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Nikon SB-900 Speedlight / Flash – Initial Impression…a short “review”?

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I have the chance to play with Nikon SB-900 speedlight yesterday. Did some simple test and play with it…compared with my SB-800, here’s some of my thought…

The SB-900 is HUGE! Significantly BIGGER and LARGER and LONGER than Nikon SB-800. This is definitely not an advantage of the new flash…besides not so easy to get lost… 😛

Here are some photo comparison of the two flashes side by side:
Left = SB-800 ; Right = SB-900


As you can see in the photos above, the LCD of SB-900 is significantly larger as well, with more information being shown. The flash head is so much bigger and longer than SB-800, I guess that is mainly due to the 200mm flash zoom gear in the head.Bottom/hotshoe comparison (Left = SB-900 ; Right = SB-800):


The Lock/Unlock flip on the SB-900 is slightly different from SB-900. The spring is stronger, harder to flip.

The pan/swivel head of the SB-900 is kind of tight and hard to turn as compared to my SB-800. You have to use much bigger force to press and turn the flash head. Not very good I would say. Try it and you will understand what I mean. Let’s hope that over the time it will loosen up a bit.

Back view comparison:
Left = SB-800 ; Right = SB-900


The SB-900 that I got has a faulty LCD without blue backlight. I spent over 30 minutes to figure how to activate the backlight LCD, mount it to my Nikon D200…etc., finally I have to declare that the flash is faulty. There are still lights on the buttons, but no light on the LCD.  Too bad…for a product that just released and out of the box! 🙁

While trying to figure out the problem of the LCD, I get myself the chance to check out the menu and new button / wheel design. The new buttons are much easier and faster to operate as compared to Nikon SB-800, and I especially like the mechanical flip ON/OFF switch. There will be no accident turn to Master and Slave, as you need to press a button in order to go further from ON to Master and Slave. The wheel is easy to turn and use. The wheel design is kinda familiar…hmm…I think I have played with this similar type of wheel on other product…hmm…nevermind…it is a good wheel. Everything is self explained on the flash/speedlight. If you already familiar with your SB-800, you do not need a manual in order to operate SB-900. 🙂

The new pouch (SS-900) is interesting. It has two compartments, upper compartment for the SB-900 flash, where here is a separated lower compartment which Nikon puts a diffuser dome inside. Very nice and thoughtful design, you will not have to lost your diffuser again! Suggest all SB-800 or other flash users get this SS-900 pouch too! 😀

I thought of taking some photos of the flash box, accessories…etc., but I think I must have forgotten about it when detected the flash was faulty. I have returned the flash to my supplier in Japan today, hopefully they still have new stock to send me a replacement unit.

Malaysia shall have the SB-900 together with D700, two TSE lenses launched on 1st August 2008. I don’t forsee big sales or demand of D700 or SB-900, as prices are still significantly higher than D300 and SB-800. I do believe that Nikon will discontinued SB-800, as there is no point keeping two similar top flash in the line fighting each other market share. Since Canon 580EX II is selling at much higher price than SB-800, so there is still room for Nikon to UP their SB-900 price to around Canon 580EX II range.

Come to think of it…I think SB-900 size is something more like the Canon 580EX series.

Will I buy this SB-900? Upgrade from my SB-800? Hmm…I doubt it. I do not want the extra size and I think Nikon SB-800 is already producing very good light for my need. Couple with a Lambency on my SB-800, I can’t think of any better flash light. 🙂