Nikon SB-23 (about $30 used).This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thanks! Ken.
OBSOLETE FOR USE WITH DIGITAL CAMERAS. USE THE SB-400 INSTEAD.
I love my tiny SB-23 for use as fill when I don't feel like hauling around more.
The SB-23 not only is tiny, but also runs forever on a $1 set of four AA alkaline cells.
I paid $60 for my SB-23 used. It doesn't get any better than this!
It was introduced in 1988 and seems to have stopped in 2003. There should be plenty of them out there. Oddly the data sheet below has been updated to include the F6, introduced in 2004, so I suspect today it may be Japan only.
GN at ISO 100: 66 feet, 20 meters.
Recycling: 2 seconds
400 flashes at full output on a set of four AA alkalines, almost infinite in typical use in TTL.
2.5 x 2.6 x 3.3" (64 x 67 x 84mm), excluding the foot.
Weight (empty): 4.9 oz (140g).
Exposure modes: full power manual, and TTL with 35mm cameras only.
Discontinued about 2004.
I measured the manual guide number as 40 +1/3 at EI 100 in feet.
This is about one stop less than Nikon specifies, which is typical for flash makers.
a couple of Amperes peak while charging.
I can't even remember the last time I had to put new alkaline batteries it it. It seems to run forever.
For fun I left it running in STBY mode with a set of Ni-Cds in it. I got tired of watching it after four days. It still fired instantly and seemed and the cells were still charged. This means you can feel free to just leave it on the whole time you are out shooting without worrying about the batteries.
I left it turned on for over a month. After the month the batteries were still fine, although it did take a moment for the flash to recycle. This means that, unlike the SB-28, you can leave the flash turned on all the time without worrying about killing your batteries, presuming your camera doesn't keep the flash alive.
The only useful things SB-23 won't do are:
1.) It's 2 stops dimmer than the blinding SB-28, so the maximum range is only half. This is only a concern if you shoot really slow film at long distances. It works great for fill at 10 - 15 feet with 50 speed film. It is much brighter than any of the built-in flashes.
2.) Wide coverage is only rated to 35mm; mine works fine at 28mm. Watch it and try it with your 17-35; at the wider settings you could have dark corners. Since the only reason you should be using on-camera flash is as fill and not a main light this ought not be much of a problem.
3.) It only does on-camera flash with no bounce or ability to put a diffuser over it. This means that you can't use it with a Lumiquest reflector. This would allow you to add soft, invisible natural fill. The light from the SB-23 fill looks the same as the fill everyone else gets from the SB-28 on camera.
4.) On an F100 there is no way to adjust the fill ratio with the SB-23. Don't worry, it's always perfect anyway.
5.) Only works in manual (full power) mode on digital SLRs, which is almost useless.
All the other "features" the expensive SB-28 does, like stroboscopic effects and FP sync, serve no legitimate photographic purpose and you may ignore them. All the important things, like 3D Matrix TTL metering is done by the camera, so the SB-23 or any other Nikon TTL flash works great on any of the film cameras.
Skip this if you have a digital camera, it won't work with it.
Buy one of these if you want a small on-camera flash to take everywhere with your film camera.
Buy it if you need a flash for macro use. You won't need the power of the the larger flashes and will appreciate the smaller size.
The SB-23 works great even on-camera with the 105 macro really close. You could buy the SC-17 cord to put it right up at the subject, too.
I find the one switch of the SB-23 much more straightforward then the confusingly complex controls of the SB-28. I can turn the SB-23 on and off much faster than having to hold down the rubber buttons of the SB-28.
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