Compare Nikon SB-900 vs SB-800 vs SB-600

Nikon's Killer FlashGuns - SB900 (left) SB800 (right)

Nikon's Killer FlashGuns - SB900 (left) SB800 (right)

Compare the Nikon SB-800 vs. SB-900

If you thought the SB-800 was big at 12.3 oz, 1.7 oz more than the SB-600 flash, the SB-900 is massive adding another 2.3 oz to make it 14.6, just shy of a pound. Something I’ve heard complaints about is the shoe on the Nikon SB 900 being thicker than the SB-800 which in turn means it doesn’t fit all third party mounts and adapters. While this sucks, the SB-800 was known to have a bit of a wobble and this thicker shoe improves this. The biggest advantages of the new big flash are the 200mm zoom and the light pattern options. This allows you to get a more concentrated beam on a smaller area which is great for things like outdoor portraits. You can also spread the beam out to give it a more even distribution by changing the light pattern which shapes the beam internally.

Other big advantages to pay attention to when you’re doing a comparison of the SB900 vs. the SB800′s features; are the quick recycling time without the need for the fifth battery expansion pack, the new interface which uses a switch and a dial combo for adjusting settings quickly, and the thermal shut-down protection to make sure you don’t go a little too trigger happy and burn this thing out.

Model # Nikon SB-600 Nikon SB-800 Nikon SB-900
List Price: $249.99 $420.99 $570.00
Week’s Best Price: $199.99
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$335.59
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$499.99
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Guide Number (ISO 100, m/ft.) 98 125 111.5
Guide Number (ISO 200, m/ft.) 138   157.5
Weight 10.6 oz. (300 g) 12.3 oz. (350 g) 14.6 oz. (415g)
Size, WHD 2.7 x 4.9 x 3.5 in. 2.8 x 5 x 3.5 in. 3.0 × 5.7 × 4.7 in.
Flash Exposure Control i-TTL i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash Only i-TTL
  D-TTL D-TTL  
  TTL Auto Flash TTL Auto Flash  
  Manual    
Flash Duration (full output) 1/900 1/1050 1/880
Lens Coverage 24 to 85mm 24 to 105mm 17 to 200mm
Min. No. of Flashes (alkaline) 200 130 110
Bounce Angle (degrees) 0 to 90 -7 to 90 -11 to 90
Left Rotation (degrees) 180 180 180
Right Rotation (degrees) 90 90 180
Optional Power Supply No SD-7 or SD-8A SD-8A or SD-9
Recycle Time (Alkaline) 3.5 4 4
Recycle Time (Lithium) 4 6 4.5
Recycle Time (Ni-MH) 2.5 2.7 2.3
Wireless Flash Modes Off Off Off
  Remote Master Master
    Master (RPT) Master (RPT)
    Remote Remote
    SU-4 SU-4
# of Remote Groups 3 3 3
Power Output Range 1 to 1/64 1 to 1/128 1 to 1/128
Non-TTL Auto Mode No Yes Yes
Commander Mode No Yes Yes
Adjustable Light Pattern No No Yes
Firmware Updating No No Yes
Gel Filter Identification No No Yes
Overheat protection No No Yes
Accessories Speedlight stand Speedlight stand Speedlight stand
  Soft case Soft case Soft case
    Diffusion Dome Diffusion Dome
    Color Filter Set Color Filter Set
    Quick Recycle Battery Pack Color Filter Holder

Comparing Nikon SB-600 vs. SB-800:

The Nikon Speedlight SB-600 and the Nikon SB-800 are very similar flashes that work great with pretty much every Nikon camera in the last 50 years. The SB-800 is a bit bigger, a bit more powerful, and a bit more expensive. They both can operate in the most recent i-TTL mode as well as the TTL mode and d-TTL. Both can work remotely with either a SB-600 or SB-800 flash or the D70, D70S, or D200 camera but the SB800 can also work as a master to control other flashes. Other advantages of the SB800 over the SB600 are the negative bounce angle for more control over bouncing the flash, a shorter flash duration, longer lens coverage, and the option to have an additional power supply to shorten the recycle time. The Nikon SB-600 being smaller has a higher minimum number of flashes per 4 batteries and also a quicker recycle time. The SB-800 also has a few more modes that some people might not have any interest in like a mode that adjusts the flash’s power based on distance rather than light reflected and a non-TTL auto mode. Depending on what you do the SB-600 Speedlight can usually do the trick but there are certain features on the SB-800 that you just might find necessary.

