Nissin’s new top speedlite Di-866 Mark II was announced in September 2010 but it has taken until April 2011 to become available as version for Canon and Nikon.
It will replace the original Di866 (which you could call now “Mark I”) over time, however as of August 2011 you can still buy both versions in parallel. The Di866-II costs around $ (check adorama, amazon) whereas the previous version tends to be lower priced now.
This flash aims at the professional market and checks all the boxes required: on the hardware side you have a PC sync port, external power pack socket and solid construction (maybe not 100% on Canon or Nikon level, but definitely above mid-range standard).
On the feature front it scores with a wireless master mode, very high guide number, even “auto” mode and 2 optical slaves.
Improvements over Di866 “Mark I”
The original Di866 that introduced some revolutionary concepts to the world of battery strobes, esp the color LCD and fully menu driven operation that works surprisingly well. The successor keeps the basic concept and further improves on the details.
The first and most obvious improvement is a metal flash foot instead of the plastic material that had been used for the base plate before. It’s following the industry trend with this upgrade – also Metz is using metal now, even Yongnuo switched over to a metal base plate in January of 2010. Note that the Nissin keeps the traditional locking wheel for securing the flash in the accessory shoe, rather than switching over to a lever-based “quick-fix design”.
I think that’s not a bad choice at all, because it allows a firm connection to all types of mounts – just screw down until it’s tight. The lever-based designs, on the other side, are solely optimized for the camera hot shoe but not for a light stand or radio trigger or other type of mount.
Two other advantages have been claimed by Nissin marketing, but not fully proven yet as far as I’m able to tell (and since I don’t have a Nissin Di866 Mark II yet I’m not able to do a direct comparison).
Number 2 is a quieter operation – Nissin states that a “new transmission motor significantly reduces the operating noise” referring to the zoom motor noise which was not super silent but which I found acceptable on the previous generation. Another grievance that some users had before was a certain “humming sound” during flash operation; I’ve exchanged info with a buyer of the new model who had that problem too, so it’s not gone altogether as it seems.
Upgrade nr. 3 is an improved wireless sensor. I’ve tested the wireless sensor of the original Di866 and the result was a bit disappointing – with a maximum test range of only 9 meters it performed pretty poorly! I assume the new and improved sensor is the same one that Nissin is using for their mid-range flash Di622-II – which means you can plan with a usable range of around 20 meters (see here for the wireless slave mode range test results).
Now to the undocumented improvements: according to the same source, the flash is able now to combine wireless mode and high speed sync mode (FP sync in Canon’s terminology) – which was not possible with the 1st gen Di866 flash as I’ve been able to verify for my own unit. For me, that is a clear advantage and closes the gap to the Canon and Nikon flashes, at the same time providing an advantage versus Sigma’s top flash EF-610 DG Super which lacks support of wireless high speed sync.
It also seems that the software and user interface have become a bit more responsive – that slight delay between keying in a command and software reaction has been reduced as it seems. Please let me know if this is really the case if you should have access to both the Di866 and the Di866-II models. Finally there’s an improved range of sub-flash settings for the Nikon version – read more below in the Nikon comparison part.
With auto zoom, digital TTL support, ability to fire with X-sync pin, PC port, 2 optical slave modes, wireless E-TTL / i-TTL, 8-step manual mode with 1/3 stop increments, a maximum guide number of 60 at 105mm zoom, the ability to update the firmware via USB, and a good amount of customization this flash offers a lot – it’s really darn close to a 580EX II from Canon or SB-900 from Nikon. Read in the next paragraphs how it compares in detail.
(photo shows the original Di866 next to Canon and Nikon’s flagship models)
Nissin Di866 Mark II versus Canon
Nissin’s flagship strobe aims at the 580EX II from Canon. The price advantage pro Nissin is around $100 (or even quite a bit more if you decide to buy a grey import of the Nissin, e.g. from “>eBay). As said before: the Nissin is very well specced – but where are the differences in direct comparison?
