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Nikon SB-910 vs. Nikon SB-900: Speedlight overheat test by Cary Jordan

 
Nikon SB-910 Vs. Nikon SB-900: Speedlight Overheat Test by Cary Jordan (Web | Flickr | Personal FB page |The Jordan Collective’s FB Page | Twitter)

When the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight was announced, it brought-forth the promise of fixing the Nikon SB-900's one serious flaw: Overheating issues. The SB-900 is a great flashgun, but for some photographers in the event and wedding photography genres, the SB-900 just couldn't keep up with a fast-paced shooting environment, without overheating. Enter the SB-910 Speedlight: Nikon promised the overheating issues of the SB-900 are gone in this new iteration, but is it really a thing of the past?

Hit the link to watch the video comparison of the SB-900 against its predecessor, the SB-910. Which one will overheat first at full-power?

Conclusions: The Nikon SB-910 lowers power once it reaches high operating temps. This keeps the speedlight from overheating, but slightly affects overall performance. The SB-900 shuts-down instead of lowering power once it reaches high operating temps. This renders the SB-900 useless until it cools. Using an external battery pack greatly reduces operating temps in the SB-900. The user can also disable over-heat protection in the SB-900, but at the risk of damaging the flashgun.

  • Each flashgun was set on manual mode 1/1 (full-power), ISO-100, ƒ/5.6, 24mm, identical flash pattern
  • Fully-charged Rayovac Platinum 2100mAh NiMH rechargeable AA batteries were used in both flashguns
  • Each flashgun was triggered manually, at the same exact time
  • Video was filmed on a NIkon D7000 (1080/24p)
This entry was posted in Nikon Flashes, [NR] Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • http://blog.preinheimer.com Paul Reinheimer

    Was a light meter used to determine if the 910 was dropping in power, or are they just making assumptions about the longer life?

    • Paul

      I’m curious how much the 910 drops the light output by. 1/8, 1/4? Does it vary depending on temperature or is it a straight drop to say 1/ 4 power?

      • Earl

        Why would it matter?

        The D4 can focus in the pitch black (-2EV). With the ISO performance of D7000, D700 and now D4, who needs flesh?

        • Paul

          You sound like an “available light photographer” who doesn’t understand lighting. There are many instances where a photographer would want control and shape light. Just because you can shoot at 6400 iso doesn’t mean the light looks good.

          • Earl

            In a fast moving wedding and event? Controlled lighting? Are you kidding?

            Controlled lighting is in the studio, in which case, there is no rush, is it? You can wait for the flesh to cool off.

            • http://www.jamesbennett.com.au James

              Yes. Controlled lighting can be achieved in wedding photography. I’m a wedding shooter and I use it all the time. Down lighting casts horrible shadows on peoples faces and you often need to fill that with bounce flash… only a bit though because you want to keep some ambient light so it’s still got atmosphere.

              A good shooter shapes the light regardless of the situation.

            • z

              Earl is definitely an amateur. We all know that flash like this meant to be used on the go. Wedding is easy.. Some even use this for sports especially non-competitive ones.

              For studio work we have cheaper, more powerful, more controllable but 100 times bigger strobes available.

            • LlocQ

              I would like to see you take a pic of the couple with sunset in the backround without a flash..

            • http://www.digitarstudio.com DigiTar

              We only shoot weddings, high-end, and use two Quantum Q-Flashes to bounce light around the subjects. A 3rd SB800 is mounted on camera and stepped down to add a little more light into the scene. Also, we shoot award winning sunset photos and the ceremony straight into the sun…easy if you understand lighting which most amateurs don’t. I have a SB 900 but it doesn’t hold up in the reception.. maybe we’ll order one with the D800′s we have on order.

          • malez

            I suggest another name for these type of people
            “Unavailable Light Shooters” cause instead of
            shooting with available strobes light,
            they try to achieve the impossible of trying to shoot,
            with no light.

            • WTF DUDE

              And I bet an easy 20$ Earl is an amature…just a gut feeling ya know

        • Matt_XVI

          First of all, I own both a D700 and a D3S and have used my friends D7000 as backup with telephoto for a wedding. The D7000 doesn’t even come close to the ISO performance of the D700 let alone the D3S let alone what I assume the D4 will do. In the field I can’t get usable images at ISO 2500 on the D7000. D700 gets usable for me to 3200 and D3S to 6400. The highest I’d venture with the D7000 is 1600.

          Second of all, I used to sound a bit like you in terms of why need flash when ISO capabilities are so good? Boy have I ever realized I was wrong. Depending on the light available and the look you are going for I have realized that both on and off camera flash can really improve your photography for weddings as well as using available light.

        • http://www.eaglewheel.us bikinchris

          Because bad light, is just that; BAD light that makes poor images. Sometimes a flash is needed. I normally shoot sports. Sports is lit because the spectators and referees need to be able to see. When you have to have flash, you need it becuse the natural light will not make a good image. If you are shooting something alive at -2 EV, then you really want a flash.
          Now as for the overheating problem, it is because people are trying to hit full power flash at 8 or 9fps over and over. Studio stobes with not work for long under those loads. The only flash I can think of that will do that for more than a few minutes would be a Quantum flash.

    • http://thejordancollective.com CaryTheLabelGuy [NR]

      I did not measure the SB-910′s output, but you can tell it’s lowering power by the recharge time and the fact that the LCD screen’s light stop going dim after each blast, which means it’s not totally depleting the capacitor. The SB-910 also sounds weaker once it reaches this point. You can clearly see it in the video during the fast-forward part. Watch the screen on the SB-910 – this is the point where it reduces power. It seems to have reduced power to about 1/4th-1/8th or so, but that’s purely speculation.

