Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

Lighting is probably the most important element in photography. It is the factor that makes or breaks a good photo. Most cameras nowadays are equipped with built-in flash units; however the options they provide are limited. Only an external flash unit can provide the photographer with proper creative control over lighting conditions.

The Nikon Speedlight SB-700 is the newest flash unit from Nikon. It is a replacement for the older SB-600 model. The Nikon SB-700 is compact and packed with features. Some of the features from the professional-grade SB-900 have been passed down to this model. Notable features include a streamlined interface, wireless control, illumination pattern modes, multi-step auto zoom up to 120mm, sensor type recognition, and a high-speed recycling time of 2.5 seconds (with NiMH batteries).

Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

Design

In terms of size, the Nikon SB-700 has slightly larger dimensions (2.8 × 5.0 × 4.1 in) compared to the SB-600. However, it looks more like a miniature version of the SB-900 sharing a similar shape and control layout. Overall, build quality is pretty decent for a mid-range product.

The button layout at the back of the unit has been redesigned. The controls are intuitive and easy to use. Some of the control elements are borrowed from the top-of-the-range SB-900. These include a large LCD panel at the back and a control dial below it. To the left and right of the LCD panel are two mode switches which allow the user to change modes without having to dive into the menu.

The SB-700 comes with a built-in bounce card that can be used for bounce flash effects. Additional accessories that come in the package include the Nikon Diffusion Dome to soften the intensity of the flash, as well as fluorescent and incandescent color filters. These color filters are made of hard plastic which are more durable and easier to handle compared to older film-type filters. The SB-700 automatically detects the types of filters in use and adjusts the settings accordingly.

Actual user review:
“I’m a big fan of the Nikon CLS wireless flash system and I have several Nikon speedlights. I figured I’d try an SB700, hoping to get light quality of the SB900 in a smaller, more convenient package. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

Operationally, the SB700 is very similar to the SB900 – mostly the same menus, switches and options. The power, light quality and recycle time are also quite good on the SB700. I get recycle time under 3 seconds with Lithium batteries, and light output seems to be within about 30% of the SB900. The device weighs in at about a pound with batteries and it’s notably smaller than the big brother SB900. Construction quality is about what you’d expect, and there are even optional weather “boots” that cover the hotshoe contact so water can’t seep between the flash and your camera in damp locations.” – Busy Executive (NY,USA)

Features & Performance

The SB-700 has a zoom coverage of 24mm to 120mm using FX-format lenses. The system automatically detects the lens and coverage settings. It can differentiate between FX and DX sensors; thus it will select the correct focal length setting to match the sensor type.

This flash unit utilizes Nikon’s i-TTL (intelligent through-the-lens) metering system. This system works by having the flash unit fire a series of flash bursts to assist the camera in analyzing the scene. The camera’s metering system then processes this information and sends it back to the flash unit, balancing the flash output with the ambient light. The process takes less than a second and greatly eases the photographer’s job

There are three different customizable illumination patterns that a user can choose from. These illumination modes are easily accessible from the switch at the right of the LCD panel. The modes offered are Standard, Center-weighted, and Even. Standard covers most normal lighting situations. Center-weighted is tailored for portraits and situations where light fall-off is not an issue. Even pattern is ideal for group shots and gives sufficient flash coverage without fall-off.

The SB-700 can act as a command unit using the Wireless Commander Mode. This means that it can control an unlimited number of compatible flash units using up to 2 wireless groups. It can also function as a remote unit under another compatible flash unit or an on-camera flash. There are four wireless channels to choose from to provide an interference-free wireless setup.

Additionally, the SB-700 has a built-in feature to prevent damage from overheating. It is called Thermal Cut-out detection, and works by extending the recycling time if it detects a dangerous rise in temperature. This automatic feature kicks in after a prolonged succession of rapid flashes. Normal flash recycling time is 2.5 seconds with NiMH batteries (3 seconds with Alkaline).

Conclusion

Even with its many features, the SB-700 is surprisingly easy to use. The buttons are strategically placed and can be easily reached when mounted on a camera. Most of the functions work automatically and require minimum input from the user. Features like illumination pattern modes and DX / FX sensor recognition make it a formidable flash unit. Furthermore, its versatility is shown by its ability to act as a command unit as well as a remote unit. At its price range, the Nikon SB-700 delivers great value. It will indeed be a welcome addition to any photographer’s collection of gear.

    Average User Rating:

  • The best features of the Nikon SB-700 flash are the smaller size and weight (vs. the SB900); easier to use controls (I hated the SB600/800 controls); and finally the hard plastic snap-on color correction filters. The SB700 is the first Nikon flash I’ve used that seems to get the exposure right on. Normally I have to set the flash exposure to -0.7 to get what I consider a normal exposure. I do not have to do this on the SB700.

    I think the SB700 will become the de facto standard flash. Bottom line: if you are in the market for a Nikon flash – buy this one!” – R.Ohara (USA)

  • This is one of the best flash I ever used. very photographer should have one in his camera bag. I strongly recommend the SB 700.” – Leslybardet (NY, USA)

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