Flash Units for Nikon
This note gives an overview of dedicated flash units compatible with Nikon's CLS that are made by Nikon and selcted third-party manufacturers.
Disclaimer: I have not tested all the units listed in this note myself. The data have been copied from various sources, such as the manufacturer's web sites, private communications, manuals, discussion forums, and other sources. I've included it here “as is”. The information may not be complete or correct, and corrections are welcome.
2. Nikon Flash Equipment
Nikon's flash system has evolved over time. The current system is known as Creative Lighting System (CLS) and requires the camera body to support a particular type of TTL called i-TTL.
This page only lists flash units compatible with the current generation of Nikon digital cameras. If you are looking for a flash for a legacy body, please see our page about TTL-support and older cameras.
However, before we get to the list of compatible flash units, there is a section about the built-in flash you may find on a Nikon DSLR, and a section about the Nikon SU-800 Speedlight Commander. At the end of this note, there is a section comparing the SB-700 to the SB-910.
Nikon DSLRs and flash
Nikon's oldest DSLRs (introduced from 2000 to 2002) is not compatble with CLS and i-TTL, but requires a legacy TTL system known as D-TTL. The Nikon digital camera models that only support D-TTL are the D1-series and the D100.
When the Nikon D2H was launched in 2003, a new era of Nikon flash photography began. With the D2H the CLS was introduced. One of innovations of CLS was AWL (Advanced Wireless Lighting) where a flash unit or the SU-800 Speedlight Commander could control remote AWL-compatible Speedlights wirelessly. For good measure, Nikon also added a special mode (commander mode) that let the photographer use the built-in flash as an AWL-master master to many of its DSLRs. The only models excluded were the professional models that did not have a built-in flash, and the entry-level models. Below I list all Nikon DSLRs that is compatible with CLS, and whether they have a built-in flash that can be used in commander mode:
- CLS w/o. flash: D2-series, D3-series
- CLS w. flash, no commander mode: D50, D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and D5100
- CLS w. flash, commander mode, 1 grop 1 channel: D70, D70s (group A, channel 3).
- CLS w. flash, commander mode, 2 groups 4 channels: D80, D90, D7000, D200, D300, D300s, D700.
As far as I know, the built-in flashes on all current Nikon DSLR models with a built-in flash have similar guide number and coverage.
The built-in flash has a guide number of 12 in manual mode (ISO 100, meters) and 11 in any of the CLS modes. The coverage is roughly 24 mm on a DSLR with an FX-sensor, and 18 mm on a DSLR with a DX-sensor.
The x-sync speed on most Nikon DSLRs is either 1/200 (lower end models) or 1/250 second (higher end models). However, the following models: D70, D70s, D50, D40 used a CCD-sensor with an electronic shutter that allowed syncing up to 1/500 second with a CLS-compatible flash. With a generic flash, or if you fooled the camera by taping over the hot-shoe contacts it uses to detect a CLS-compatible flash, these camera models allowed syncing at the cameras maximum shutter speed without invoking the FP mode. Unfortunately, the electronic shutter made the sensor bloom easily, and has not been used by Nikon in recent DSLR designs.
SU-800 Speedlight Commander
The SU-800 Speedlight Commander is not a flash. It is a hot-shoe mounted master unit that uses infrared light to wirelessly control other Speedlights compatible with Nikon's AWL.
The SU-800 can control the following Nikon Speedlights: SB-R200, SB-600, SB-700 SB-800, SB-900 or SB-910, and also works with third party flash units that has built-in support for AWL.
It let the photographer set up and control 3 groups (A-C), and 4 channels (1-4). It has button controls and a LCD screen on the back.
The SU-800 works fine indoors in moderate sized rooms. Outdoors you need direct line-of-sight between the SU-800 and the remote Speedlights, and you may still experience areliability problems in bright sunlight. For reliable operation outdoors, most photographers prefer to use radio triggers instead of a light based flash control system.
