Nissin Di-866 Flash Review

Di866 for Nikon D90The Nissin Di866 flash is a professional flash and constitutes a lower priced alternative to the flagship models 580EX II from Canon and the Nikon SB-900.

It’s a lot cheaper (by more than $150) but still fully loaded with professional features like wireless master mode, PC sync port and an external power connector.

The flash was introduced in 2008 as Nissin’s top speedlite model. Mid-range offerings include the Di622 / Di622 Mark II, as well as the Di466 (which is positioned between entry-level and mid-range, technically).

Other alternatives to 580EX II / SB-900 include the discontinued flashes 580EX from Canon and Nikon SB-800, as well as Metz 58 AF-2 or AF-1, and the “Super” variants of the EF-610 or EF-530 speedlites from Sigma.

The Di866 under review here is the world’s first flash with a color LCD, and it’s fully controlled through the menu system with minimized hard buttons. This works surprisingly well – see the “Operation” section and video demo further below.
 

Nissin Di866 Highlights

  • highest guide number of any dedicated shoe-mount flash
  • wide variety of supported flash modes: TTL, A, M, Multi
  • integrated in Canon / Nikon digital TTL systems
  • wireless TTL slave mode and master mode
  • PC sync port, optical 2 slave modes
  • second fill reflector on front side

 
The Nissin Di866 is being phased out and replaced with the improved model Di866-II. The new flash comes with a number of improvement such as a metal flash foot or more sensitive wireless sensor: check out the Nissin Di866-II info page.
 

Compatible Camera Bodies

The following table displays the compatibility info from Nissin. For the speedlights.net testing, it was used together with Nikon D80 and D90 camera bodies.

Canon cameras Nikon cameras
fully functional with
  • 1D Mark IV, 1D Mark III, 1D Mark II N, 1D Mark II
  • 5D Mark II, 7D (with updated firmware), 5D
  • 60D, 50D, 40D, 30D, 20D, 10D
  • 550D (Rebel T2i), 500D (Rebel T1i), 450D (Rebel XSi), 400D (Rebel XTi), 350D (Rebel XT), 300D (Rebel X)
  • 1000D (Rebel XS/Kiss F).
compatible with
  • D3X, D3s, D3, D2Xs
  • D700
  • D300s, D300, D200
  • D90, D80, D70s, D70, D7000
  • D3100, D3000, D5000, D60, D50, D40X, D40
  • Fuji FINEPIX S5 Pro

See the Nissin compatibility page for updates and infos on the latest camera bodies, e.g. 600D / T3i, or 1100D.

Flash Modes

The Di866 offers the full range of flash modes also available on 580EX II / SB-900, from TTL and “auto” to manual and multi (stroboscopic) mode. Simply press the “Set” button to access the home screen with 6 icons representing the flash modes described here.

A – Full auto mode

Nissin Di866 full autoUse this mode if you don’t want to think about any settings on the flash: the “A” mode on the Di866 corresponds to the green auto mode on a Canon or Nikon camera body.

Everything is automatic, there are no options to change and nothing to adjust by the user. Stay away from this flash mode if you want to learn lighting and become a better photographer. But it might be useful when handing the camera to another person as it helps prevent accidental changes of flash settings.

TTL

Di866 TTL Mode ScreenThis mode should be your default for flash photography in the camera hot shoe (unless you prefer manual mode). It’s the same as “A” in a way that the camera controls all settings.

The difference is that you have the option to override the computer.

You can set a flash exposure compensation if necessary, switch to manual zoom and activate the small secondary flash reflector on the front side.

M / Av

Nissin Di866 M / Av Flash Mode“M” and “Av” are 2 different flash modes, but grouped together under one icon.

“M” is the full manual mode where you decide on the amount of light thrown at the subject. From mode “M”, you can also select one part of the wireless slave options, which is the optical i.e. non-TTL slave modes “SF” and “SD”.

“Av” is what’s normally called an auto mode in the speedlighting world. In auto mode, the flash receives the firing signal from the camera body, but it regulates its own flash output independently, using a small measurement sensor at the front side. “Av” is nothing you’d ever use under normal circumstances but more a relic from the past.

Multi

Nissin Di866 strobo modeMulti flash mode is also known as “repeating flash” or “stroboscopic flash” and another flash mode nobody really needs.

But if you want you can set a power level between 1/8 and 1/128, choose a frequency of up to 90Hz and decide on a setting for the number of flashes to be fired between 1 and 90.

With these settings and an appropriate (slow) shutter speed you can illustrate the motion sequence of a moving object, e.g. a gymnast or skateboarder.

