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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.



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.


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.



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.



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 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.



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

Flash Output/Zoom
1 / 1
1 / 2
1 / 4
1 / 8
1 / 16

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

ISO 25
ISO 50
 ISO 200
 ISO 400
 ISO 800
  ISO 1600

Flash angle of coverage

Zoom setting

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


Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on March 31, 2023

One of the two c-founders, expert in several areas Awarded for his valuable Nikon product reviews at the Resources

@rubrtoe: Welcome to Nikonians, Robert. The table listing the guide numbers are showing values in relation to among others the zoom of the SB-24 (it has a zoom). The values are from the manual. If you compare it to late model SB's, like e.g. an SB-900, they are pretty much on par. The SB-900 at ISO 100 at 24mm has a guide number of 88.6 ft (27m) and if zoomed in to e.g. 85mm, the guide number is 154.2 ft (47m). If you don't hear the head move in your unit, something is dodgy. You can also manually use the zoom to verify that it is working. If you have questions or input regarding your flash unit, please post that in the Speedlights forum here at Nikonians. Btw, we are quite strict regarding swearing and typically disable any posts that are violating our Terms of Use without prior notice. So, you are most welcome to the community, but please adhere to our rules: See

Robert Wise (rubrtoe) on March 28, 2023

not only are the GN lsited for the SB-24 impossibly high, but the flash unit information on the back for distance does not change as one moves the zoom in and out or changes the aperture or speed, which is frustrating and why I came to this article to find out the guide number only to be lied to with impossible BS. The one Guide number listed for the SB-24 I KNOW is BS for sure, i know because it is listed as 98 FEET with no zoom, or in other words 98 feet compared to the venerable Metz 60 CT 4s power which goes of like a cannon shot compared to the wimpy release ofr the SB 24 but is supposedly only half as powerful? yeah, no, this is complete BS! first of all Nikon charged a premium for the Speedlights. the smallest, the SB 15 which had a max distance of 20 feet on ISO 100 at Fstop 4, which leads me to discover how this BS is perpetuated for the SB-24: manipulation of the Fstop setting, no doubt, to 1.4 or even 1.2 (not going to crunch the numbers to find this exactly) which is unusable because of the shallow depth of filed EXACERBATED by the zoom of the camera and the flash (you can't very well zoom out to 85mm with the flash without zooming to 85mm with the lens if you want to light the entire frame, now can you!) This principle, of a minimum useable Fstop of 4 for all flashes, puts what I consider the Useable, sensible, realistic guide number of the 60 at 45 and the SB-15 at 20 and the SB-24 some where in between, which I cannot find out because the frigging SB 24very conveniently for the liars at Nikon, doesn't show the distance range associated with each setting.

Robert Wise (rubrtoe) on March 28, 2023

The guide numbers listed in this article for the SB 24 of 118 and 160 are completely bogus because the guide number of the most powerful camera mount flash ever that I know of, and I did a lot of research, the Metz 60-Ct4 (with no zoom) is only GN60! I don't count Metz flashes like the MZ75 (I think it was) because it incorporates Fresnel zoom and a noisy cooling fan to achieve 75GN when the 60 does 60 with no fan and no zoom. In fact I calculated that the MZ75 without Fresnel zoom is really a GN48 and furthermore depends upon a noisy, unreliable fan not to burn out , stop and take out the flash unit, which is why Metz went bankrupt in my opinion and many photographers went back to the 60 CT4. Also, all the extra nonsense features touted here that the 34 and ther 60 have are just selling points, that the modern cameras have that the SB-24 and the 60-CT 4 are lacking are all confusing, unnecessary BS most of which the cameras now do themselves and are therefore redundant at least and IMO worthless and useless although I am not a professional, but rather an enthusiast. I do know, however for a fact taht the SB-24 does not and cannot have a guide number nearly that high because not even externally powered flashes kike the 60-CT4 and the Lumedyne have nearly that much power and on the highest setting with like 400 speed film, the 60 can light the other end of an NFL football field. Light is light folks. It works the same way and regardless of the source and the fancy buttons and geewiz gadgetry that your silly, over expensive, underperforming modern flashes have.

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.