      • Nikon Shooter

        I’m sure everyone appreciates the test as is, but at the same time lets not forget that you are catering to a more sophisticated crowd here, so it wouldn’t have hurt to be little more scientific and use a light meter. It’s apparent that the SB-910 was dropping its output once it got hot, but it makes a huge difference whether it’s designed to drop it to 1/2 or 1/32. With the latter making that flash as good as dead.

        I am aware that not everyone owns a light meter so I can let that go, but I’m 100% positive that you own some kind of a time-measuring device, like a watch, an alarm or a phone app. Having a running timer onscreen would’ve also told us how long it takes for either flash to overheat at their constant max output vs knowing the max number of discharges only.

        In any case, I know several photogs (myself included) who have the thermal cut-off on their multiple SB-900 units disabled and I’ve yet to hear of even one unit burning out. I’m sure it’s possible under certain extreme conditions, but not very likely unless you are making it your goal.

        • http://www.bobthompson.co.uk Robert Thompson

          I have had 3 flash tubes fail on me on the SB 900 over 3 years and on one occasion the flash tube exploded causing my group to duck suddenly. I thought a light above me had cracked but unfortunately it was my flash. The early signs of the tube failure were inconsistent flash followed by intermittent failure to fire before they failed completely. I do use bounce flash all of the time indoors and generally fire it behind me to reduce shadows and make the lighting more natural. I usually shoot at 400-800 iso and use f6.3. I have shot up to 125 weddings per year and expected the flashes to fail at some point due to high usage but always carried 3, just in case. I have used the sb700 and this has never let me down regarding overheating or power output. I will upgrade to the sb910 this year as I believe they are a great improvement.

      • Kelvin

        It would be more convincing if the conclusions is draw upon some actual value.

  • T.I.M

    I never had heating problems with my SB900, only sometimes when I shoot my wife (she is hot)
    :o

    • http://haroldellis4444@gmail.com Harold Ellis

      pics or it didnt happen.

      oh i see, she is invisible…

      to the topic. My overheated, with new firmware, after 10 half power flashes on sun. returned to SB800. SB910 i wont bother until price is acceptable OR have 5-6 batteries in it

  • T.I.M

    OMG ! This is ridiculous !

    You can’t shoot full power continusly with ANY FLASH and then complain because the flash is taking a break !

    You have to wait for the READY light !

    It’s like driving a car on the first gear at full power for undreds miles and be surprise when the engine explode !

    Go back to school !
    :o

    • The real T.I.M.

      Uhh, sorry buddy, but you’re as wrong as it gets. The ready light is an indicator for state of capacitor charge (to fulfill lighting requirements), not for when the unit is cooled down. If you have weak batteries, it will take longer for the light to show “ready”. If you have fresh batteries, the caps can be loaded significantly faster. If you use a battery pack, the ready light is on almost instantaneously. It has nothing to do with heat cycling.

      If you work in a professional environment and buy professional gear, then YES, you can demand that the equipment works at 100% load repeatedly. When it doesn’t, that’s when people jump brands to someone that can deliver. Luckily, Nikon is delivering better than a lot of brands out there.

      This is sort of how evolution of technology works. When people, as yourself, give up and settle for what’s available, that’s when development comes to a halt.

      • T.I.M

        @The fake T.I.M
        Of course !
        Everyone is aware that YOU know much better about flashes than Nikon technicians !
        Anyways, I don’t have heating problems with my SB-900 and if the price goes under $450 I’ll buy an other one !
        :o

        • work at camera shop

          You may not have had problems with yours cause not every one does, but i have sent in loads of 900′s in for repair due to overheating issues. I actually just finally swapped one last week for someone after it had been repaired for a third time in a year and was still over heating 20 shots in.

      • Mark

        Uh yeah it’s a $550 dollar flash, it’s as good as it is.

        You want better? I think Profoto does that, and charges more for it.

        Stop shooting so many pictures that your shit breaks.

    • WengerIsMad

      Feeling better?

    • Eric

      The fact of the matter is, even if you don’t use full power flashes with every flash (thus you might see the ready light on all the time) the SB900 does overheat and shut itself down.

      If it hasn’t happened to you, fine. But that simply means you don’t use it to it’s full potential. Nothing wrong with that. But you’re simply not stressing it the way we pros do.

      • Jonathan

        I am aware that the flashes can overheat and shut down. It hasn’t happened to any of mine, but that’s because of the way I shoot. Nothing to do with being pro or not.

        I think what he was trying to say is that even Nikon does recommend a certain waiting time between firing the flash, I thought it was 2 seconds, so as not to overheat it. This was true pf the sb-800 as well. Just because we can do something, doesnt mean it was intended.

      • http://www.media-images.us Lou

        Wait a minute! I’m a pro news photographer and use a SB900. While I don’t use flash as much as a wedding photographer, I’ve NEVER had it overheat and shut down. It’s warmed up a bit, but that’s it.

        I was shooting an event with another photographer who was using an SB800, guess what!! his overheated, mine didn’t. He uses flash more than I do. I suspect the type of batteries used plays a part in overheating, but have not done any tests. I challenge your comment that if the flash doesn’t overheat, it isn’t being “stressed” the way “pros” do.

    • http://thejordancollective.com CaryTheLabelGuy [NR]

      Wow……T.I.M., I was nice to you earlier! Geeez. lol

      The reason I shot it at 1/1 (full-power) was to force the flashes to get hot – a torture test, if you will. You will very rarely need to fire the flash @ 1/1 like that, over and over again, in real-world shooting. This was only a test to see how well the SB-910 performed, as opposed to the SB-900.

      My SB-900s has only over-heated on me once, in real-world shooting (after like 600 shots during a outdoor wedding in Florida heat). While it is rare, it does happen.

