Top positive review
363 people found this helpful
Lots of misinformation in other reviews of this flash
on May 4, 2009
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.