Best flash for D90

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by seanbreadsell, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. I have read many forums regarding the best flash for a D90 and get varying answers but I am still lost to which flash should I purchase.
    Some peoples say that the SB-800 was what they could afford and it works fine, and thats good I accept those comments, some say the SB-600 is all I need, again good and thanks. A lot of peoples say no the SB-900 is rediculously priced, hey isn't everything now days haha...but thats also fine I have appreciated all the comments.
    But $$$ aside, what differences am I REALISTICALLY going to see between all these 3 flash systems on my D90. Is it worth paying the extra few bucks and getting a SB-900?
    I have absolutely no idea how to set it up remotely off camera, not having one to play around with doesnt help I guess...but is it easy enough to work out?
    Cheers, and keep up the good work evveryone, I love reading these forums.....thanks in advance!
  2. It would help to know what kind of photography you do, whether you have older Nikons, why you bought the D90, and whether you consider a large flash inconvenient. (For example, if you decided to get the D90 rather than the D300 because the D90 is smaller, you might hate the SB-900, which is really big.)
    You should look at . He reviews the SB-900 somewhere on his site, and he knows Nikon equipment very well.
  3. that's a very good point...
    i am fairly new to the DSLR scene infact its been less than a year, i used to use point n shoot and did it just for fun. Then i moved onto an Olympus E-510 lovely camera, not so good in low light i found, the Nikon shines here even with the kit lenses and on camera flash.
    i do a little wedding photography (trying to avoid it though) and portraits but probably more to the point i am starting to get invloved with fashion photography. I have a few model shoots setup TFP and have even acquired the uses of one of Perth's top models as my stylist so all very exciting.
    i generally shoot outdoors but would like some seeions indoors, hence my flash questions.....and i have looked at the SB-900, t is rather large i must admit. but will i lose out on features with the SB-800 or the SB-600, thats very cheap to purchase and i guess if that does everything i need then maybe its all i should get....this is the question, the differences, are they worth it (even for the size)
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    It really depends on what you are going to use the flash for. Without knowing the details, the SB-600 is probably going to be a good match with your D90. Get the SB-800 or SB-900 if you need a lot of flash power and really fast recycle with an external battery pack.
  5. The best flash for a D90 would be the SB-900. Depending on your needs a SB-400 may do. I have the SB-400 but I rarely use flash and then its up close in a museum. Depending on your needs and budget I suggest a SB-600 or better. This would enable portrait bounce but less power than a SB-800. A friend likes his very much and another friend will be getting one on the 25th.
  6. The 800 and 900 come with a diffuser, and an assortment of gels. Both of which are very useful. If you are going to have just one flash - buy one of them, and get a 600 if you need additonal. As for which one: The 900 seems to be the logical choice - unless you have a really tight budget. In which case, I am sure whatever you get will work fine. :)
  7. "use flash and then its up close in a museum" - not all museums allow flash, and some do not allow any photography. Check first before going.
    Even auto focus assist little light was found objectionable at Getty Museum, but I managed to convince them that it was not a flash, and they let me continue shooting.
  8. bms


