Nikon D40 Flash Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Dont42Panic, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. Dont42Panic macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2008
    Location:
    Jeffersonville, IN
    #1
    I picked up a Nikon D40 a little less than a year ago and have slowly but surely bought items as needed. After shooting a family reunion a couple weeks ago I decided it was time to break down and buy a better flash, really wish I could have been bouncing light off the ceiling.

    So now it comes down to a question of which one to get. I've been doing some research and seem to have narrowed it down to either the SB-400 or the SB-600. Any suggestions on which one? Is there something else I should consider?

    I really do enjoy photography and plan on keeping it up as a hobby, so if there is a long term benefit to the 600 I would like to know. Right now they look the same to me, but I would hate to get the 400 and 6 months later be mad at myself for not paying the extra cash for the 600.
     
  2. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a

    cosmokanga2

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    #2
    I was recently in the same position. I was looking at the SB-600 vs SB-800 or SB-900. A couple things to keep in mind with the SB-600: It is quite possible that it is going to get updated to the SB-700 in the near future as it is getting old. Also, the head doesn't rotated 180 degrees on both sides and it doesn't have a sync terminal for using a Pocketwizard.

    I eventually went for the SB-900 as it is only 1 year old, has a much easier to use interface, more powerful, and has great integration of the gels holder and dome diffuser. Also, if you ever get a D90, D300s or D3 the flash automatically changes the white balance of images depending on the flashes settings and filters in use. You can also use the diffuser and filter holder at the same time. For myself, the $600 price tag was worth it.
     
  3. Scooterman1 macrumors 6502a

    Scooterman1

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    May 15, 2008
    Location:
    Houston, Tx
    #3
    I'm glad to see your post. My wife just bought me a D90 for my birthday. I have an old SB-20. Good in A & M but not iTTL.... just TTL so that part don't work. I like the looks of the SB-600 and price and was wondering if the SB-900 was worth all that extra money. So, I'll be watching your replies...
     
  4. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #4
    I have an SB-400 and the size is perfect for a small camera. The flash fits into your pocket and its powerful enough for all indoor shots at typical distances. Highly recommended.
     
  5. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #5
    Unless you have a compelling need for a small pocketable unit, I'd go with the 600 for the following reasons:

    - Ability to tilt/swivel the flash head to get good bounced shots (the 400 tilts but doesn't swivel- an issue if you shoot in portrait mode and still want to bounce the flash.)
    - Ability to work with CLS if you go to multiple flashes later.
    - Higher off the camera so fewer lens hood issues.
    - More power for outdoor fill flash.
    - Faster recycling time.
    - AF assist lamp for better autofocus in the dark.

    I think I paid $6.95 each for PC-Sync to hotshoe adapters for my SB600's. I own 1 SB800 and 2 SB600's. I haven't used an SB400, as its disadvantages outweigh the small size for me (I'm lugging around a D3x and D2x with L brackets, the size differences don't really matter.) The only thing I'd recommend is that if you want to do manual power levels and trigger off of another flash, the SB800/SB900's SU4 mode makes it worth the cost- if I need an extra background light in the studio, my SB800 plays that role well. Though if you're doing CLS, the little controller thing is probably a better buy with the SB600 instead of triggering with the built-in flash.

    Paul
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #6
    The SB900 over the SB600 has the following major benefits:

    More power (if you need it, you need it.)
    SU-4 mode (Optical triggering.)
    CLS Commander mode
    Thermal overload protection (if you need it. you need it.)

    Paul
     
  7. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Apr 14, 2001
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    Sendai, Japan
    #7
    Plus, I think the SB-900 can swivel both sides? (I've only tried an SB-800 and I seem to remember it could swivel to both sides.)
     
  8. Scooterman1 macrumors 6502a

    Scooterman1

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    May 15, 2008
    Location:
    Houston, Tx
    #8
    Can you elaborate on the 'More power'? The only thing I could find on this is that their max flash distance seemed to be the same.

    Thanks for you input.....
     
