Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?
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Old 11-01-2009   #1
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Default Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

So I've just finished a series of photoshoots for a client in town, and I'm going to be looking at a final payment of about $500-$700 after taxes. Since this isn't my day job, it's money I don't feel guilty about dumping into equipment, especially considering that this is an investment.

I did the photoshoot with only one light, an SB-600 (with shoot through umbrella and stand), and a 5-in-1 Impact reflector (42") with boom stand. While my client was thrilled with the results, I felt pretty limited.

So now I'm looking at a second light+umbrella+stand combo, and the question is, should I stick with another SB-600 ($250ish), or go for an SB-900 ($480ish)? Does the SB-900 warrant the extra price? Am I better off saving the money towards a third SB-600? Right now the SB-600 looks like a much better way to spend my cash, but I wanted to seek additional input.

I'm leaning flash instead of strobes right now, as flash lets me have the option of using the unit as a backup for wedding photography (for which I'm scheduled to do some basic free work in June)/other on camera flash, as well as off camera lighting. Strobes also just seem like a huge investment at the moment, and won't be as portable as a flash unit.

Opinions? Suggestions? Comments? Criticisms? Anything would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 11-01-2009   #2
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

If you're going to be doing wedding work, I'd be inclined to go for more power than the SB-600. I have a pair of 600s but sometimes find myself looking for a little more light or bumping up the ISO when doing event shooting. How much that matters depends, of course, on what body you are shooting.

One thing that would deter me from buying a 900 is the physical size compared to the SB-600. I've done a bit of DIY with light modifiers for my SB-600s. An SB-900 wouldn't work with many of them. I'm thinking about splitting the difference and finding a nice SB-800 out there. It's about the same size as the SB-600 - heavier, but not bigger - and packs more punch than the 600.
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Old 11-01-2009   #3
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

A couple/3 Vivitar 285HV's and radio triggers.
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Old 11-01-2009   #4
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

KmH, that's an interesting suggestion. How do the Vivitar 285HV's compare to an SB-600? At only $90 apiece that's an attractive price point. What radio triggers would you recommend?

I notice that B&H has a Pocket Wizard Plus II for about $169 (PocketWizard | Plus II Transceiver Radio Slave | 801-125 | B&H). I'm sure what features to look for (I've been using the CLS triggering via D90 on camera flash).

The combo comes out to $260 vs. $220 for an SB-600, so it seems like a pretty good deal.

How hard is it to work with Radio triggers?
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Old 11-01-2009   #5
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

The 285HV's have a higher GN # and B&H has them too.

You have several alternatives to Pocket Wizards.

Cyber Syncs from Paul C. Buff

Cactus triggers (V2, V2s, V4) from www.gadgetinfinity.com

Or something like these eBay triggers
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Old 11-01-2009   #6
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

What's the reliability on the Cactus triggers? For around $40, they sound like a pretty good deal, and combined with a Vivitar flash drop my cost per light substantially!
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Old 11-02-2009   #7
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

They aren't Pocket Wizards, or you get what you pay for.

Many modify the Catctus triggers by making their own antenna by wrapping a length of wire around a screwdriver. They open the case and solder in the new antenna and get performance out to several hundred feet from the transmitter. Others, while they have the case open, also solder in a larger battery pack.

I'm having difficulty finding you a link to the modifications.

I have a friend that has the iShoot set and has been having fun, though occassionally one or the other don't trigger. Being an amateur, it's not a big deal.
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Old 11-02-2009   #8
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

Well for $40 for a transmitter/receiver pair, it seems a pretty good price even if they're not the highest in reliability. That's 25% of what the baseline pocket wizards cost, so it seems a good start up solution. I suppose as long as their misfire rate is under 5% or so, that's a good solution.

So dumb question time. The Vivitar's you've suggested only seem to have settings for 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/16. Is there an easy way to "fake" other power levels? Do they make ND filters for flash?
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Old 11-03-2009   #9
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Default Re: Second Flash: SB-600 or SB-900?

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Originally Posted by erozier2 View Post
......So dumb question time. The Vivitar's you've suggested only seem to have settings for 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/16. Is there an easy way to "fake" other power levels? Do they make ND filters for flash?
No they don't make ND filters for flash, but they do make gels.

If you want less than 1/16 power, take advantage of the inverse square law or innovate, shoot the light through several layers of white plastic grocery bags or something similar.
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Old 11-10-2009   #10
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Default I would get a used sb-800

if you can find one. I heard they are hard to find now, but have not checked myself. I bought 4 of them about 3 or 4 years ago. They work great. They do have more power then the sb-600.

The sb-900 has a problem with cutting out, but don't know much about it, maybe it's not a big deal. But the sb-900 is a lot of money, don't think it does much more then the sb-800, and the sb-800 lets you use a fith battery.


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