Nikon SB-300 Speedlight Announcement

In addition to the Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR lens, Nikon also announced a brand new speedlight – the Nikon SB-300. Before the SB-300, the lowest-end flash unit in Nikon’s line was the SB-400. Since the SB-400 is a straight flash with limited flexibility to tilt the head (only straight upwards, no side to side movement), I never recommended it to anyone, even beginner photographers with entry-level DSLRs. Unfortunately, the price gap between the SB-400 and higher end speedlights like SB-600/SB-700 was too big for many beginner photographers, so I would often recommend third party flash units. Does the SB-300 change the game?

Nikon SB-300 Speedlight

Unfortunately, it does not. While the SB-300 is a more flexible unit, allowing you to tilt the head up to 120 degrees, you still cannot move it side to side. On a positive note, the SB-300 is a very compact and lightweight speedlight, measuring 57.4 x 65.4 x 62.3mm and weighing only 97 grams. The power source is two AAA batteries and you can either use alkaline or Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. The control interface is extremely simple, making it super easy to use:

Nikon SB-300 Back

Simple can be both good and bad though – as you can see from the above image, there is only one thing you can do and that’s turn the flash on or off. There is no other control, which means that you cannot use the flash in manual mode, customize its behavior, or set it as a slave unit. Since it is an i-TTL unit, you will still be able to adjust flash compensation directly from your camera though. Another negative is its 4 second recycle time (3.5 seconds with Ni-MH batteries), which means that you will have to wait quite a bit between your shots.

Although the SB-300 is priced pretty low at $149.95, I would still recommend to get a third party flash unit for those that want to have more options for the same or less money. You can get a TTL flash from Vivitar, Nissin, Bower, Sunpack and Bolt under $150 and those flashes will do way more than the SB-300 ever will.

For more information about the Nikon SB-300, check out this Nikon imaging page.

Also, check out my Nikon Flash Comparison article, where I provide information on each Nikon speedlight and compare specifications between different models. I have just updated the article with new info from the SB-300 unit.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) David B
    August 6, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Nasim, I used to have several copies of SB-400 and it of course DOES TILT 90 degrees up. I even had a Flip-it special diffuser designed for it and it gave a surprisingly good results in a room with not super high ceilings. I assume the new SB-300 will be even better.

    • 2
      ) Gabriel F
      August 6, 2013 at 12:16 am

      Yes, I can attest to the SB-400 being able to til 90 degrees up, so in that aspect the SB-300 doesn’t really change the game as its head does not rotate sideways.

      • August 6, 2013 at 12:24 am

        Yup, looks like there is no side to side motion on the SB-300 either :( Given how many great options there are out there for third party speedlights, I don’t think this one will be popular either…

    • August 6, 2013 at 12:18 am

      Darn, I hit the publish button to early! You are right, the SB-400 can go 90 degrees upwards, but it cannot go side by side. Looks like the SB-300 cannot do it either :(

    • August 6, 2013 at 12:56 am

      David, just updated the Nikon Flash Comparison article. The SB-300 is inferior to the SB-400 in a number of ways…can’t find info on flash duration yet, but it is probably weaker than the SB-400. On a positive note, it is very small and lightweight!

      • 10
        ) Steve
        August 6, 2013 at 1:44 am

        Copied from the Nikon website:
        Flash duration:

        SB-300 : Lights for about 1/1650 s when fired at full power.

        SB-400 : Approx. 1/1300 sec. at full output.

        • August 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm

          Steve, thanks for the info, I updated the article :)

          Just like I thought, the flash is weaker than the SB-400 too…

  2. 4
    ) Arne List
    August 6, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I have also a SB-400 and it tilts 90 degrees up. You won’t assume it, when you see the design, but the reflector can tilt within the body of the flash. However, 120 degrees is much better, which allows you to bounce more backward and is the best solution, when ever possible.

    I don’t know the market in the USA, but here in Germany, dedicated Metz flash units are very popular and cheaper than original Nikon ones. I always the 44 AF-1 http://www.metz.de/en/flash-units/product-ranges/system-flash-units/mecablitz-44-af-1-digital.html

    • August 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

      Arne, yes, I apologize for sending the email with wrong info – I accidentally hit the publish button when I actually meant to save the draft (which automatically sends the email). I forgot about the vertical tilt capability. I knew there was some limitation, so when I started to check my “flash comparison” article, I realized that it was the side to side motion that was missing instead!

