A few weeks back at a wedding shoot, right at the end of the day, I managed to smash one of my SB-700 flashguns. I was doing one last image of the bride and groom outside the front of the Hartsfield Manor Hotel in the darkness of night time, where the front of the hotel was mildly lit by outside lights and quite a glow of light was pouring out of the windows. So I lit the couple with one flashgun through a 45×45 softbox.
The weather had been mild all day with very little wind, however, just as I finished shooting I went over the bride and groom to double check that they were happy with the coverage and that there was nothing more that they wanted. As I turned to walk back to my bag and light stand a gust of wind appeared and took the light stand, which was set to its highest position, for a quick journey from high to low as it toppled rapidly to the floor. One very alive flashgun met a swift end.
So I was left with a dilemma. Although I have two other flashguns I operate with three when I shoot the first dance, and so I needed to get a replacement as soon as possible.
My options were basically another SB-700, which would be a new one, or an SB-910 or SB-900, but there would be no way either of these would be new. As good as the top of the range one maybe, it’s just not worth over £300, not a chance.
Instantly I was put off the secondhand price of the SB-910 as it was still to high for me to be fair, specially when the SB-900 was far cheaper, but oh yeah, it suffers the overheating issue that has been so well documented by plenty of people eager to put this flashgun down as a failure, that’s why it’s so cheap.
So is it worth the risk?
I weighed up the odds by looking at my finances and then reviewing the way I shoot weddings and how I set my gear up to shoot and came to the conclusion that I would rarely go anywhere near the rate and power output that would see it overheat.
So I bought one, and what was the first thing I did with it, I tested the overheat problem. I set it to manual, set it to full power, and simply fired it time and time again each time it recharged and it took about 18-20 shots and sure enough “bleep bleep bleep”, it overheated and went into stand-by.
That’s all fine and dandy but was I right about my own shooting style not being in danger of tripping this problem. Well right now I’m actually typing this on my iPad whilst I’m at a wedding shoot. The preps have happened, the wedding is done, group shots shot, bride & groom portraiture is in the bag and the speeches have been captured.
The couple an there guests are currently having some food so I’m on a break and having some food myself, but what I can report is the the battery life of the SB-900 is pretty awesome as I’ve only just changed one set of batteries in it and they weren’t even dead yet, or is it that awesome, because I have not suffered the overheat, meaning I’ve not exactly strained the flashgun and so it seems I was right about my shooting style. To be honest I have tried to keep an eye on the temperature gauge as and when I can remember to do so, but each time I’ve looked it’s always been at the lowest value.
Basically, a secondhand, well looked after Nikon SB-900 is an absolute bargain at around £170 and will serve you well, unless you have some odd need to fire off 20 full power flashes one after another without giving it a chance to catch its breath.
The reality is most normal shooting togs would be nuts to by a brand new or secondhand SB910. When the time comes to get another flashgun for my kit I’ll definitely be bagging another SB-900.
Right I best get back to work, I still have the cake cut and first dance to capture.
See you again soon