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Manual Flash Recommendation?

Chip Chipowski , May 24, 2012; 02:09 p.m.

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.


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Stephen Lewis , May 24, 2012; 02:20 p.m.

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.

Robert Hooper , May 24, 2012; 02:31 p.m.

Jon Porter , May 24, 2012; 02:33 p.m.

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.

Peter Hamm , May 24, 2012; 04:09 p.m.

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.

Henry Posner , May 24, 2012; 04:09 p.m.

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

Frank Skomial , May 24, 2012; 04:16 p.m.

If SB700 and SB600 are too expensive, see if SB400 is for your price range?

Craig Shearman , May 24, 2012; 04:23 p.m.

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 www.strobist.com 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.

Mike Blume , May 24, 2012; 05:24 p.m.

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.

Jerry Litynski , May 24, 2012; 05:41 p.m.

"...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.

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