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17 Comments »

  1. 1
    ovidiusuteu Says:

    The best advantage of the Nikon SB-900 is that you can switch to wireless very fast. Switch a button and thats it..you are in wireless mode. Sb-900 is lighter then SB-800 with the battery pack.
    The SB-900 does wobble also a bit in the hot shoe but that doesn’t really concern me. Overall is a great piece of equipment but for those starting with the strobes, SB-800 can also do the same job at a lower price.

  2. [...] preview for all you Nikon fans that are looking to upgrade from the aging sb-600 or sb-800 flashes (compare Nikon sb900 vs sb800 vs sb600 flashes here btw) or make the simply best your first flash! There has been an influx of early Nikon Speedlight SB-900 [...]

  3. 3
    mijonju Says:

    please throw me a bone here.. i have no idea what flash to get.. im a beginner.. and im surely going to buy more flashes in the future.. which should i buy and learn as a beginner? is sb-600 good enough for a beginner? ive only been taking photos for 2 years

  4. 5
    nikon nick Says:

    That really depends what you are going to be doing with them. If you are going to be buying more than one you will atleast need one sb-800 or 900 that has the master mode if you want to control them all together remotely. I’d say for a beginner a sb-600 would surely be good enough, many professionals even prefer them over the 800 and 900. You could always start with the 600 and when you decide you want more than one compare the 800 and 900 again and see if the extra features the 900 has would be useful or not.

  5. [...] art classes with work, I heard about the SB900 and that it was about to get released, and started to compare the SB900 vs. SB800 with the information available at the time and caught a glimpse of some first hand Nikon SB900 [...]

  6. [...] can read the full technical comparison here – and to see the difference between SB900 & SB800 when mounted on a camera, check out this [...]

  7. 9
    Aida Laleian Says:

    Is there a typo in your comparative specs? Isn’t the sb900 rated at 131 guide number at 35mm position, ISO 100, not 111?

  8. [...] table is copied from Nikon Review and formatted for our wiki [...]

  9. 11
    microprocessor Says:

    nikon nick…….your comment is the best & most basic & will help everyone save some hundred dollars after some fancied items (although not that very useful)

  10. 12
    Mustafa Sazak Says:

    I think the ideal choice will be SB-800 if you are not a press photographer. It is cheaper than SB-900, lighter and smaller in size. It has many features that SB-900 has.

  11. 13
    Judy Says:

    Hi. I have a Nikon D80 & D90 that I use for weddings. I have a SB600 flash. That I use on the D90 with a 18-200VR lens. I want to buy a extra flash for the D80 and a 18-200VR2 lens. What flash would you recomend I buy? The SB600 or SB900? Is ther another lens that you would recomend I buy insted of a 18-200VR?
    thanks

  12. 14
    Julio Cruz Says:

    The Nikon Sb600 is more than enough and has the features that most photographers need, the Nikon SB 800 and 900 are overkill flashes. They have features that 98% of photographers wont use any way except the commander mode, however most Nikon DSLR’s have a commander mode built into them anyway so that feature is irrelevant. Save your money and buy the SB600, or if you been convinced by commercials and advertising go with the Sb800 or Sb 900.

  13. Your Review helped me alot i wanted to gift it to a friend. And had no idea which one to buy. After going through the comparisons made i got Nikon SB-800.

  14. 16
    camcorder Says:

    Great work! That is the kind of information that are meant to be shared across the internet. Shame on the search engines for no longer positioning this publish higher! Come on over and consult with my site . Thank you =)

  15. 17
    George Kaiser Says:

    Page C-10 of the SB-900 discusses the iTTL-BL function and how to set the CLS compatible dSLR or film body to activate this mode.

    The mode is also available with the SB-910 and SB-700.


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