I paid $319 in 2004 for an SB-800. During the last 4-5 months I bought three SB800 Speedlights and paid between $370-$400 for each of those. I don't know any other consumer electronic unit that has retained the value like SB800 had. What makes the demand so high for SB-800? For me it is the size to light output ratio....any other reasons?
The SB-800 is i-TTL compatible and backwards compatible to D-TTL and Film TTL flash control as well. As stated above, the SB-800 Doesn't have the Thermal Shut down feature of the SB-900 or the thermal slow down feature of the SB-910. In other words it will fire as fast as it can recycle until it melts or burns up. Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
I have worked with my herd of twelve SB800s for several years, and also own one each of the SB400, SB600, SB700, SB900, and four of the SB-R200 units.
In my personal experience, the venerable SB800 is the standard of comparison for all other Nikon speedlights.
It is compact, reliable, reasonably priced when new, and is comparable in power to other Nikon speedlights.
The LCD screen failed on one of the early members of the herd. Nikon did a warranty repair and had the unit back in my hands within a week. Since then, all twelve of them have performed flawlessly, often under trying circumstances, such as being clamped to a steel panel in a law enforcement armored vehicle while bouncing over rough terrain.
Many SB800 users had problems with the configuration procedure. Admittedly, the manual was a bit obtuse which, in my opinion, is perfectly understandable. I wouldn't expect a device as sophisticated and flexible as the SB800 to be the speedlight equivalent of a one hundred dollar point an shoot camera. Nor would I expect the unit's use to be fully described in a twelve-paragraph tri-fold brochure. Following my first couple outings with the herd, I could quickly configure them from any mode to any other mode in seconds.
A bit of study is required to first understand the architecture of the CLS technology which, again, is more sophisticated than earlier speedlight models. Once this structure is evident, configuration is fairly straightforward. When I acquired my first breeding pair of SB800s, it took a couple days to finally connect the dots. As one of the very early users of CLS, there was nobody to turn to for advice. I initially believed the CLS preflash and image capture pulses were radio frequency (RF), because I could hide remotes around corners and behind furniture and they would still fire. Later, I covered the IR filter port with several layers of gaffers tape and they stopped functioning. Eureka! The signaling is infrared (IR).
Are there any flaws in the SB800? Not in my opinion. Yes, they will self-destruct if driven too hard by machine gun wedding shooters. Those expecting such performance are being unrealistic in my view. The SB800 and following units were simply not designed for such use. They do not have internal cooling fans or vents, like the much larger, more expensive units requiring bulky, high-voltage battery packs or AC power. Yes, we would all like more power and reach. This will not likely occur in a unit the size and cost of the SB800.
Yes, I frequently would like more than three remote groups, but realize I am probably the exception. Once I started pushing the camera to remote distances at about 65 feet in my law enforcement night shoots, I switched to Pocket Wizard Plus II and MultiMax units and the SU-4 mode. From another perspective, adding more remote groups also adds to the shutter-closed CLS preflash sequence timing which, at some point, becomes a problem.
Following posts here in the speedlight forum for several years now, it is evident that many SB800 users have learned to configure them and gone on to lead normal lives.
In my opinion, the SB800 remains the work horse of the Nikon speedlight line. Others apparently agree, as the price asked for used units often exceeds their price when new. At the very special prices I receive from a local dealer, I could probably sell my herd for enough to replace all twelve of them with the latest SB910 units ... No, they are not for sale. Changes that appeared in the following SB900 and SB910 models are largely cosmetic in my view, and served only to increase the size, weight, and cost of the units.
A final comment: I always remove the batteries from the herd when finished, or next morning at the latest. One never knows when that one in a thousand leaking battery will appear.
My $0.02 worth. Thanks for asking the question Dinil.
HBB in Phoenix, Arizona Nikonian Team Member
Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.
I have 5 SB800s (I'm not in Hal's league for acquiring SB units; my breeding program has been far less successful).
Even if I could trade the in for SB910s at this point, I strongly doubt I would do so. Even though the SB900/910 have a few features the SB800 lacks, such as the ability to adjust the beam itself (wide, narrow, etc) beyond just the zoom function and the snap on filters that auto-adjust camera white balance, I don't see these features as crucial, esp for my mode of working primarily in manual with a flash meter.
The added weight/size of the 900 series vs the 800 series is a real drawback when you are schlepping a packed lighting bag around. I have all 5 SB800's in my lighting bag, and with the SB910s, 5 would not fit.
The SB800 is indeed a venerable older unit that has stood the test of time. (None of mine, knock wood, have yet needed repair.) I got my 4th and 5th when Nikon discontinued them, and Best Buy sold off remaining stock and about 1/2 price at the stores near me. I went to 3 stores in one night to find these two. If there has been more, I would have bought them (or regretted it later).