Wireless Flash

The Di866 offers a variety of options for wireless flash – more than what Canon or Nikon flashes have built in.

Nissin Di866 wireless modeFirst there is the dedicated wireless slave and wireless master mode, both accessed through the wireless flash menu displayed on the screen shot.

In wireless master mode “M“, the Di866 controls other remote speedlites in a multi-flash setup so that they fire together. “R” stands for the remote slave mode within the camera manufacturers’ wireless systems, called “AWL” in the case of Nikon, and simply “wireless flash” in the Canon camp.

Another option is triggering the flash through the flash foot’s x-sync contact with radio triggers. You can also plug a cable into the PC sync socket and trigger the flash that way (see further below).

Finally, you have 2 optical slaves modes at your disposal: a simple slave mode (“SF”) and a digital slave mode “SD” that’s capable of ignoring the pre-flashes used for digital TTL metering systems.
 

Basic information
Brand Nissin
Model Di866
Class professional
Cost (USD) 280
First introduction 2008
Successor Di866 Mark II
Canon compatibility
Compatible with Canon cameras (E-TTL(II)) yes if Canon version
Supported Canon flash modes ETTL(II), A, M, Multi
Canon wireless TTL slave / master yes if Canon version / yes if Canon version
Nikon compatibility
Compatible with Nikon cameras (CLS / i-TTL) yes if Nikon version
Supported Nikon flash modes i-TTL, A, M, Multi
Nikon wireless TTL slave / master yes if Nikon version / yes if Nikon version
Manual mode
Manual power settings (on the flash) 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 – 1/128

 

Supplied Accessories

Let’s start the actual review with a look at the accessories that come shipped with the flash.

Nissin Di866 Accessories review

Nissin’s professional line speedlight comes in the usual cardboard packaging. Inside the box you find:

  • the flash unit with official GN 40 (35mm)
  • soft pouch
  • flash stand
  • 1-page quick reference guide
  • user manual on mini CD
  • warranty card from Minox USA

The soft pouch looks like the soft cases coming with Canon (e.g. 430EX II) or Nikon (SB-600) flashes at first sight. It’s made of robust black fabric, with a belt loop on the back and a velcro closure.

What’s missing is any padding between the outer layers, so the Nissin pouch is rather thin in comparison. There’s also no inner pocket for the flash stand or other accessories, so these need to be stored separately.

It’s not a given that flashes always come with a stand so it’s good to see it included. The flash stand bundled with the Di866 is very nicely made, with pin hole in the shoe mount and a metal tripod thread on the bottom.

The quick reference guide explains powering on, setting flash mode and access to the custom settings. It’s easy to carry around since this is only 1 page and not a whole booklet, but you’ll probably find that even unnecessary since the big Nissin is pretty easy to use.

More detailed information can be found in the complete 38-page instruction manual on the CD. No problem if you don’t have a CD drive, the Di-866 manual can also be obtained from the Nissin website.

The last item shipped in the box is a 1-year US warranty card. Nissin partners with Minox USA (located in Meriden NH) for warranty fulfillment, that’s why you’ll see there both the Nissin as well as the Minox name.

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version of the box contents.

Di866 FrontDi866 Soft PouchNissin Di866 Flash Stand
Di866 QuickGuideNissin Di866 Full Instruction ManualNissin Di866 Warranty Card

Build Quality

The Di866 model from Nissin is the top-grade flash in the lineup and marketed as “professional”. Incumbents in this segment like the Canon 580EX II or Nikon SB-900 are on a high quality level, so the “professional” label creates expectations not only regarding the feature set, but also in terms of the quality of the build and the materials used.

Casing

The Di866 is a big flash, comparable in size to SB-900 (picture left) and 580EX II (right). The design is very clean and timeless, you could even call it elegant. The plastic has a thick and high quality feel, the finishing is very good. Everything feels right and well made without compromise.

The solid weight of 380 grams without batteries, also comparable to the Canon (405 g) and Nikon (415 g) high-end units, adds to the feeling of solidity.

Flash foot

Nissin still uses a plastic flash foot today while Canon, Nikon, and also Yongnuo (as of 2011) have switched over to metal base plates over the years.

Nissin Di866 Flash FootBut there is nothing wrong with plastic, it even has some advantage: would you rather see your camera accessory shoe break in case of an accident or the foot of the flash? Good detail of the construction is that the whole base section can be replaced.

What’s special about the flash foot on the Di866 is that it seems a bit thicker than average for speedlites. On the one hand, this leads to tighter hot she fit which is a good thing.

