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I have a Nikon SB-900 and I love it. I am looking to expand my off camera capabilities and would love to buy another flash.

The one important factor I'm looking for is the compatibility between my SB-900 and the new flash to work wirelessly. Wireless i-TTL isn't mandatory, but definitely a plus. I'm fine with setting the new flash in Manual mode.

Simply put, I want to keep the SB-900 on my Nikon D3100 and the new flash on a light stand. When I take a shot, I want both to go off, and the new flash should be triggered wirelessly. I don't want to have to buy a wireless commander since the SB-900 can do that already.

Thanks!

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2  
I <3 Nikon flash. –  rfusca Apr 27 '12 at 17:16
1  
SB-600 or SB-700? –  Vikas Apr 27 '12 at 18:16
3  
Define "cheap"? –  Rob Apr 27 '12 at 18:29
    
@Rob Less than $400 –  Jeff Lange Apr 27 '12 at 20:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you want to use i-TTL, the safest options it to go with Nikon. The cheapest Nikon flash available new would be the Nikon SB-700, or the Nikon SB-600 if you can find it used.

However, if you don't need i-TTL, you can get away with any cheap flash. For example I have a pair of YN-460 speedlights, dirt cheap compared to the Nikon flashes but can still be used as optical slaves. Combining optical slaves with using i-TTL on the SB-900 may not work however, as the slaves can be fooled by the pre-flashes used for measurements. Some flashes have a mode that is supposed to ignore these preflashes and only trigger on the "real" flash, but I can't vouche for the accuracy of these systems, YMMV.

Also note that, as an alternative to using optical slaves, you can use radio triggers. These will have to be purchased separately, and you need one unit per flash, plus one for the camera, but it will give you increased reliability and range. It will also get around the problem of the on camera flash affecting the lighting in the picture even when set to "off", as a pulse from that flash is required in order to trigger any other, i-TTL or not.

Something worth considering is that you could get 2 or even 3 flashes + radio triggers for less than what that SB-900 cost you ...

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This isn't true — you could also use Metz, Sigma, Nissin, or Tumax flashes which are compatible with i-TTL through protocol reverse-engineering. Promaster has compatible Nikon-dedicated flashes too, but not with optical wireless control. –  mattdm Apr 27 '12 at 19:07
    
@mattdm, thank you, I've updated my answer. –  SoftMemes Apr 27 '12 at 19:27
    
Thanks @Freed ! –  Jeff Lange Apr 27 '12 at 20:46

I have been meaning to buy one of these: http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/cactus-af50-i-ttl-camera-flash-speedlite-for-nikon.html.

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This is a repackaging of the Tumax DPT586AFZ, although Cactus/GadgetInfinity is the most responsive and least-shady company I'm aware of to get them from. –  mattdm Apr 27 '12 at 19:24

Since you asked this question, Nikon has come out with the SB-500, which I have and I love it. Works with CLS, so you already have a trigger. It's very compact and also has a 3-LED video light, which is fairly unique and could come in very handy for video or other uses.

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If you want really cheap, all the Yongnuo flashes with names that end in EX can be used as a CLS slave with i-TTL, although I believe only the YN-586EX can do FP/HSS and not all the models come in Nikon versions. Yongnuo will put gold lettering on the Nikon versions of the flash, silver letter on the Canon version. And yes, even the Canon versions can be used as a CLS slave--but it'll have a Canon foot, not a Nikon one. These Yongnuo flashes come with four slave modes:

  • S1: "dumb" optical, like SU-4
  • S2: "dumb" optical that ignores a single preflash so can be used with TTL
  • Sn: Nikon CLS slave
  • Sc: Canon wireless eTTL slave

There are also CLS-slave capable flashes from Metz, Nissin, and Sigma, as well as the cheaper "eBay" brands, like Yongnuo, Phottix, Shanny, Neewer etc. Keeping up with these models is difficult and the Flash Havoc blog is one way to track what the latest models are.

There are also even cheaper all-manual flashes from a lot of the eBay brands that will include the equivalent of Yongnou's S1/S2 modes, which will work with any flash--even a P&S built-in flash--as long as there's no or only a single preflash, and you can find these in the US$50 price range. But remember, these flashes tend to be cheap for a reason. Copy consistency and component quality can vary and warranty service may require shipping the flash to China at your expense. You can go for higher reliability with a used Nikon flash that has an optical slave mode, like the SB-24, SB-26, or SB-80DX or the Strobist-recommended Lumpro LP speedlights.

And, of course, if you use manual radio triggers, then nearly any flash with physical manual power controls will work, and you won't be limited by the line-of-sight requirements of optical systems, or require an on-camera speedlight to act as master.

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