Nikon SB-700 Flash Specs vs SB-600 and SB-900

What are the new features of the SB-700 over the SB-600 that it replaces and how does it hold up against its big brother SB-900? Together with the specs (combined from various countries’ Nikon websites and now verified through hands-on testing) you’ll find here a side by side comparison post.

SB-700 vs SB-600 vs SB-900

Nikon SB-700 versus SB-600

The SB-700 (shipping since December 2010) is the new mid-range offering from Nikon. It replaces the SB-600 which was introduced back in 2004 and itself replaced the SB-50DX from 2001. It features the same i-TTL technology as the SB-600 but drops all support for previous TTL generations.

Nikon SB-700 vs SB-600

Both speedlights are powerful tools in the camera hot shoe. They offer all the basics plus some advanced features like modeling light and high speed sync (FP sync) but are especially stripped down on the hardware side from the SB-900: no external power pack connector, no PC sync sockets, and a smaller zoom reflector range.

Still – the SB-700 is basically a scaled down version of the flagship model SB-900 and it has a lot more to offer than the SB-600.

Biggest upgrades from the SB-600

  • sensor size detection for higher effective GN with DX cameras (complete data and charts)
  • master mode in AWL wireless i-TTL system (SB-600 works as slave only)
  • clearly improved ergonomics (direct buttons, switches and command dial)
  • optical trigger mode SU-4 (SB-600 lacks a simple optical slave mode)
  • battery compartment is a better design; on the SB-600 the polarity order is weird and my eneloops also get stuck sometimes in their chambers

Other improvements in the SB-700

  • full 360 degrees flash head swivel (270 degrees)
  • comes with 2 color correction filters
  • 3 light distribution patterns
  • longer zoom range at tele end (120 vs 85mm)
  • 14mm coverage with wide-panel (at standard illumination, down to 12mm at center-weighted illumination)
  • 8 stop manual power range down to 1/128 (vs 1/64)
  • built-in reflector card
  • optional water protection
  • more standard accessories (diffusion dome / bouncer SW-14H, incandescent filter SZ-3TN, fluorescent filter SZ-3FL, soft case SS-700, flash stand AS-22)
  • advanced overheating protection

Advantage of SB-600 over SB-700

  • stronger with GN 30 (meters, ISO 100, 35mm reflector; GN is only 28 on SB-700)
  • much cheaper – at least for some time: street price for SB-600 is $220; SB-700 was announced with a $329.95 price tag
  • a bit smaller and lighter (SB-600: 68 x 123.5 x 90mm and 300g; SB-700: 71 x 126 x 104.5mm and 360g)
  • supporting the old D-TTL, plus film-based TTL
  • clearness of its segment type display probably better than dot matrix display of the SB-700 (assuming it’s the same technology as on the SB-900)
  • new flash stand AS-22 looks as cheap as the SB-900′s AS-21 (SB-600 came with AS-19 stand which is much better)

SB-700 vs SB-900

As said above – the SB-700 is a slightly scaled down SB-900 and packed with features.

Nikon SB-700 vs SB-900

It’s actually really surprising how short the list of SB-900 advantages is. Still, the lack of power pack connector and PC sync port make it less practical for professional work.

Main Advantages SB-900 over SB-700

  • more powerful (GN 34 versus 28)
  • PC sync socket (useful for off camera flash)
  • wider zoom range from 17-200mm (12mm with wide panel)
  • external power pack connector
  • multi flash / stroboscopic mode
  • auto exposure mode

Advantages SB-700 over SB-900

  • clearly smaller and lighter (SB-900 is too big)
  • cheaper (SB-900 is at around $440)
  • better solution for color filters (hard plastic vs flimsy gels)
  • thermal cutout mode seems more advanced – slowing down recycle time rather than blocking the whole unit

SB-700 – Verdict

Overall, the SB-700 is a clear step up from the SB-600. What’s especially exciting are the improved ergonomics – everyone who ever switched between AWL and hot shoe mode on the SB-600 knows what I’m talking about. But also the sensor size detection is very welcome for me, although I really don’t welcome the overall GN decrease.

Nikon SB-700

With a GN of 28 it’s on the level of the Yongnuo 460 line (real GN is 29 based on the SB-700 test results). The reduced guide number was to be expected after the same happened with the SB-900 introduction (with GN 34 versus GN 38 in the its predecessor SB-800).

Another great addition is the wireless i-TTL master mode – but this becomes useful only when you are using 2 or more speedlights together. We also need to better understand what “a condensed form of this function has been built into the SB-700″ means – in which ways was it downgraded from SB-900?

The hard plastic gels are also an interesting approach – it’s a pain to fiddle around with gel strips. I’m asking myself however if there are 1/4 and 1/2 CTO versions available and how you would stack them if 3/4 is needed for example. Or 1.5.

But all in all – the SB-700 looks awesome apart from the lower guide number. And the steep price, but it is guaranteed to come down sooner or later. The SB-600 was announced at a similar price point in 2004 as it seems.