The SU-800 measures 68 x 96 x 58 mm, and weighs 160 gram w/o. battery. It uses one 3 volt CR123A (lithium) battery and comes with SS-SU800 soft case.
The price is around USD 250.
CLS Compatible Flash Units
Below are a s set of tables that gives an overview over CLS-compatible flash units manufactured by Nikon and selected third-party manufacturers.
For an ever wider selection of CLS-compatible flash units, use the DPanwsers Flash finder to search our entire database.
You can see a more detailed description by clicking on the name of the flash. Most of the colums should be self-explanatory. The column “WL” summarizes built-in wireless modes: The character “m” means AWL master, “r” means AWL remote, “sf” means plain slave, and “sd” means digital slave (ignoring pre-flash).
CLS units manufactured by Nikon:
|Nikon SB-400||27mm||21||USD 110|
|Nikon SB-600||14, 24-85mm||30||r||[USD 215]|
|Nikon SB-700||14, 24-120mm||28||m/r,sf||USD 330|
|Nikon SB-800||14, 24-105mm||38||m/r,sf||[USD 315]|
|Nikon SB-900||14, 17-200mm||34||m/r,sf||[USD 440]|
|Nikon SB-910||14, 17-200mm||34||m/r,sf||USD 550|
|Nikon SB-R200 Macro||24mm||10||r||USD 160|
CLS compatible units manufactured by Metz, Nissin, Sigma, Sunpak and YongNuo:
|Metz 15 MS-1 Macro||35mm||15||r,sf,sd||USD 400|
|Metz 24 AF-1||35mm||24||USD 90|
|Metz 28 AF-3||24, 35, 85mm||22||[USD 110]|
|Metz 36 AF-4||28-85mm||24||[USD 112]|
|Metz 36 AF-5||28-85mm||24||USD 112|
|Metz 44 AF-1||12, 24-105mm||27||r||USD 200|
|Metz 44 AF-4||12, 24-105mm||28||USD 200|
|Metz 44 MZ-2||28-105mm||26||USD 249|
|Metz 48 AF-1||12, 24-105mm||29||r,sf||[USD 225]|
|Metz 50 AF-1||12, 24-105mm||29||r,sf||USD 230|
|Metz 54 AF-1||20, 24-105mm||31||USD 405|
|Metz 54 MZ-4||20, 24-105mm||31||USD 400|
|Metz 58 AF-1||18, 24-105mm||32||m/r,sf||[USD 405]|
|Metz 58 AF-2||12, 24-105mm||32||m/r,sd||USD 400|
|Metz 76 MZ-5||20, 24-105mm||45||USD 875|
|Nissin Di28||35mm||20||USD 80|
|Nissin Di446||16, 24-105mm||22||sf,sd||USD 139|
|Nissin Di622||20, 28-105mm||26||sd||[USD 150]|
|Nissin Di622 II||16, 24-105mm||26||r,sf,sd||USD 160|
|Nissin Di866||18, 24-105mm||40||m/r,sf,sd||[USD 329]|
|Nissin Di866 II||18, 24-105mm||40||m/r,sf,sd||USD 349|
|Sigma EF-500 DG ST||17, 28-105mm||29||[USD 150]|
|Sigma EF-500 DG Super||17, 28-105mm||29||m/r,sf||[USD 219]|
|Sigma EF-530 DG ST||17, 24-105mm||31||[USD 150]|
|Sigma EF-530 DG Super||17, 24-105mm||31||m/r,sf||[USD 219]|
|Sigma EF-610 DG ST||17, 24-105mm||36||USD 165|
|Sigma EF-610 DG Super||17, 24-105mm||36||m/r,sf||USD 255|
|Sigma EM-140 DG Macro||14||m||USD 379|
|Sunpak PZ40X||24-80mm||20||USD 70|
|Sunpak PZ42X||20, 24-105mm||28||USD 149|
|Sunpak RD-2000||35mm||20||USD 62|
|YongNuo YN-460-RX||35mm||33||r,sf,sd||USD 110|
|YongNuo YN-465||35mm||33||USD 66|
|YongNuo YN-467 II||24-85mm||33||sf,sd||USD 75|
|YongNuo YN-468 II||18, 24-85mm||33||sf,sd||USD 91|
|YongNuo YN-560EX||15, 24-105mm||39||r,sf,sd||USD 110|
|YongNuo YN-565EX||15, 24-105mm||39||r,sf,sd||USD 175|
