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Nikon SB-600
Speedlight Flash (2004-2010)

© 2010 KenRockwell.com

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

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Nikon SB-600

Nikon SB-600 (13.75 oz./390g with 4-AA, about $220 used). This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) or it at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

September 2010     More Nikon Reviews     Nikon Lens Reviews

Nikon Flashes Compared

How to Use Wireless Flash Control

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

adorama

 
B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.

 

The SB-600 works with every Nikon camera made for the past 40 years. It's the only flash, along with the SB-400 and SB-800, that works properly with the current Nikon digital SLRs like the D50, D40, D80, D200, D2Xs D70, D2H and D2X and their new i-TTL exposure system. Read here about how to use it remotely, which it does for free with the built-in slave.

I prefer the SB-600 over the SB-800. The SB-600 is smaller, lighter, less expensive and does everything I need.

I have a page comparing the SB-600 and SB-800 here.

Nikon SB-600 rear

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

Compatibility

Works with every Nikon SLR:

i-TTL for Nikon's newest DSLRs, like the D7000, D700, D3X, F6, D70s, D200, D2X and D2H etc.

D-TTL for Nikon's earliest DSLRs likes the D100, D1, D1X and D1H

Regular TTL for all the film cameras from the FA and FE-2 through today.

Use it in Manual mode on your F or F2; sorry; no auto mode unless it's TTL.

(The newer SB-400, SB-700 and SB-900 only work in i-TTL auto.)

 

Power Input

4 AA cells of any kind.

 

Power Output

Rated GN 98, feet at ISO 100 at the 35mm setting.

Manual 1 - 1/64 power in third stops. (SB-800 turns down to 1/128 power but has 2/3 stops more power at full)

 

Exposure Modes

TTL (TTL, i-TTL and D-TTL) and manual with variable power.

No non-TTL "A" mode. This is the mode you'd use with a film camera made before 1979, but since the mode isn't here just use manual for historical cameras.

No idiotic repeating strobe mode. No one ever uses that mode. Its good that it lacks it because it makes cycling through the modes with the MODE button much faster, since there are none of the trick "sales" modes to bog things down. Sales modes are useless features added to flashes to make the innocent spend more money on them.

 

Exposure Compensation

You can dial in up to +3 to -3 stops flash exposure compensation on the flash, just press the dedicated + and - buttons. That's more than you usually can dial in on the camera.

 

Zoom Settings

You can shoot with any lens, however the marked settings are from 24-85mm, and a flip-down panel covers 14mm.

 

Size

2.7" W x 4.9" tall x 3.5" deep (SB-800 is 2.8" wide x 5" tall and 3.5" deep)

 

Weight

13.75 oz. (390g) with 4-AA alkalines, 10.6 oz (300 g) empty.

 

Case

SS-600 soft fuzzy fake-leather sack included.

 

Made in

China.

 

Nikon Product Number

4802.

 

Announced

28 January 2004.

 

Price

2011: $350 new, $220 used.

2010: $220 new.

 

Replaced by

The SB-700 in 2010.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

Power and Output

Measured Guide Number (GN) in feet, ISO 100:

Zoom Setting
GN
14 mm
36 (40 - 1/3)
24mm
64 (56 + 1/3)
35mm
71 (80 - 1/3)
85mm
100 (110 - 1/3)

This is about one stop less than specified, which is how almost all Japanese flashes measure. All the manufacturers cheat about the same amount, hoping you won't notice a stop lost on print film.

It's also only about 1/3 to 1/2 stop less than the SB-28DX, a previous top-of-the-line flash.

Wireless slave mode works GREAT with few to no misfires due to misalignment. These problems were rampant with the SU-4 and SB-28DX. The SB600 just works as you want it to, even if it doesn't have a direct line of site to the master flash. This is worlds better than using the SU-4 or other wireless slave devices which always mess up.

Power ON and OFF follows the D70 perfectly. For instance, turn off the D70 and the flash turns off. Pop a card into an "off" D70 and the flash turns on for a moment when the D70 wakes up to welcome the new card.

Power management is great. I just leave the flash set in the default STANDBY mode and never turn it off. It turns itself on magically whenever you need it, and goes to sleep when not needed. I only turn it OFF when it's mounted on the camera and I don't want it to fire. I put it away in my bag left ON so it's ready to go the instant I mount it back on the camera. If you put it away for a week or more you may want to turn it off. it certainly runs for at least a few days left in STBY.

In STBY mode it does not regularly top off the capacitor charge, so after being left sleeping for a day it might take a second or two to get the ready light back on when you tap the camera shutter to wake it back up. Because of this it doesn't use any battery power when put away in the STBY mode. Some other Nikon flashes even while sleeping will top off the capacitor every few minutes to keep the flash fully charged and ready for instant action, however this also drains the battery if put away for a few weeks this way.

 

Ergonomics

No built-in bounce card, so either use a white Post-It note, or tape or rubber band a business card to the top. This is the only real feature I miss compared to the SB800, and for $20 you can buy an even better Lumiquest here.

Excellently lit LCD and buttons.

Easy to read clear LCD.

The manual says if you really screw it up you can reset it by replacing the batteries with power ON.

No footage scales or manual flash exposure calculator, just like flashes from before 1970. If you need this for use with an old camera just cut out one from the instruction sheet from an equally old roll of Kodak film.