Advantage Di866 II vs Canon
Let’s start with advantages for the Nissin. First there is the 2nd reflector = a small secondary flash tube on the front side of the Di866-II body that can be controlled independently from the main reflector. Metz is the only other company offering such a feature today (only Nikon had something similar in the past, but dropped the concept many years back).
Second, there’s the power advantage – more pronounced at 35mm with 40 : 36 guide number than at maximum tele where it stands 60 for Nissin versus 58 for Canon. It’s not a huge difference but more power is always better so this does not hurt. One caveat here: flash recycling time might be an issue – official recycling times are the same, but in our testing the Di866 “mark I” was not very fast; it remains to be seens if the new 866 fares better.
The 2 optical slave modes (outside of wireless E-TTL) of the Di866 II are an advantage without any doubt – Canon doesn’t offer that feature at all. Finally, when it comes to other features, there’s some sort of acoustic signal that Canon does not have but it’s also a bit unclear what Nissin is really offering here – this is what they say about it: “When using Di866 Mark II as a slave remote flash, a “beep” sound indicates the master flash has triggered successfully”.
Now changing sides and looking at the feature advantage for Canon:
the 580EX II flash head has full 360 degree swivel and close-up tilt of minus 7 degrees, plus slightly better wide angle coverage of 14mm (Nissin starts at 18mm only). And despite a good amount of customization you find more of it on the Canon: only the 580 let’s you use sensor size zoom for EF-S lenses for example, or allows to use AF assist without the flash firing itself.
Also, expect the AF assist of the Canon to perform better; assuming it remained unchanged from the Mark I, you find a dual-beam construction on the Di-866 but not the projected stripe pattern you have on a Canon or Nikon.
When it comes to ease of use, I’d call it a tie, maybe with advantage for Nissin: true, there are fewer hard buttons. But what you get is a very well thought through menu system which is easy and logical to navigate – see the image for a screen of the Di-866 “1″ user interface.
The same can’t always be said for the Canon experience, unfortunately. Setting wireless mode, for example, is a cumbersome task.
How about the construction itself? I think the Nissin is a nicely built flash, and you don’t read about units that break down. The removable battery magazine is a good feature as well. The Canon 580EX II, on the other hand, is extremely well built – really a tank designed for professional use.
Nissin Di866 Mark II versus Nikon
Di866-II compared to SB-900 – a pretty close battle again. Here’s the ‘pro Nissin’ part of the list.
Advantage Di866 II vs Nikon
When it comes to the 2nd flash reflector it’s the same situation as for the Canon version – only the Nissin does have one. But there was a limitation for the Nikon version of the initial Di866 that made it less useful. The Canon version allowed (and still allows) dialing it down to 1/32 which equals a guide number of 2 – great for some fill in a portrait situation.
The Nikon version of the Mark 1 however had 1/8 as a minimum with corresponding guide number of 4 – way too much for a fill flash! But here is the great news: the Nikon version of Nissin Di-866 Mark II lets you go down all the way until 1/128 as a minimum power step for the 2nd reflector – this is more than low enough for fill flash – finally!
When it comes to guide numbers for the main flash tube it stands 40 : 34 (meters) at 35mm reflector position for Nissin, and 60 at 105mm tele (Nissin) versus 56 at 200mm tele (Nikon) for maximum zoom – this is a bigger advantage than in the case of the Canon pro flash and can make a difference for sure (Nikon’s SB-900 was tested a bit stronger than 34, but so was the Di866 Mark I and I assume that the new Di866-II will also outperform it’s own spec a bit).
Nikon’s SB-900 sports a simple slave mode which they call “SU-4″ – it’s the same as Nissin’s slave mode “SF”: it triggers the strobe as soon as the light sensor detects another flash firing. Only Nissin has a second optical slave mode “SD” with pre-flash suppression.
Before we come to the Nikon advantages let’s have a look at the current pricing situation: Nissin Di-866 Mark II costs around $, a Nikon SB-900 costs approx. $.
