This is not intended to be a typical "equipment recommendation" question. The answer should be moderately stable and potentially useful to others.


To meet a one off need I want to buy a minimum cost external flash compatible with Nikon D700 that works in sensible "auto" mode (ie not a full manual flash but need not have many bells and whistles). My significant experience with Minolta / Sony flashes indicates that having significant experience with brand specific flashes is a good idea. I don't have such experience with Nikon.

Budget: As little as possible. As much as necessary.

A degree of manual adjustment is acceptable if essential. I'd like to avoid a fully manual flash such as eg the low cost Chinese Yongnuo 460 and similar (about $US70 new here) but even that would (probably) be suitable.

I will seldom need or use a flash with the D700 so would like to know what works acceptably as an entry level flash. It may well be that there are workhorse secondhand Nikon flashes - maybe film era ones - that are cheap and common that will meet the need. Minimal guide number is required - the on-camera flash is bright enough but I'd like to be able to move the flash off-axis. Hot shoe or accessory bar mount mount desired.


I have a D700 but I'm not a long time Nikon user. I have yet to acquire the Nikon parlance / argot / patina / familiarity / world view and more that comes of having been soaked in Nikon-speak and Nikon-use for a lifetime. And, it may never happen. The D700 is a very very nice camera indeed, but after having used one for a while the lure of the pellicle mirror and EVF is, alas, too great, and at some time in the near future I'm hoping I can persuade Sony to give me an A99. But, that's another story.

So, I'm not at all used to 'this lens series works with the D700, subject to ..." and "these flashes work, as long as you don't want to do ..." etc. I'm aware that if I read all that I can find on the subject on the internet for a few weeks I'll become a notional international expert thereon, and that one nights browsing may be enough to make an informed decision from. But, maybe not.

My Sony A77 has gone to meet its maker (temporarily only) and the D700 is getting more primary use than usual. Usually a flash is 'almost a luxury' and may be a travesty with a D700. In this case I need to take some group and individual photos indoors in a well lit semi-public area. People are going to be available briefly but will stand and pose when/as required. Lighting is bright indoor - a large long soft-furnished foyer with incandescent and CFL and probably some halogen lighting in places. Quality needs to be "goodish" but need not be magazine cover fantastic. The D700 will probably manage without using flash, but the ability to use fill flash or primarily flash would be useful. Range is short so guide number can be very low. The on-camera flash has enough power but I'd obviously like to get the flash further away from the lens centre line. Using a small diffuser on the on-camera flash would probably be good enough BUT a somewhat better external flash is preferred and recycle times should benefit.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ This still feels like it is either too localized or a shopping question. I can't think of an answer that doesn't consist of "go to their website, look for the cheapest flash with the settings you want. Perhaps an alternate question would be to ask about reliable third party manufacturers that are compatible with Nikon's E-TTL. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AJHenderson BUT Go to WHOSE website? And that misses the 20 or 30 or 40 year old Nikon system flash that all the prose use for this sort of task and that sell on ebay for $5 if that. Do they exist? Probably not? But a died in the wool Nikon man does. Do the Fxxx flashes from the period 19xx to 19yy work OK or is xxx an issue etc. | AND I'd raher not buy a Yonguo at their advertising for the bottom end models is often misleading. The fact that they are manual is "inobvious" at best. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes yes. I understand that downvotes are also intended for when people are having a bad day week month year life, the tea is cold, the dog bit you, the XRay blurred your film despite what Customs promised, your goldfish died, you didn't make tenure, and it's Monday. BUT I still can't believe that somebody would downvote this question. "This question does not show any research effort. It is unclear or not useful." OK. I'd imagine that every now and then new people drift into the Nikon DSLR sphere. They can't ALL be born with a silver Nikon ... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... in their mouths. I imagine that others would be just a wee bit confounded by the options, would like to have a better sunmmary than Mr Gargoyle easily turns up, and from the mouths of experts and/or people he/she can trust. TTL cords or not. Fancy that. Who would have thought. No film era flashes do TTL on DSLRs. OK. Good to know. Sigma 530... OK hadn't seen that. Must look. etc. SO, Must be Monday somewhere on earth, then. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can understand your frustration at having a question downvoted, but keep in mind that "useful" in the context of a downvote is not whether or not it is useful to the asker, but if it is useful in the way that the site defines useful. Questions that are too localized or too specific to an individual's specific needs to be broadly useful fit the definition of not useful in the way that SE views usefulness. I'm not sure who downvoted the question, but that's probably why it was downvoted and why it isn't getting much attention. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


