Strobist Nikon SB-28


The SB-28 is one of the most loved strobist flashes on the market, and that’s for a reason: it is strong, powerful, versatile and super reliable.

Nikon SB28 SB-28 Speedlight

Strobist Must-Haves

The minimum requirements are (1) a full manual mode that goes down in several steps to at least 1/16 power, (2) the ability to fire the flash unit with X-contact only without using additional pins or another reliable triggering option such as a PC synch socket (an optical slave is not a reliable option). Lastly, (3) a standby mode which can be switched off is needed, as wireless flash triggers do not wake up sleeping flashes as cameras do. Obviously, having no standby mode is an advantage for strobists!

  • manual mode
    • has manual mode: yes
    • minimum manual power: 1/64
    • all full stops from 1/1 to 1/64: yes
  • X contact firing: yes
  • flash standby mode: can be deactivated

Verdict: AAA-


For triggering, there are basically 2 options: the standard compatible flash foot and a PC terminal like on all pro grade Nikon speedlights. The flash foot can be fired via X-contact i.e. without usage of the other pins – easy radio triggering guaranteed. The low trigger voltage of 2V means no risk for triggers or cameras. You should prefer flash units with a safe trigger voltage if you ever think about putting the flash directly on the camera, and a standard ISO foot, which just means to keep your fingers off Minolta / Sony flashes that use another interface.

Manual Mode

The Nikon 28 offers a rather wide range of manual power settings: To activate the manual mode, press the “Mode” button until you see an “M” in the display. You then can choose the desired output level with the “+” and “-” buttons, from 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/2(-1/3) – 1/2(-2/3) down to 1/64, which means a range of 7 f-stops. Like some other Nikons, there are no intermediate levels available between full power and half, but third stops when going down further.


The SB-28 has a standby mode, but luckily it can be switched off: Turn the flash off. Then press and hold the MODE button and turn the unit on. This changes the standby-setting, which is by default 80 seconds. So what you can have is either 80 seconds standby or no standby at all – which is what we want.

Flash Head

6 different zoom settings: 24 – 28 – 35 – 50 – 70 – 85 mm. With its built in wide angle diffusor, you come down to a minimum of 18 mm coverage (there is also a 20mm setting with the diffusor). To activate manual zoom, press the “Zoom” and the “+” button together for 2 seconds.There is no 2nd reflector, but an additional LED at the front side that can be used to reduce the red-eye effect with direct lighting. This feature is controlled from the camera and does not work with all models (e.g. not compatible with F5).

Output specifications

The guide number is specified as 36 at ISO 100 in the 35 mm reflector position. At 18mm – with diffusor – it reaches 18, whereas the number rises to 50 in the 85 mm position. With full power, flash duration is 1/840 and the flash recycles in 6.5 seconds with AA batteries. With one of Nikon’s external power packs attached, recycling time goes down to 2.0 – 4.5 seconds (with SD-8/a or SK-6/a). With an SD-7 and 6 AA batteries, recycling time is 2.5 seconds.

The handbook states that it can fire up to 30 bursts in a row with 6 frames per second at the 1/64 power level.

Power Supply

Apart from being powered by 4 x AA, the Nikon SB-28 / Nikon SB-28DX has a plug for an external Nikon battery pack. Please not that these interfaces look differently for the European vs the international version. The latter can be powered by an SD-7, SD-8 and the flash bracket SK-6. European models need to be powered by SD-8a or SK-6a, but there is no SD-7 in a European version specified.


The SB-28DX, announced in 1999, is a modernized version of the 28 model, but the only real difference is that it features Nikon’s D-TTL flash system which was used together with the first generation of digital cameras. The 28DX even has the same instruction manual as the 28 model with an extra leaflet attached explaining just the one new feature. D-TTL is useless today, as it’s been replaced by i-TTL which was introduced with the SB-800 in 2003, and which has a much better reputation among photographers. So for practical strobist use, there is no difference between the 2 flash models, and for people looking for an i-TTL lash there is also no difference: no i-TTL in either of the two.

Full Tech Specs

Model Information
Brand Nikon
Model SB-28
First introduction 1997
Successor SB-28DX
Output Specs
Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
Guide number test result ?
Manual power settings 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64
Flash duration (full power) 1/840
Recycle time spec
(at full power)
6.5 sec alkaline, 4 sec NiMH
Recycle time test result ?
Flash foot material, type plastic, standard ISO (Nikon)
PC Sync Port yes
Optical Slave no
Other Trigger no
Trigger Voltage 2 V
Standby Mode can be deactivated
Flash Head Features
Swivel -180 to +90 degrees
Tilt -7 to +90 degrees
Manual Zoom Head (18) 24 – 85
Auto Zoom (18) 24 – 85
Bounce card / 2nd reflector yes / no
LCD Display yes
Power Supply
Batteries Used 4 x AA
External Power Source US: SD-7, SD-8, SK-6. EU: SD-8a or SK-6a
Nikon TTL
D-TTL no
i-TTL no
CLS Wireless Slave no
CLS Wireless Master no
Canon TTL
E-TTL(II) na
E-TTL(II) wireless slave na
E-TTL(II) wireless master na
Other Flash Modes
Stroboscopic Mode yes
Auto Mode yes
TTL Features
AF Assist Light yes
Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit -3 to +1 (1/3 steps)
Rear Curtain Synchronization yes
High Speed Synchronization yes
Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc) no
Modeling Light no
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