On the other hand more force is required to install and remove from Cactus V4 receivers for example, and the same will hold true for certain other shoe mounts.

Di866 Locking Wheel on CamIn contrast to the latest flash models from Canon and Nikon, there is no quick release lever to attach the flash in the camera accessory shoe. Instead, you get a traditional locking wheel.

With the additional lock from the wheel the flash sits more firmly in the camera accessory shoe than what the lever based designs can provide – it feels that Nikon flashes have even slightly more play in the accessory shoe than Canon’s speedlites.

In the case of the Nissin, the tighter hot shoe fit of the wheel based design makes up for the slightly slower operation. The wheel used on the Di866 has a good size and allows smooth operation.

External interfaces

Nissin Di866 PC USB Power PackOn the left side of the flash body is a rubber flap protecting the 3 connection ports. Top right is the mini USB connector for firmware updates by the user (other Nissin speedlites need to be sent in for updates).

Top left is the non-threaded PC sync jack for connecting flash trigger cables.

To qualify as “professional” an external power connector is needed, and and that’s what the port at the bottom is for. The photo shows the version with the Nikon connector, the Canon version uses a different plug layout.

Operation

The control interface of the Di866 is unique – and that’s meant in a positive sense.

Controls

Apart from the cursor buttons and “Set” key there are only 2 other control elements.

Di866 Buttons ControllerThe first is the “On/Off” switch that doubles down as button lock, and the other one is the color coded “Pilot” test flash button. Green LED means fully recycled and ready to fire, red LED signals the recharge. Apart from the “Pilot” key there is no illumination for the controls of the Nissin Di866.

The dominant element on the back is the 4-way controller with the “Set” key in the center. All flash modes, zoom steps, and custom features are selected through the menu system, and this works very well after getting used to. The experience is similar to navigating through a camera’s menu system.

The controller squeaks a bit when pressing on the bottom right corner, but the keys have well defined pressure points and a very large size so they are easy to use even with the biggest hands.

The biggest concern about the control system is that the flash has a noticeable response time. There is a small delay between pressing a button and the setting taking effect. This delay is not long, only a fraction of a second. But the flash is definitely not as snappy as a new generation iphone, it feels more like the original iphone model from today’s perspective.

Access to the sub-menus from the flash mode screens requires a 2-second long press of the “Set” button, which is another factor limiting the speed of operation.

Color LCD Display

The square shaped color LCD panel is small, but don’t let that fool you. The color coding, clear iconography and the design principle of only showing what’s contextually relevant lead to a great ease of use, without the information overload the SB-900 suffers from.
 

 
The video shows navigating the menu system to set flash exposure compensation in TTL, switch to manual mode with power setting and manual zoom, and activating modeling light in the custom features menu.

Custom Settings Menu

Nissin Di866 Custom SettingsThe 6th icon on the home screen with the wrench symbol is the general custom feature menu for mode-independent adjustments like flash calibration for an adjustment of the default output, modeling light activation through the test-flash button, changing the display units from feet to meter, activate or prevent auto-rotation of the screen.

It also lets you change the power-off time for the flash, but the standby can’t be completely deactivated (luckily the flash still works fine with the RF-602 and Cactus V4 radio triggers). Lastly, you find a “reset” feature in the custom settings menu.

Power Supply

In the case of the Nissin Di866, two kinds of power sources can be used: internal batteries, and external battery or power packs.

Battery magazine

There is no conventional battery compartment on the Di866, but instead you get a removable battery magazine. The battery holder is unlocked by sliding the cover down, and then you simply pull out the tray holding 4 AA size cells.

Nissin Di866 battery holder with 4 NiMH cells

You can use alkaline batteries but rechargeable NiMH cells like Sanyo eneloop are the preferred solution to maximize the number of flashes per charge, reduce recycle time and last but not least for environmental concerns.

Nissin Di866 battery holder NDBM01 negative contactCompared to other battery magazine solution like the Metz 45 series or the Vivitar 285HV the Nissin design is better in a way that it’s easier to load the cells and easier to insert the magazine in the flash body.

A little weakness is that the metal contacts on the negative pole appear to bend easily, and they also leave some scratch marks on the coating of my eneloop AA’s.

Spare battery magazines (Nissin NDBM01 Battery Compartment) are available from amazon for a rather hefty price of $20.

Power Pack

The Nikon version of the Di866 can be used with the Nissin Power Pack PS-300 (available on eBay) with Nikon cable or with the Nikon battery pack SD-8a. It’s not clear whether Nikon’s SD-9 is compatible – the instruction manual and the Nissin website are contradicting each other in that point – please drop me a line of you have the answer!