Supplied Accessories

Here are finally images of the supplied accessories; together with the speedlight you get:
 
AS-22 Speedlight Stand

SW-14H Nikon Diffusion Dome

SZ-3TN Incandescent Filter

SZ-3FL Fluorescent Filter

SS-700 Soft Case

Further reading

The SB-700 has arrived at the Speedlights.net office!

Nikon SB-700 in-depth review page

Detailed guide number comparison for FX and DX camera bodies between SB-600 and SB-700. The official announcement of the new SB-700 speedlight and partial specs can be found on the Nikon websites. Check out the speedlight specs comparison page for data on all Nikon flash models from 1988 plus data on selected Canon, Metz and Vivitar units.

Compare specs for the Nikon SB-700 with SB-600 specs
Compare Nikon SB-700 specs with SB-900

Where to buy the SB-700

Check amazon, Adorama, B & H Photo and J & R for supplies and prices of the Nikon SB-700. I’ve had mine now for a while and have to say it’s worth the investment.

You can also find the Nikon SB-700 on eBay, together with the SB600 that will be was phased out soon.

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27 Responses to Nikon SB-700 Flash Specs vs SB-600 and SB-900

  1. Pingback: Which flash: SB-600 or SB-700?

  2. degihari says:

    uhh….
    nikon has NOT discontinued the SB-600 speedlight..
    the SB-700 is the replacement of the SB-800

    the SB-900 was never intended to replace that flash, it was inteded to create a new level of flash for nikon

    all 3 flashes (SB-600, SB-700, SB-900) will be in production together. the SB500 (which will be the SB600′s replacement) should be annoounced within a few years. but for now there’s no need to replace it

  3. Poul Madsen says:

    Er diffusion dom SW-14H
    Compatibel med Speedlight SB 600
    Eller er der en bedre løsning

  4. Poul Madsen says:

    Jeg er i tvivl om den sidder fast monteret på flash hovedet og hvordan?
    på SB 600

  5. fransener says:

    Hello Poul

    The flash head of the SB-700 has different dimensions than the SB-600 flash head, and there is also a special fixture on the side that the SB-600 is lacking. So the SW-14H won’t fit on the SB-600. But you can get SB-600 diffusers almost everywhere, branded or unbranded.

  6. Poul Madsen says:

    Hej fransener, tusind tak for dit svar. Jeg kender kun SB 600.

  7. Koen Anno says:

    Hey guys,
    I’m going to buy one of these days a external flash for my Nikon D-80.
    I’m still hesitating between SB-900 and SB-700.
    Can you help me out?
    Thx

    • fransener says:

      If you don’t mind the spend and the huge size, there’s nothing wrong with the SB-900. But why not an SB-600 – it’s a really good flash, and in contrast to the SB-700 available now and should be cheaper than the new SB-700.

  8. Marcus says:

    My friend.

    I just have to thank the service provided.

    You guided me well in my purchase of equipment.

    But I have a problem. I need a TTL flash on the shoe and the other working in radio for the backlight.

    I have a D90 and have no external connection as I bought a shoe TF-322, but it does not fire the radio, when SB 600 is the shoe.

    You know what would be the problem?

    Thanks again and await response.

    Hug.

    Marcus

  9. Lee Seng says:

    Dear Koen,

    This could be a little late in reply but my vote is for the SB-900. (I don’t have a SB-700 and probably will never buy one). Why?
    (These are probably the worst reasons to buy an SB-900…but probably not mentioned in many places)

    1. The case for the SB-700 doesn’t look very useful if you intend to carry the flash in the case around. The SB-900′s case can be belt mounted. It doesn’t look like the SB-700′s soft case was designed for that. (well you could just buy the SB-900 case separately or another flash pouch. I got myself a Thinktank Skin Strobe..)

    2. Although the SB-700′s colour filters are rigid, I do prefer the flexibility of the SB-900′s gel holder. You can literally put ANY colour you want. You can even stack them inside the holder (you will have higher light losses though). Not all tungsten lights are the same and if you are trying to correct for colour balance…these may or may not work for you. You may require other “shades” of the colour like 1/2 CTO or something like Rosco’s Straw.
    I have never had to change any of my SB-800 or SB-900 gels yet after almost 2 years of use (although they have warped, the colour is still even).
    Sure there are workarounds for this too. You can simply tape the gels to your flash, slip it into the flash wide angle diffuser (like the SB-800). Basically what you would do with the flashes that have no holder like Canon, Yongnou, etc..

    However, all these “workarounds” costs EXTRA money…which in the end, you could have just bought a SB-900 for probably not that much more, that comes with all the extra features, power and accessories. Hence my vote for the SB-900.

    Hope this helps.

    • fransener says:

      Hi Lee

      Thx for the comment, you are making some points here (esp with regards to the case, that looks weird indeed). The price of the SB-700 must come down, it does not make sense for it to be so close to the SB-900. The only thing I hope is that they don’t increase the SB-900 price level but that the SB-700 goes down to about Canon 430EX II level, which is $265 at the moment.

      I will get the SB-700 soon and then be able to do tests and live comparisons, stay tuned for updates.

