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Accessories Reviews

Nikon SB-24 Speedlight Review

Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs)


Keywords: older, speedlights, nikon, flash, lighting, sb_24

The Nikon SB-24 Speedlight flash unit is the direct ancestor of the SB-25, SB-26, SB-28 and SB-80DX units. This article is devoted to all of you looking for more information regarding this historic flash unit. For more up-to-date information, we have dedicated information on the Nikon CLS system and comparison of modern Speedlights. We also have an index of all of our Speedlight articles.

User-interface | Specifications | Questions

 

Rottweil Germany Fire Brigade

The voluntary fire brigade of the City of Rottweil, southern Germany
Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200/2.8D at some 80mm on Fuji Velvia

Flash filled with the SB-24


The SB-24 flash unit, or flashgun, since many years no longer in production is of the same generation as the formidable Nikon F4 camera and is an excellent unit. It comes in a design equally square as the F4 mothership. When new it used to be sold for a price equaling that of the later units such as the SB-28, something around USD 340 streetprice. I bought mine for 680 Deutschmarks in 1989 together with my F-401 (N4004), yes, well before Euro times. 
 
A modern SB-700 unit (with a guide number of 29 m / 92 ft being somewhat weaker than the SB-24) costs about the same, so taking inflation into consideration, these new units are definitely cheaper. Current top of the line SB-5000 can be had for approx 550 USD or 550 EUR, so price of the units have not moved much.
 
These modern units are of course bringing in tons of features missing on the SB-24, such D-TTL, 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flashi-TTL and CLS, just to name a few things. Practically, missing these features means you are likely not going to use this flash with any modern DSLR cameras. The oldest unit of my Speedlight family that I am using on any modern DSLR Nikon is the SB-80DX (from 2002), but that is mainly to ensure it is still working. My SB-800's and SB-900's/910's are doing a tremendous job with CLS.
 
With a guide number of 36 meters (118 feet) at ISO 100 and 35mm it is a formidable light source. Compared to the modern SB-800 that comes in at guide number 38 m / 125 ft, the SB-900 at 34 m / 111 ft and the latest SB-5000 with guide number 34.5 m / 113 ft, it was definitely no slouch.

It's a solid friend with a zooming head (from 24 to 85mm), AF-illuminator, large backlit LCD and has TTL, Auto (using built-in sensor), Manual and Strobelight modes.

It has two sync-connectors; one for manual and one for TTL multi-flash setups.

It has sync modes for normal or rear and can do flash compensation. The guide number (GN) is 118 (Leitzahl 36) at 35mm with an ISO 100 film or a GN of 160 at 85mm (LZ 50).

The flash head can be tilted vertically from -7 to +90 deg and swiveled from 180 degrees CCW to 270 degrees CW horizontally.

It's generally easy to use, it has never failed me and the battery door plus its slide switches are easy to operate.

It only misses the red eye reduction function, FP high speed flash sync, 3D multisensor and the wider zoom (18/20mm) of the newer Speedlights, such as the SB-26 or SB-28.

In comparison with the SB-26 and the SB-25, the SB-24 is not that bad at all. See for example Michael McLennan's (web archived version from 2003) comparison of the three.

 

THE MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE

I think the user interface (or "MMI" to make me sound more in) of this flash is really well thought through. Connected to an F-801/N8008 and up, this flash is normally a "no-brainer".

Nikon SB-24 speedlight

The Nikon SB-24 Speedlight


The following details are taken care of by the camera automatically:

1. Speed of film
2. Aperture
3. Zoom head adjustment (adjusts from 24 to 85mm according to the lens mounted)
4. Turning the flash energy output on and off (in TTL mode)

Connected to my F5, I can adjust the front and rear-curtain sync on the camera directly. There is also the possibility to change this manually on the flash if your camera doesn't allow you to.

I used the SB-24 on my F-401 (N4004) for several years. The F-401 didn't send much of any control signals to the flash (the later F-401s had a bit "better control" of the flash), so I had to set the controls manually. This isn't such a big deal actually, since the buttons are few and logical. The settings I had to perform manually using the F-401, were mostly exactly the same as mentioned above, i.e. the film speed, aperture and the zoom of the head.

Actually pretty funny, but I still use the SB-24, both on my F5, on the F100 and the Coolpix 5000. Talk about compatibility.
 

CONTROL BUTTONS

You'll find the following control buttons/switches at the back of the Speedlight:

Above of the LCD you'll find:

Rear/Front ("Normal") curtain sync slide switch.

A/M/Strobo/TTL slide switch.

Below the LCD you'll find:

Zoom select push button (increasing steps with 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 85 mm. Loops back to 24 at 85 mm).

(M)anual push button to either enable/disable the automatic flash intensity compensation or to select the flash intensity manually from 1/1 to 1/16 in 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16.

 

SEL push button has three functions:

1. To select the film speed when you're using something older/smaller than the F-401s.

2. To select the aperture when you're using an older camera. The manual setting of the film speed ranges from 6 to 6400 ISO. The steps are 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 32, 40, 50, 64, 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, 4000, 5000 and 6400 ISO.