For the Canon version, the Nissin PS-300 pack with Canon cable or a Canon battery pack CP-E4 can be used. Another option is the Yongnuo SF-18 in the respective Canon or Nikon version.

All these external power sources shorten the charge time and increase your capacity compared to internal batteries, but they’re not needed for hobbyist use.

Flash Head

The Di866 has a large flash head with basically the same dimensions as Canon 580 and Nikon SB-900.

Di866 with SB-900 and 580EX II

The front screen is a bit smaller than the SB-900. It’s almost the same size as the Canon (and Yongnuo 560) screen but less rounded, that’s why the diffuser for these flashes doesn’t fit. It appears however that a Sony HVL-F58AM diffuser can be used.

Nissin Di866 front screen large

Adjustment

Nissin Di866 Swivel and TiltThe flash head is not secured with a safety lock and can be moved around without pressing on a release button. There is enough resistance to prevent any inadvertent adjustment, and the head nicely snaps into the predefined steps (45 deg, 60 deg etc).

The head can be swiveled from -90 to +180 degrees (usually, flash heads go from -180 to +90). In the vertical axis a position between zero and +90 degrees can be set.

What’s missing is a close-up position (typically minus 7 degrees tilt) for the flash head, and it should also be noted that other professional speedlights including the latest Canon and Nikon units allow a full 360 degrees swivel instead of the 270 degrees on the Di866.

Bounce card

Integrated in the flash head, just above the wide panel, is a bounce card. These business card sized plastic cards are useful with indirect flash shooting, since they reflect a part of the light back at the subject to prevent deep & ugly eye shadows.

Di866 Bounce Card

Sub-flash

Di866 with sub-flashFor the same purpose, to help with more even light for bounced flash, there is a small secondary flash tube built into the Nissin. This feature is not available from Canon or Nikon, only Metz offers auxiliary flash reflectors in their professional line, e.g. the 58 AF-2.

This sub-flash with GN 12 (Nissin specs) can be switched off in the custom menu, or set to levels between 1/1 and 1/8 power for the Nikon version of the flash (with current firmware version “4″). At short distance and with the 1/8 setting there’s still a lot of light thrown at the subject.

A more useful range down to 1/32 is only available on the Canon version of the Di866, strangely enough.

Wide angle coverage

Integrated in the flash head is also a wide flash panel. The construction seems pretty solid, this is also true for the reflector card mentioned above.

Nissin Di866 flash head with wide panel

When it’s pulled out the coverage extends from 24mm to 18mm for full frame cameras which equals around 12mm for APS-C sensors (Nikon DX e.g. D3000 or D7000 / Canon EF-S camera bodies like the Rebel series).

Nissin Di866 wide angle vignetting testThe wide angle coverage is a bit lower than what’s offered by the competition which is typically 12mm to 14mm for full frame. But this seems true only on paper.

In the test with a 12mm DX lens on the Nikon D90, the light falloff towards the corners is definitely not stronger than on the Nikon SB-600 (official coverage 14mm) for example, and better than on Nissin’s own Di622 Mark II (official coverage 16mm).

Auto Zoom

Di866 105mm ZoomThe flash head reflector covers a range of 24mm to 105mm for full frame camera bodies or 16mm to 70mm for APS-C. The zoom steps are 24mm, 28, 35, 50, 70, 85 and 105mm and displayed on the LCD screen.

The auto zoom is fast and not too loud (but not too silent either). There is no sensor size detection available on the Nissin, which means it always maintains proper coverage for a full frame sensor. This, in theory, wastes a bit of light with EF-S / DX camera bodies.

Given the super strong guide number of the Nissin it’s not a problem in real life shooting at all. At the same time, the slightly wider coverage for these camera types leads to a more even coverage and less vignetting in the frame.

Auto zoom is available in all flash modes except the 3 wireless slave modes where it wouldn’t make sense.

The flash zooms with the lens even when tilted or swiveled – this is the “Nikon approach”. Other manufacturers including Canon and Metz move the reflector to a fixed 50mm position in that case. If you don’t like the zooming on the Di866 you can always switch over to manual zoom.

Manual Zoom

Di866 in mode TTL custom features menu with zoom mode selectionManual zoom is available in all flash modes except the green “A” or “full auto” TTL mode (where any manual adjustment is left out on purpose).

From “TTL”, “M” or “Av” mode with auto zoom simply press the “Set” button for 2 seconds, and set “auto zoom” to “off” in the custom feature menu.