It actually tells you when you battery is dead! You'll see "bat" spelled out on the LCD!

The manual vari-power mode is brilliantly programmed. It reads up or down in fractions from full stop power increments as you adjust. When dropping power it might read 1/4 - 0.7, and when increasing from a lower setting the identical power level might read 1/8 + 0.3.

The SB600 set to 1/4 to 1/8 power is as strong as the built-in flash of the D70 at full power.

 

DROP TEST

A reader writes:

My SB600 was mounted on top of a light stand elevated approx. 6 ft. via the Speedlight Stand.

Like an idiot, I didn't turn the lever to lock it into the shoe and it fell! (I guess this was actually an accident).

Parts were jarred loose from the front panel, incl. the red focus beam cover, but I was able to snap them right back into place and the thing kept on working.

Yea, Nikon!

And, like the plasticy SLR bodies, it bounced!!!

 

Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

See Nikon Flashes Compared.

 

The only things I see the SB-600 lacking compared to the SB-800 are $125 extra cost, a built-in bounce card (just use an index card and tape), no free flimsy light balancing filters (I use Roscoe gels and Velcro instead), no ability to point down 7 degrees from horizontal, no free Tupperware soft dome (you can buy one here for $17 if you want it for the SB-600), no non-TTL A mode for use with 1950s cameras (use Manual instead) and no repeating strobe mode or modeling light and I think no ability to use the many external battery packs favored by wedding shooters.

I never use these things so I'd rather have a smaller flash and money in my pocket. I also think I see no jacks for the remote cords, which I never use. That's the beauty of this: slave mode is built in for free.

 

Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

You can dial it in either at the camera or on the flash. The flash goes from -3 to +3 stops. If you have both the camera and the flash set you get the TOTAL of the two settings. That means if you set the camera to -1 and the flash to +1 you get the same as leaving them both alone (they cancel), and if you set both the camera and flash to +1 you get a total of +2.

Yes, you can cheat and use these to get much more compensation than either the flash or camera alone can muster. Since the D70 allows setting +1 to -3 stops flash exposure compensation the combination can go from -6 to +4 stops. Of course the overall exposure compensation adjustment on the D70 adds even more range, since it also adds to the previous two settings.

The D70's flash exposure compensation indicator lights even if the SB600 is set to compensate and the D70 is left at 0. If you set the flash and camera to two values that cancel out, say +1 and -1, the D70's flash compensation indicator stays on.

 

CUSTOM (CSM) SETTINGS

You get into the custom settings by holding down the two buttons marked that way, which are the ZOOM and "-" buttons. You then select what you want to set with the "+" and "-" buttons, and set the ON and OFF by pressing either of the MODE or ZOOM buttons. The MODE and ZOOM buttons do the same thing here. To get out of the custom settings you again have to press the ZOOM and "-" buttons. You also may be able to get out of the settings mode by tapping the POWER button. Yes, this is poorly thought out, but hey, Nikon didn't ask me.

Here are the settings in the order you get if you press the "+" button each time:

Wireless mode (icon: Z-shaped arrow): Default is OFF. Turn this ON to use as a slave. If you do, you have a different set of custom functions to set which I cover in a few paragraphs below. When set to ON the flash cannot be used normally until you set this to OFF. When ON you'll see the Z-shaped arrow on the Flash's LCD.

AutoFocus assist Illuminator (icon: AF-ILL): Default is ON. Turn this OFF if you don't want the red illuminators to come on when they need to. When set to OFF the icon plainly reads NO AF-ILL. The only reason for this is if you don't want to be seen before the flash goes off, for instance, if you're a Marine sniper.

Power Standby (icon: STBY): Default is AUTO, which means the flash turns off automatically when you ignore it. it wakes up instantly when it has to. This is good. if you deliberately want to leave the flash running and run down the batteries set this to OFF, which is indicated by "-----" when setting it and no STBY icon during regular operation. When STBY is active you'll see the icon all the time the flash is on. The flash should be able to stay in this dormant mode forever, always able to pop right back on.

Zoom: This makes no sense if you just try to figure it out on the flash. Leave this set to the default setting of OFF so that the flash automatically zooms to match your lens. Deliberately setting it to ON disables automatic zoom and flashes the "M" on the LCD to warn you.

LCD Illumination: (icon: light bulb) Default is ON. This means the LCD lights up anytime you press a button, which is good.

If you have set the wireless mode, here are the options you see instead:

Annoying Beeps (icon: musical note, actually an eighth note for you musicians) Default is ON. Set to OFF to silence the beeps. If you set it to OFF you'll see a "No Music" icon on the LCD. The reason you might want this is to tell you the slave flash is firing properly while you're looking and shooting through the finder.

rL: Auxiliary ready light: Default is ON. This activates two little LEDs on the FRONT of the flash so you can see them. Nikon takes five pages in different parts of the manual trying to say this.

You also have the option to turn off the LCD illumination in the set of wireless custom functions.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Usage   Recommendations

I love mine. I see no need for the SB-800 or SB-900 unless you shoot with it all day long. I prefer the size of the SB-600.

New as of fall 2006, the SB-400 is smaller, and also now does what I need. I usually carry my SB-400 instead, unless I know I need a lot more power for shooting all day with flash.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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