      There are lots of great options out there – Metz, Vivitar, Nissin, Sunpack, Sigma and others are all good.

  3. 6
    ) Keith Taylor
    August 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I sometimes take my SB 400 with me to travel light and I would never part with it.
    I cut out a bounce card from a used plastic milk carton that slides in neatly behind the swivelling bounce head that works very well whether the head is forward or tilted up 90 degrees.
    I really do not see the SB 300 as any improvement whatsoever over the SB400, it seems a totally pointless upgrade.

    • August 6, 2013 at 12:28 am

      Keith, I totally agree! I wish Nikon allowed this one to go side to side at least…

  4. 11
    ) John Adams
    August 6, 2013 at 5:56 am

    You mentioned that the SB-400 doesn’t have a tilt head. This is a very small point but the SB-400 does allow you to tilt the front of the head upwards to avoid red-eye and get some degree of ceiling bounce flash. I also find the SB-300 handy to mount on my DSLR for soft front lighting while triggering my two SB-700’s for the main side lighting and back lighting for portraits. It’s also a handy flash to carry when I’m traveling light with my P7000.

    • August 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      John, please see my responses above – I fixed the error. Thank you!

  5. August 6, 2013 at 6:07 am

    One Can use Yongnuo 560 iii for the same price and with a lot more features..

  6. 13
    ) Tek
    August 6, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I don’t agree that the SB-400 and sB-300 should not be recommended for beginners. How else can you get quick and accurate TTL metering with 3rd party flashes?

    I have a SB-600 and 900, as well as the 400. For most of my casual uses, the 400 does fine. Now, if the flashhead on the SB-300-400 does not tit up at all it would make them utterly worthless. But they do tilt up to allow bounce flash and for most beginner’s use it will suffice. Some 3rd party flashes will allow TTL metering, but they are the size of sB-900. For a “small, quick, simple, TTL” solution, you can’t beat the SB-400/300.

    • August 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Tek, third party flashes have TTL capabilities as well. They might not be very accurate, but they work and they have way more juice than the SB-300/SB-400.

      The only reason to consider SB-300/SB-400 is when one needs a very compact flash. Other than that, you get a lot more value, features and power out of third party flashes.

      • 33
        ) Rob Mulligan
        August 14, 2013 at 7:12 pm

        The right tool for the right job.

        You all seem to miss the point. They’re not for someone looking for a bargain basement SB-910. The SB-400 and 300 are both small and super simple. That’s the point. That doesn’t mean that they are totally automatic. You can still control the power output through your camera. I would probably still prefer the lower profile of the SB-400, and the AA battery use. I have Five (5) SB-600’s and an SU-800 to run them. I also have an SB-400 for when I want small, inconspicuous, simple, cheap, and not easily broken off at the shoe on an accidental impact. I usually keep a diffuser on it with the tube pointed 60 degrees up. I use the fitted Demb diffuser quite often too. I use it on my D7000 when I want a less obnoxious and lower profile flash than an SB-600. When I want to run a DSLR system that’s small and light, especially when just doing family stuff, I use a D40 with the SB-400, an 18-55VR and a 35/1.8. The D40 gives me a 1/500th sync speed without loss of power. This setup is really nice when I don’t want to drag a suitcase full of crap around behind me.

  7. 14
    ) Peter Trinidad
    August 6, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Hello Nassim,

    What would be an ideal third party choice for a compact light weight with the side tilt option to use on the D800 and the D4. Appreciate your reply. Thanks.

    • August 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Peter, check out the “Metz 44 AF-1” – it is a very nice flash that will work on any Nikon DSLR. If it is too expensive, try the lower-end 36AF-5 model. Both can do TTL and have plenty of features.

      • 24
        ) Peter Trinidad
        August 7, 2013 at 5:03 am

        Thanks for the reply and suggestion. The Metz 44 F-1 seems ideal for me for general use. Online to B&H now.

