your batteries will drain faster, and yes you will wait longer for each subsequent recharge but nothing major will happen: because it's designed to do that and it's a Nikon made in Japan. Just know this: Nikon or not, all electronics still have to follow the basic laws of physics. It's not ultimately good for the IGBT and circuitry to sustain such powerful flash firing as some do. You run the risk of degradation and failure. I've seen it happen, albeit rare.
Basically, you should feel confident about the performance and reliability of this flash. It doesn't get any better...yet.
114 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth About it's "overheating malfunction"...,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)This review represents an update after nearly 3 years of heavy usage. See below for the update.
For all those of you, who are reading these reviews, and can't quite figure out why Nikon would make such a "deficient" product, as this SB-900, this review should forever put the debate to rest.
It has been suggested that the SB-900 is a sub-standard unit, because it will "overheat" at times, causing it to shut down, until it finally cools off, allowing it to eventually resume operations. There are some reviewers on this site, that will lead you to believe that this "safety" feature is an engineering flaw and thus, all would-be buyers need to beware, and seriously look elsewhere.
I recently purchased this flash and used it heavily during a conference this past weekend, in which I was one of two event photographers. Admittedly, I was a little cautious and reserved when I purchased this unit, secondary to several negative reviews regarding it's habitual "overheating malfunction".
Reflecting on it's performance this past weekend, I am pleased to report that It was used heavily in all situations and it never "malfunctioned" - not even once. Obviously, there were a couple of times when I was too far from the subject, causing the unit to discharge at full power. But, as an observant user, I recognized that this was my clue that I (not it) was doing something wrong. Thus with minor and reasonable modifications, a good outcome was reliably achieved.
Interestingly, the owners manual does state that if the unit is used too heavily, it can get hot and shut down temporarily, as a precautionary measure. But it must also be noted that the owners manual for both the built-in camera flash and the SB-800 say the very same thing! In other words, if ANY flash is abused, misused or in any way used in a manner that is inconsistent with its designed purpose, it will overheat and shut down.
This is NOT a design error on the part of Nikon. The overheating will only occur if the flash is fully discharged upon multiple consecutive occurrences, on a subject that is too distant for the flash to appropriately illuminate. If the flash is found to shut down, it is a sign that one must move closer to the subject or add more flash units. Again, overheating and shutdown is NOT a design flaw, it more appropriately represents operator error.
Additionally, the new design is truly welcomed! The controls are MUCH better placed and much easier to use. It recharges much faster and works very smoothly. I am very pleased with Nikon's new design and any logical user will feel the same. You will not go wrong with this unit and undoubtedly, will find it a pleasure to work with on a regular basis.
In summary: Do not be mislead by those users who are using the unit inappropriately. If you have never caused your built-in camera flash or SB-800 units to meltdown or "freez-up" (pun intended), You will likely not experience any such event on the SB-900. It is a very well designed unit, is much easier to use, and functions much more smoothly than any flash Nikon has put out thus far.
Review Update 2.5 years later after MANY additional events.
OK, now after having the flash for a total of nearly three years, using it under all circumstances, including weddings, & conferences, I can again conclude that the flash is a very welcomed update. It has NEVER shut down, although once, under unusually heavy usage, the temp did get unusually high and I was aware that it certainly could, but never did.
The only conclusion that I can arrive at, is:
1. My unit is fault-free and others are flawed???
2. I am among the those not abusing the unit???
3. I have realistic expectations and some others do not???
Again, years later, after MANY heavy events, I have NO regrets whatsoever!
Also, if the unit was such a lemon, why is a 3 year old unit, selling for MORE than it originally sold for new, on eBay???
I would love to buy another unit, but I have a hard time paying MORE for a 3 year old unit then I paid for mine NEW, years ago!
For all would-be-buyers, carefully take everything into account. The unit is truly a serious design upgrade from the SB-800. It works much better and again, I own BOTH units and only use my SB-900, for many good reasons.
After years of usage, I can only highly recommend it and would dearly like to get an additional unit for similar events.
If you found this review to be useful, please place your vote, so others can benefit as well.