    My answer would be to get at least one SB-600, better SB-900, plus maybe another flash, like an second SB-600, which would allow you to be more creative indoors. For outdoors, an SB-900 won't hurt you unless you get tired of lugging it around. Using the Nikon wireless system is fairly easy.... and digital lets you "play around" to fine tune your exposure....
  9. As some have said, it depends on what you want to do.
    If you only intend to get one, I would advise the SB600. It's more powerful than the SB400, yet is not that much more expensive. You can find a used one, for ~$150-160.
    if you intend to eventually get MORE than one, for say the Nikon CLS system, I would start with an SB800. It's more powerful, it can also act as a commander and is a bit more user friendly than the SB600. Later either get another 800, or a 600 to act as a remote.
    Remember, the D90 can control 2 groups with the pop-up flash. So even with a single SB600 in remote mode, you have a 'main' side light and on camera 'fill' light. However the pop-up is not that powerful and you will soon wish you had a more powerful, on camera, fill light, that you can bounce and use large diffusers on. Hence I advise starting with the SB800, if you intend to get into multiple flash.
    The 900 is a monster. See Shuns (above) side-by-side photos of the 600-800-900. (thanks Shun!) Get it if you need the more powerfull GN, i guess.
  10. Having had the SB-600 and now the SB-800, I would say if you're a very light flash user, and plan to use the flash head-on and not with a diffuser, get the SB-600. If you plan to use a diffuser, like the Sto-Fen Omnibounce, get the SB-800. I like to use a diffuser (Sto-fen) and the SB-600 seemed to need all it's power using it indoors with the diffuser on. I've since sold the 600 and have an 800 which comes with a diffuser supplied by Nikon, and it does better. Also the SB-800 has a lot more controls and options on the flash you can use if you need it.
  11. "The best flash for a D90 would be the SB-900." why? because it's newer? this kind of subjective pronouncement is a bit opinionated without giving any kind of explanation as to WHY the OP would need to spend more than twice as much on something that does the same thing.
    in terms of whether you NEED to spend the extra dough, if you have to ask, i would say you will in all likelihood be perfectly happy with an sb-600. the 800 has a bit more power, and is favored by wedding pros and those who like to carry big flashes around. the 900 is even bigger and zooms to 200mm, which is great if you have a 70-200, but... its UI is more menu based while the 600 has a much simpler interface which allows for quicker adjustments. the 800 falls somewhere in-between. also there have been reports that the sb-900 is too powerful for its own good, and overheats more than its smaller cousins.
    unless you NEED to use a flash for professional work or want to do multiple remote setups, at under $200, the sb-600 is by far the best combination of price and performance for nikon speedlights.
    since the introduction of the 900, which has already dropped more than $100 below its MSRP, the 800's price has only fallen about $25, even though it's been discontinued. IMO its cost should reflect more of a middle ground between the 600 and 900, but the fact that it's remained fairly pricey perhaps signals that many nikonistas aren't biting on the big badass bopper 900.
    another thing to consider is that flash units have a one-year warranty. if your flash tube blows out of warranty, the price to repair could be almost as much as a new unit. obviously, with a 600, this is less of a concern.
    it really does come down to actual use, however. the other day, i was shooting this awards show with my d300 and sb-600. i set the power to 1/2 and was getting decent results (the problems were more with the venue's sucky lighting than my flash output). so anyway, this guy with a d80 and sb-900 comes up and complains his flash wasnt powerful enough. he showed me his images, and right away it became clear the problem wasn't his 900, but the fact that he was a) too far away from the action and b) using the 55-200, which is 5.6 at the long end--really slow for indoor shooting in a dimly-lit room.
    he should have been okay with the d80/55-200 using a flash, but he didn't know how to optimize his camera settings to boost ISO, adjust EV, or move closer to get a wider aperture. ergo, he concluded, the problem must be the flash. i didnt have the heart to tell him that was the most powerful flash nikon has ever made, but the point is i got better results with my 600 than he did with his 900.
  12. ps for shooting models and fashion portraits, one flash isn't going to make that much of a difference. you'll probably want to either use multiple flashes --in which case an sb-800 and several sb-600s would allow a lot of flexibility--or get additional exterior lighting like stand-mounted umbrellas, monolights, etc. if you're doing a lot of weddings, you might appreciate the sb-800, but i'm not sure the 900 is really called for. that's definitely a situation you don't want your flash to overheat and get KO'd before the event is over.
  13. Sean, for starters: pair the D90, which is light and small, with the SB600.
    For on-camera flash you need to learn how to bounce (direction, power, zoom and distance), how to gel your flash and how to use reflectors in combination with flash and/or natural lighting. The "Wedding & Social" section on this site is a good resource.
    For more elaborate work you need more flashes/strobes, radio triggers (preferably), light stands, reflectors and light modifiers. Check out the "Lighting" section on this site for more info on that.
  14. It's now April of 2010 and I'm asking the same question. I have a Nikon D90 with a plan to keep it as long as I can and I do not want nor need to buy a flash which is overdesigned for my needs. I want to be able to bounce the flash indoors for casual portraiture and have a fill-flash capacity for outdoors. Is the SB600 still a good option? The last flash I bought for my film camera was a SB 20 and it worked very well for me.
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    The answer is essentially the same as it was back in late 2008. However, the SB-800 is now long discontinued and its price in the used market is high. The SB-600 is still a good option but it is out of stock at most places. You can find it used or referbushed.
  16. Thank you for the response. If the SB-800 is discontinued and the SB-600 is out of stock in most places, what IS recommended now?
  17. I would recommend a Vivitar 285HV. It has about the same power as the SB900 and SB800 and for a mere $90 brand new. For fashion photography I think on camera hot shoe flash doesn't have sufficient power or flexibility in term of light modifiers. So I would recommend looking at a set of studio strobes.
  18. @ Judith: You didn't say much about what sorts of subjects you are shooting, but I have been very happy with the SB600 on my D90. It can bounce in any direction and can be triggered wirelessly by the D90's on-board flash. I bought mine new a few months ago; they are still widely available and are a real bargain compared to the 900.
    I also have an SB400 that I used extensively for a couple of years before I got the 600. If you are just looking for an upgrade from the on-camera flash, the 400 will bounce off normal-height ceilings very nicely, and it's small enough to slip into your pocket when you're not using it. It's a great option when you want to be a little less conspicuous.
  19. thank you! I'd be shooting people indoors, casually, but seriously. And, I'd like a fill flash for outdoors. With my Nikon film camera I used an SB-20 (have to be old-enough to remember that one I suppose) and was very satisfied.
  20. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    You can still find the SB-600, but it is harder; e.g. Adorama has refurbished ones available. Some people speculate that the shortage is an indication that Nikon will soon replace the SB-600. If you can wait a bit, I would wait a couple of months. Since the SB-600 is a very common flash, Nikon will either have more shipment or replace it.
    Because you have a D90, I would stick with Nikon iTTL flashes. If you get a non iTTL flash such as the Vivita 285 mentioned above, you will lose a great feature on modern Nikon DSLRs. The other Nikon iTTL flashes are
    • SB-900: huge and expensive
    • SB-400: cannot bounce vertically and under-powered; it also cannot be a wireless remote flash.
    • SB-R200: dedicated flash for macro and product photography
    The SB-400 is very popular among casual photographers; I would avoid that for more serious work. So the SB-600 is still your best choice until it is replaced.
  21. Thanks very much. I've found the SB-600 in various places, including e-bay. After these comments, I may wait a while.
  22. Go to and search on SB 600.
    The SB 600 works well with my D90 and D300.
    They also list very low cost diffusers for the 600.

Share This Page