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Nikon SB-600 versus SB-800 Comparison
© 2005 KenRockwell.com

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About these reviews

Nikon SB-800
SB-600 I'd get here or here


SB-800 I'd get here or here

(it helps me do this site if you do.)


Full SB-600 review
Full SB-800 review

Nikon Flashes Compared.

How to Use Wireless Flash Control.

These are Nikon's latest flashes. They are very similar and both are excellent.

These new flashes are completely backwards compatible with old and even ancient Nikon cameras. Either one works perfectly with every TTL exposure mode of every film and digital Nikon camera ever made since the 1950s. This includes the very latest i-TTL system of the D200, F6, D2X, D50, F100 and D70s as well as the obsolete d-TTL flash systems of the D100, D1/h/x and Fuji S3. The Fuji S1 and S2 use another form of TTL, again with which the SB-600 and SB-800 work as well as any other flash.

New cameras aren't compatible with old flashes. For the latest digital cameras you require either an SB-600 or SB-800 for TTL exposures. Even a recent SB-80DX flash won't do anything in the TTL mode of the D50 and D70s.

I bought my SB-600 in November 2004 from Amazon. I prefer the SB-600 over the bigger, heavier and more expensive SB-800.

The smaller SB-600 does absolutely everything that matters for my photography. The SB-800 offers a lot of extra fluff, but nothing for which I want to pay. If anything these fluff modes get in the way of setting what I really need.

They both work wirelessly, for free, with the D70 and D70s cameras. I have a page on this here.


  SB-600 SB-800
Power: Guide Number (1)
Weight (2)
10.6 oz (300 g)
12.3 oz. (350 g)
Size, WHD
2.7 x 4.9 x 3.5"
2.8 x 5 x 3.5"
Works perfectly with every film and digital SLR (TTL, d-TTL and i-TTL)
Illuminated LCD
Dedicated icons and 7 segment numbers: bold, easy to read
Coarse generic dot-matrix, harder to read
Built-in bounce card (3)
Cost, October 2005
$190 US
$330 US

1.) Feet at ISO 100 at 35mm setting.
2.) No batteries.
3.) For $20 you can buy an even better Lumiquest bounce device here or just use an index card and tape. A white Post-it-Note also works fine.


  SB-600 SB-800
Manual Power Range
1 - 1/64
1 - 1/128
Zoom Range (4)
24 - 85 mm; 14 mm
24 - 105 mm, 14 mm
Non-TTL A mode (5)
Commander Mode (6)
Idiotic repeating strobe mode
Colored Filters (7)
Bounce Angle (8)
0 to +90º
-7 to + 90º
Tupperware Diffuser (9)
Modeling light (10)
Remote cord sockets (11)
1950s Flashmatic mode (12)
Full-power battery life (13)
220 flashes
150 flashes
Full-power recycle time (13)
2.5 seconds
4 seconds
External battery socket (14)

4.) Either flash works with every lens. The "zoom range" just helps a tiny bit with battery life, so don't fret this spec.

5.) For use with 1950's and other totally manual cameras. Some people preferred this mode over the poor TTL mode of the earliest Nikon D100 and D1 series DSLRs. Of course Manual mode works great on both flashes for any camera.

6.) Allows flash to be used on-camera to control other SB-600 and SB-800 wirelessly. Needed for cameras like D2X or D50 which either have no built-in flash or commander ability, not needed for D70 and D70s whose built-in works as a commander. Nikon's new SU-800 is an even better commander than either of these because it's smaller.

7.) I use Roscoe gels and Velcro instead.

8.) The -7º setting of the SB-800 helps for severe close-ups.

9.) Not really Tupperware but looks like it. You can buy one here for $17 if you want it for the SB-600.

10.) This means the flash can pop off a continuous light for about a second to give you a bad idea of what the lighting might look like. You're better off making a shot on your digital camera and looking at the LCD anyway.

11.) I never need these since they all work cordlessly. If you care, you can buy different cords from Nikon which simply attach to the hot shoe and other flashes instead. No big deal.

12.) You choose the aperture and the flash adjusts its power based on your distance, not from light reflected from the subject.

13.) The SB-800 has more power for each full-power pop so it's supposed to take longer to recycle and give fewer of them. In real TTL use this is irrelevant, since they both will give the same life and recycle times with the same output for each shot as determined by the camera's TTL system.

14.) Wedding photographers carry fat external batteries for fast recycling and tons of shots. The SB-800 has a socket for this. The SB-800 even has a bizarre external single AA holder which lets you use odd sets of 5-AA cells for somewhat faster recycling compared to just using the 4 internal cells (It seems weird to me: my sets and charger come in 4s, not 5s.) Other companies like Quantum make big external batteries that plug right into the SB800 while the SB600 has no such connection. In the old days we just rigged up our own connections to flashes, usually with wooden dowels the size of AA batteries and thumb tacks, and used a 6V gel-cell around our waists. Personally I just swap alternating sets of Ni-MH AAs and I'm happy.

DISCUSSION: SB-600 versus SB-800

The SB-600 costs about $140 less than the SB-800 and is a little smaller.

The SB-600 does all the things the SB-800 does that anyone really cares about. You get a smaller, lighter flash with almost as much power and all the features you care about, like automatic wireless TTL remote control. Of course Nikon would prefer you buy the SB-800, so that's what you'll see promoted everywhere. Nikon doesn't go out of their way ensuring this is in stock, either.

By comparison, the SB-600 has 2/3 stop less maximum power (rated GN 98' at ISO 100 compared to the SB-800's GN 125) and thus recycles faster and provides more flashes at it's lower maximum power: 2.5 seconds and 220 flashes (Ni-MH). The SB-800 by comparison takes 4 seconds to recycle at full power and only give about 150 flashes at that power. The SB-600 has a much clearer LCD compared to the fuzzy dot matrix of the more expensive SB-800.

An advantage of the SB-800 are a built-in white card. With my SB-600 I often tape or Velcro a small white card to it.

The SB-800 can be used as a master on-camera flash to control other SB-800s and SB-600 flashes wirelessly. You need this when using wireless flash with any camera other than the D70 and D70s whose built-in flash can do this. The SB-600 cannot be used as a commander flash, only a remote slave. Of course the SB-600 works brilliantly as your main on-camera flash.


Here's a promo piece on how to use some of the features.

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