        • August 7, 2013 at 5:07 am

          Hi Peter,
          You can also checkout Yongnuo models (560ii and 560iii). Both are manual with GN58.
          560iii has Built in 2.4Ghz trigger/transceiver.
          I am using 560ii and i found it to be good enough

  8. 15
    ) EnPassant
    August 6, 2013 at 9:24 am

    This is just the SB-N7 flash for the Nikon 1 system with the standard TTL hot-shoe and electronics for Nikon’s DSLRs. Instead of making it possible using that flash with a simple adapter Nikon try to sell it twice to customers using both Nikon 1 and DSLRs.

    • August 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      Yup, very sadly. It is stupid that Nikon used a proprietary flash socket on the Nikon 1 system. That’s one of the reasons why I did not get the Nikon 1.

  9. 16
    ) Chris
    August 6, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Can you guys recommend a third party flash with TTL?

  10. 28
    ) Richard
    August 7, 2013 at 10:00 am

    A confusing new release! More expensive than the SB-400, lower guide number. I’m having trouble understanding why I would ever buy one unless they discontinue the SB-400!

    Richard

  11. 29
    ) jason
    August 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    This is insane. You can get the AWESOME LumoPro LP180 for $199.99 that has the output of an SB-800 and tons more features. Nikon needs to wake up.

    • 34
      ) Rob Mulligan
      August 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

      That’s like telling someone that they shouldn’t get an iPad because a bargain desktop does so much more.

      They’re two different animals for two different uses.

      The right tool for the right job.

  12. 30
    ) Jason
    August 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    4 sec cycle time may be a bit misleading for the beginning photographer, implying the same wait time after every shot when it’s only the case when discharged at full output. Most people just flash filling in a not completely dark environment will experience significantly less wait time (unless they always shoot at base iso/with small aperature/with high shutter speed).

  13. 31
    ) Drwillix
    August 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Hi, i am a serious hobbyist improving my gear one step a time. Specifically doing mainly immediate -family shots. While my gear is now the D800 with 24 1.4 for quite sometime, I have never experimented with flash photography. Compactness is my game, but with a working range of >27 mm, does this mean that this unit is once again out for me for a setup such as mine.

    I do also feel that lack of rotation dramatically reduces the application of this flash for me.

    I was once again close to purchase of a flash unit earlier today, but the store stood firm on bargain for the SB 910, refusing to budge $5 to match a price on an online store. Hence saving me some money there.

    All in all, SB 300 is put for my focal length right?

    • 35
      ) Rob Mulligan
      August 16, 2013 at 6:43 am

      This is not your flash. An SB-700 is probably your best choice.

  14. 32
    ) Kike
    August 12, 2013 at 3:08 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for this good article (as usual).
    Just a quick question: what do you recommend Nikon SB-700 (~$326) or Metz 52 AF-1 (~$299) ?
    For $26 should I buy a brand Nikon speedlight? or maybe the Metz is a better option (newest, cheaper, german quality ;) …)

    Thanks,

  15. 36
    ) tatan
    August 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I have a SB-400 and the only thing I want to have on the next model is the wireless control capabilities and I’m waiting for this for a long time. But, it still don’t have this option on this new SB-300. Unlike its rival which is the 270EXII from canon, they have zoom and wireless control. But still, never disappoint with Nikon. Maybe Nikon just playing and want to manipulate the market.. I already have SB-400 and SB-600 despite from my tight budget.. this setup is enough for me as a hobbyist only.

  16. 37
    ) Satya
    September 16, 2013 at 4:54 am

    This is an ‘interesting’ new model, considering nobody seems interested in it :) I have two (compounded) questions.

    How much more raw power do these small flash units have compared to built-in flash? Is guide number an important factor to consider? I am surprised you left if out of your comparison chart.

    Is there a big benefit to 120 degree tilt? In what situations is it used?

    If the ‘normal’ angle is facing the subject (say, parallel to ground), 90 degrees would point at the roof. I thought that even 90 degrees was more than needed. I considered 75 or abit more as practical for bounce for most indoor situations. Of course, my indoor photography is mostly in apartment where the roof is not too high and mostly white.

    One big benefit I see with these, in addition to being compact, is that they use their own batteries whereas built in flash drains camera’s battery. Of course, I avoid using flash until I have to use it.

    Thanks.
    Satya

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