For those entering the enlightened world of DSLR photography, the next step of flash photography can seem daunting. And for good reason: Using an external flash opens up creative photographic opportunities where none existed before, but it requires technical knowledge that the casual photographer doesn’t have time for learning. And as all professional photographers know, the tiny built-in flashes are worthless for serious photography (high-end DSLRs don’t include them for a reason).
Last year Nikon changed everything. With the addition of the SB-400 to their Speedlight series, there is no excuse for shying away from using an external flash. The SB-400 is Nikon’s smallest flash ever for a DSLR, and is compatible with all Nikon DSLRs made after 2004. Its small, lightweight design makes traveling with an external flash a breeze. To use the SB-400, simply lock it on your Nikon DSLR’s hot shoe and push the power button. Flash photography has never been easier.
The main advantage of using an external flash is the ability to bounce the flash. Most people take flash pictures by striking their subject with a direct flash. This results in harsh lighting and overblown highlights on the subject, while the background goes almost completely black. With external flashes, including the SB-400, one can bounce the flash off the ceiling to get natural, even lighting for the entire scene. Photographer-writer Ken Rockwell has a good comparison between direct flash and bounced flash on his review of the SB-400.
Another advantage of the SB-400 is a fast recycle time between flashes (no more waiting valuable seconds to photograph that critical moment). The SB-400 will also give better flash coverage when using wide-angle lenses, so the corners aren’t darker than the rest of the scene. Finally, the 2-AA batteries the SB-400 takes will preserve your DSLR’s battery life when using the flash.
With the SB-400 Nikon proves once again that they are the leader in flash photography. Between the small size and ease of use, this flash should be in every first-time Nikon DSLR user’s camera bag. There’s no excuse that it shouldn’t.