Flash recommendation for Nikon

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Smarty, May 13, 2004.

  1. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    As a recent Coolpix 8700 owner, I have begun to compare Nikon-brand and
    other flashes. Since the vast majority of features on the Nikon flash units
    are not supported on the Coolpix 8700 (or other Coolpix bodies), it seems
    like a large cost premium is being paid for the high power Nikon speedlights
    (like the 800, 600, and SB-50DX) with no apparent benefit compared to buying
    a dedicated Nikon-compatible flash from Vivitar, Sunpak, etc.flash from
    Vivitar, Sunpak, etc.

    For example, the Vivitar 850AF is offered as a Nikon-compatible version
    (#59912) with a Guide Number of 120 (essentially the same as the Nikon SB800
    guide number of 125), and weights about 13.5 ounces versus 12.3 ounces for
    the Nikon. The Vivitar sells for $123 versus well over $300 for the Nikon

    My basic question is:

    Is there any reason to prefer the Nikon brand, from either a features or
    performance stand-point? I have used Vivitar and other similar flashes
    before on older Nikon film cameras with excellent results, but maybe there
    is some advantage I am overlooking here which strongly recommends the Nikon
    flash solution for the Coolpix 8700 or other Coolpix models.

    Thanks for any advice or opinions.

    Smarty, May 13, 2004
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  2. Smarty

    columbotrek Guest

    Can't think of any for the cool pix. But if you have or expect to have
    another Nikon body, there are several film and digital options you might
    be better off with one of Nikon's speed lights. Expensive as they are.
    If I were to get a Nikon Speed light, I would stay away from the SB-50DX
    as on a coolpix you will want good manual control. Specifically the
    ability to adjust the power output in manual mode. A feature not
    offered on the SB-50DX.

    "How can there possibly be liberty and justice for all, when, in the
    name of justice, people claim rights to income, food, housing,
    education, health care, transportation, ad infinitum? We can't. Positive
    rights to receive such things, absent an obligation to earn them, must
    violate others' liberty, by taking some of their income without their
    consent. They are really just wishes, convertible into benefits for some
    only by employing the government to violate others' rights not to have
    what is theirs taken." --Pepperdine Professor Gary Galles
    columbotrek, May 13, 2004
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  3. Smarty

    Gordon Moat Guest

    I tend to like more of the interface and manual settings of Nikon Speedlights.
    While I have used both Vivitar and Sunpak units in the past, my future
    purchases will be either Nikon or Metz. The Metz are similar in price to Nikon,
    so no cost saving for you in that direction. I like the Nikon Speedlights for
    their ruggedness, and the settings accuracy on their user interface.

    A look at your 8700 indicates the standard Nikon connections in the flash shoe.
    Almost any Nikon Speedlight since the SB-24 should work in that shoe. Some
    flash units will give you more settings, or more power. If you are not opposed
    to buying used, even the old SB-25 and SB-26 offer a great deal of power for
    the money, and many settings possibilities. While newer Speedlights offer even
    more possible settings, you should consider if you will use those extra
    settings. An SB-27 would be a compact choice, though with less settings
    Gordon Moat, May 13, 2004
  4. Smarty

    karl.kathy Guest

    karl.kathy, May 13, 2004
  5. Smarty

    Joseph Kewfi Guest

    My basic question is:
    performance stand-point?

    Nikon branded flashes such as the 800, 600, and SB-50DX/80DX are the only
    flashes that work properly for Nikon digital camera's. I dare you buy an
    off-brand flash or older Nikon flash, you would soon find out that it won't
    do TTL metering on a digicam.
    Joseph Kewfi, May 13, 2004
  6. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    This is the very reason I have not made any purchase yet, since it is not at
    all clear that the Coolpix will interface properly to non-Nikon flash units.
    Although the hot shoe terminals are physically the same as Nikon DSLRs as
    far as I can tell, the Coolpix manual and Nikon Speedlight user manuals are
    just filled with caveats and disclaimers, essentially warning that most of
    the features of the SB800, and many of the features of the SB-50DX are not
    compatible with the Coolpix (8700). Nikon decided to "cripple" the Coolpix
    for either technical or marketing reasons, but what is left on the Coolpix
    is a simple sensor on the body of the camera which makes a simple analog
    measurement and controls the flash intensity / duration. Although Nikon
    calls this "TTL" through the lens metering, the light path is not through
    the lens at all. Rather, a mis-placed finger which inadvertently covers the
    sensor drives the flash output way up to overexpose the subject. I really
    have no idea whether the non-Nikon flash units work differently in this

    The Coolpix does have a menu option to disable the internal flash entirely,
    as is necessary when the large external wide-angle and fisheye lens options
    are used. These block the small internal flash unit because of the large
    size of the optional lenses and the placement of the small internal flash
    and sensor. Perhaps this menu option permits the flash to make its' own
    exposure adjustment. It also may enable the external AF illuminator, which
    hopefully has a much stronger light source and can illuminate distant
    subjects for focusing far beyond the relatively short-range illuminator
    built into the Coolpix body.

