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Accessories Reviews

Which Nikon Speedlight Flash Unit Should You Select?

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: flash, speedlights, lighting

Page 2/9 show all pages

Nikon SB-900 Speedlight

The SB-900 is Nikon’s former flagship Speedlight. Like the newer Nikon SB-910, it has adjustable beam width that goes wider and farther than most of the other Nikon flash units.

The SB-900 is not longer available as a new production unit, but is easily available in the preowned market and sometimes as “new old stock.” If you cannot afford the new Nikon SB-910, the SB-900 provides a similar level of power and capability, at a lower cost. 


Nikon SB-900 Speedlight

Like its newer sister flash, the controls and menus on the SB-900 are very easy to use; much easier than the previous flagship flash, the SB-800. One perceived drawback: The SB-900 unit is such a powerhouse that it can overheat if fired rapidly, caused by allowing the batteries to get hot from heavy current drain. For that reason it has a built-in temperature sensor that will prevent the flash from being fired when it gets too hot. That could be a problem in events like a wedding.

This overheat sensor can be enabled/disabled in the camera’s menu. Many photographers leave it disabled so that the flash will not shut off when hot. So far, my use of the flash has not caused it to get too hot, and I’ve shot all sorts of events, so this may not be a real problem for most. There is a firmware upgrade that addresses this issue to some degree. However, some have chosen to seek out the older flagship SB-800, which does not suffer from this percieved issue, or they will buy the more expensive SB-910 upgraded unit.

I have both SB-900 and SB-800 flash units and like them both very well. I use the SB-900 now more than the SB-800 because I love the extra reach the narrow beam width gives me, and I shoot a lot of wide angle group shots. The extra-wide zoom position the SB-900 provides really makes a difference. Plus, I love that big white diffuser!



Official SB-900 Guide Number Information

34m/111.5ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48m/157.5ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Official SB-900 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 Flash

Flash head tilts down to -7° or up to 90° with click-stops at -7°, 0°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°

Dimensions / Weight

3.0 x 5.7 x 4.7 in. (Approx. 78.0 x 146.0 x 118.5 mm) / 14.6 oz. (415 g)

Built-in Wireless Commander Mode for Nikon CLS

Wireless Commander Mode offers wireless control at the master Speedlight position, controlling up to 3 remote Speedlight groups and an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights. Four wireless channel options help manage wireless conflicts in multi-photographer environments.

(13 Votes )
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Originally written on January 7, 2014

Last updated on December 18, 2017


Robert E. Handley (REH45) on May 17, 2016

Buyer Beware. This should have been better addressed. I invested in these two SB-5000 flash units because they had the ability to use radio control. After getting them I found that I needed to purchase the additional remote kit to get them to work with my D800 and D810 cameras. So I had that unit overnight aired to me, only to find out as just about everyone else has since, that it needed a 3.0 firmware upgrade. When I contacted Nikon about this and told you then which cameras I was using it with. I was told I had to send the unit in for the firmware upgrade. NEVER AT ANY TIME DID NIKON TELL ME THAT EVEN AFTER THE UPGRADE IT WOULD NOT WORK WITH MY TWO CAMERAS. Now I have a perfect reason to be pissed off and mad as hell. And trying to figure out my next step here. I for the life of me can't see why this should not work with these cameras. Other then the 3.0 firmware does not have the D800 and D810 hooks in it. And this is BS. I am a forty year member of NPS a life long user of Nikon even when every one around me is switching to Canon. For two cents I would repack everything and return it to the dealers because of miss information and incompatatability. This is not the NIKON I used to know. I received an apology from them for giving me the wrong info. However they said they would work fine in the CLS mode. Well just great I just spent $1500 to upgrade for what I already had with my SB-900's. Nikon could have put up a compatibility sheet which would have helped. I know I am not the only one that is mad as hell over this.

Robert Kusztos (PhotoRoberto) on April 28, 2016

Thank you Darrell for this excellent summary of the various Nikon flashes. It helps me a lot on to decide which one to buy as my first unit.

Richard Luse (DaddySS) on December 28, 2014

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Thanks Darrell. Very informative and thorough - much appreciated.

Hans Kuwert (nikonus) on January 12, 2014

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The 900 series are much more user friendly with on the fly adjustments than 600s 800s .The 900s zoom feature seems to work out to 30ft for me as Fill flash on birds / telephoto nature ,without any wild ISO setting . 900s are oversized in a bag of 600 - 800s . It takes a while to stay sharp with wireless multi flash set ups .

Gary Pate (MongoG) on January 11, 2014

Thanks Darrel, Great article that cleared up a few questions I had about flash units. Clear and easy to follow.

George Chapman (Icemann) on January 9, 2014

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Thank You for a very good article,it was very helpful to me.

Paul Freedman (paulfree17) on January 8, 2014

As an amateur who does not get to write off any of my equipment I was wondering if the Yongnuo flash 560 or 560Ex at under $100 a pop would be worthwhile. I shoot a D800 which has built in commander and I have a SB900 for my primary light. I am looking to add two or three slaves to use for fill or rim lights. These seem to get good reviews and are less than half the price of a SB700 or SB600. Anyone of any experience with these?

Michael Sherwin (msohio) on January 8, 2014

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Love the 600 and have been an eBay buyer to build my inventory. I probably have to live to be 110 years old at this point but one can't be to safe. Right dear??

Gary Worrall (glxman) on January 8, 2014

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Great Darrell Tks for the info

Peter Stokes (PAStime) on January 8, 2014

Great article, thanks Darrel. Minor correction needed on page two in the following sentence. Cheers, Peter The SB-910 is Nikon’s former flagship Speedlight.

Egbert M. Reinhold (Ineluki) on January 7, 2014

Great help for those who need it.