Before telling you some models here is my advice as a Nikon shooter:

If you want a flash that goes on TTL you can't get an old one as TTL worked different in film than in digital. So make sure it's a flash from the digital era (the SB-600 works but the SB-24 don't. The hundreds are digital and the two digits are for film).

If you want to take it out of the camera there are no cheap flashes. For keeping the TTL control you will need a TTL cable or radio trigger, which are quite expensive. You can buy a cheap TTL flash but you still have to buy the rest of the equipment. The only cheap option is the use of a short TTL cord, but that gives you less than a meter of space and I'm not sure if you can use more than one flash at the same time.

I only use TTL for events (which I don't really do really often), so I was in the same situation than you. My option was a Sigma IF 530 DG ST, TTL for less than 125 bucks, so I could amortize it in the first assignment. The bad news, it only has full and 1/16 power in manual, but I guess that's ok if you have other manual flashes.

Other options can be the other Sigma (DG ST series) and Metz (Mecablitz 36, 44 or up), just take a look at your closest store and get the one that suits you best, I'm pretty sure you will find something you like under 150$. You can also try to find those flashes on ebay, or a Nikon SB-600 second hand.

Oh, and be sure that it has a tilt and swivel head, the cheapest ones sometimes don´t!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to Photography on StackExchange. Thanks for a solid and broad answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! I just found today this website, and it looks awesome! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KennethCarranza Thanks for the excellent answer. That covers a number of useful relevant points. If nobody tops that I'll accept it. With (great) luck others may have even better advice - but they'll be doing well to do so :-). TTL is not essential in this application. If I can get it at no great cost increase I'll do so. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2013 at 1:30

If this truly is a one-off use (i.e., you just need the flash once, and you're not staying in the Nikon ecosystem anyway), then I'd say rent an SB-910. I can see one internet rental listing for an SB-910 that's $32 for 4 days. You get all the bells and whistles, for very low cost, and you don't have to dump the flash when you switch systems.

If you're not the OP :), but interested in getting a low-cost flash that can do iTTL with a Nikon dSLR body, consider that a flash is as basic and transformative a piece of gear as a lens. You might want to budget accordingly and save up. If you can afford it, the mid-grade SB speedlight (at the time of this writing that would be the SB-700) can typically do everything you'll need, while not costing as much as the top-of-the line unit.

If you have to go cheap 3rd-party, then consider what you mean by automation. iTTL is not the only form. There are also autothyristors to automatically set the flash power level, which you can find in vintage as well as 3rd party flashes, which can be used without flash-body communication. Consider a used SB-24 or SB-26. While their film-era TTL modes won't work, the A/Auto mode will. The SB-26 (bonus) also has an optical slave in it, similar to SU-4 mode, which can be tripped by any flash burst--even from a P&S camera's flash.

3rd party flashes may be worth it or not, but the ones that can do iTTL are going to be more expensive than manual-only flashes, and with the more complex reverse engineering required, may be at more danger of being incompatible with future gear. And firmware upgradeability doesn't come cheap. When you find a model that can be upgraded and do iTTL/HSS, etc. it'll probably cost in the neighborhood of the midgrade OEM units.

And if you go with a cheap Yongnuo iTTL model (say a YN-468ii), then you're risking copy and component consitency, and possibly missing return policies, bad warranty repair service, and having to ship a bad unit to China. Resale value will be near-nonexistent. And if you go for a YN-568EXII, then price-wise, you're back into the range of a used SB-600 and the like.


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