    I am hoping that somebody on this forum has tried either the Coolpix 5700 or
    8700 with an external flash from one of the "dedicated flash" manufacturers
    like Vivitar, Sunpak, Sigma, Metz, etc. and can confidently say it does or
    does not work properly.
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  7. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks Gordon for your reply. I did some Google and eBay searching and did
    find the 25, 26, and 27 speedlights. Since they are roughly 10 years old,
    they are indeed less expensive, but still in the $90 to $150 range used. And
    Nikon's compatibility chart at:


    does indeed show them to be compatible with the Coolpix in the "TTL-Auto"
    mode. This leads me to the same type of question.........do I spent $100 or
    more for an older flash of unknown condition with little or no protection /
    warranty, or can I use one of the recent "dedicated Nikon" flash units from
    Vivitar or others for about the same price and get comparable performance
    with less concerns about service / reliability but perhaps not have true

    I am hoping that a Coolpix user has already purchased one of the "dedicated
    Nikon" flash units and can report success or failure before making a final
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  8. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks for that advice. I was seriously considering the SB-50 since they are
    apparently discontinuing it with a rebate program in preparation for the
    introduction of the SB600 in late May or early June. It appeared to be the
    only current model Nikon flash with a reasonably high guide number at a
    reasonable price.
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  9. You should apply for the nobel prize in idiocy."It's not the camera that
    makes a good picture, but the photographer".You can shoot excellent photos
    even with a soviet-made Zenit (as I did before buying my FM-2).As for the
    flash, I have a soviet-made one, very cheap, no red eyes, no batteries,
    charging by mains, U-shaped bulb.
    Tzortzakakis Dimitrios, May 14, 2004
  10. Smarty

    Thad Guest

    Are you the troll of the day? He never mentioned whether or not he
    considered himself to be a good photographer. He was asking which
    external flash models will actually work with his camera. Go take your
    Zenit and stuff it where the sun don't shine.
    Thad, May 14, 2004
  11. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    You are a jerk. Take your soviet-made Zenit and shove it up your ass, where
    it will inevitably collide with your head.
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  12. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I am completely amused that my reaction to this rude jerk was absolutely the
    same as yours!
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  13. Smarty

    Thad Guest

    He deserved it. Big time.
    Thad, May 14, 2004
  14. Smarty

    Alan Browne Guest

    Uhm, hooray for you, but no help at all for the OP, and nor is your

    The OP is very smart in asking the question to avoid error and cost.
    There are no dumb questions, but you do prove the point that there are
    dumb answers, so thanks for the reminder.

    There are issues with digital cameras and how they meter flash (usually
    with pre-flash as OTF metering cannot be done with digital sensors).
    Alan Browne, May 14, 2004
  15. Smarty

    Alan Browne Guest

    Smarty wrote:

    I suspect you would get the best advice at and
    Alan Browne, May 14, 2004
  16. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    Thanks Alan,

    I've posted a similar inquiry to rec.photo.digital, a couple of Coolpix
    forums, and have also searched dpreview forums quite exhaustively. I've
    received some very helpful and informative replies from a number of people,
    and am now reasonably convinced that the newer Nikon speedlights,
    particularly the higher end SB-800 and SB-600, are mostly worth buying to
    ensure compatibility and enjoy excellent Nikon build quality. The Coolpix
    makes so little use of their wide array of features that they are "overkill"
    in both cost and complexity. The Coolpix supports neither the "Digital TTL"
    functions introduced with the original Nikon DSLRs a few years ago, nor does
    it support the most recent "i-TTL" feature set just introduced recently (and
    which is supported on the D70). Thus the line of speedlights they offer
    provide tremendous flexibility to the DSLR user, but wastes it almost
    entirely on the Coolpix buyer. It really is maddening to buy a flash which
    sells for $350 and then only to use about 10% or 20% of its' features! The
    lower-cost SB-30 which sells for about $90 is only a small improvement over
    the built-in Coolpix flash and has no bounce features because its' light
    output is so low.