      • T.I.M

        @CTLG

        I’m sorry, I don’t look at “who” does it, I did not mean to hurt your feelings.
        I’m often right but also very often wrong and I appreciate people’s point of view, I try to learn from my mistakes !

        Again, I did not know that you did the flash review, sorry.

        Can I have the bad SB-900 that did not pass the heating test ? (I’ll pay for the shipping and I’ll send you a D800e moiré Test Chart for free !)

        :o

  • Henry

    I really wonder why nikon didn’t make a FW update to fix this rather than a new version leaving customer to pay another time for the same thing – I mean, they do argue FW upgradable as a selling point – and yet we still have to see the first upgrade, makes one wonder if it is upgradable at all…..

    • Robert Orlando

      Why !! u ask it all about money

    • John Richardson

      There was a FW update a few years ago that was to address this problem. Since I do not shoot rapid fire flash shots I had not run into over heating. BUT I have one for a back up anyway, because, you never know when something is gonna fail.

  • Dominik

    I expected maybe 20-30 more shots in that test before the thermal cutout kicked in, not 150 and counting.

    Nikon should give those of us who bought SB-900s, which clearly has a design flaw, a discount on the SB-910.

    Would be a nice gesture :)

    • http://www.modifiedphotographics.com Jason

      I agree, an upgrade, even if their was a small fee involved, would be well worth it for Nikon. Heck, even if they just switched out the guts and kept the external shell/etc and marked some sort of code on it that it has been “upgraded”.

    • Corndog

      I totally agree! I had an SB 900 totally ruin the pacing of a shoot I did recently due to overheating. If I were in the wedding photo business where you cannot slow the proceedings I would have returned the flash right after buying it. What a POS. Nikon should be ashamed to release such a poorly engineered piece of gear at the price it charges.

      But the 900 with thermal protection is still better than the old SB800. I totally fried one of those due to overheating.

      • Andrew

        Corndog, not everyone is complaining. The term “poorly engineered piece of gear” is a gross exaggeration as many of the comments in this blog indicate. But you are subject to your opinion, that’s your liberty. I am a university trained electrical engineer and I understand that many people do not appreciate the requirements for developing the skills to operate at a highly technical level. To give you a clue, all the arithmetic, algebra, and pre-calculus that many students struggle with in high school are just the prerequisites for much more advanced courses and knowledge needed to become an electrical engineer. But who knows, maybe you could do a better job at designing a superior, fault averse (as in risk-averse) product.

  • http://www.modifiedphotographics.com Jason

    Interesting results. I will concur that the SB-900 has a much better “life” when using the Nikon external battery pack and/or batteries that run cooler. I’m wondering how well the 910 will perform with the external pack attached also? I’m willing to bet that it will hardly slow or drop in power considering.

    Hmm, anyone want to trade a slightly used SB-900 for a 910? ;)

    • Dominik

      Sure they perform better with an external battery pack but it’s clearly an inferior design.

      I’ve got 3 SB-900s that I’ll be replacing with SB-910s. I just hope the people buying them don’t watch that video :)

      • Andrew

        “I just hope the people buying them don’t watch that video”

        Very funny. I am sure you will give a full disclosure before selling your SB-900 Speedlight! I wonder how many people were content with their SB-900 before seeing the video.

        • radfan957

          I own three SB-900s. I watched the video and I am still content with my three SB-900s.

    • T.I.M

      @Jason
      If your SB-900 is “slightly used” you should not complain about heating problems, even when I do wedding I don’t have problems with my SB-900 (and it’s hot in Florida).

      Before being photographer I was working in electronics (components, circuits), if you understand how a big flash like the SB-900 works inside, you would not complain.

      • http://www.affinityseattle.com Sean

        I was an electrical engineer for 7 years. It’s easy to see that a magnesium-alloy shell instead of insulating plastic would help or even fix this problem. Without proper heat dissipation around the supply and circuitry, this is what you get. But, why engineer a solution when you can just start working on the SB-1000, a multispectral LED flash/continuous combo solution.

        • Mark

          You ready to pay $800 or more for it then?

          • jodjac

            @ Mark- Yes. People are buying those Quantums because they work so well, have goons of power and they are very flexible – not to mention expensive! But it goes to show that if it works well it can get a higher price. Nice to have cheaper options though. I’d love a magnesium flash with variable LED lights. Nice idea- ! Let me put a patent on that.
            Actually I have an idea for a patent that concerns flash- if any one knows where I can get help to flesh them out or see if they are viable I’d appreciate a tip.

        • Andrew

          It is possible that Nikon is working on a SB-1000 also, anything is possible. Nikon is a very meticulous company, I am sure they have conceived product designs for the next five to ten year, and more. But as far as the SB-910 is concerned, it is quite likely that they have evaluated the various options and have decided that this is the best course of action to take to meet the current needs.

    • http://thejordancollective.com CaryTheLabelGuy [NR]

      The SB-900 is still a GREAT flashgun. It just can’t handle rapid fire @ full-power without some time to cool. Or, you can just use external battery packs as this does help reduce flashgun temps greatly.

  • http://www.michaelkormos.com Michael Kormos

    Darn. My SB-900 goes into overheat mode after 24 full-power bursts. I believe 910 will never overheat, but rather slow down its recycle time. Was the READY light on each time the flash was triggered in this test? It looks like the tester is covering up the button with his finger. Unless the ready lamp comes on, the flash won’t fire at the set intensity (but will fire off whatever charge it had built-up in the capacitor). Not to be a negative nancy guys, but this is an overly simplistic, and grossly flawed test.

    • http://haroldellis4444@gmail.com Harold Ellis

      if it is on direct sunshine even earlier. SB800 is about same powerful, have with standard bateries more power in it and never overheated on me.

    • Corndog

      “but this is an overly simplistic, and grossly flawed test.”

