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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Speedlight SB-800

General
Once upon a time this was the top professional flash for Nikon (the SB-910 is the more modern equivalent). Still, the old SB-800 can hold its own just fine.

Pros/Cons 
+ great value. You get pretty much everything you need at a very good (used) price
+ can work as a master
+ plenty of useful features (zoom, different modes, bounce card)

- old; as a flash flagship, existing used units might have seen plenty of action
- button philosophy quite bad (you need combos of various kinds to do what you need sometimes)
- I hate the lack of a direct master/slave switch. You have to dive into menus for that

Taken with an SB-800 on-camera and an SB-600 off-camera, from the left side


Intended Users

Great for:
  • pros on a budget. With all its shortcomings, this does the job just fine.
  • someone needing more power than the SB-600 but can't afford anything more expensive than the SB-800
  • For those also using older film cameras, the SB-800 can function in the older modes recognized by film cameras

Not for:
  • the smallest possible (the SB-400 and SB-600 are smaller, although of course they have limitations)
  • those needing to switch quickly between various modes. The button philosophy will drive you insane.
  • I wouldn't trust an old, used, battle-scarred SB-800 enough to have it as my only flash in, say, a wedding or other assignment.

Final Verdict

I still use an SB-800 for many assignments, and it has worked well - let's face it, a flash is not like a lens, they're all the same (sort of). The real difference is in their ergonomics and things like that. Sadly, the SB-800 isn't the best in that. It take several seconds to switch from master to slave, as you have to dive into menus. Having said that, it's still a reasonably cheap flash (used of course) that will give you all the options you need. It works as a master, it works as a slave, it has that silly strobe mode (that seems to be going out of fashion anyway), a bounce card, and all that. If you can't afford a newer Speedlight, with better ergonomics, this will do the job just fine

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