    I'm still hoping to find someone who will come forward and offer a
    testimonial in which they have successfully used a recent (5700 or 8700)
    Coolpix body with a 3rd party flash like Vivitar or Metz or SunPak, and
    reports that the Coolpix functions are supported properly. These high guide
    number flash alternatives are literally 1/3rd the price, some (Vivitar) have
    2 year warranty coverage (rather than Nikon's 1 year) and, in some cases,
    have flash designs (like the Vivitar 285) which have 18 or more years of
    refinement since they were introduced.

    Thanks again for your reply and support.
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  17. Smarty

    Roger Guest


    There are a million things to consider. I have been personally
    "limping" along an a Nikon SB-24 for the last 10 years or so. It's an
    excellent flash and would likely do everything you need. Recently I
    had the opportunity to buy a SB80dx and did so to give me a two flash
    capability with Nikon control. My wife has been using the SB-24
    extensively with her coolpix 950. I like the SB80dx controls quite a
    lot and also use it's highly flexible control on other cameras as

    Besides opportunity, I thought the SB80dx would be great for when I
    went to digital. Now that I'm considering it any moment now, Nikon has
    introduced a new iTTL strobe support that makes my SB80dx outdated on
    the latest Nikon digital cameras.

    I'm a plan ahead kind of person, but photography is the wrong interest
    area for setting your horizons out too far. I'm not "pi****" at Nikon,
    and I dearly love the simplicity and flexibility of their flash
    technology. I just got caught between technologies this time.

    My recommendation is to get the least expensive of what will interface
    properly with the sensor(s) on your camera and not pay for the other
    capabilities. You do have the benefit of histograms on your side so
    you can do a lot of near real-time compensation if you have some power

    Roger, May 14, 2004
  18. Smarty

    Smarty Guest

    I agree, Roger. If I had aspirations to buy other Nikon bodies and wanted
    versatility, I could see the justification for an SB-600 or SB-800. Nikon
    made a strategic marketing decision when choosing the Coolpix functionality
    to distinguish it very clearly from the D70 market. Both customers are
    willing to spend nearly $1000 for a Nikon body, but there is a world of
    difference in terms of user expectations and needs / wants. A
    "one-size-fits-all" strategy for speedlights to use for these two different
    markets is really quite restrictive. Ironically, the small and relatively
    insensitive 8 MP sensor combined with the slow 8:1 zoom lens on the Coolpix
    8700 make powerful flash at least as important for the "presume" who buys
    the 8700 as it does for D70 buyer. I consider the Coolpix to be "permanently
    loaded" with ISO 200 "film" since the sensor at ISO 400 is very noisy. Nikon
    actually warns in the owner manual ***NOT*** to use the internal flash at
    ISO 400!

    I wish they still marketed the high power but relatively simple flashes of
    the SB-2X family, since these are truly optimal for a Coolpix owner like
    myself. There is a gaping hole in their product offerings, IMHO, in the
    speedlight product family, and the SB-600 is hardly the solution. If I
    continued to use Nikon film cameras or if I were still into SLRs, I would
    buy one without hesitation.

    Having carried twin lens reflex Rolleis and 35 mm rangefinder Leicas and
    lots of other 35 mm stuff around for 40+ years, I have no desire to get into
    big and heavy camera bags full of big and heavy stuff. The airlines have
    also made it less desirable to travel with checked baggage, so simple
    carry-on stuff works best for me.
    Smarty, May 14, 2004
  19. Smarty

    Roger Guest

    Have you considered used equipment. http://www.keh.com is an excellent
    source for used equipment. My SB28dx was used, from another source,
    and it is a bit smaller than my SB24 and IMO a more friendly interface
    for "A" mode or straight power controlled TTL. Many people caught in
    the iTTL change are selling them privately also, but I prefer a dealer
    or keh. BTW: I had to have a major repair on my SB24. Nikon charged
    $165 to give you what's probably a worst case idea of ownership. I
    could have bought another one used for slightly more at the time but
    thought the Nikon reconditioning and warranty made it worth repairing.

    My wife gets very good results with the straight TTL operation of the
    SB24 on her coolpix 950. I used it often in strictly "A" mode on a
    Leica M6 with transparencies, also with very acceptable results.

    Maybe a used SB* unit would fit your needs. FWIW, I've made a small
    tape flap to cover the on-switch when my SB80dx is tightly packed in
    carry-on. It's to keep the on switch from being accidentally pressed -
    how did I know to do that! :) Of course you could take the
    batteries out, but I do mean tightly packed.

    Good luck in your search...

    Roger, May 17, 2004
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