Then, back on the main flash menu screen, a manual zoom step can be easily set simply by pressing the “up” or “down” cursor key (there is no “OK” or “Set” button needed to confirm which makes this super fast).

In wireless master or slave and multi flash mode the zoom reflector adjustment setting is always displayed on the main screen.

Flash Output and Guide Number Testing

The guide number (GN) of an electronic flash is a measure of the maximum light output – visit the test details page to learn more.

The picture below shows some of the test candidates for speedlights.net guide number tests: Nissin Di622 Mark II on the left, Nissin Di866 in the middle, and Nikon SB-800 on the right side.

Di866 vs SB-800 vs Di-622-II

The Di866 with official GN of 40 (meters, 35mm zoom) is the strongest shoe-mount flash you can buy today for a Canon or Nikon DSLR. But official specifications are not always the truth as guide number specs are often inflated.

Official Specification GN 40 / 60

Nissin’s advertising uses a guide number of 60 which is the value for the 105mm maximum zoom setting of the flash head. The 580 series from Canon (image center) has a max GN of 58 at 105mm whereas the Nikon’s SB-900 (image left) reaches only GN 56 despite the 200m zoom head.

Nissin Di866 vs 580EX ii SB-900

What’s more important for real life shooting is the wide angle zone. Therefore, 35mm is the reference setting on Speedlights.net. According to the official data, the SB-900 has GN 34 at 35mm, the 580EX II has GN 36 and the Nissin has 40 GN as mentioned above. The tests will show how things look like in reality.

Flash Meter Results

For the Di866, the light meter in the standard test reads f22 + 7 tenths when fired at full power. This is the highest 35mm value achieved to date for a digital TTL flash, together with the result for the discontinued SB-800 from Nikon. The Canon 580EX Mark 2 is closely behind with a reading of f22 +6/10 while Nikon’s current professional speedlight SB-900 has almost 1/2 stop less with f22 and 3 tenths.

Model Light meter reading
Nissin Di866 f22 +7/10
Nikon SB-800 f22 +7/10
Canon 580EX II f22 +6/10
Nissin Di622 Mark II f22 +4/10
Nikon SB-900 f22 +3/10
Canon 430EX II f22 +2/10
Nikon SB-600 f16 +9/10
Nikon SB-700 f16 +7/10

 

Within the mid-range flashes there’s another Nissin model at the top of the crowd, the Di622 Mark II, closely followed by the 430EX II from Canon and the old and new mid-size Nikon flashes SB-600 and SB-700.

Guide Number Table for Nissin Di866

The calculated guide number is obtained by adding exactly 1 f-stop to the flash meter test results. Learn more about this method on the test details page.

The f22 plus 7/10th from testing translates into a calculated guide number of 40.8, so the official specs are not inflated. Even with wide panel the Di866 still reaches GN 23.4, and at the 105mm tele end the guide number goes up to 59.7 – so it’s true to the specs!

Nissin Di866 guide number table
 
The high guide number not only allows a long range with direct flash, but also means plenty of power for bounced flash, even when reflective surfaces are not plain white or at a distance.

And remember that guide number doubles with every 2 ISO steps. At ISO 400 you can work with an effective guide number of 80 (meters) at the 35mm position or GN 120 with a 105mm lens.

Speedlights Power Index

The light blue bar in the Speedlights.net Power Index shows the official 35mm-GN, and the dark blue bar indicates the test results. Go to the test details page for more information on the Speedlights.net Power Index.

Nissin’s Di866 shares the top position in the current version of the Power Index for digital TTL flashes with the discontinued SB-800 from Nikon, closely followed by the Canon 580EX II. It is the most powerful dedicated Canon / Nikon speedlite available on the market today with digital TTL support.

Speedlights.net digital TTL flash power index

Output Range

On paper there is a wide 7 stop range between full power and the 1/128 minimum setting. In the test this range can’t be completely achieved, the effective range is lower with 6.6 stops. It’s a common pattern that official range and tested range don’t quite match up, the Nikon SB-700 for example has exactly the same 6.6 stop result with an official 7 stop range.
 

Nissin Di866 output range spec Output range from tests
7 stops 6.6 stops

 
What’s less consistent in the metering are the individual power steps in between. In theory there’s always one full stop between 1/1 and 1/2, between 1/2 and 1/4, and so on.

In reality, there’s only 4/10th of a stop between 1/1 and 1/2 on the test unit. And then, between 1/2 and 1/4 there is 1 stop plus 2/10th. The biggest gap however is between 1/8 and 1/16. Again, this is 1 stop in theory, but on the Nissin you get almost 2 full stops decrement.

