Nikon SB-600 or SB-800 - which one should I get?

by Volker Weber


I think I could use a real flash for my D70. But I have a hard time deciding whether I should get the SB-600 or the more expensive SB-800. Any thoughts?


I think the SB-600 should be good for almost every situation of an abitious amateur. However, I got the SB-800 because of the following reasons:

more power (I am not sure if I will ever use the full power of this flash, but who knows?)
additional accessoires (the SB-800 comes with a couple of interesting accessoires like an adapter for a 5th battery for faster recycle times, diffusor dome and color filters; except for the dome I haven't used these things, to be honest)
SB-800 can be used as master when using advanced wireless lighting and a camera that does not have an internal flash that supports it (like the D2X etc.). As you have the D70 it might be not necessary for you.
I got the SB-800 priced only marginally higher than the SB-600 so it was a no-brainer for me... ;-) It was simply a question of "why not?".
It is said, that the SB-600 underperforms a little bit -- read various tests at dpreview, for example the review of the Nikon D2X. I wantet to be sure that I have an absolutely reliable flash, so I decided to get the big one.

So far I am very happy with the SB-800, but I have to say, it is a real beast! Prepare yourself to carry a huge flashgun in your pocket ;-) And the camera suddenly will be surprisingly heavy.

Moritz Petersen, 2005-09-30

I got the SB-600 because it was quite a bit cheaper and because of this review:

It is serving its purpose well. I did however get a $20USD Sto-Fen omni-bounce diffuser to soften things up a bit.

Ed Saipetch, 2005-10-01

The "more power" part is not quite what it might seem. Going from a GN of 30 to 38 (ISO 100 in metres) is less than a half-stop for an all-out blitz. The extra oomph really has value only when shooting rapidly -- you'll get more shots at partial power before you have to wait for a recharge. So the decision really becomes size/weight/cost versus features and speed. The 600 does just about anything an amateur needs it to at a lower price; the 800 wins out if you shoot "motor drive" sequences regularly (including autobracket), or if an extra 75 to 150 cm of effective distance (8.5m versus 7m at f/4, or 4.25m versus 3.5m at f/8, allowing for a safety margin at full power) is really important to you (I'd just open the aperture a half stop unless I'm already wide open).

Stan Rogers, 2005-10-01

Meine Blitzerfahrungen mit 800ern beschränken sich darauf, sie als Wanderblitze - also in der Hand gehalten und manuell ausgelöst, während man um das zu fotografierende Objekt herumläuft - einzusetzen, und da ist dieses Modell wegen seiner hohen erzielbaren Blitzfrequenz bei nicht eben geringer Blitzstärke große Klasse. Selbst komplette Stahlwerke in stockdunklen Hallen sind kein Thema. Schon mit dem Einstell-Licht allein kann man komplette Häuserzüge nachts so beleuchten, daß sie gegenüber der dahinter stehenden, hell erleuchteten Industrieanlage hinreichend Zeichnung aufweisen.

Müsste ich entscheiden und geschilderte Spezialfälle ausklammern, würde ich nicht so sehr auf die Feature-Listen achten, die sich hier eh nicht fundamental unterscheiden, als vielmehr auf Größe und Gewicht - schließlich muss man das Zeug ja mit sich herumschleppen. Beim 800er zahlt man also mehr dafür, mehr Gewicht tragen zu dürfen, das auch noch mehr Raum in der Tasche verbraucht.

Kurz: wenn Du nicht dauernd volle Leistung oder wirklich schnelle Blitzfolgen brauchst, halte dich besser an "travel lightly" und nimm den kleinen :-)

Haiko Hebig, 2005-10-02

The main difference between the Nikon SB-800 and the SB-600 flash unit are as follows:

The SB-800 has..

1. More power
2. Color filter
3. 5th battery
4. CLS master
5. Diffuser dome
6. Pull out reflector card.
7. External battery pack connector.
8. SU-4 mode.
9. AA mode.
10. Manual adjustment down to 1/128.
11. GN mode.
12. Ttl socket.
13. Sync socket.
14. Modeling light button.
15. Minus 7 degree tilt for close up work.

Although the SB-800 has more features and is more expensive, most people would not need all that extra power.

For example:

The color filter is not a big deal as you can get a Rosco cine gel sample pack from your local professional photo store for free or just a couple of bucks. The sample filters fit exactly on the flash unit.

The fifth battery is not necessary as you may not really need that much power. The SB600 has 4 batteries, however recycling is a bit slower.

The diffuser dome, IMHO, is not that important. If you understand the principles of light, any diffuser that is placed close to the source does not
really diffuse light but causes to cut its output. In this case the dome is basically attached to the light source and reduces the light ouput of the unit and the diffusing result is negligible. If you still want to put a diffuser attached so close to the light, get one of the diffusers which come in the Rosco sample gel and attach it to the camera.

For people who use multiple flash photography, the SB-800 is the best choice due to the ability to set it as the MASTER and has the SU-4. For the majority of people who just wants a flash that fills in all areas and is especially great in low light, the SB600 is perfect the choice.

Darren Tan, 2005-10-17

The Nikon D70 doesn't need a master for multi flash photography, with i-TTL it can do it itself. Ken Rockwell has a nice tutorial on his site.

BTW.: he's got a new SB-600 vs. SB-800 comparison, also.

Oliver Regelmann, 2005-10-17

Ken always tries to rationalize his own purchases. "Features nobody ever needs". He is also comparing apples to oranges: "Recycle time from a full flash". How about recycle time from comparable flashes.

The SB 600 is 300 instead of 350 grams. It is only a wee bit smaller. But it is way cheaper.

The tutorial is great. Thanks.

Volker Weber, 2005-10-18

Is their a different flash available that can compare with the SB-600 and work just as good?

Arden Thomas, 2011-05-30

Old archive pages

I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


Paypal vowe