      Agree!

      • jeff karg

        Used My newly purchased from B&H Nissin MG 8000 Extreme flash first time yesterday on a job. Amazing, liberating experience not having to watch temp gage and waiting for an overheat shutdown. Good bye SB900,910 and 800 and such, Without the bulk of The Q. This is a game changer. My anxiety level is way down. No more flashless moments in the middle of the dancing or during outdoor formals.
        And the controls are mindlessly easy. . in COLOR.
        Wish I’d had this years ago. Too well kept a secret. Thank you Nissin and Minox for bringing this over!

    • http://abeautifulday.com.au Ted

      I think that was the problem here the test is not accurate, sinds the flash did not have time to recharge. A better test would have been when tested with Battery packs.
      It shows in the video that he get one full flash out of 8 presses or so.

      • http://www.TheJordanCollective.com CaryTheLabelGuy [NR]

        The point of this test was to show how fast the flashguns went into overheat protection, not the performance of each “flash” or how long it takes to properly reload the capacitors. I think you are completely missing this point. A lot of shooters don’t wait a full 2 seconds between each “flash” when they’re shooting in a fast-paced environment. This test was to show how these flashes performed in a “torture” shooting environment, which is where you’re going to have issues – hence the purpose of this test.

        Had I had a light meter handy, I could have measured each “flash” and what happens when the SB-910 lowers power, that is about the only thing that could have been done that wasn’t.

        • Dan

          Thanks for the test! I thought it illustrated what it set out to do very well. If some of the whiners want to do their own tests some other way, then great, but your test was fine for what it was. It’s not as if I now know less than I did before I watched the video.

  • Ken Elliott

    I always assumed the SB-900 thermal cutout was a new “feature” that didn’t work well because it was too conservative. If I had one, disabled the thermal cutoff and use Sanyo Eneloops batteries, wouldn’t I have the exact same thing as my SB-800 – a flash that _could_ fry if I abuse it?

    If you simply ignore the broken feature, is the SB900 really a bad choice?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul-kelly Paul Kelly

    Although I agree that the test is likely flawed as a test of full-power pops, it’s reasonable to compare that the SB-910 seemed to continue the same pops they both started with long after the 900 gave up.

    Having said that I’ve never had my 900 shutdown on me but then in fairness I don’t tend to drive them that hard for too long.

  • shivaswrath

    I can actually confirm this as I took my BRAND NEW SB-910 out last night for a press event with our local congressman…

    And I decided not to use the SD-9, thinking it should be fine just firing away with this newly updated flash…

    And what I noticed was that after about 6-8 shots within a few minutes, the exposure of the pictures started shifting drastically…and it occurred to me, the flash was just lowering the power at the expense of consistent output.

    I’m a little annoyed, but I have an SD-9 that’ll keep things real…

  • Bullsnot

    What’s the point of having firmware upgrade-able flash guns if you release a newer model instead of upgrading the firmware??? This is bull. I have a 900 and though it has never overheated during a shoot it’s still disturbing that its value went down when the “firmware” upgrade, er, SB900 came out.

    Curious, I wonder if the firmware from the 910 would work in the 900…

    • Andrew

      Don’t even try it. Firmware are meant for the referenced hardware only.

    • Calibrator

      > Curious, I wonder if the firmware from the 910 would work in the 900…

      I wondered about that, too, but wouldn’t dare to try it.
      There are some differences between those two models after all and I don’t want to lose my warranty.

  • AXV

    So the flash lowers it’s power while still saying it’s at 1/1?
    That’s a cheap shot, and will also mess up your lighting ratios or exposure.
    Nikon should update it to say the power it is really shooting.

    So in a nutshell it’s not that it is not overheating or has better cooling, it’s just firing at a lower power output and if you are shooting at 1/1 it’s for a reason. I rather shoot at a real 1/1 for 50 shots (or whatever it can reach depending on how long between the shots) than go to 200 at half it’s power (whith it saying it’s at full).

    • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

      i don’t think the sb900 lowers it’s power output as it’s nearing overheat. i think it reduces the rate of charge uptake by the flash capacitors, hence taking longer.

      given the flash still says it’s putting out 1/1 full power, and we can’t see the ready light in the vid, this theory holds.

      reducing the charge uptake and pressing ‘test’ would emit a lowered output. same effect as described by everyone’s comments, just a different reason for it.

      yup, i own a 910 and 2 900′s. tested and theory holds.

      • AXV

        So was he waiting until the flash finished recycling and was ready to shoot at full power or not?

        And are you saying it recycles slower before overheating so you don’t shoot fast enough for it to over heat?

        • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

          that’s the point exactly, i don’t think the capacitor was fully charged when the flash was fired in the later instances. it stands to reason:

          * much of the overheating problems are due to battery heat
          * reducing the battery discharge rate would reduce the problem
          * the ready light is obscured in the vid

          and most importantly:
          * my grey import sb910 does not reduce the flash power, it just takes longer to recyc after heavy use, even with fresh batteries.

          incidentally, i’ve hacked all my sb9xx lights by buying a new battery door and molding it for an external cable, via 2 dummy batteries and that runs down to a sla 6v battery through a breaker. my two sb900′s have cycled through several thousand of times now at full power at heavy use and not overheated, but they do with any type of AA batteries.

          • AXV

            Yes, so yet again another test done wrong and being completely useless (on the video).
            Also that’s very clever, just moving the batteries to the outside of the flash will prevent overheating it’s a very simple job.
            You could even not remove the door and use the A/C port on the flash (which is probably the ones used by the external battery thing nikon sells).

            • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

              credit where credit’s due, i think the video test is a good one and i appreciate it, tho i’ve a gut feeling there’s more to it as many of us have pointed out. i think this is ‘part one’ of the test and it’d be worthy to post a re-test with different parameters.

              as for the sb9x0 mod, i’m going to post up a blog on my webby with pics and all. the front plug of the sb900 is a high voltage input that has a circuit between the batteries and the flash head, akin to the circuit found in the sb900, so it’s not a straight mod. my mod uses a $5 replacement battery door that snaps out so if i want to onsell the flashes i can sell them unmodified. and there’s no need for any high voltage electronics.

              tx avx!

          • AXV

            That’s better then, you should post it.
            You could also try to best the comparison to check for recycle time, exposure with a meter and heat.
            It wouldn’t even have to be side by side…
            I only have 900′s and 800′s u_u

  • Mex

    This has to be the most thorough and well documented test I’ve ever seen!

  • chris

    I have an SB900 which I have used on two wedding jobs.
    It overheated quickly on both occasions, what do I do ask the groom
    to kiss the bride again when the unit has cooled down ? I’ve always
    bought new Nikon gear but in my opinion the SB900 is not fit for purpose.
    They should have recalled them and issued replacements.

    • Andre De Angelis

      I agree, Nikon should have offred replacements or sorted this out through firmware updates. What really frustrates me is that the SB900 was touted for being programmable.

  • T.I.M

    Here is an other problem:

    I was taking pictures with my new D800e at full resolution and 4 frames/seconds.

    After 654 shoots the camera started to slowdown, and at 988 shoots the buffer was FULL !
    Can you believe that ?
    A professional camera that can’t shoot more than 988 pictures at full speed, full resolution ?

    I want Nikon to fix my D800e RIGHT NOW, or else I will switch to CANON.

    • ShaoLynx

      Hey, T.I.M., wake up!
      Ah, there you are. Take it easy, now.
      Don’t worry, it was just a nightmare.
      LOL.

    • Andrew

      Did you say D800e?

      • T.I.M

        @Andrew
        Yes D800e, why ?

        • Andrew

          Oh! So you have taken delivery of the D800E? Don’t tell me that you are one of the Nikon testers or a member of the “reserved” press like dpreview. I thought (and still think) you are being funny.

          • T.I.M

            @Andrew

            No, I wish but I don’t have my D800e yet (I ordered it the first hour and paid cash so I sould be in the first shipping batch).

            I can’t wait any longer, the D5100 that I have is just a piece of shit (I just found out today that it can’t tigger my SB-900 with the pop-up flash)

  • shawnino

    Very useful. Thanks very much.

    • Ren Kockwell

      Wow Cary. It took 50 some odd posts for someone to say thank you. So I’ll say it again. Thank you. This was a helpful test. Not scientific, but very practical and helpful.

      • http://www.TheJordanCollective.com CaryTheLabelGuy [NR]

        @Shawnino and Ren Kockwell – Thanks guys! I’m glad it helped you guys out!

  • tonyc123

    Flash is one area that has been largely neglected by Nikon IMO. Still restricted to 250th sec, CLS still not radio controlled, on camera flash inconsistent & often unpredictable.
    This area needs work.

    • http://e8t10t13.zenfolio.com Jim Keefe

      I am still loving my SB-800s. They have never failed me, have never overheated.

      • RC

        During a wedding I shot, my SB-800 melted its plastic lens. Now it has lots of bubbles in it. I was using 5 batteries in the flash and 6 in the SD-8a power pack. However, I’d much rather lose a plastic lens than lose some shots! I’m glad my SB-800 kept going. They need to make parts out of glass and metal or fan cool them or something. A flash at this level MUST be reliable and dependable. I also find their wireless capabilities VERY unreliable.

  • T.I.M

    I just can’t believe how picky you guys are, the SB-900 is a great flash (if you know how to use it)
    The next one who complain about the heating problem, I’ll send him a box of FLASH-CUBES (google it, you may be to young)
    :)

    • Andre De Angelis

      >> I just can’t believe how picky you guys are

      You’ll believe it when you find yourself in a situation where the flash gun shuts down at a very incovenient moment.

    • Andrew

      Actually, I think some of the comments are far-fetched (not that I can prove it!). One of the best comments is the one just above yours that says: “my SB-800 melted its plastic lens”. I am also tempted to add my two-cents and say: “I do not own the SB-800, but I have a STRONG FEELING that it is very precise and extremely reliable.”

  • Markus

    Lovely to see how people like to use their speedlights as a disco light, and even compare which one ‘disco’s’ the best! great!

  • AaronL

    If you use the 900 or 910 regularily enough on an D700 type body then it automatically fixes the overheating issues by destroying your hotshoe.

    SB900 is a big heavy ugly monstrosity. What was so wrong with the SB800 size?

    • tonyc123

      +1

    • Paul

      I’ve had this issue on two different D700 bodies.

    • http://seidphotography.com CS

      Me too…Nikon replaced 3 hotshoes on all 3 of my D700s…the SB900 is a big sucka!

  • chris

    Dear T.I.M

    I’m picky and proud !
    I buy Nikon because I’m picky, my clients expect me to be picky because they are picky.
    Picky is good.

    p.s.
    Can you send bulbs not cubes I’m even older ….

    • T.I.M

      @chris
      I still have some powder flash…..
      :o

      • chris

        I’ll bring the 10×8, see you at the side of the railway track

  • PhilK

    Actually both sides are right.

    While it can be annoying if a flash doesn’t work continuously at high power if you’d like it to, every electronic flash has its limits. If I’m not mistaken, the real problem if a flash doesn’t throttle itself after heavy usage is that you ruin the flashtube itself.

    In the old days, if you wanted a professional flash that produced a lot of light and worked longer at higher power, you got a “handle mount” flash with a battery you slung over your shoulder. Those are out of vogue these days, though people effectively end up with something similiar to them when they stick their shoe-mount flashes on franken-rigs that end up being even larger than the old handle-mount flashes.

