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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||1.94 pounds|
D3)NIKON SB-900AF SPEEDLIGHT (4807)
The SB-900 i-TTL Speedlight leads the Nikon Creative Lighting System by delivering the portability, power, and versatility to support any photographer's creative lighting imagination. The SB-900 works as a wireless standalone flash, or you can use it as a commander or wireless remote light source. In commander mode, the SB-900 controls up to three remote Speedlight groups and an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights, with four wireless channel options helping you manage wireless conflicts in multiple photographer environments. The flash also offers streamlined controls and menus, including a rotary select dial that sets key flash functions quickly, along with a prominent master and remote control switch to simplify wireless operation.
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 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.
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.