3. To select the manual exposure compensation. Manual compensation can be done when the compensation symbol blinks. It starts to blink when you press the SEL button once (if your camera is in Matrix- or Center-Weighted metering mode) or if you're in manual mode.

Decrease value push button (used for manual setting of film speed and aperture). Automatically decreases value while held pressed down.

Increase value push button (used for manual setting of film speed and aperture). Automatically increases value while held pressed down.

LCD backlight push button on/off. Single press lights up the LCD backlight for 8 seconds. Press button a second time to turn backlight off.

Flash ready LED/Flash test push button.

Main power slide switch. Off/Standby/On. Only use the off and standby positions with new cameras - no need to use the on position. "Special standby feature" is activated by putting the main power switch in standby position while keeping the backlight button pressed. The LCD blinks on and off for 8 seconds to indicate that special standby is activated. In this mode, the capacitor for the flash is charged to full capacity once an hour.

When the main power switch is in standby mode, the unit will automatically turn off some two minutes after the camera metering system turns off.

 

CONNECTORS

Front: Accumulator connector for external power pack, such as the SD-7 battery pack.

Right hand side (seen from front):

TTL-Multi-Flash connector.
Connector for sync cable and for manual Multi-Flash mode.

Bottom: Standard Nikon flash shoe for flash trig and control signals.

Photo-sensor and AF-Illuminator

Front: Photo-sensor for automatic computer flash (the flash controls the energy output. Only used in mode A). IR-LED for AF-light in low-light situations (automatically turned on by camera). Note: the camera doesn't turn on the IR-LED if it's working in Continous AF-Servo or Manual mode. It automatically activates if you're using the F-401/F-401s.

 

SWITCH TO SELECT METER AND FEET

The display on the SB-24 can show the effective distance in either meter or feet. You find this little switch in the battery compartment.

Switch to select between meter and feet in display

Meter or feet? Use the small switch in the battery
compartment to select this. Click on image for larger view.

 

THE LCD

The LC-Display is backlit (bright blue color as found on the LCD's of the Nikon AF cameras). The vertical viewing angle is good: aproximately 80° vertical with the normal some +10° above frontal LCD view, i.e. +10 and -70°. The contrast is sharp with or without having the backlit turned on.

My son Niklas

My son Niklas fighting with the photographer. Germany, November 1999.
Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200/2.8D at some 100mm on Fuji Provia 100F
flash filled with the SB-24


The LCD is split into 7 functional areas. These areas are (from top left to bottom right):

1. Flash mode area (A/M/Strobe/TTL/Automatic exp. correction).
2. Manual exposure compensation indicator and bar graph.
3. Film speed/Strobe frequency indicator (in Hz).
4. Flash covering distance bar graph (in m and ft).
5. Zoom head indicator (in mm).
6. Aperture display.
7. Manual flash intensity compensation indicator.

The flash covering distance ranges from 0.6 to 20m. The corresponding range in feet is 2 to 65ft.

 

SB-24 SPECIFICATIONS

Guide number ("Leitzahl") in meters/feet for ISO 100

Flash Output/Zoom
24mm
28mm
35mm
50mm
70mm
85mm
1 / 1
30/98
32/105
36/118
42/138
47/154
50/164
1 / 2
21/69
22/72
25/82
30/98
33/108
36/118
1 / 4
15/49
16/53
18/60
21/69
23/75
25/82
1 / 8
10.5/34
11/36
12.5/41
15/49
16.5/54
18/60
1 / 16
7.5/25
8/26
9/30
10.5/34
11.5/38
12.5/41

When you're using other films than ISO 100, multiply the values in the above table with the following factors:

ISO 25
x
0.50
ISO 50
x
0.71
 ISO 200
x
1.41
 ISO 400
x
2.00
 ISO 800
x
2.80
  ISO 1600
x
4.00

Flash angle of coverage

Zoom setting
Horizontal
Vertical
24mm
78°
60°
28mm
70°
53°
35mm
60°
45°
50mm
46°
34°
70mm
36°
26°
85mm
31°
23°

Miscelaneous data

Weight 390g - 13.75oz. (without batteries)
Size (W x H x D) 80 x 131 x 100mm - 3.15 x 5.15 x 3.9in
Power supply 4 x Alkaline-Manganese AA, 4 x NiCd AA or SD-7 battery pack
TTL film range ISO 25 to 1000. With F-401s and older: ISO 25 to 400.
Flash range 0.6 to 20m (2 to 65ft).
Modes TTL, A, M and Strobe.

Battery life (number of full energy flashes)

100 flashes with Alkaline-Manganese, 40 with NiCd and between 200-400 with the SD-7 battery pack.

 

 

Got a Nikon Speedlight question?

You have a question regarding your Speedlight flash unit? No problem - just ask in our Speedlight and Lighting forum.

 

Post a Speedlight Question

(1 Vote )

Originally written on August 3, 2010

Last updated on January 23, 2021

1 comment

Emory Hall (ehall) on February 2, 2013

Hi Every time I log onto an article, find somethng to look forward too. Thanks, if a SB24 is available it is now an option.

G