    Nowadays with complex proprietary digital camera interfaces, handle-mount flashes are less popular, though Metz did try to keep up with its “SCA” adapters to try to follow the different proprietary camera interfaces. Of course Metz flashes are very expensive too. TANSTAAFL.

    • Kerbloosh!

      Long live the Honeywell potato masher!!!

      • PhilK

        Yep, used those in the 1970′s.

        Along with some Graflites (big coiled flashtube in a big-*ss head and a HEAVY lead-acid battery), some Ascorlite 1600′s (really liked those), and some Sunpaks.

        And a good part of the time we were _manually_ calculating exposures using exposure dials on the back of the flash combined with our own guestimates of how much to compensate for bounce angles and color of walls..

        Yep, those were the days! ;-)

  • http://www.mrpics.co.uk Matt Richardson

    Stil not a great solution – if its not giving consistent, predictable results its as bad if not worse than not working at all.

    I rarley use my SB900 as its gone into overheat so often, using my old SB800s (if Im not using Elinchroms) and will probably pick up some more 800s rather than a new 910 as they have never had this problem.

    When your working a news event or wedding you onky get one chance. I have to have everything work 100% all the time so buy fast CF cards and update camera bodies. If the flash cant keep up its deadweight.

    • Been there guy

      100% ready at 100% of time? Logically, it is not possible.

      In practice, you lack ability to adapt to changes and situations.

  • Doniak

    I don’t understand this.

    The wedding shooters all have ultra high ISO cameras, at the same time, they worry about the flesh performance?

    You should not stop shooting just because the SB-900 stops, you have this wonder camera that can focus @ -2EV, what is the fuss all about?

    If you like to rely on the fleshes, then why bitch about the ISO performance on the D800? It should not matter to you because you have a roomful of SB’s.

    • kevin

      I guess people are trying to say there is never too much light and never too high ISO. people would want MORE out of everything.

      • Doniak

        How about MORE skills and MORE practice?

        • T.I.M

          @Doniak
          +1.000.000

        • Flashmaniac

          Clients want to see beautiful sparkly eyes, not dark eye sockets and in most venues the only way to achieve that is with flash. Flash isn’t a lighting device so much as it is a contrast control device. That’s why event shooters use them.

      • broxibear
      • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

        That’s not really fair or appropriate. Weddings are fast moving and even with all the skill and practice, have you ever tried to change from flash setup to ambient setup mid shot? I can do it but it takes me a minute or two, and inevitably there’s always a little chipping to do. Meanwhile you’re missing shots and get frustrated.

        I’ve seen the movie ‘limitless’ and wish I could get those pills :) but until I do, I’d love the flash just to keep working through shots and not overheat. Battery recyc I can take, but SB900 definately has a design flaw.

        • Earl

          So, you are the type that shoots 5000 shots and pick about 10 out?

          • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

            yep, on paid gigs. You aren’t? Do you say to your clients “I took ten exposures, and some are average, but at least they represent my true abilities as a photographer”?

            whatever floats your boat to get the job done.

            • AXV

              +1000

            • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

              +1,000,000

    • RC

      Doniak you don’t understand this??? Go shoot a wedding and it will all be clear to you. You will quickly realize that available lighting often looks horrible. At the next wedding I’m going to, I’m going to use a gelled Alien Bees B1600 pointed at the ceiling to light the sanctuary. I tried using a single SB-800, and at full power, I need F2.8 at ISO800. That won’t cut it for me. I’d have to wait 2 seconds for the SB-800 to recycle, so I’d miss too many shots. I could use 3 SB-800s, but I don’t want to draw too much attention with my Frankenrig since I’m just a guest. When I was the main photographer at another wedding, I used 6 flashes! Of course, that was before I got my Alien Bees =)

  • http://StevenGeorges.com Steven Georges

    Okay, I’ll ask what some people are only hinting at.
    Does the SB-800 not have this problem because of the design/shape?
    Or does the heating problem also exist with the SB-800 but no one knows it because of the lack of overheating protection?

    My biggest complaint with the SB-900 was that the “+ or -” symbol in TTL was so small I couldn’t tell (with my old people eyes) wether or not it was displaying + or -.
    Was that fixed in the SB-910?

  • Luis

    Never had any trouble with my SB-800s firing away all night at weddings. The only time I had any trouble wasn’t with the flashes but with AA Lithium batteries own thermal cutoff kicking in, and a quick swap of the batteries took care of that. In any event, I usually just have a second SB-800 in my pocket as a backup. You really never know when your flash will fry or drain the batteries too much and it’s much quicker to just swap with the one in your pocket than fiddling with batteries.

    Besides, the SB800s put out a bit more light for what I use it for and if I really need to go very long I just throw a Better Beamer on it.

    I’ll keep my SB-800s.

    • T.I.M

      When I was doing Weddings pictures as a pro (in France) I always had an extra camera body+flash backup.

      I can’t even imagin here in USA, people would sue you for millions $$$ if you messup a wedding.

      I now only do friends and family weddings but I’m not very relax missing backup camera and flash. (I never use the pop-up flash but I guess with ISO at 800 it could save my life)

  • Mike Lowery

    I have shot many weddings. The only time my 900′s have overheated is when I’m shooting in a super high ceiling church bouncing light off the ceiling. It’s usually only if I’m shooting family formals. I like to stop down to F4 or 5.6 sometimes to get everyone in the family sharp. I have to keep two 900′s and when one shuts down I switch to the next one. A way for me to avoid this would be to use an umbrella or two with flashes in the umbrellas. But that takes more time to set up.

