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The SB-700 Speedlight

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Simon Stafford previews the latest Nikon Speedlight, the SB-700 (All pictures courtesy of the Nikon Corporation)

15th September 2010: The Nikon Corporation has announced its latest Nikon Speedlight, the SB-700; think SB-900 but on a smaller scale! It looks as though everything that is so good about the SB-900 handling has been carried over to its new sibling, with more besides!

Overall the design of the unit is clean, simple, and pragmatic. The large, clear LCD screen dominates the rear panel. Set immediately below it is the 'click-wheel' style command dial for selecting setting values, and beside it the single on/off switch that also allows selection of Master/Remote control modes for when the unit is used as part of a multiple flash set up in the Nikon Advanced Wireless Lighting (AWL) system. The SB-700 can be used as either a master to control of up to two groups of CLS compatible remote wireless Nikon Speedlights (control options for remote flash output includes, TTL flash exposure compensation, similar to the SB-900, plus a new Quick Wireless mode that sets a lighting ratio between the two remote flash groups, A and B). The SB-900 can be used as a remote flash (the SB-600 can only operate as a remote flash) and is supplied with the AS-22 stand; the flash foot has the same locking pin design of the SB-900 to ensure a secure mounting on the camera, or the AS-22, and can be fitted with an optional shield to help prevent the ingress of moisture and dust when mounted in the accessory shoe of a camera.

A sliding switch to the left side of the rear LCD screen replaces the mode button of the SB-900; it is used to select TTL, manual, or GN (Guide Number - Distance Priority) flash modes. On the opposite side of the screen a similar style switch set the lighting pattern: Standard, Center-weighted, or Even (this is an improvement over the SB-900, as this control is buried in its menu system). Using the FX-format, the flash head has a zoom range of 24mm - 120mm without the use of the built-in wide-angle diffusing panel panel; with it flipped down, coverage is sufficient for a 14mm lens (Standard lighting pattern), or a 12mm lens (Even lighting pattern), or 17mm lens (Centre-weighted) lighting pattern. The SB-900 is aware of the camera sensor format, so it adapts its output coverage to match the DX, or FX format of the camera it is attached to accordingly. There is also a built-in bounce card and the unit is supplied with a new clip-on SW-14H Diffusion Dome to aid softening the light output. Similar to the SB-900 the SB-700 detects, automatically, the two supplied colour control filters to enable the light output to be balance to match ambient light with either an incandescent, or fluorescent colour temperature. The new filters hare made of a hard, rigid plastic making them far more durable and heat resistant than the flimsy gel filters supplied for the SB-900. There will also be an optional filter colour filter set, the SJ-4, to increase creative lighting control options.

The SB-700 has a Guide Number of 28/92 (ISO 100, m/ft.), 39/128 (ISO 200, m/ft.) when used at the 35mm zoom head position, in the FX-format, with the standard illumination pattern,and an ambient temperature of 20°C/68°F. It is powered by four AA size batteries and is compatible with a range of different non-rechargeable and rechargeable types; however, it lacks a terminal for connecting an external battery pack. At full output (power) the recycle time is claimed to be 2.5 seconds with several kinds of AA batteries, including Alkaline, traditional rechargeable NiMH, and "eneloop"-type NiMH rechargeable. The full output recycle time with AA Lithium is 3.5 seconds. This begs an interesting question since I would have expected the recycle time to be shorter with rechargeable NiMH type batteries compared with Alkaline but it appears that the SB-700 is governed to a shortest recycle time of 2.5 seconds deliberately to reduce the rate of heat build up in the flash head and allow time for that heat to dissipate between outputs. It looks as though the Speedlight design team have learned a few lessons from the SB-900 in terms of flash head temperature management when shooting rapid sequences of exposures with flash.

Similar to the SB-900 the SB-700 monitors its internal temperature to prevent the unit from overheating and being damaged but there are some subtle differences; in the SB-700 the heat sensor is embedded in the flash tube, so it obtains a direct and more accurate reading, and then when the flash head temperature rises above a certain level the thermal protection circuitry kicks-in and retards the recycle time, progressively, to a rate of three seconds, or longer at full output. The degree of retardation is dependent on how high the temperature in the flash head has risen. A thermometer graphic on the rear LCD panel provides an indication of the current heat level. By comparison the automatic shut down of the SB-900 at a raised flash head temperature seems somewhat crude.

Finally, the Speedlight firmware of the SB-700 can be updated by the user, via a compatible Nikon -SLR camera.

In summary the SB-700 looks like a highly practical tool. I am slightly disappointed that there is no option to connect an external SD-9 / SD-8a battery pack but on balance the other features and functions more than make up for this. The SB-700 offers as much lighting control as the SB-900, including a diffusion dome, built-in wide-angle diffuser, and 'smart' filters, so given its diminutive size and relatively low-weight it has to be seen as a very practical alternative to the SB-900 for any photographer who needs to travel light.

SB-700 Key Specifications

Guide number (at 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern,20°C/68°F) 28/92 (ISO 100, m/ft.), 39/128 (ISO 200, m/ft.)
Effective flash output distance range(in i-TTL mode) 0.6m to 20m (2 ft. to 66 ft.) :varies depending on camera's image area setting, illumination pattern, ISO sensitivity, zoom head position, and lens aperture in use)
Illumination pattern There are three illumination patterns;standard,even and centre-weighted
The light distribution angle is automatically adjusted to the camera's image area in both FX and DX formats.
Available flash mode - i-TTL
- Manual flash
- Distance-priority manual flash
Multiple flash-unit photography operation - Advanced Wireless Lighting
- SU-4 type wireless multiple flash-unit photography (in remote mode)
Bounce capability Flash head tilts down to 7° or up to 90° with click stops at -7° ,0° ,45° ,60° ,75° ,90°
Flash head rotates horizontally 180° to the left and right with click stops at 0°,30° ,60° ,75° ,90°, 120°, 150°, 180°
Power source Use four AA-type batteries of the same brand from any of the following types:
- 1.5 V alkaline AA batteries
- 1.5 V lithium AA batteries
- Rechargeable 1.2 V NiMH AA batteries
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 71 x 126 x 104.5mm
Weight Approx. 360g (Speedlight only)
Approx. 450g (with four 1.5V alkaline AA batteries)
Accessories supplied Speedlight Stand AS-22, Nikon Diffusion Dome SW-14H, Incandescent Filter SZ-3TN, Fluorescent Filter SZ-3FL, Soft Case SS-700

Posted on: Thursday 16 September 2010

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