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I have been using 2 SB600 Nikon flash units to try and get a bit more creative. The time came for a third flash so i opted for the slightly bigger SB800. The flash is powerful for such a small package. The head swivels horizontally and vertically which does make bouncing the flash from walls and ceilings so much easier. The flash has a veru useful pull out bounce card and also comes with a case and hot shoe stand. A selection of colour filters that attach to the front of the flash are also provided so that you can balance the light or simply be creative. Unlike the SB600 the SB800 can act as a commander unit when mounted on the camera, which basically means you can adjust flash power output on all the other flashes when used in wireless mode. Battery life is not great but included is an additional battery holder to give the camera a faster charging rate. The flash runs on 4X AA batteries.
The Nikon Creative lighting system is an incredibly user friendly way of shooting professional looking images without investing in expensive and bulky studio lights. The system consists of slaves (SB600) and masters (SB800/900)
All speedlights can be mounted on camera as a more powerful version of the on camera flash with the added bonus of a tilting head to bounce lights of ceilings or walls for a more natural effect.
Once the flashes are used remotely some do more than others and this is not well explained in the material included.
This SB800 will act not only as a slave flash from your CLS equipped Nikon SLR but will also act as a master for up to 3 independant groups of flashes allowing you to vary the output of slave flashes without touching them. All set from the easy to use display on the SB800 and transmitted before each shot remotely.
The unit itself is very well put together, big enough to impress (and gain access to press areas) but still compact enough to throw in a bag. The SB600 will function in Manual, TTL (Nikon's auto flash system) and in RPT (multiple flashes)
Another valuable and little advertised feature is the preview/strobe button allowing you to see where your lighting will fall on a subject before shooting.
I have owned my 800 for nearly a year with no issues whatsoever, I take it on every shoot and with the extra battery fitted recharge time is fast and reliable.
This flash, combined with an SB600 and a TTL extension cord allows endless possibilities for shooting, it's a purchase you wont regret.
As will all Nikon flashes, the button combinations required to navigate the menus will take some getting used to but once learned are easy and very quick to change.
I bought one of these flashes used back in 2010 when I originally wrote this review - and, I still own it.
This flash has been superceded by some nice new shiny offerings from Nikon, namely the SB 900 then the SB 910 - but is still a very popular flash still being recommended for people to buy. The design is fairly typical for a speedlight as you can see from the picture - the front has the brand and model, the back has the display and controls. You can adjust the angle and direction of the head with a button on the side. All in all a basic design, very similar to most others - to look at, it's really quite average.
I found this a little difficult to set up my first time using and can still find some functions take a bit of work if not used for a while - but once used to it, it's a fairly easy product. There's several helpful guides that can be found on the internet of how to set it up for your particular usage.
I mostly use mine on top of my camera with a diffuser on for soft fill light - this is fairly simple to set up, I generally find I'm using it on TTL or TTL-BL (the BL means backlit, I can't remember what TTL means exactly but it's a good mode for everyday flash use and is the most common for me - BL is great if shooting into the sun and you need to illuminate your subject.
I largely use this when shooting domestic animals or sometimes for macro work. I have used this on a stand with my camera setting it off - this is fairly simple to do if you follow the manual or a guide.
I'd recommend this for anybody it takes no real technical knowledge to use and gives a good output of light, I believe it will work with most Nikon cameras via the hotshoe. Some cameras it will work with your onboard flash setting it off but I don't believe this mode is available for all cameras.
You can have an extra battery (using 5 instead of 4) for this flash - and I recommend it, as it gives a lot better battery life and also allows less time between flashes so you never miss the action. Standard rechargeables work well and will save money over disposable batteries - looking for ones with higher mAh numbers will help with life.
I highly recommend this - for a lot of people this will be the only flash you need, it's easy to use and can be gotten used for a good price. There's really no way it goes wrong!
Until recently this was Nikons top of the range flash. And it still does the buisness. Whether it's lighting up a room, or just filling in a scene this flash will do the trick.
Stick it on the camera and it will do it's job without any fuss at all. But if you want to get creative and take control of the flash you can use the manual settings. The instruction manual is comprehensive, and is very useful if you want to get the most out of this flash. Once you have learnt the basics it is a great flash. Comprehensive tilt and swivel so that you can easily bounce the light off surfaces.
I have taken photos at a couple of weddings, and I would have been in rather a bit of trouble without this flash. For lighting up in the church, and group photos it was perfect. Also, it was great with a reflector for taking still life photos of the wedding flowers and rings etc.
The accessories that come with the flash are comprehensive, a diffuser, colour correction gel filters, flash stand, a little converter to use 5 batteries instead of 4 for faster refresh! Everything you'd need really!
There is available a ring conversion for this flash which lets you use it for close up macro and portrait photography without the usual shadows.
Professional photographers like myself rely on a number of things to be able to produce the perfect photo`s that we often do. We rely on our subjects (whether it be models or landscapes) to have something that makes the image attractive, we rely on our own ability and skills, we rely on our very expensive cameras of course but the thing we rely on more than any of these is light.