  • SoftonDemand

    Thanks, I knew getting the SB-910 was the right choice.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Interesting to see the note about using external power with the SB900 reduces heat. I have the SD-9A and have rarely used it. Since my SB900 already overheats based on usage, I had thought that I couldn’t use the SD-9A, since it would just supply more power, quicker.

    I completely forgot that the batteries heat up, and so having the power supplied externally would help keep the unit cool. Will have to try it out in the real world to see if I notice a difference.

    • RC

      I doubt an external pack will help. The heat comes from the flash tube, not the batteries. The plastic lens on my SB-800 melted when I was using it with an external pack. If you find otherwise, I’d love to know.

      • danpe

        You’d be surprised how quickly the batteries heat up in SB-900, with four eneloops it recharges faster than SB-800 with five. Or in terms of heat, after 30 full power pops on the SB-800 with five eneloops the batteries are warm. After 30 1/1, which usually is when the SB-900 stops if enabled, the eneloops are so hot you can barely hold them.

        I’m not shooting weddings and rarely on anything above 1/4, but with better beamer and CL at birds.

  • jodjac

    All this and not one mention of the Sb700. Does anyone have overheating or output issues with these? I have two and like them well enough. Its nice to be able to set them up as master and slave. It would be nice if they were a little more powerful and I cannot believe that there is no way to power them via a power pack. For some reason I thought all flashes could be adapted to use external battery packs like the quantum Turbos. But not the SB700. Bummer. Well, I’ve never had one quit because of over heating, but I have had some inconsistent exposures that might be related to thermal issues. I’ll be watching for that from now on!

    • Calibrator

      > All this and not one mention of the Sb700. Does anyone have overheating or output issues with these?

      &

      > It would be nice if they were a little more powerful and I cannot believe that there is no way to power them via a power pack.

      I guess you just answered your own question…

      Given the price difference the SB-900 (and soon the 910) is not so far off.
      Even as a hobbyist myself I preferred the 900 over the 700 given the measly difference of 70 Euros back then. If the 700 would have been at half the price I would’ve strongly considered it but not at only 20% less…

      > Well, I’ve never had one quit because of over heating, but I have had some inconsistent exposures that might be related to thermal issues. I’ll be watching for that from now on!

      Perhaps Nikon already made its firmware less radical like the 910 but didn’t advertise it much? At least I can’t remember as much fuzz about it as with the 910.

      • jodjac

        Thank you.

  • Joel

    I think everyone agrees: It’s no fun when your SB900 locks completely for 5 – 10 minutes because of overheating. Further, we are all hopeful that the SB910 solves the problem. If you are someone who uses a Gary Fong or Stofen style diffuser religiously and points your speed light at the sky with hopes of lighting everything around you, odds are your flash will get hot. This function protects your investment. ANY STROBE can overheat if over-used… Elinchrom, Profoto… the photographer must choose to work within the ability of the gear, not cry because they keep breaking it. If 60 w/sec isn’t enough think about a quantum or something. If you hear your flash drawing big gulps of juice to recycle, think about how to back off, give it another stop of aperture or ISO, if you bounce- try zooming the flash head to 105mm -200mm it will have more reach, or heaven forbid, stop trying to light a 360 degree sphere around you. I have two SB900s and three SB800s, the 900 is still my go-to for on-camera flash.

    • AXV

      And if you have the guts, you can turn off the overheat sensor, and fire until it catches on fire or you drain your batteries whatever comes first…

      • Joel

        That’s Right! I had forgotten about that. What’s everyone complaining about? Just disable the Thermal Cut-out, and turn the sound off and you won’t have to e troubled by the SB900′s design for self preservation.

        • AXV

          Nikon is very clever, because instead of saying “just disable the thermal cut-out” they bring out another flash with minor changes and bam! you got people buying yet another flash.
          $$$

  • Umihira

    I wonder why at 52 and 54, 57 shot (1:20 in the clip), the video couldn’t capture the light of flashgun? (or flashgun didn’t fire?). 24fps means it capture one frame in 0.041 second. Isn’t the speed of flashgun faster than 0.041 second? Can anybody explain it for me? Thanks

    • AXV

      Flashes can shoot at thousands of a second, it is normal for video cameras to not catch up some shots (videocameras do not record continuosly, but are made of a series of still images recorded one after another with un-recorded spaces between each one, the flash appears in between the images not being recorded by any of them).
      It really doesn’t matter the exposure settings you are shooting with (although it affects it a little bit).

    • AXV

      You can shoot at 24fps but if you do it at 1/8000 you are recording just 4/8000 of a second, then you have 7996/8000 seconds to flash and not get recorded.
      Try to shoot with your camera at 3fps at 1/100 (or 11 if you have a D3) for 2 seconds (photos) while moving it and you will see that you have “jumps” or spaces not photographed, it’s the same with a camera but instead of 3fps it shoots at 24, 29.9 or 60 fps.

      • AXV

        (it was 24/8000 then you have 7976/8000 seconds in the clear)

        It’s too late I can’t think straight…

        • jodjac

          Ifind this very interesting. I’d love to know the relationship between shutter speeds and frame rates. Does one actually affect the other? I’ve been playing with the video function on my D7000. I thought the shutter speed was supposed to be set near the chosen frame rate but the camera records video no matter which shutter speed I choose and it all looks the same to me. I was starting to think that shutter speed on the camera doesn’t matter- that it gets over ridden in video mode. What is the relationship of shutter speed to video and frame rate. Where can I learn more about shooting video with a DLSR?