109 of 123 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thermal Shutdown is for the Birds!,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)Fellow Wedding Photographers! Please listen! The SB-900's thermal shutdown is a very serious problem for us. I received my SB-900 last Thursday and shot a wedding on Saturday. YES! The thermal shutdown Grinch got me! Even after I read the reviews complaining about the problem, I rationalized it by thinking, well I probably don't shoot as fast as they do. WRONG! It got me after just 6 full power exposures!
As background, I've used a SB-800 for a couple of years shooting fairly rapidly and never had a problem with overheating. I likely had overheating, but the SB-800 flash withstood the stress. Not so with the SB-900's thermal shutdown feature. Reluctantly, I'm turning "thermal shutdown" OFF in the setup menu. Why? Because I love the SB-900 otherwise! It's a wonderful step above the 800. But now I may risk warranty repair problems should something happen.
I hate being put into that position by Nikon! I've been loyal to the brand since 1964's Nikon F days. Hopefully Nikon will come up with a cure, especially since the 900 has the ability for it's software/parameters to be remotely updated.
In the meantime, wedding photographers, you're taking a big chance the unit will shut down just when important shots happen, unless you disable the thermal shutdown protection mode.
I'm still rating the SB-900 as 4 stars, since all else seems fantastic. ATTN: NIKON! Please fix this problem!
141 of 165 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looks ready for battle, but turns out to be a delicate flower,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)I shot two weddings this weekend and the SB-900 didn't even make it out of my case for the second one. It overheats unbelievably quickly, after hardly a dozen shots at full power, and then it does a thermal shutdown -- meaning it emits a series of pinball machine-esque beeps and then refuses to operate for a few minutes until the internal temperature goes down far enough. Pretty bad if you're in the middle of taking group photos, and twenty pairs of eyes are on you. What are you supposed to do -- tell everyone to wait around until the flash is good 'n' ready again? With this limitation, it's just not a tool that's remotely acceptable to a pro.
(Of course, if you don't shoot events, and can take your time between flashed photos, what is a critical point to me may well be unimportant to you.)
I suppose it makes sense for Nikon to err on the side of caution, but I'm glad my SB-800s seem to be made of sturdier stuff. True, you can't keep flashing away with the SB-800 either -- Nikon recommends cooling its bigger speedlights for at least ten minutes after bursts of heavy and sustained flash use -- but I haven't run up against a practical limitation. I work my SB-800 speedlights hard, and so far (four years and counting) I haven't burned one out yet.
As for the SB-900, it's surprising that a flash this expensive is such a delicate flower, so prone to overheating. In that regard, it may actually be just a little too big & powerful for its own good.
I believe you can elect (somewhere in the menu) not to have the thing turn itself off when it gets too hot, so perhaps you can wring the same performance and stamina from the SB-900 that you can from the SB-800. But while it'd be no fun to burn out a 300-dollar flash, it'd be especially painful to accidentally bump off its considerably more expensive big brother. So I'm going back to my three SB-800s, and the SB-900 is going back to Amazon for a refund.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Flash,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)I purchased this as a replacement for an SB600 as my main on-shoe flash, and as a second flash for off-camera strobes in my basement studio. I love this flash, especially compared to the 600, for no other reason than changing it from normal to master or remote is as simple as turning a dial. With the 600, it's an exercise in multi-button torture to get it into remote mode!
I can't compare it to the 800 to say whether it is better or worse than, but compared to the 600 it's a great flash if you are doing anything beyond basic on-camera work.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK flash,
This review is from: Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras (Camera)SB-900 overheated during a 25th anniversary shooting, it overheated fairly quickly, and I had to go with my backup the SB-800.
I was very disappointed in how fast it overheated and shut down. Just the day before, I used the SB-900 at a high school football game, took 180 pictures and it worked great. I suppose it did not over heat because of the time between shots. The anniversary was lots of pictures one after another. Never the less Nikon should build their flag ship Flash to with stand more than their second in command the SB-800.
One thing about the SB-900, the multiple flash set up is very easy. I like the way it's built and the features, I just don't like the fact it overheated so fast.
Most Helpful First | Newest First