  9. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #9
    I think for a starter (someone who owns a D40 will likely not take the flash off the camera or shoot in a studio), the drawbacks aren't that significant. The only thing I really miss is the ability to swivel. Recycle time is rather fast (~ 2 fps easily) and I've never found it lacking.

    You're right, for your applications, the SB-400 is limiting.
     
  10. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a

    cosmokanga2

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    Canada, where we live in igloos.
    #10
    Guide Number, or GN, refers to the power (light) that the flash can output on full. The higher the guide number, the more flash which means you can be further from the subject or get a brighter illumination. Depending what you use the flash for this can have a huge affect. For example, shooting in bright sunlight can require a full firing sometimes to reduce shadows.

    Also, the SB-900 can zoom from 14-200mm vs 17-105mm on the SB-800. If your using a 70-200mm this can be helpful.

    Another brand new feature of the SB-900 is that it can "shape" the light without accessories. You can go centre weighted (all of the flash is in a tight area), standard or even (light fills the corners of the frame).

    This page compares the SB-600, SB-800 and SB-900. It also has the guide numbers at different ranges.
     
  11. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    #11
    Obviously, there are those with heavy-duty needs and you got some advice about that. The 400 is amazingly powerful and the bounce works very well.

    I do not miss a swivel feature, but it would be nice to play around with a slave flash now and then.

    Judging from your question, I would recommend that you buy a 400. Even if you think there is a realistic chance you will get into studio photography in the future, the 400 is a nice little unit that you are likely to carry around in case you need it, while a big unit is probably going to be left in the closet.
     
  12. Captpegleg macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2009
    #12
    Software in the SB-900 can be updated, making it forward compatible with newer not yet released cameras. It should remain in your arsenal through many upgrades of cameras. Since you have enough interest to follow this board and likely other photo boards, you'll be upgrading the D-40.
    Resistance is futile.
    I have the 900 and two 800's. If I only had one it would certainly be the 900. It's easier to use in real life situations.
    One last thing in favor of the 900 is it's resale value. If you did drop photography as a way to dispose of money, I think you would likely get more of it back with the 900 over models at the end of their product cycle.
     
  13. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a

    cosmokanga2

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    #13
    +1 all of it. As a note, while the SB-900 firmware is updatable, an industry first I believe, it is only with D90, D3, D300 and newer Nikon cameras.
     
  14. Dont42Panic thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 23, 2008
    Location:
    Jeffersonville, IN
    #14
    Wow thanks for all the great replies, had a lot of good information to sort through. I think I am going to end up getting the 600. When I was originally looking I was worried about the lack of swivel to the 400, but didn't know if it was worth the price bump, but after reading about the CLS I think that could be enough to put me over.

    The 900 is tempting, but that is an even bigger price bump and I'm being greedy and don't want to wait to save up for the 900 =-). I honestly could see myself picking up a 900 in the future to go with the 600 in the CLS, but that would be down the road after I upgrade the D40. Hopefully I can get a good learning base with the D40 + the 600.

    I read the rumors about the 700 and it would suck if it comes soon, but it would also suck to wait and it not come for another year. I am motivated to start playing around with a flash, so I think I'm just going to take the plunge.

    Thank you all once again, all of your advice was really great and trust me I was pouring over everything you said.
     
  15. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #15
    To me, it's all about flexibility- but the AF assist and higher power for outdoor fill should be an advantage to any photographer. I also can't imagine not being able to bounce in portrait mode, especially for well- portraits!
     
  16. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #16
    My Sb600's swivel the same as my SB-800's (all the way around either direction.) Both will only tilt from horizontal to vertical- is the SB900 different?

    Paul
     
  17. Woodrow72 macrumors member

    Woodrow72

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    Nov 16, 2008
    Location:
    Utah
    #17
    I had a D40 and had problems with the built in flash so I purchased the SB-400 it is a great little unit especially for the price! It did everything I needed it to and still does now that I have passed it down to my wife. I agree with what has been said, even if you do get serious about photography and want better gear, this flash is still a great tool to have.

    "It is quite possible that it is going to get updated to the SB-700 in the near future as it is getting old."

