Nikon Releases the New SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit

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Nikon has released a brand new Speedlight flash unit, the SB-910. Here is their official press announcement:

MELVILLE, N.Y. (November 29, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the addition of a new flagship speedlight, the powerful and capable SB-910 speedlight. Building on the versatility of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS), the SB-910 incorporates an enhanced intuitive operating system and graphic user interface (GUI). The SB-910 speedlight comes equipped with a wide zoom range covering the most popular focal lengths as well as FX/DX-format identification that optimizes zoom settings based on the camera body. This new speedlight also provides more efficient battery usage as well as an enhanced Thermal Cut-Out function. [End Press Release]

The new Nikon SB-910 Flash Unit 

The new SB-910 is an accessory-shoe mounted Speedlight made for both FX and DX format Nikon DSLR cameras. It will work with the COOLPIX P7000 camera also. It has both wireless remote commander and slave unit capabilities with up to four channel (1–4) operation. When used in Commander mode it can control up to three groups (A, B, and C) of an unlimited number of other Nikon speedlight units. It can control remote Speedlights of the following types when used as a commander:

  • SB-910
  • SB-900
  • SB-700
  • SB-R200

Any particular group can have any number or mixture of the speedlights in the list. Nikon does not specifically list the SB-800 Speedlight in its specifications, but since the SB-800 is fully CLS compatible, you should expect that the SB-910 can control it too. Nikon calls this "system integration." I call it cool!

It uses Nikon iTTL (intelligent through-the-lens) metering when used on-camera or in a group of remote slave flashes. This allows the flash to share exposure information with any Nikon camera compatible with Nikon CLS (creative lighting system). It has manual mode with "Power Ratio", three illumination patterns to allow for specific lighting arrangements, and a wide zoom range (17–200mm).

The controls on the camera have been "strreamlined" by Nikon for easier operation. They added a dedicated Menu button to make it operate more like Nikon DSLRs when accessing the menu system. Here is a look at the back of the SB-910:

Nikon SB-910 back, showing the streamlined controls

Nikon has "improved" the thermal cutout protection on this flash. If you recall, when the older flagship SB-900 flash was released, there was a great outcry about the flash unit "overheating" and shutting down at inopportune moments. The SB-910 changes how the flash reacts to high-heat situations. Instead of cutting off the flash when it gets hot, the flash merely slows down recycling time to prevent overheating. Sounds like a good idea to me, as long as it is not too overenthusiastic in preventing minor overheating.

Some have complained about Nikon flash filters fading or wearing out. Nikon has solved that issue by creating two "hard" color-correction filters specifically for the SB-910 Speedlight: the SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter and the SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter. Both snap on like the diffusion dome. They should be easier to use and last longer in high-volume usage environments. Also, here is a look at the new SJ-3 regular filter set for the SB-910 Speedlight:

Nikon SJ-3 Color filter set for the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight

The SJ-3 Color Filter Set allows you to modify the SB-900 Speedlight flash output to match the lighting of the background scene when shooting under fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It includes eight colors: FL-G1 (fluorescent), TN-A2 (incandescent), Blue, Yellow, Red, and Amber. There are a total of 20 filters in the set.

Additional accessories include (see: http://bit.ly/vd0aTm) : 
  • SU-4 Wireless Remote TTL Flash Controller (US$120)
  • SC-28 and SC-29 Coiled Remote Cords (US$81 and US$112)
  • SW-13H Diffusion Dome (US$16.50)
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand (US$9.50)
  • SZ-2 Color Filter Holder (US$13)
  • WG-AS1, WG-AS2, WG-AS3 Water Guards (US$35.50 each)
  • SS-910 Soft Case (US$36.50)
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)

Of the above mentioned accessories, these are included in the box with the SB-910:
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case

Technical Specifications

Commander Function:  
Yes

Remote Function:  
Yes

Guide Number:
34 m/111.5 ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48 m/157.5 ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Electronic Construction:
Automatic Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and series circuitry

Flash Exposure Control
  • Distance-priority manual flash
  • i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash with CLS compatible cameras
  • Manual Flash (with Nikon Creative Lighting System digital and 35mm SLR cameras) 
Lens Coverage:
  • 8 to 11mm (DX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 17mm (FX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 200mm (DX-format, Automatic mode)
  • 17 to 200mm (FX-format, Automatic mode)
Illumination Pattern:
The light distribution angle is automatically adjusted to the camera's image area in both FX and DX formats:
  • Standard
  • Even
  • Center-weighted
Other Available Functions
  • Test Firing
  • Monitor Pre-flashes
  • AF-assist illumination for multi-point AF
  • Modeling illuminator
Bounce Function (Tilt)
Flash head tilts down to 7° or up to 90° with click-stops at -7°, 0°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°.