  10. Jeff says:

    The advantage of the SB-700 is commander mode (Master or SLAVE) the SB-600 can only be a slave as it lacks commander mode. This Flash is not for the professional (if pro go with SB-900) this is a flash designed for the newer entry level DSLR D3100/D5000 that do not have commander mode. That is a big plus since the SU-800 is about $250 so why buy that when you can get the SB-700 for $70 more and have a commander mode to remote fire off camera flashes in conjunction with using the SB-700 as your on camera flash.

  11. Bill says:

    I have a SB-600 mounted on a D700. It is a wonderful flash. I do wish it could be a commander and could have external power connectivity. I am looking for a 2nd flash for a 2-flash wireless set up. So I’m debating between the SB-900 and SB-700 as companion for the SB-600. (Sadly and predictably, within a year, I’ll bet I have one of each.)

  12. Rachel says:

    I have the SB 900 and love it, my only problem and I was told it could be fixed with firmware update, but I am not that savvy… is it over heats. I use this on my D300s and I have a SB 600 I use on my back up D200.
    Anyone have any good directions about the firmware or any other fix for the over heating on the SB 900?

  13. amir says:

    Hi

    I just get SB900,before some days when i was taken pictures (continuesly) in
    a wedding,My sb900 was trip,suddenly I was OFF HIS THEMAMETER switch
    then I was take pics again but I was dissapointed when (as usual) after take some more pics I hear
    WARNING BEEP OF FLASH HEATING,due to switch off by myself light was never off but they continuely
    show WARNING LIGHT and BEEPS.I just want know that

    1-Suppose I off my THERMAMETER switch and I take pictures even i get warning beeps or overheating
    warnig light so pls ask me that Is this harmfull for my SB900 or can i take pictures continuesly even
    I get warning beeps…?

    2-My another friends have also this light but they told my that they also take pics continuesly but his light
    was not TRIP,they use NIKON 16-85 lens and I use NIKON 18-135 lens,we both use ISO 400 so why
    his SB900 never trip….?

    3-What I do for taking pictures with my SB900 continuely without TRIP OF LIGHT

    4-I use 18-135 lens ,if i change lens so can i control at this TRIP poroblem…?

    I hope u must guide myself in right way

  14. amir says:

    is nikon sb700 have HEAING PROBLEM same is SB900 OR NOT..?

  15. Scott says:

    I wish your review included the old SB800 which is still on my short list. Ebay offers a constant source of slightly used units that hopefully will become cheaper with the introduction of the SB700.

    • fransener says:

      Hi Scott

      Thanks for the suggestion, and guess what’s on my shopping list! It’s indeed a very interesting comparison since the purchase price is almost the same – you get both for 300+ USD.

  16. Marcus says:

    Fransener hello friend!

    Still with the problem as stated in paragraph 9 of this
    page.

    If you know the solution please help.

    Thank you.

    Marcus

    • fransener says:

      Hi Marcus

      I think there’s no easy solution for your problem – seems to be an issue with that model as I’ve been told.

  17. Égon says:

    Francene Hello, you bought the SB700? What did you think of it? Exceeded their expectations? Indicate buy? I’m asking because I consider buying.

  18. Apterdix says:

    Fransener:
    THANK YOU for the website, It has helped me immensely.
    Perhaps someday I will be a strobist but an SB600 with my D3100 is all I can afford right now. Based on the above what is the least expensive way I could effectively do a 2 or three strobe portraits. Note the D3100 is NOT part of the Nikon CLS.

    • fransener says:

      Hello Apterdix

      Thank you for your feedback, much appreciated! You don’t need a big investment to get started! All you need is a set of radio triggers – 1 transmitter and 1 receiver, e.g. Yongnuo RF-602. For the time being, you can use your SB-600 wireless with this trigger (in manual mode but that’s less of a limitation than you think). In a second step, get another radio receiver plus a Yongnuo YN-460 II or the YN560, and you have your 2-flash setup together.

  19. Len McWilliams says:

    Check out the comparison of overheating behavior of the SB700 vs the SB900:

    http://photo-tips-online.com/test/nikon-sb-700-vs-sb-900-overheating-thermal-cut-out/

    After 120 pops, the testors could not get the SB700 to stop due to overheating.

    The SB900, though its recycle time is slower than the SB700, stopped due to overheating after 35 shots.

  20. Jek says:

    Hi, I’m planning to buy SB-900 for my D5000, I know my camera doesn’t have a commander mode and there’s a lot of features in SB-900 that I won’t able to use, But I’m really tempted to buy SB-900 over SB-700 because of it’s GN, PC sync socket, external power pack connector, zoom range and if I am right I can go Off camera with the SB-900 using cord right?. D5000 is a small camera for SB-900 but a D5000 with a 3rd party battery grip what do you think?. Thank you in Advance.

    • Speedlights says:

      Hi Jek! You won’t make a mistake with the SB-900, so just go ahead and get it if you really like it. The only reco I would make is at least to consider investing the budget for the SB-900 into 2 (or even 3) flashes: you could get for the same money the SB-700 plus a Yongnuo 560 with radio triggers such as RF-602 (1 transmitter and 2 receivers) which allows you to work with a 2-flash setup and wireless flash. Frank

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