          • AXV

            It Does Matter!
            It should be visible, I don’t know the shutter speed (ss) limit, because I have a plain old D300…
            The fps have nothing to do with exposure by itself, it just makes the ss change sometimes because the ss has to be fast enough to acomodate the fps on the camera.
            But say you could shoot at 1/8000 in video, if you then change it to 1/100 you have to see a substancial change the same as in a photo.
            So you cannot shoot at 1/10 at 24fps because you can take only 10 shots in a second, so 24 fps is impossible.
            You need a ss that can accomodate at least 24 shots in a second (hence 24 frames per second).
            Again, try to shoot at 3fps with your camera set at a ss of half a second each (on your camera should read the number 2, meaning 1/2).
            It’s not possible.
            In theory 1/30 should be enough to shoot at 24 fps (or 30) but I am not sure if the software would allow such narrow room between frames.

            • AXV

              All of this is not taking in acount your aperture, but just imagin you keep it on the same f-stop.
              Also ISO has to do with it (if it’s on auto, it shouldn’t be or you will not see exposure changes).
              And as in a photo the slower your shutter speed the more blurry video you get (each frame is blurry).
              and you see a “ghosting effect”.

  • Joe

    Thanks for that demonstration! My current strategy for the overheating problem with the SB-900 is: a second SB-900. If one really runs hot, I’ve got a second one in reach so that I can exchange them quickly and continue shooting.

    I wonder why Nikon does not release a firmware update for the SB-900 to teach them the new behavior. I won’t upgrade my flashes to SB-910s anyway, so they don’t loose any sales on me. ;-)

  • T.I.M

    I did not mention it, I’m not sure if it make a difference, but I only use Ni-Mh batteries in my SB-900, and as I said earlier, I never had heating issues.

  • jen

    My sb-600 is still rockin ;)

  • georg

    “Using an external battery pack greatly reduces operating temps in the SB-900.” Maybe because of this I never experienced a thermal shutdown with my SB900s.. I always use external battery packs when I need full power with a lot of repeats (sports photography).
    But I don’t understand why an external battery should keep the flash cooler??
    Just wondering. Maybe someone can explain that?

    • AXV

      Simply because using a battery makes the battey hot and in a flash that helps heating the whole thing.

      • impactfoto

        If you’r using an external battery, do you still not need to have batteries in the flash itself, to make the contacts, and will they still not overheat? I used to use a big ‘DigitalCameraBattery’ with my SB 800′s, and it would definitely last a lot longer that way, but the internal battery would still get hot, and this, in fact, was how I melted a couple of my 800′s a few years back. I was excited when I saw they added a thermostat to the 900, but it’s WAYY too darn sensitive. I’ve had mine cut out on me on downright chilly days at the beach, after NOT a lot of hard or fast use.

  • http://davidgadreauphotography.ca David G.

    I overheated my SB900 before I knew of there being an overheating problem and was like what the heck!!! I never saw my SB800 do that. That 910 looks great.

  • Florencio

    The time between flashes is a factor also. My SB-900 overheated under 50x as in this test and I was using the Nikon external pack with PowerX 2700 MAH batteries.When photographing children moving around for some action shoots I need to be ready for that moment so there are time you need to flash quickly. I guess a stop drop would be okay assuming the TTL metering would compensate.

  • http://Www.marcushowlett-photography.co.uk Marcus

    Nikon should provide an cheap part exchange upgrade for the sb900 to the sb910 because of the over heat issue. As a good will gesture, because we wait to long for anything new and reliable…………

  • http://www.wobblypixel.com norbs

    I’ve posted up a modification to the SB900 that solves the overheat issue. It’s an external power source and and simple dummy batteries.

    It’s been done before but I’ve not seen it done specifically to solve the overheat issue with the SB900.

    Anyway, enjoy:
    http://wobblypixel.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/27/

  • Chase

    Why cant nikon just make a lion brick of a battery insted of messing around with a bunch of aa batterys? I know external ones can be purchased but why not make a internal one. Then make a adapter for people who want to trunk around a backpack full of aa batteries.

  • http://www.monteverde.org Monteverde Costa Ric

    According to Rob Galbraith’s SB-910 review and overheating tests vs. SB-900: “The SB-910 is like the SB-700 in that it will slow the rate of recycling first, to increase the chance that the flash will keep on going, albeit at a temporarily slower pace, rather than shut down…”.

    He mentions nothing about SB-910 reducing the power output.

  • Mike

    Hi Cary,

    Thanks for the test.

    Hindsight is always 20/20, and it might have been better to conduct the test with each flash on the same camera aimed at a flash meter, if available, (ensuring accurate exposure) on a controlled subject with a controlled aperture (perhaps f11 at 10 feet/3 meters), using the internal counter on the camera to determine the number of flashes for overheating.

    Again, Monday morning quarterbacking is always easier than creating from scratch. I appreciate the data you collected.

    My best,

    Mike

  • YeahISaidItSoWhatHuh

    One commenter recommended buying a second 900 to use until the first overheated one cooled down. Nonsense to me. Spend another $150 over the cost of the first 900 and get a Quantum Instruments T5. Shoot strobe if need be for 10 minutes straight with no overheating, no output drop, no nothing except spot-on photographs. No fumbling with waiting for cool down, no swapping flashes and all that. Each fire, each frame, no misses. Period.

  • Tony

    Am I the only one to think that it’s kind of messed up for Nikon to release a product (sb-900) that has overheating flaws and then charge $100 more for the “fixed” version (sb-910)? What else is on the 910 that qualifies it for a $100 more upgrade besides fixing a known problem?

  • Stefan Filby

    Hi guys. I’m getting my first speedlight and I’m a bit worried about what to get. I can’t afford the sb 910, but can afford the sb 900. However, I’m worried that the overheating will be a serious problem, and I am considering buying the sb 800 instead. What do you think would be a better option? I don’t want to be limited by overheating but I don’t wanna miss out on other features of the sb 900. Thanks x

    • Stefan Filby

      I thought that I should mention that I shoot with a d7000.

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