I have a Nikon D-90 and I am an non-professional photographer doing kids photography indoors, and family pictures while travelling with family.

I have the following:

  • 18-105mm VR – Kit Lens with D90;
  • Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G;
  • Nikon AF-S DX 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G VR Lens;
  • a basic tripod.

As said earlier I do mostly click pictures of my children indoors, hence I use 35mm f/1.8G as it gives good sharpness and flexibility with large aperture and fast shutter. I am planning to add a flashgun and I wanted feedback on the basic SB400, which is about £120. I am really tempted for at least SB600 which is twice the cost. Does paying additional £120 add great value? I know SB600 is more flexible, but given that I usually shot indoor portraits, is sb400 good for my cause? (Money is a concern, as this is just hobby.)


3 Answers 3


I would step up to the SB-600 as this flash unit has a turntable head.

So when you are shooting a portrait photograph (portrait as in aspect rather than person) you will be able to turn the flash head to bounce as it would if your camera was taking a Landscape shot.

That's the basics, but if you want to use a flash with a turntable head, you also get the benefit of bouncing light off of walls and ceilings to get a better effect.

Without this feature you are getting a fill flash while illuminates what ever is directly in front of the camera, and this can cause some bad shadows.

Also if you are concerned about the price you can get one used, from a shop or dealer.


after a new answer I though I should add info to show how the swivel will help and is worth the extra, when using the camera in a portrait orientation, using this blog post by LearnMorePhoto.com

This is a shot with a straight on flash, notice how the shadow by the neck and lower hair makes it look like the hair is longer. This has happened as the light is blocked.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for the yes ...i never thought about the used one ..that could be intresting \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ But you still have the option of bouncing off a wall (usually). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 15:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ well yes I would expect walls if there is a celing :), but the effect from that is only good if the wall is light colored, and there is nothing uneven on the wall or in the way. You would also get shadow down the oposite side of the wall as the light will not pass a nose for example, leaving a shadow on the eye. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you don't have a wall, just take the picture in landscape orientation, bounce off the ceiling, and crop into portrait format. Most of us will be using cameras with pleny of pixels to crop a family shot into portait orientation. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Graeme...just out of curiosity, do you know the copyright on the images you've embedded? Without any express permission, I believe it is implied that all content belongs to that blog's owner, Terri Ann Swallow. I think it would be best if we linked to her blog entry, rather than embedding her content here. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 5:46

As others have explained, one big motivation for the jump to the SB-600 is the ability to tilt/swivel.

If that is your primary hangup (i.e. you don't want/need CLS, extra power, filters) you can pair the SB-400 with a cheap pin-for-pin flash cable. This will give you the flexibility to bounce off whatever surface, and even get the flash off-axis from the lens in cases where you need that.



  • low price
  • so small you can leave it on the camera all the time, or put in your pocket
  • simple to use


  • can use off-camera
  • head tilts and swivels, also zooms to get max power at greater distances
  • more complicated to use
  • large and heavy

I own both. I mainly use the SB-600 off camera and will use the SB-400 for family stuff. Unless you think you may use it off camera, the SB-400 is a great little flash for half the price.

It's true you can't swivel it, so in portrait orientation you'd have to bounce off a wall, rather than the ceiling, or not bounce at all. For general photography I don't find the lack of swivel to be that big a deal.

If you're taking family snapshots, I'd lean towards the SB-400. It is considerably better than the pop-up flash, and it's far more convenient and easier to use than the SB-600.

If you think you may want to try off-camera flash, or you think the lack of tilt/swivel is important to you then go with the SB-600.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you use the sb-400 as commander and the sb-600 as slave? \$\endgroup\$
    – Luciano
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ youtube.com/watch?v=weHkRnoiXLs have a look at this video which goes through what the SB-400 can do. Its worth a quick look. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 12:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, the SB-400 can't be used at all with CLS system. It can't be fired off camera, and it won't function as a commander. If it is on the camera hotshoe, it prevents the pop-up flash working as a commander. So if you want to use CLS at all, don't bother with an SB-400. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ An SB400 can be used with CLS off-camera, but not as a commander. It says so in the manual although it doesn't tell you there what channel it responds to. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 9:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've never been able to get mine to fire off camera, via commander, radio or optical trigger. My manual doesn't mention off-camera. Unless there is a newer version of the SB-400 I don't think it's possible to use off-camera except with a sync cord \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Feb 14, 2015 at 1:50

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