Continuous Shooting Output

The procedure for guide number tests requires a 60 seconds waiting time between the flashes. That’s to make sure the capacitor is really 100% recharged. In reality you don’t always have a minute. There are moments where one flash after the other needs to be fired off – just think of a wedding shoot.

To test the rapid fire output consecutive flash shots get fired immediately after the “ready light” comes back on after the previous full power pop. For this minimum recycle time scenario the guide number is then determined.
 

Model Calc. guide number at 60 sec wait Calc. guide number at continuous fire Difference in f-stops
Nissin Di866 40.8 34.3 -5/10
Nikon SB-800 40.8 30.9 -8/10
Canon 580EX II 39.4 34.3 -4/10
Nikon SB-900 35.5 29.9 -5/10

 
As can be seen from the data, there is always a difference, no matter what model is used. It simply makes sense to allow the next shot a bit faster, even if the capacitor is not at 100% yet. The alternative would be a longer waiting time, and that’s not desired either.

With half of a stop loss the Di866 is in the typical range for this test which means the Nissin engineers have adopted the industry standard.

Recycle Times

Modern flashes have full-power recycle times between 2 and 6 seconds, depending on their maximum power and battery type. Speedlights.net recycle times are tested according to ISO 2827; see details.

The high guide number comes at a price: in the highest power setting recycle time is very long, especially with alkaline cells. It’s definitely recommended to use NiMH batteries for this flash. With Sanyo eneloops the average recycle time goes down to an acceptable value of 5.8 seconds.

Nissin Di866 flash recycle time

At lower power settings, and these are the ones you’ll be typically using, recycle is faster so this is probably more of a theoretical problem. The recycle time test with NiMH batteries can be seen in the video clip (which also shows the battery loading).
 


 

Overheating Protection

A thermal cut-off function is not mentioned in the instruction manual, but Nissin has confirmed the feature is present. Depending on the heat generated by a fast series of high power flashes the Di866 locks down to prevent any damage to the unit.

The sensitivity of thermal cut-off seems to be better solved than on the Nikon SB-900 which received a lot of criticism for locking down too fast (it also happened in test series for the site). The Di866 didn’t cause any problems in the testing and shooting, and there are also not many problem reports to be found on the web.

Flash Duration

Di866 Flash Duration Broncolor FCC Flash duration is the time between the beginning of the flash and the end of the light emission. Go to the speedlite test methodology page for information on t0.5 versus t0.1 flash durations and the method used here on the site.

Di866 Flash Duration Compared

The table displays measurement results for the Nissin Di866 and other shoe mount flashes. There is not much difference between the models below (they all use the same IGBT technology), but stronger flashes tend to have a longer flash duration. The 1/200 sec for the model under review is at the longer end, less powerful flashes like the Yongnuo YN-465 have a shorter duration.
 

Model t0.1 flash duration metering at 1/1
Nissin Di866 1/200
Canon 580EX II 1/285
Nissin Di622 Mark II 1/375
Nikon SB-900 1/230
Canon 430EX II 1/350
Metz 48 AF-1 1/230
Nikon SB-600 1/265
Yongnuo YN-465 1/375

 

t0.1 Flash Duration Times

In the next table you can see test results for the partial output levels down to the minimum setting of 1/128. Nissin’s official specs are listed in the 2nd column, the metering results are listed in column 3.
 

Output level Manufacturer spec t0.1 metering
1/1 1/600 1/200
1/2 1/900 1/435
1/4 1/1500 1/1230
1/8 1/3200 1/1870
1/16 1/5000 1/4900
1/32 1/9000 1/5250
1/64 1/15000 1/6000
1/128 1/22000 <1/8000

 
What’s striking here is the long duration for the half power setting, both in the official specs and the test results. But this fits together with the output range anomaly mentioned above, where the difference between the 1/1 setting and the 1/2 step is not a full stop, but only 4/10th of a stop.

Tech Specs

Following is the table with more specifications versus test results from the Nissin Di866 review. More information on wireless flash, TTL and hot shoe performance can be found in upcoming parts of the Di866 review.
 

