Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Review

Nikon SB-600, Speedlight, AS-19, IR PortThe Nikon SB-600 flash, love it?

When I get it working right, I like the pictures I can take with it.

It is one impressive performer, working along in conjunction with the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System or i-TTL Setting on Nikon DSLR Camera Bodies).

Frankly, the  i-TTL settings are the only way I used these, or other speed lights.

In fact, the Nikon CLS feature is one of the reasons people buy Nikon.   Nikon’s CLS is arguably one of the most accurate exposure systems for on the fly shooting on the planet today.  It’s uncanny, I get great results with it most of the time and with very little exposure muss and fuss.

SB-600 Location, Multi Speedlight, Alex Arden, Beautiful Bright Green Eyes

Location Shoot - two SB-800 & one SB-600 Speedlights - Nikon CLS for exposure control in i-TTL modes

Other than the SB-600 the other speed lights I use, and prefer are SB-800‘s.

Mostly I am shooting in studio.  If I am shooting in manual flash modes, I tend to use studio lights.

I like the speed lights for remote tight locations, or for events, like parties, weddings and the like.

As I said, when I get the SB-600 set up right, I like the pictures I can take with it.

That is, the SB-600 will work fine for the 90% of shooters who shoot with one speed light, and usually have it mounted on the camera.  An SB-600 for years was the only speed light I had or used.

Nikon SB-600, Menu Buttons
Nikon SB-600 Menu Buttons

This said, getting the SB-600 set up is a bear …  I find the menu buttons, menu trees and menu icons endlessly confusing.  The symbols on the display are not well explained nor are their intents immediately obvious.

Pretty much every time I use the SB-600, I find the controls and symbols a bewilderment.

If I were using the SB-600 all the time, I might get to know my way around the menus.  As it is, I only used the SB-600 every month or two.  Used this infrequently,  I generally need 15 minutes of fumbling and a manual to get the unit set.

This can be a big embarrassment if there are people, or paying customers waiting.

The SB-600 is almost as powerful as the SB-800.  These are the two speedlights with which I am currently familiar.

I much prefer the SB-800.  With currently four SB-800‘s and one SB-600 in my inventory,  I plan on selling the SB-600.

Why?

Well, if I were just a budget shooter and if time were not important, or if I shot often enough to be familiar with the SB-600, I might keep it.  These things are selling for about $200.00-$250.00 on Amazon these days.   Pretty cheap for a great performing speed light.  And, if it will do the job for you, arguably a best buy for the price.

For me, the SB-800 is easier to set up.  The SB-800 will also work in commander mode, the SB-600 will not …

When shooting using multiple speed lights, you either need to set up your camera, (Nikon D7000 body has a commander mode) or an SB-800 or SB-900 as a commander.  There are advantages to having an SB-800 as a commander versus the camera acting as commander.  I will talk more about those when I review the SB-800.

If we are using a speed light as a commander on the camera, (in my case an SB-800) it means having two kinds of speed lights if one also uses SB-600‘s.

Why is this a big deal, having two kinds of speed lights?

As I mentioned, I use speed lights in portable event and location situations.

If I have two kinds of speed lights, I need to carry two kinds of manuals.   Yes the SB-800‘s are easier to program; but, sometimes you need a manual.

This gets to be a lot of carrying around.  The lighter I can pack, the better.  Also, fumbling through multiple manuals is just that much more embarrassment and wasted time.

Additionally, the cases for the SB-600 and the SB-800 look a lot alike.  Anything that slows me down when I make a reach or makes me less efficient is a minus.

So, I prefer to have only one kind of speed light.  The SB-800‘s are a bit pricier, but, they are one tool which will do all the jobs I need.

Here is something the SB-800 and the SB-600 screw completely up…

Nikon SB-600, 14mm wide flash adapter, AS-19

SB-600 Speedlight with Wide Flash Adapter deployed

The SB-600 is said to an auto zoom flash head of from 24mm to 85mm, extendable to 14mm with built-in wide-flash adapter (the little flippy thing near the very top, which can be put over the flash head)…

When used on APS-C sensor cameras, like the Nikon D7000 DSLR, the zoom on the flash heads still matches the zoom of the lens …  even though the angle of view on APS-C cameras is tighter than on full frame 35mm DSLRs like the Nikon D3x and others…

This means, on a D7000, the zoom on a flash head should be at 75mm when a 50mm lens is used.  What happens is, a 50mm lens auto sets the head of the flash to 50mm.

In fairness, the SB-800 also has this same issue.

The work around, if you care… and wish to decrease your cycle times, is manually set the zoom head.

Should be an easy software fix for Nikon to do this right… and yet they haven’t …

Much Nikon Gear, Speed lights included, tend to hold their values, until they become obsolete.  So, initial outlays for gear used gently is often rewarded with a fair return when the items are eventually sold.

There are people who swear by the SB-600.

I only used SB-600‘s for years.  But, it was when I was doing the simpler stuff, lighting wise.

If you are an amateur, have time to set up, know how to program delicate items well, or are just a point and shooter, the SB-600 is a very economical choice in lighting.  You cannot go wrong buying a used on in good condition.

If you are going into multiple lighting situations, and need to be able to work quickly and efficiently, consider the extra bucks and get set up with SB-800‘s.

SB-600‘s are available new and used on Amazon by clicking here.


 

 

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