The Nikon SB-500 speedlight was announced in September of 2014 together with the Nikon D750 and Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G lens. Sitting above the compact SB-300 and below the larger and more powerful SB-700, the SB-500 is targeted at beginners and enthusiasts, who want something more capable than a built-in flash or a basic speedlight. The SB-500 comes with an interesting list of features, one of which we have never previously seen on Nikon speedlights before – built-in LED lights. Although I personally had very little interest in using the SB-500, as I heavily rely on SB-800 and SB-900 speedlights for my work, ability to run LED lights continuously seemed like an interesting idea. In addition, with the SB-500 abilities of being both a commander and a remote flash unit with full compatibility with Nikon’s CLS system, I thought that perhaps I could use it in combination with my other speedlights. So I decided to check out and do a quick review of the SB-500, to see if it would potentially be a suitable tool for my photography needs.
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.