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Nikon SB-20

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Happy Nikon family of flashes - the monster on the upper right is SB-16, with Nikon F3 attachment.

After acquiring 2 Cactus flash triggering kits, I have been on the hunt for suitable, cheap flashes that I can use. Although I already have a Nikon SB-600, I am not so keen on attaching my expensive flash on the wireless trigger until I know what I am doing. After reading this article, I do have a fairly good idea on what I need to buy.
Well, due to popularity of strobist.com, it is now almost impossible to get the Nikon SB-24/25/26/28/80 (Thanks alot, David Hobby! :)). I started to look at some other alternatives. Sunpak and Vivitar come up a lot, but their prices are not that great at times - remember "cheap", I am looking at $20-40 range, each. Well, after reading this nice review, I begin to focus on the Nikon SB-20. I was able to find 2 SB-20s on Ebay, for a total of around $64 (one for $25, and the other for $38) total, including shipping. Just a little cheaper than my normal used gear outlet, http://www.keh.com/, if you consider shipping cost.

SB-20 almost has everything I am looking for:
Fairly powerful- Guide number rating of 100;
Manual settings- Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, to 1/16;
Tilt feature- I think I'll use umbrellas most of the time, but there are times when I still want to bounce off of the ceiling;
PC sync cord connection;
Standard shoe mount;
Optional external power connection;
Uses standard AA batteries (x4).

Cons- all are fairly minor to me:
Odd ball flash head- Harder to mount snoot or other light modifier;
No swivel function- Not a big issue in the off camera mount world;
Not as powerful- at GN of 100, compared with GN120 for SB-28.

Oh, I can even mount the SB-20 on my Pentax DL! Cool! Of course, I have to make manual adjustments, but not bad at all.

Here are some more pictures:

Well, side by side with SB-600 (left), SB-20 is not very small in size.

PC Sync and power connection on the SB-20.

You can see the tilt adjustment (flash head) on the SB-20. Odd looking, but it works.


Not very star trek like as far as lightings concerned, but it has all the manual adjustment I am looking for.


More reviews here: http://www.dantestella.com/technical/sb20.html, and info here: http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/classics/nikonf4/flash/sb20/index.htm.

I am still on the look out for another one, unless I can find a SB-24-28/80, cheap.

2 comments:

Robert said...

Do you use the SB-600 on your pentax, or on a different camera?

I'm considering buying a SB-600, but I'm not sure it will work on my camera.

I've got a Pentax *ist DS, and I'm looking for a new flash for it. I'm still pretty unfamiliar with all the quirks of flashes, and I want to make sure the Nikon flash isn't only compatible with Nikon cameras.

Thanks, and I like the blog. Good luck with those prime lenses!

David Wong said...

Hi Robert,
Thanks for visiting.

I use the SB-600 with my Nikon D70, although I don't mind using the SB-20 on my DL, I am not sure if I want to put the SB-600 on the DL.

With the SB-20 on the DL, I have to manually set the shutter and aperture. It will not meter properly on the DL. It can fire the flash, but the rest of the electronics will not talk to each other.

I started with the Nikon system first, and received the SB-600 for Christmas, I am happy with that setup, but decided not to purchase a dedicated flash for the DL. Buying these used SB-20 is mainly for off camera flash use. It's just a bonus that they actually can be used with the DL.

I have not spent a lot of time reading about the Pentax flashes, I'd suggest checking out Pentax Forum, DPreview, Pentax world, etc.

If you are in the market for one, make sure it has bounce and swivel features. Bounce the flash off a white ceiling makes a big difference. A swivel mode allows you to bounce the light off the wall, or when you switch camera 90 degree to shoot portrait orientation, the swivel then bounce can let you bounce off the ceiling also.

 

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