Manual Flash Recommendation?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by chip_chipowski, May 24, 2012.

  1. I am wondering if anyone out there can help me with a flash recommendation. It will be used on a Nikon D200. I am looking for a cheap manual flash. I would like an SB-600 or 700 but it's not in the budget right now. Currently I have an old Sunpak 333d flash and it actually works just fine when I need flash. My problem is that it won't work with batteries, so every time I want to use it, I need to use the AC adapter.
    So here is my question: I don't really want to buy a used flash (although I might go someplace like KEH if that is the best option). Can anyone recommend a no frills manual flash that will give me: (1) decent power; (2) tilt/swivel head and (3) manual control? Anything under $100 would be considered.
    Thanks in advance for the help and I am happy to add more info if necessary.
  2. SCL


    You have plenty of choices, very inexpensively. For many years I used an old Vivitar 2800 (thyristor) on all my cameras, including a D100 and D300. It works fine for general purpose uses and runs on 4 inexpensive flashlight batteries. You can use it in the auto mode (of which there are 2) or manual mode. I bought my 2nd one last year for about $10 on the big auction site. It came with 4 filters and a 12 inch cord to fit the x synch flash socket in case it doesn't work with your hot shoe.
  3. You can pick up a Nikon SB-15 on eBay for $30 or so (just be sure to get the wide-angle diffuser with it). It's compact but powerful for its size, uses AA batteries, has a four-way swivel head, and can be used in manual or automatic on a D200. I used mine for nearly 30 years before switching to the even smaller SB-30.
  4. Get an SB600 or better when you can. The iTTL feature is amazing, and you can use it off camera with the D200, but those others will work at least.
  5. Are you sure you want a manual flash? Maybe you want an inexpensive flash and are presuming that means it has to be manual? I've been asked not to post URLs directly to the B&H site but I k now we have 50+ shoe-mount flashes (new) from at least 10 brands which offer manual and some degree of camera-flash dialogue too. Of those, 21 are $100 or less.
    BTW, IMO you should consider a used unit if you're buying from a reputable shop. Your $100 can get you a used unit which originally sold for half again more.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  6. If SB700 and SB600 are too expensive, see if SB400 is for your price range?
  7. Henry's shop sells the classic Vivitar 285HV for $90. Some reports indicate the current production run is not as good as the ones from years ago but the ones I have (ranging from five to 25 years old) are the best flash for the money I've ever bought. Go to to check out some of the competition for the Vivitars in the same price range. I also have a Nikon SB-900 so I'm not entirely a flash dinosaur. But if you're only going to use the flash on manual there's no point paying $500 for bells and whistles that you won't be using.
  8. I am a big fan of using flash in "manual" mode. However this requires the ability to set the output of the flash on the unit itself. Not all inexpensive units have this capability.
    I have been using an old Nikon SB-26 (bought on auction site for less than $100) on my D200 and D700. It allows setting flash power in manual mode from full power to 1/64 power in steps of 1/2. It can also be used in "automatic" mode where the sensor on the flash unit adjusts the flash duration. This is a sturdy and reliable unit that does everything I need.
  9. "...Vivitar 285HV" beware of the HV units. Unless you are 100% certain the High Voltage is safe to use on your digital Nikon body, please try to find a Nikon speedlight. The older SB-28 units will go 'Manual' mode on a digital body (I think.)
    Also, have your consider a constant digital light [LED] unit? A bit of research and you may find a unit in your price range.
  10. Thanks for all the responses! I ended up going with this one.
  11. Chip, that flash doesn't have a manual mode, only auto thyristor.
  12. Good grief, Chip.
  13. Jerry -- The HV refers to the optional power supply, not the sync voltage. The current model has 6V sync voltage the same range as any modern flash. Some of the very, very old unts (20 years plus) are possibly in the 300V range and should be used with a Wein Safe Sync. But Nikon DSLR bodies are rated for 250V on the sync terminals so there's quite a bit of margin for error on all but very, very old flash units.
  14. Ah so. Well clearly I am no expert on flash. I was under the impression that I can control flash output on this thing via camera menu.
  15. ...if you check the B+H Photo web-site, it was on page 303 in the Summer 2012 catalog:
    a $119.95 (with battery) DL-DV11OC Video & DSLR LED Light, with a rechargeable battery, or it can run on four AA cells. It might help if you could let us know how far you want the *flash* to go for your type of photography?
    And if you want control of the *flash* in the camera, you need a Nikon speedlight....other brands may be close, or kind of like a Nikon unit, but usually you have to live with something missing.
  16. Thanks Jerry. This would be used in close range, probably not more than 10-15 feet.
    What about this?
  17. Nikon SB-25: Reasonably priced used and as powerful as any hotshoe speedlight you can buy today. Good build quality and power control in 1/3rd stop increments down to 1/64th. 7 stop auto-aperture range. Trigger voltage of under 5v. Recycle time from a full power burst of around 4 seconds. There's very little competition with a similar specification. For example the inexplicably popular Vivitar 285 and 283s don't even have a swivel head and have a very crude and fairly unrepeatable power control. Metz 45-Cxx hammerheads have slightly more power but only have a limited range of manual power setting, and while the Sunpak AZ3600 has excellent manual and AA control, it also has a trigger voltage of around 250v - unless you can find one of the dedicated hotshoe adapters that drop the trigger voltage to around 12v.
    All-in-all the SB-25 has a lot going for it for not much money.
  18. My Vivitar 5600 with tilt/swivel telescopic head is excellent. I have had it coming up 30 years and it continues to work perfectly. I have used it on Nikon D2X, Kodak SLRn, Canon 1Ds, and now Canon 5D II. You have to get the top of the line Nikon or Canon flash to match it's power and capabilities. They are not common but you can still find them for under $75 USD. It was one of the first flashes with an LCD screen and making the correct settings is easy.
  19. I'm a very strong supporter on the SB-24 - I actually own three, and used to own even more. They're bigger than SB-28s, not any more powerful, and lack decent auto metering. But they're cheap, reasonably powerful, and have a PC sync jack, meaning that they can be used with radio triggers if you buy some later on.
  20. Hi, would anyone know whether the ols Sunpak modular flashes 26DX, 30DX, 36DX and Ring flash 8DX or 12DX used with the nikon shoe module would be safe? On the D7000 camera or other models? How about when used with the Standard shoe? Thanks!

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