Technically, the article is supposed to be called “Nikon Speedlight Comparison”, because Nikon calls their flash units “Speedlights”. This article is written as an introduction to the current and older line of Nikon Speedlights, specifically the Nikon SB-300, SB-400, SB-500, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 (discontinued), SB-900 (discontinued) and SB-910. In addition to some basic information on each Speedlight, I will provide a comparison chart on the bottom of this article as well, to make it simpler for our readers to understand the differences.
The last announcement from Nikon today was for the new SB-500 speedlight, Nikon’s first speedlight with a built-in LED light. With a guide number of 24m at ISO 100, it is not a very powerful flash unit (the SB-600 is at 30m and the high-end SB-910 is at 34m), but it is quite flexible with the head tilting up to 90° and rotating horizontally 180° to the left and right. In addition, it can be used as a commander or a remote flash unit and it is fully compatible with the Nikon CLS system. At $249.95, it is priced $80 cheaper than the higher-end SB-700. What’s exciting about this unit is not its typical features, but the built-in LED light. With approximately 100 lumens of brightness, the LED light can be used as a small video light or potentially even assist in acquiring focus in low-light situations. The LED light can be operated independently from flash, which means that you could actually detach the SB-500 from the camera and use its LED light exclusively, if needed. I personally welcome this innovation in speedlights and I believe it will be quite useful in some situations.
As you saw from our review of the Profoto B1, we were very impressed by the capabilities of this portable, battery powered flash head. At the time we wrote the review, the Profoto B1 was only compatible with Canon TTL and support for Nikon TTL was supposed to be announced later. Well, the wait is almost over, because Profoto announced the Air Remote TTL-N for Nikon, with expected availability on September 15, 2014.
The majority of my videography and photography work is with industrial clients, and I almost always find myself shooting onsite in warehouses, factories, and other indoor venues. In many of the buildings in which I shoot, lighting can consist of a mix of technologies such as high intensity discharge (metal halide, high pressure sodium, mercury vapour, low pressure sodium), fluorescent, and LED. To further complicate things sometimes facilities have had physical expansions and specific parts of a building can be illuminated by a mix of lighting sources. Rather than pull out the few, remaining hairs I have left on my head when having to deal with all of these variables, I try to simplify my shooting by bringing my studio lights with me and creating as much wide angle, controlled light as possible.
Like many photographers and videographers, I’ve found that there have been times when I really could have used a small, highly portable, adjustable light source. This most often occurred when I shooting close-up still images or video clips of industrial machinery where I couldn’t get my regular studio lighting to fit into cramped quarters. I began looking for a solution and came upon the Genaray LED-7100T On-Camera Light.
Let’s face it. Flashes are expensive. Wouldn’t it be great if you could purchase a new flash and only spend half of what a new flash typically costs? I’m a Nikon shooter and already have two SB-800s, but another flash can sure come in handy when shooting with off-camera flash at a wedding reception. When I got the Bolt VX-710N, that’s exactly what I had in mind for it, but I decided to go ahead and try it as an on-camera flash as well.
This is a review of the Impact Light Kit Bag. For my studio lighting, I use a set of four Alien Bees heads along with a variety of light stands and modifiers. When I’m shooting on location, I prefer to make as few trips to and from my car as possible, so the fewer bags I have to carry, the better. For the past few years the bag I’ve been using for my lights has served me well, but I wanted to try something a little bigger and see if I could fit even more into it. Let’s see if this bag from Impact is going to work for my needs.
While testing out the Profoto B1 500 flash head, I also had a chance to use one of my favorite light modifiers, a 3 foot octabox (also known as “octa softbox”, “octabank” or just “octa”), known as “3′ RFi Octa Softbox” by Profoto. Although Profoto carries a wide array of light modifiers and accessories in its arsenal of lighting equipment, I specifically wanted to get a smaller octa for outdoors photography. The primary reason was portability without compromising too much on the size. As you may already know, the larger the source of light in flash photography, the softer it is on the subject. The 5 and 7 foot octas were just too big and the smaller rectangular softboxes were too small for my taste. Quality-wise, both octaboxes and softboxes produce equally good quality light – the only difference is catchlight. I prefer to have more round catchlight in my subject’s eyes, rather than a square, so I prefer using octaboxes, umbrellas, parabolic softboxes and beauty dishes for that reason.
When Profoto announced their first truly portable setup with the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash last year, the news immediately caught my attention and I requested to get a sample unit for a review. The reason was fairly simple for me – I got tired of lugging around a huge and heavy battery pack for my Elinchrom Ranger lights when working on remote jobs. Speedlights are great for indoors and low-light environments, but they just do not have the juice to run big light modifiers or overpower the sun in mid-day lighting conditions (unless you use packs of them like Joe McNally does). For these reasons, I have been using big lights for sometime now, but with the huge inconvenience of carrying a heavy portable battery. Although the Profoto B1 lights have less power in comparison with a total of 500 watts, I realized that I rarely go full power with my Elinchrom Rangers anyway, so the B1 was plenty for most of my work. The biggest advantage that I saw in the Profoto B1 was portability – no need for any external power sources! Just attach a battery on the side of the head and you are ready to go. And with a built-in slave trigger, the head can be controlled with a radio or infrared remote units wirelessly.
Some photographers oppose the idea of using flash or light modifiers. Sometimes because it does not suit their style, sometimes because they do not feel comfortable using flash in first place. While we as photographers often love the feel of soft, natural light, knowing how to utilize artificial light can be of tremendous value in low-light environments. Not to mention that such knowledge and being ready to overcome challenging tasks in pretty much any environment can boost confidence and give peace of mind when working in the field. In this article, I would like to go over situations when flash should be used and how it can work to our advantage. I divided this article into indoor and outdoor photography to make it easy for everyone to follow. Please feel free to add your use cases in the comments section below. Please note that I am not going over the basics of flash photography here – the article assumes that you understand the relationship of flash with ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.