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Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
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- High-quality flash for standalone use or as part of a comprehensive lighting system
- Commander mode controls up to 3 Speedlight groups or unlimited individual Speedlights
- 4 wireless channel options; prominent master and remote control switch for wireless operation
- Auto power zoom coverage ranges from 17 to 200mm (FX format) to 12 to 200mm (DX format)
- 3 light distribution patterns; measures 3 x 5.7 x 4.7 inches (W x H x D) and weighs 14.6 ounces
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|Item Dimensions||5.75 x 4.67 x 3.07 inches|
|Shipping Weight||1.98 pounds|
Photographers working on zoom photos will appreciate the SB-900's expanded auto power zoom coverage, which ranges from 17 to 200mm in the FX format to 12 to 200mm in the DX format. Photographers also have the choice of three light distribution patterns: standard (for general illumination), center-weighted (for portraits), and even (for groups or interiors). Finally, the SB-900 automatically identifies mounted color gel filters and adjusts the camera's auto white balance setting (available with select Nikon digital SLR cameras). Other details include automatic FX/DX format identification; user-friendly firmware updating; flash tube overheat protection; and a drip-proof mounting foot cover.
- Guide number: 34 meters/111.5 feet (ISO 100), 48 meters/157.5 feet (ISO 200)
- Electronic construction: Automatic Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and series circuitry
- Flash exposure control: Slow sync; red-eye reduction in slow sync; front curtain sync; rear curtain sync; rear-curtain slow sync; auto FP high-speed sync; FV lock flash
- Lens coverage: 17 to 200mm (FX format, automatic mode); 12 to 200mm (DX format, automatic mode); 12 to 17mm (FX format, automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed); 8 to 11mm (DX format, automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
- Bounce function (tilt): Flash head tilts down to -7 degrees or up to 90 degrees, with click stops at -7, 0, 45, 60, 75, and 90 degrees
- Bounce function (rotate): Flash head rotates horizontally 180 degrees to the left and right, with click stops at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180 degrees
- Minimum recycling time: 4 seconds with alkaline-manganese (1.5 volts); 4.5 seconds with lithium (1.5 volts); 3 seconds with Oxyride (1.5 volts); 2.3 seconds with Ni-MH (2,600 mAh)
- Flash duration: 1/880 second at M1/1 (full) output; 1/1,000 second at M1/2 output; 1/2,550 second at M1/4 output; 1/5,000 second at M1/8 output; 1/10,000 second at M1/16 output; 1/20,000 second at M1/32 output; 1/35,700 second at M1/64 output; 1/38,500 second at M1/128 output
- Required power source: 4 AA-type batteries in the following types: alkaline-manganese (1.5 volts), lithium (1.5 volts), or Ni-MH (1.2 volts)
- ISO range: 100 to 6,400
- Optional power supply: SD-9 high-performance battery pack, SD-8A high-performance battery pack, or SK-6 power bracket unit
- Ready light: Yes
- Minimum number of flashes: 110 with alkaline-manganese (1.5 volts); 230 with lithium (1.5 volts); 190 with Ni-MH (2,600 mAh)
- Wireless flash modes: Off, master, master (repeating), remote, and SU-4
- Wireless communication channels: 4
- Wireless groups: 3
- Dimensions: 3 x 5.7 x 4.7 inches (W x H x D)
- Weight: 14.6 ounces
- Supplied accessories: AS-21 Speedlight stand, SW-13H diffusion dome, SJ-900 color filter set, SZ-2 color filter holder, SS-900 soft case
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.