Model Information
Brand Nissin
Model Di866
First introduction 2008
Successor Di866 Mark II
Output Specs
Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
40
Guide number test result 41
Manual power settings 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 – 1/128
Flash duration (full power) 1/300
Recycle time spec
(at full power)
5.5 sec alkaline
Recycle time test result 8.2 sec alkaline, 5.8 sec NiMH
Triggering
Flash foot material, type plastic, standard ISO
PC Sync Port yes
Optical Slave 2 modes (simple mode and digital TTL mode)
Other Trigger wireless TTL slave mode
Trigger Voltage 3.77 V (measured)
Standby Mode can be deactivated
Flash Head Features
Swivel -90 to +180 degrees
Tilt 0 to +90 degrees
Manual Zoom Head (18) 24 – 105
Auto Zoom (18) 24 – 105
Bounce card / 2nd reflector yes / yes (can be adjusted and switched off)
LCD Display yes (color LCD)
Power Supply
Batteries Used 4 x AA
External Power Source Nissin PS 300, Canon CP-E4 / Nikon SD-9/ SD-8a
Nikon TTL
D-TTL no
i-TTL yes if Nikon version
CLS Wireless Slave yes if Nikon version
CLS Wireless Master yes if Nikon version
Canon TTL
E-TTL(II) yes if Canon version
E-TTL(II) wireless slave yes if Canon version
E-TTL(II) wireless master yes if Canon version
Other Flash Modes
Stroboscopic Mode yes
Auto Mode yes
TTL Features
AF Assist Light yes (dual LED)
Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit -3 to +3 EV
Rear Curtain Synchronization yes
High Speed Synchronization yes
Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc) no
Modeling Light yes

 

Where to buy the Di866

Nissin’s flagship model speedlite is available at prices starting at $280 – much less than what you pay for a Canon 580EX II or the Nikon SB-900. It’s even cheaper than a used SB-800 or 580EX (Mark I).

Get your flash from Adorama, amazon or eBay. There are units with official warranty and gray imports on the market with different pricing. It helps the site if you buy through these links. Thank you.

 


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32 Responses to Nissin Di-866 Flash Review

  1. Hans says:

    Nice review! Does this flash do Nikon DTTL? Or do you know of any new flash that does work with a film Nikon in TTL mode?

  2. Notxorc says:

    Please comment on battery life using standard alkalines.
    I tested this on my own unit and found the following:
    Flash setting:
    Full power – Manual mode; no subflash
    25 flashes – overheating; green pilot light illuminates but allows no flash.
    30 flashes – dim ghost flashes appear when pilot button pressed
    31 flashes – ‘battery low’ warning first appears; batteries very warm to touch
    36 flashes – batteries allowed to cool; necessary to power off/on to restore single-flash functionality
    60 flashes – screen dims
    61 flashes – unit powers off before flash can fire

    The manual states “150-3000″ flashes per set of alkaline batteries.
    Thanks!

  3. VisX says:

    I bought 2 866 in April 2010. In December last year, one of them malfunctions. It will always flash in full power. Sent in for a repair. And the dealer returned me a brand new copy. The new flash is slightly improved over the older one where the rubber door can rotate “away” and not blocking the connectors.
    It is a nice flash, especially for the price.

    • fransener says:

      Hi there – thanks for the feedback, I had bought my Di866 mid last year, as you can see from the rubber door design. It’s good they improved this point. Did you notice any other differences worth mentioning?

  4. VisX says:

    That is the only thing I found. And I don’t know if you have mentioned it – the flash does not have high speed sync function.

  5. lucfrance says:

    May I ask some questions, and sorry for my poor english langage…
    First, thank you very much for all these very interresting revues
    Concerning the Di866, I thought I’ve red that the unit came in stand-by mode after a while. I sometimes need to use my external SB600 (used with D90) so that it is not possible to reach it, because during a danse competition, it is far from me, at a place where I cannot go during the competition. If I take no picture during let’s say 1 hour, is it possible anyway to reactive the Di866 without need to physically manipulate it?
    I found no answer about this particular poing
    thant you is someone would have an answer
    I’m afraid my SB600 has to be replaced, and the Di866 seems so attractive
    Luc

    • fransener says:

      Hi Luc – it depends a bit on how you’re triggering and the flash mode: are you interested in standby with radio triggers such as RF-602, or when using the Nikon AWL / CLS = wireless TTL? Or the 2 simple optical slave modes?

  6. Dave says:

    @VisX: The Di-866 does indeed support high speed sync.

  7. timothy au says:

    hi fransener, recently i just got my di866 from a friend and i’m pairing with d7000, i just wonder when i’m using in built flash with iso setting to auto the iso can go up to the limit but with the di866 my auto iso setting only can go up to iso400, is this common or maybe my unit have a problem? thanks for your blog and review it helps a lot, thanks

    • fransener says:

      Hi timothy – I’d have to do some research, I ‘only’ have D80 and D90 and shoot manual ISO at 200. But I just tried it with the D90: switched cam to auto ISO, and for a far away subject it chose ISO 2000 with the Di866 (and ISO 200 for closeup photos) – with correct exposure. Have you set a limit for auto ISO in the camera menu system maybe?