Now, that being said, if I were buying another unit today, if the SB910 and the used SB800 were the same price or close to it, I would buy the 910 - but more for the warranty, since any SB800 out there today is bound to be out of warranty by now.
Been reading this thread & others here on the SB800, and on a fluke, checked Amazon! even though they truly are out of production. Today, just now, they had 4 or 5 new, mostly high to insane prices, but I just ordered the 'new' one in the high $500 USD price, the lowest of the 'new' listings. We shall see. . .
Amazon seems to adjust its listings every now and then and, if you happen to get lucky . . . If 'lucky' means getting one @ a couple hundred USD above what retail for this item used to be - sometimes, I've been pleasantly surprised.
Again, we shall see what they ship to me - listed as 'new, in retail box,' - should be US w/ warranty, if the seller is being straight.
Good to hear from you my friend, & as always you post is quite educational. My meager collection of 'SBs' currently consists of seven members (SB800 x 4 + SB600 x 3 )
The last SB 800 I bought was advertised as LN+ and "used only couple of times"; but the moment I saw it I knew it could have been used at least "couple of hundred" times. But the price was $350 (SB 910 - $670). The one before was advertised with almost the same description on eBay and I paid something like $370 for that unit. When it arrived it was literally brand new.
To date I haven't used more than three remote groups. Once I had changed the distance of members of one group to "create a forth group" because I was lazy to go manual.
Early next month I'm going to photograph a horse inside a stable. I might have use all seven speedlights and I might even have to go full manual. Hopefully I will post few pictures here.
At the moment I'm in the process of testing the speedlights with my seven PW TT5 units, Mini, AC3 and Skonic 758 with the new RT32CTL unit - so far everything seems to be working reasonably well with only one minor bug. I will post my impressions the moment the testing is complete.
You have given one more thing to worry about with your battery tip; I have the habit of leaving them inside after a shoot
Another fan here of the SB-800. I have three that I have used and abused over the years for weddings, conventions and other events. They all still work perfectly and, as mentioned, no thermal cutoff to worry about, although I do give my units a rest and switch them when I'm working them hard. I recently started using the Sanyo Eneloop batteries in them and they work better than ever.
I was a wedding photographer for many years using only SB800's. I fired them as fast as they would recycle for hours and never managed to hurt one when using its internal batteries no matter how fast I shot. One of the great things about the SB-800 is that its heat conductance out to the atmosphere is sufficient to handle the maximum cycle speed using internal batteries.
Now, there is a 5th battery option which further speeds up the flash, and I have had one or two thermal shutdowns when using this option. Most people don't even realize there is a thermal shutdown on the SB800, but there is. It is set very high and is designed only to protect the plastic from melting, which will prevent zooming. But the circuits will survive the temperature, so the flash keeps working.
The only way you can destroy the SB-800 is to use a high voltage external power pack which will allow sub one second recycle times. If you shoot too fast with that setup, the internal circuits will burn up before the thermal sensor can detect it.
Thanks, too. I didn't know about the thermal cut-off on the SB-800. Then again, I knew about overuse issues of strobes and always had that in mind when shooting, so I tried the be careful even in the heat of the battle.
I've got 2 SB 800s. Both used. Purchased since April. Mike Hagen recently published Nikon CLS Lighting, published by RockyNook. In it, he examines all the Nikon speedlights, and openly expresses his preference for the SB 800.
I guess the design is about 8 years old. You can't argue with success. Thus the stable prices over all those years.
It's pretty funny, actually. I think that, in general, the rise in the used-market prices of flashes in general has been a function of the rise of popularity of digital photography since the middle part of the previous decade, but one event, in general, that certainly catapulted speedlights into popularity and, thus, drove up used prices was the instant popularity of David Hobby's website, www.strobist.com. If you happened to ever buy a used SB-26 prior to his popularity, then you know, first hand, the impact that his blog had on the price of those little devices. They went from $50-$60 used to $125-$160 used. Newer flashes like the SB80DX saw similar rises.
Given that the SB800 can straddle the functional worlds of old Film SLRs, early-generation DSLRs and New DSLRs and has a full complement of off-camera triggering capabilities (wireless CLS, PC Sync port, Nikon 10 pin and optical slave), it's no surprise it's held its value so well.
The lucky folks were the ones who actually found new SB800's for $125-150 just after it was discontinued and the SB900 was introduced. Oh to have gotten in on THAT deal (not to mention Yahoo and Amazon stock in the late 1990's).
To be so lucky as to purchased "more" SB800s when they were less expensive.
I have two, and (knock wood) they have performed brilliantly for me over many, many years. To replace either one right now, even with a used flash, might cost me more than my original purchase from years ago !!