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