|YongNuo YN-568EX||15, 24-105mm||39||r,sf,sd||USD 182|
A Note About Guide Numbers
Note that if you use guide numbers (GNs) for doing comparisons, the guide number you'll find in most manufacturer's literature is for the zoom head at its maximum setting (e.g. f=105mm). This makes it difficult to make direct power comparisons with flash units from other manufacturers, who may list use another zoom setting as reference for GNs. For zoom head flashes, the tables above show the GN with the zoom head set to 35 mm coverage (FX), ISO 100, meters. In the full list of specifications for each flash, I try to list the GN for three different settings of the zoom head (35mm, 50mm, and maximum).
For Speedlights that offer alternative illuminations patterns (i.e. the SB-700 & SB-910), the GNs listed are those for the “standard” illumination pattern.
3. SB-700 vs. SB-910
The AWL Speedlight Commander and macro units are clearly not mainstream units.
The SB-400 has no zoom or swivel, and does not support AWL. I think that this puts it into a class of its own, for those that want a lightweight no-frills shoe-mounted flash with i-TTL.
The SB-600, SB-800 and SB-900 are discontinued.
This means that the two Nikon units most buyers consider is the SB-700 and the SB-910. The table below gives a detailed comparison between the two (GNs for SB-700 taken from p. 35 in the manual. GNs for SB-910 taken from p. H-18 in the manual. For both, the numbers quoted are for FX, using the standard illumination pattern):
|Cost, Jul. 2012||USD 330||USD 550|
|Coverage (FX)||14, 24 - 120mm||14, 17 - 200 mm|
|GN (ISO 100/m, f=35mm)||28||34|
|GN (ISO 100/m, f=50mm)||31||40|
|GN (ISO 100/m, f=max)||38||53|
|Flash duration (1/1 power)||1/1042 sec.||1/880 sec.|
|Weight w/o batteries||360 g.||420 g.|
|W x H x D||71 x 126 x 105 mm||79 x 145 x 113 mm|
|Battery life (1)||260 flashes||190 flashes|
|Recycle time (1)||2.5 sec.||2.3 sec.|
|Trigger voltage||2.7 volts||3.5 volts|
|Manual stroboscopic (RPT)||no||yes|
|AWL master / remote||yes / yes||yes / yes|
|AWL remote groups||2||3|
|PC sync socket||no||yes|
|External power socket||no||yes|
|The remaining specifications are similar.|
|Movements||tilt, swivel||tilt, swivel|
|Tilt Angle||-7° to +90°||-7° to + 90°|
|D-TTL & TTL||no||no|
|Manual power ratio||1/1 - 1/128||1/1 - 1/128|
|Firmware update (2)||yes||yes|
|Manual distance priority||yes||yes|
|High Speed Sync (FP)||yes||yes|
|SU-4 slave mode||yes||yes|
|Coloured gel filters||yes||yes|
- With 4 NiMH 2600 mAh batteries. The figures assume that every flash is a full discharge. Note that these figures does not mean that the SB-910 will give you fewer flashes than SB-700 during normal i-TTL operation. They simply reflects the fact that the SB-910 outputs more power at each full discharge.
- Firmware update via compatible cameras (i.e. all Nikon DSLRs except the D2-series, D1-series, D200, D100, D80, D70-series, D60, D50, D40-series) is possible.