Bounce Function (Rotate)
Flash head rotates horizontally 180° to the left and right with click-stops at 0°, 30°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°

Minimum Recycling Time
  • 2.3 sec. (approx.) with Ni-MH (2600 mAh) batteries
  • 3.0 sec. (approx.) with Oxyride™ (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.0 sec. (approx.) with Alkaline-manganese (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.5 sec. (approx.) with Lithium (1.5V) batteries
Flash Duration
  • 1/880 sec. at M 1/1 (full) output
  • 1/1100 sec. at M 1/2 output
  • 1/2550 sec. at M 1/4 output
  • 1/5000 sec. at M 1/8 output
  • 1/10000 sec. at M 1/16 output
  • 1/20000 sec. at M 1/32 output
  • 1/35700 sec. at M 1/64 output
  • 1/38500 sec. at M 1/128 output
Required Power Source:
  • Four 1.2V Ni-MH (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Alkaline-manganese (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Lithium (AA-size) batteries
Optional Power Supplies:
  • SK-6 Power Bracket Unit, SD-9 High-Performance Battery Pack
  • SD-8A High-Performance Battery Pack
Flash-ready Indicator
  • Rear and Front lights blink: Insufficient light for correct exposure (in i-TTL, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL Auto flash, or Distance-priority manual flash operations).
  • Rear lights up and Front blinks: recycled and ready to fire.
Ready Light:  
Front

Flash Compensation:
–3.0 EV to +3.0 EV in increments of 1/3 steps in i-TTL auto flash, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL auto flash and Distance-priority manual flash modes

Custom Settings
  • AF-Assist Illumination
  • Modeling Illuminator
  • Monitor pre-flashes
  • Test firing
Minimum Number of Flashes / Recycling Time
  • 110/4.0 – 30 sec. (1.5V Alkaline-manganese)
  • 125/3.0 –30 sec. (1.5V Oxyride™)
  • 165/2.3–30 sec. (Ni-MH (eneloop))
  • 190/2.3–30 sec. (2600mAh Ni-MH)
  • 230/4.5–120 sec. (1.5V Lithium)
Wireless Flash Modes:
  • Master
  • Master (RPT)
  • Off
  • Remote
  • SU-4

Wireless Communication Channels
Four: 1, 2, 3 and 4 Channels

Wireless Groups
Three: A, B and C

Other Functions

  • Firmware update
  • ISO sensitivity setting
  • Key lock
  • Recalling the underexposure value in the TTL auto flash mode
  • Resetting the settings
  • Improved Thermal Cut-out

Dimensions
3.1 x 5.7 x 4.4 in. (78.5 x 145 x 113mm)

Weight (Approx. without batteries)
14.8 oz. (420g)

Supplied Accessories
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case

Summary

The Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit is Nikon's new flagship Speedlight Flash Unit. It is going to sell in the US$500+ range, with a suggested retail price of US$549.95.  With Nikon's new minimum pricing structure, I wouldn't expect a lot of discounting. It is currently listed at US$549.00 on Amazon.com, for instance.

The Nikon SB-900 and SB-800 should now drop in price as the market is flooded with older flash units, so those wanting a more powerful flash unit can look into the new SB-910 or find a good used SB-900 or SB-800.  The SB-900 is going to remain available as new stock, at least until stock runs out.

You can view sample photos created with the Nikon SB-910 at the following website (case sensitive): http://bit.ly/tuXbzq

We have an excellent choice of Speedlights available for our Nikons. Now is the time to get a new flash unit for yourself. Check out the new flagship SB-910, or find a less costly unit. Either way, why use anything but a Nikon flash unit on your Nikon camera?

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:
http://www.photographywriter.com/NikonBooks.asp

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