  8. timothy au says:

    hi fransener, thanks for your reply i do set the limit to 6400iso but the flash only can go to iso400, if i’m using in built flash it can go till 6400iso the limit i’m setting in the camera, well maybe what i have is the old model, cause its been bought more than i years, suppose i have to send to upgrade the firmware?
    thanks anyway.

    • fransener says:

      Hi timothy – a firmware update helps maybe : I would actually send an email to Nissin first and ask, they are pretty good at answering to inquiries usually.

  9. timothy au says:

    dear fransener, i do more testing with the di866 on my nikon d7000, it confirm that the iso setting only can go the highest is iso 400, in auto setting, i do try to do in manual but it seem like not working or not compatible to the camera setting, is it possible for me to send it for firmware upgrade? i do email nissin agent in my country but no reply so far.

  10. David says:

    Hi, I have Nissin Di866 ; no need to send off for firmware update. If you have a pc you can do it yourself. Download their update tool; follow insrtuctions. You will need min usb cable; but thats all.

    dave

  11. fransener says:

    Hi David

    Yes that’s correct, the Di622 Mark II needs to be sent in, but not the Di866.

  12. timothy au says:

    hi David, thanks for the info, by the way which website you go to for your update? thanks

  13. Michael Bartnik says:

    Does anyone know if this actually available for the Sony? I’m seeing them on ebay and they are listed on Nissin’s website.

  14. Martin says:

    @Michael

    The di866 Mark II is available for SONY too. I am investigating right now, but there are few reviews at the moment available.
    The noise is practicaly eliminated, and some functions are better adjusted.
    But I would like to try it first. I was reading, it tents to underexpose (anyways, this info comes from Canon users forum)

  15. Marcus says:

    Hello Fransener!

    Again I come to thank the excellent analysis equipment.

    Currently working with SB-600 and the acquisition of an SB-900 at the moment, I can not ($$$).

    Nissin to buy this would be feasible or worth the wait for the YN-565 for Nikon?

    What do you think?

    Thank again.

    Marcus

  16. Guy says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for this review.
    A question please : can the Di866 be controlled through the 5DMII menu like the 580 exii can be ?

  17. Dickson says:

    HI,

    The successor has been launched. The Nissin Di866 Mark II.

    May I know what’s the review?

    Thanks.

    Cheers!!!

    Dickson

  18. Amirsharzi says:

    Very good indeed speedlite. I’m using it as back-up to my 580exII.
    Gonna sell it to fund my next project.
    Anyway interested? Pls mail me @ amirsharzi_tarmizi@yahoo.co.uk
    I’ll be at San Franscisco from 10th July till 13th July …

  19. karina says:

    I am about to buy the new nissin di 866 Mark II, do you recommend this one as opposed to the new Yn 565?

    • Speedlights says:

      Hi karina: The Di866 (II) is a flash with the wireless master mode whereas the YN-565 can be only a slave. The Di866 mark 1 is a nice flash, it’s exposure is not always 100% consistent in my case with the Nikon D90 / D80 which I find not so great. The YN-565 is an interesting product, more comparable to the Nissin Di-622 Mark II in my opinion; but I can’t recommend the YN-565 yet since my own unit hasn’t arrived yet so I don’t know how it performs and I don’t like make recos for stuff that I haven’t tested yet. If you can wait another 2 weeks I’ll have some first comments on the new Yongnuo up on the site. Frank

  20. KetKet says:

    Will the Mark II version of this flash is a good combination for my D5000? I will be using it mostly for school events and other personal stuff. Mostly the flash will just be on my camera hotshoe

  21. Ang sakit says:

    Does it true? that Nissin Di866 does not recognize crop sensors and change the zoom to match. This means that although the Di866 has a higher guide number that extra flash power is wasted illuminating the area outside the image area?

  22. John says:

    Does Di866 underexposed when iTTL and Bounce thru the wall or ceiling?

  23. we2b says:

    I use a Di866 with Nikon D70s, D80 and D200. I have not noticed any significant exposure inaccuracy. I find that it is not less accurate than my SB-600, Di622 Mk II, Metz 48 or Sigma 530 Super. I would say that none are 100% spot on, but at least 98% in my experience.

  24. Jim Davis says:

    I have a question. I have downloaded new firmware for nikon d7000 to my mac. How do I transfer firmware from mac to d7000? I would greatly appreciate some instructions. Thank you.

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