It's all about light output. The SB80dx has two significant advantages over the SB50dx. First is GN. The GN of the SB80dx is 125. The GN of the SB50 is 72. To give you an idea of the difference, two SB50dx's firing together will give you a GN of 102. The second advantage is that the SB80 uses AA batteries which are cheap and easy to find. The SB50 uses lithiums.
I am a pretty heavy camera user and I'm still on my first set of lithiums for the SB50 so I don't consider that a big deal. As for the GN, I've been well served by the SB50. I would look at it this way: Buy the SB50 and if you find it isn't giving you enough light, keep it as a remote flash or as an IR trigger for an SB80 on remote...
Nikonian in the High Desert of Southern California.
I don't know if I would consider either one a "better" flash. They are both capable units, but have diffrent features.
The main difference is going to be the light output. The SB-50 is considerably less powerful than the SB-80. That said, I opted for the SB-50 and it's $149 price tag. I wasn't sure I would need all the power of the SB-80, as I am new to flash photography, and it is a smaller unit for backpacking.
I will say, that at some point, I will be purchasing an SB-80. Don't get me wrong, the SB-50 is a great unit, and is all I need for 80-90% of my shots. However, I am shooting more and more at aperatures of f/8-f/16, and at those small aperatures, the power of the SB-50 is marginal with 100 ISO film. Shooting 400 ISO is less of a problem.
So, many factors to consider..
SB-80 if... -your budget is unlimited -need high power flash -shoot mainly ISO 100 or slower film -don't mind lugging it's girth around
SB-50 if... -want a capable flash for a great price -shoot 400 ISO film often -don't need your flash extend great distances -need a small compact, yet fairly powerful alternative to the on camera flash of the N80 or N65. -can always use it as a slave if you feel the need to upgrade later like me.
I purchased the SB 80DX flash this afternoon, primarily for its ability to be connected to other flash units by way of the Nkon TC-19 Cord. The SB50 doesn't have the built in "Jack" to accomplis this task, so the only way to use two flash units that fire in TTL Mode, would be to use Nikon's SU-4 Wireless Slave units, and these have proven in the past to be unreliabl, and useless when using a diffuser or Lumiquest on the main flash unit connected to the camera. I went to the camera store almost sure I would go with the SB50, but this issue is not something I could live with.
Eddy I have had my 80DX for a short while and I find it brilliant. its cheaper than the 26 it replaces, the advantage the 80 has over the 50 is the increases zoom range so if uou have a 20-, or 35 to 105mm lens the 80 is ideal whereas the 50 stops at about 85mm, I also have a SU-4 and it has never let me done yet, if you line it up properly with the built in, or another external flash, then the results are as good as you need
There's a LOT going for the SB50dx, but most of the things have been covered already. Frankly it's the price/performance leader of the Nikon flash line. I would LOVE an SB80dx, but spending that kind of cash on a flash is unrealistic for me as I don't make a living with my pictures. For those of us with limited funds, the lower GN of the SB50 is an acceptable tradeoff for the benefit of a light flash with remote capabilities and plenty of power for the vast majority of shooting situations at a cost of around $160US.
I'm glad you are happy you didn't get an SB50. I'm extremely happy I purchased one, because it has been a fantastic flash for me. To each their own I guess...
Nikonian in the High Desert of Southern California.
I have the SB-50DX and have achieved very decent photos. Just shot a wedding (for fun and not as the official phoptographer) and this flash performed very well overall. I made sure to understand my shots and work within it's limit with the film speed. Gotten lots of compliments so far.
To one particular poster (Eddy), I on the other hand, am glad I did not spend 2X the money on the SB-80DX. Like others mentioned, we all have our limits and not EVERYONE needs the best and/or top of the line product to be happy and/or happy with their results.
Bowmah -- "What we have to learn, we learn by doing." "Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have."
There is one more thing the SB-50DX has going for it, that I find to be a big plus! The small size and weight! This flash has been a great little unit for backpacking and canoing, as it takes up 1/2 the size and weight of it's "big brother" SB-80DX. It is also very easy to use and understand for a beginner with no knowledge of dedicated flash operation. It's pretty much put it on and shoot away...
In every purchase where cost is a consideration (yes, believe it or not, some of us do have to budget for things other than camera equipment ), compromises will most likely have to be made. In the case of these 2 flashes, I have compromised flash output and a swivel head for a $150 savings. For me this was a good compromise though. For others, it may not be. The SB-50 is plenty powerful for most of my shooting, I do not feel the need for anything more powerful at this point as I am not selling my prints, and the $150 was much better spent toward my Lowepro Rover Light and a 50mm 1.8D.
I think we all have to make decisions as to what features we "need", what features we "want", and what we can actually afford. Obviously the correct mix of the above is different for everyone and fortunately for us, this is a great place to gather information that may make these decisions easier.
You got it. I believe the 50 has it's slave sensor on the right side of the body so when holding it with your left hand the sensor will 'see' the flash from the camera. You could then bounce light from the ceiling in either portrait or landscape modes. Of course ceiling height makes limitations.