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Nikon SB-50DX Speedlight SB50DX Flash Test Review
© 2003 KenRockwell.com

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Nikon SB-50DX

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This is Nikon's latest small flash. It's a real winner, offering all of the important features of the bigger flashes in a smaller size and price. There is no such thing as a separate model SB-50; when I mention that it's just because I'm too lazy to type the full name of SB-50DX all the time.

It DOES NOT work with the D70. Even though it was introduced in 2002 it's already obsolete for the latest F6, D70, D2X and D2H. For these cameras you want the SB-600 or SB-800. For any other film or digital SLR camera like the D1X, D100, F100 etc. it's great.

The SB-50DX adds a built-in slave as compared to the far more expensive SB-28 series.

The SB-50DX works in TTL (Through-The-Lens metering) mode on the digital SLR cameras like the D100 and D1H.

The only reason most people might have a need for the larger and more expensive flashes like the SB-80DX, SB-28 and SB-28DX is for more power. More power than the SB-50 is really only needed if you need to shoot at long distances or with slow (ISO 50) film. The reason knowledgeable photogs use big flashes is to get the power to shoot from 50 feet away with slow film, or bounce off the ceiling with power to spare. If you don't need the oomph then you don't need this flash.

If you have a film camera then also consider the tiny SB-23 unless you need to bounce, and if you need to bounce, the SB-22 also works fine. No one really uses the other trick modes like repeating flash you read about in the product brochures.

To use the SB-50DX' slave feature with a digital SLR camera you have to cripple the camera's flash by setting the camera's flash to the primitive A mode, and the SB-50DX, held in your left hand, to the A slave mode. You have to do this because Nikon's digital SLRs have only a primitive TTL metering system, unlike the film cameras. The digital SLRs have to use a primitive pre-flash, and unfortunately that pre-flash would confuse the slave flash. Thus you have to set the digital SLR's flash into a more primitive non-TTL mode like A for the remote slave to work. I'm unsure how to cripple the built-in flash of the D100 to trigger a remote SB-50, read your manuals. If you forget and don't set the correct mode on your digital SLR's flash you will see the SB-50DX fire just fine, but it will have no effect on your film since the light you see is the response to the pre-flash, but the SB-50DX is not smart enough to follow on with the main flash and thus it does not expose your photo. In other words, the SB-50, when your digital SLR's flash is left in the usual D-TTL mode, is firing before the camera's shutter opens. Just set the flash on your D100 or D1X or whatever to A mode (or M mode if you insist on manual exposure setting) when you want to use the SB-50DX as a remote slave and it works swell.


Rated at GN 72 feet, ISO100.

Uses two CR123A or DL123A 3V lithium batteries, which could get expensive if you use a lot of flash. If you do, poke around eBay and get these wholesale for about $2 each. Camera stores actually make more money on batteries than they do selling you the flash!

Small, about 8 1/2 ounces empty.


Works fine!


This is your flash if you want a small external flash for any camera introduced before 2003. There are no features the bigger flashes offer of any use to you, unless you need a lot of power. If you have a digital SLR you don't need the extra power since you can bump up the ISO instead, and if you have a film camera, a used $60 SB-22 does the same thing for less.

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