WARNING: THIS IS A RANT – NOT A COMPARISON REVIEW!
The other day I had a conversation with someone who was mentioning that he and his crew now only use the SB900 and they have all but thrown out their SB800 flashes. I mentioned the fact that the SB900 was not worth the cost cost difference for the few added benefits. He disagreed.
First off, both flashes are excellent folks. But I have a hard time shelling out an extra hundred bucks over the price of a new SB800 to get a fresnel that zooms to 200mm, a fancy selector switch, 3 selectable light patterns, a flash head that rotates 270 degrees and a little more light output.
Now, the above my sound like a lot and some of you may even think I’m nuts for arguing that they aren’t worth the money. Why would I say that?
- 200mm fresnel zoom – if you’re using 200mm glass and throwing light that far from on camera then you deserve the horrible pictures that will follow.
- The selector switch is nice, but it’s fluff. It’s a thing of convenience.
- 3 selectable light patterns – If you want to change the light coming from your flash, there are a great many options out there to change the shape of your light. Most of them can be made for less than a cup of Starbucks.
- 270 rotating flash head – Designed for CLS users, this feature allows you position the flash to more easily be able to get it to see the signal coming from your Commander flash. I hardly ever use CLS, so this is useless to me.
- More light output – the difference in light output isn’t even equal to one whole stop of light. This would be the most important of the key features and the thing I would be willing to pay money for. But for $450.00 (B&H pricing) I can buy a Calumet Genesis 200 and an Alienbees Vagabond II battery pack and have a battery-powered strobe that puts out FAR more light than an SB900.
I’m not saying the SB900 isn’t a great flash. It is. It’s just not worth the cost difference to me since I use manual flash and trigger them with CyberSyncs.
So which is better? In my opinion, the SB800 is. It’s got almost all the same features and just about as much light output for $100.00 less new. They are still a really popular flash and I see them all the time going for $350.00 used and that was their new price at B&H. I’ll probably have to wait another 8 years or so to be able to pick them up used for $150.00 like my SB-80DX flashes.