The right light is imperative to getting good images, if you have great light and just a decent camera you will be able to pull of stunning results but if you have very bad light then it won't matter how many hundreds or even thousands your camera cost it will not be able to compete with the results gained in great light.
This is the reason that you will never see a professional photographer using a cameras built in or pop up flash because the harsh light from these flashes just does not give a pleasant result at all. If a photographer has his or her way they would always want to shoot in day light preferably at dawn or dusk but as that is not possible we spend fortunes on studio lighting but if we are not in the studio and we can't rely on day light then we opt for flash units for our DSLR`s like the Nikon SB 800, whilst this is nowhere near the top end of the range of flash units it is a very good unit and does a terrific job in most circumstances.
This type of flash unit works in a few ways, it can either be fitted to the top of your DSLR camera by what is known as the hot shoe which you will find either directly above the cameras pop up flash or where you would expect the flash to be if your DSLR does not have a pop up flash, it can also be joined to your camera via a connecting cable which will then allow you to hand hold the flash getting it further away from your lens and giving much softer and more pleasing results or with this flash unit you can even use it wirelessly with a fitting that goes on to the afore mentioned hot shoe of the camera and will trigger the flash via infa-red. This allows you to mount the flash on a light stand and use it almost like a studio strobe.
When used like this you can then even consider flashing it through diffusers and getting really soft light like you never could with your on board flash but that is for a different day. This flash is incredibly powerful although not the most powerful it can easily hold its own with the massive flash units of yesteryear that were always carried by pro`s and it is less than half the size.
It also has many settings allowing you to adjust the flash to suit the type of lens you are using, this flash will give good lighting up to about a 120mm lens and will also suit wide angle shooting but will not suit macro but then very few will. As well as adjusting range to suit lenses you also have control over the flashes power which can be reduced or powered up to suit whatever needs you have.
If you are using this flash with a Nikon camera like it was designed to be used with you can even adjust the flash settings from within the camera which is handy if you have chosen to mount the flash on a light stand as you don't want to be having to interrupt the shoot to keep adjusting your flash.
This flash unit offers the photographer real versatility and will work with a wide range of Nikon cameras and even a few other DSLR`s but the best performance results will come when used with the newer range of Nikons where it performs extremely well. If you are very serious about your photography this flash can also be used in conjunction with other flash units or studio lights because of its ability to be used wireless.
The flash is also useful for portrait or wedding shooting where you have limited light but don't want to blow the subjects face up in white light or over expose a white wedding dress so it looks like a sheet and loses its pattern and fine details.
You can do this by taking advantage of the flashes tilting and turning head and you can tilt the flash right up to point at the ceiling if it is low enough ( no higher than ten feet) which allows the light to bounce back on the subject after being much softened by its travelling distance and the reflection of the white ceiling. If the ceilings are too high but you have white walls then simply turn it to the side and bounce the light back of a wall for the same or similar results.
If you adopt this method there is also another handy trick and another hidden feature to this flash. Right above the top of the flash you will find a pull out reflector which just looks like a piece of card when used this reflects a little light straight to the subject so if you are using the bounce technique then pull out the reflector and this will allow enough light to go straight forward and give the bride or whoever you are shooting that twinkle in the eye that you get from lovely light (it really does make all the difference).
With all the added features you have now heard about I guess you are probably all thinking that this is going to be way out of your price range but you might be surprised. If you have went as far as to buy a DSLR camera in the first place then I imagine you are fairly serious about your photography and therefore are willing to spend a little extra to get the best results. A Nikon SB 800 will cost you as little as £198 if you shop around and when you consider this flash can take your photography to a whole new level and help you achieve images much closer to those that us pro`s produce regularly it is got to be worth it surely.
Another reason many people will find this a better option that a pop up or on board flash is that the recycle time is next to nothing less than 1/1000th of a second so basically when you are ready to shoot it is ready to flash. The unit can become hot after several minutes of high speed flashing but has never let me down. I would suggest rechargeable batteries and if you are going on a big shoot have them at full power because this unit is very draining on its power supply!
I have several flash units which range from this one at the lower end to some much bigger and more powerful ones that can reach nearly three times the price of this one but when it comes to certain shoots especially weddings this is the one I choose. I choose this one for weddings because it is so versatile and lightweight it is ideal for those types of shoots and also because my camera body of choice for weddings is the Nikon D300, which at pennies short of a thousand pounds deserves a flash that can do it justice and this Nikon SB 800 does just that.
The flash should come with a diffuser which is just a little white coloured plastic cover that slips over the flash allowing softer light, if you go to buy it and this is not in with the package then haggle to have one added because most serious camera stores will happily oblige in order to get the sale and it is a piece of kit well worth having and learning when to use. Good soft light is a photographers best friend and you can achieve some very goods light with this flash so if you are suffering away with your on board flash then upgrade to this you won't regret it.
If you are not using a Nikon camera then make sure you check compatibility with the DSLR you are using and if it does not work with your camera then simply ask to be pointed in the direction of a flash unit that will fit your camera that has the same features this one offers!
Thanks for reading
Very good reliable flashgun, sturdy hotshoe is a bonus, flimsy wideangle diffuser easily damaged.