    I wouldnt wait around for this to happen to buy the newest latest flash. I was going to do the same thing and buy my family members D300 when Nikon released the D400. Nikon has been very reliable about when they release new models of their higher end camera over the past 6-8 years. The D200 was released 2 years after the D100 and the D300 was released 3 years after that. BUT!!! Nikon for some reason updated the D300 to the D300s 2 years after the release of the D300!! Why? I dont know because I am not impressed with what they updated. Oh well thats not what this about.

    Get the SB-400 its a great flash and will serve you well
     
  18. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
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    Northern/Central VA
    #18
    Not only is it not what this is about, but you've got the information backwards. The D100 was released in July of 2002, the D200 was released in November 2005 almost three and a half years later. The D300 was released two years later in November of 2007.

    Nikon has been releasing "s" versions of its camera bodies since at least 1991 as an effective way to gain an incremental increase in competitiveness and body lifespan before the next model is ready- shouldn't really be a surprise.
     
  19. cosmokanga2 macrumors 6502a

    cosmokanga2

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    #19
    Not sure if this is what you mean but the SB-900 does have "notches" 45, 60 and 70 degrees and then also -7 degrees.
     
  20. ArtandStructure macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Location:
    Klamath Falls, Oregon
    #20
    Having been a D40 owner with an SB-400 I can say it is a nice flash for what it is but if you think you want to invest yourself further in photography its constraints become apparent.

    Not being able to swivel the head in "portrait" orientation can be challenging. An attachment can be purchased to swivel the flash for ~$20 assuming the flash still operates correctly with TTL...which is no guarantee.

    Using a direct flash on camera can quickly become stagnant in your images but I found using the flash off camera was no easy...or inexpensive task. I tried a couple supposed wireless, inexpensive hot shoes to be attached to tripod/lightstand, etc. only to eventually be told by the companies selling them "Some flashes don't work with them...I guess the SB-400 is one of those.". There are other solutions...if you want to pay as much or more than just getting an SB-600 instead. That said, while the SB-600 can be wirelessly controlled out of the box, it requires at least a D80/D90 to trigger it. Consider that feature an investment in the future if you upgrade your body.

    The SB-600 is also higher powered, faster recycling and the flash output can be manually adjusted on the flash itself. I use an SB-600 wirelessly with a D90 now and it is fantastic!. When I sold my D40 I considered whether I might want to keep the SB-400 in addition to my SB-600 but could think of no situation I would use both that would be a practical reality given the SB-400's constraints. I decided I would rather get some cash for the SB-400 which I can then apply toward a second SB-600 later which would be more flexible and useful creatively.

    While the SB-400 is certainly a step in the right direction getting away from the built-in flash, you will likely find you wish you had spent the money toward an SB-600 or higher, again if you have an interest in investing further into the art. Yes the SB-400 fits in your pocket (though the 600 can fit in large pockets), and yes it's cheaper for a tight budget, but think where you might really use that flash in some situation which would require you to carry the flash in your pocket and whether you really want the lighting of every shot to come directly from the camera's viewpoint (learn about the "modeling" effects of light/shadow and how the effect differs when coincident with the camera's view or oblique to it). I found these were not advantageous in the long run.

    If you can't spring the extra $100 for an SB-600, by all means consider the SB-400. My advice though would be to find a way to get the extra $100.


    Take care,

    Jesse Widener
    Art and Structure
     
  21. dlegend macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2009
    Location:
    Northern VA (outside DC)
    #21
    I hope this is the right thread to ask this in, I read everything above and found some really good advice. I currently have a D40 with a Sb-400. Is there a cord so I can use it off of the camera? I'm having trouble finding one. This is only a hobby, and I thought it would be fun to play with an off camera flash.

    For everything except vertical shooting my 400 works great.
     
  22. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #22
    Personally, I think radio is the way to go- I like the Alien Bees radio triggers for price/performance, but if you want cheap, an optical trigger and the onboard flash on the D40 would be a cheap route- however need TTL, I'd expect something like an SC-28 to work. If you're in NoVA, I'd take the camera and flash to Ace Photo in Ashburn and get a cord there if you're unsure and can't find the cord spec in the flash's manual.
     

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