Nikon SB-900 advantage over Di-866 Mark II:
This is a much longer list than in the Canon case outlined before; you have e.g. faster flash recycling at full power, fully flexible flash head with 360 deg swivel and -7 close-up tilt, wider zoom from 17 up to 200mm and down to 12mm wide the wide-flash panel in place; 3-beam AF assist with super wide coverage for AF sensors at the frame edges (the Nissin has dual-beam with a simpler layout); SB-900 also allows more customization e.g. sensor size zoom, AF assist without using the flash tube, recycling beep, encoded color correction filters and diffuser cap.
The SB-900 is pretty easy to use with a large number of direct keys for frequent settings, e.g. the wireless mode. It also sports a very large LCD display that’s almost suffering from information overload already, as well as a well laid out menu system. The menu system of the Nissin on the other hand is easy to use as well after just a bit of learning curve when it’s new. I’d say there’s a slight advantage for Nikon but it’s actually more a matter of taste almost.
With regards to the build quality I see the Nikon a little ahead (the Nissin Di866 Mark II uses the same construction and casing as its successor which is why I’m making a statement without owning in yet). The Nikon is truly robust and built for a long life; plus it has the lock button for the flash head which is missing at Nissin. This feature is not needed in normal use but comes handy if you attach a mini softbox, grid, or something else with some weight.
But finally there’s also a weak spot at Nikon – or maybe better called a “hot” spot – which is the over-sensitive thermal cut-off of the SB-900; the Nissin does not suffer from similar issues as far as I’ve seen.
Nissin Di-866 Mark II Alternatives
Alternatives to the new Nissin 866 flash include the Nikon SB-800 / SB-900, or the 580EX and 580EX II from Canon as outlined above. A master mode, high power and rich feature set is also found on the Metz 58 AF-2. Finally, you might also consider the Sigma EF-610 DG Super (the new 610 is a minor upgrade from the 530 Super which might be another option): the Sigma is simpler than both Nissin and Metz but even lower priced.
The picture above shows all current flashes with a dedicated wireless master mode as of October 2011, with two exceptions: the Nissin displayed is the previous mk 1 model and not the current “mk 2″ (it has the same casing but can be recognized by its “mk2″ label on the front); and then one master-enabled speedlight is missing, that is the Nikon SB-700 (mid-range flash).
Nissin Di 866-II Highlights
- master mode, dedicated slave mode, 2 built-in optical slaves
- high guide number – record setting at 35mm wide angle with GN 40 (meters)
- feature set very close to camera manufacturers’ flagship models
- 2nd reflector for fill flash
- PC sync and external power pack connector
- simple to use with (despite) 100% menu based control layout
What it’s not
- not the fastest recycling flash on the market
- lacks some less essential features e.g. sensor size zoom and allows fewer customization
- AF assist a bit simpler than Canon or Nikon pro flashes (despite dual-beam)
Compatible Camera Bodies
The following table provides an overview of camera compatibility of its digital TTL features in the Canon (ETTL II) and Nikon (i-TTL) systems. If in doubt download Nissin’s flash compatibility chart from Nissindigital.com.
|Canon compatibility||Nikon compatibility|
|In principle the Di866-II can be used with almost all digital SLR cameras from Canon in ETTL-II mode (except D30 / D60 / 1D / 1Ds. For future models a firmware update may be required (e.g. 7D, 5D mkII, but thanks to the built-in USB port it’s something that can be done by the user.
The flash is not compatible with analog EOS bodies, even if they feature support of ETTL.
The new Mark II version of the Di866 flash is also incompatible with compact cameras such as G7 / G9 / G10 / G11, or PowerShot S… models (e.g. SX20 IS).
|In the Nikon system every camera body since the D2XS can be used in digital TTL (i-TTL). Again, there might be firmware updates required for future camera bodies.
Not supported are:
Speedlights.net In-Depth Review
A review of the original Di866 can be found here on Speedlights.net.
Nissin Di866 Mark II Tech Specs Table
The tech specs table shows the performance data for the 866 Mark II.
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Where to buy your Nissin Di866 Mark II flash
Check eBay to see both Di866-II and Di866 offers. You help maintaining and expanding this website when using these links for your purchase. Thank you very much.