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Q. Speedlights seem to get more feature-packed and expensive all the time. Are they also getting more robust? Manufacturers state the number of flashes to be expected from different battery types, but they don’t state the number of flashes that might be expected from the device itself. What sort of life expectancy does, for example, the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight have?
A. I sent your question about the life expectancy of the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight to my contact at Nikon and received the following reply, which really does not answer the question: “Unfortunately, it is not a spec we have available to distribute. The only thing I can offer is the recycle time/flashes per battery: approximately 4 seconds at full power output with four AA alkaline-manganese (1.5v) batteries for approximately 110 flashes; approximately 2.3 seconds at full power output with four AA Ni-MH (2600 mAh) rechargeable 1.2v batteries for approximately 190 flashes.” In fairness, there are probably many variables that go into the life of a flash. Well, I did learn one thing: rechargeable batteries recycle more rapidly and produce more flashes than alkaline-manganese batteries, so some of this information was helpful.
Slide Projector Woes Solved
Q. I have a Sawyer Rotomatic Model 700 35mm slide projector. The projector bulb/lamp (marked DAY 500W) burned out. I believe a DAK 500W can also be used in this projector. To my dismay, a glass “lens” between the bulb and the slide location self-destructed. I believe that this is called a “reflector” or “heat condenser.” I think this reflector/heat condenser is p/n 329-101. Can you help me locate both a reflector/heat condenser and bulb?
A. I have located an excellent source for parts for many makes of old slide projectors, including Sawyer and Argus. They do have the replacement heat condenser you need. Contact: Ikon Photo, 8 Malibu Court, Columbia, SC 29209; (803) 787-1626. They also stock thousands of projector bulbs, including both the DAY and DAK 500W lamps you were looking for. However, they recommend you get a DAT lamp that’s just 400w but provides adequate light for most home or small room situations as this will be less likely to damage the heat condenser.
N80 & SB-30
Q. I have a question about my rather humble Nikon N80 film camera outfit which consists of two cameras, a battery grip, a Nikon SB-30 Speedlight flash, and three lenses. The Nikon SB-30 flash fits the camera’s hot shoe way too tight. I have followed the directions yet it fits with a tight budge and I’m afraid I might tear up the hot shoe permanently. I both called and wrote Nikon and they told me to purchase a SC-28 or SC-29 off-camera flash cord and use it that way. I want to use the SB-30 flash to shoot portraits with my cameras. Can I connect the SB-30 to make it work?
Now there is the voltage device that steps down the voltage from the flash to hot shoe. Would one of these devices be another way for me to use my SB-30 flash? Or would I need to get a newer model Nikon SB-600 Speedlight?
A. I believe this flash has a safety lock lever on the base of the flash that has to be unlocked before you attempt to slide it onto the camera’s shoe. Are you sure this locking lever is in the loosened or open position before you try to place the flash onto the camera? After you slide it into the shoe, you can tighten the lever to make a secure fit so the flash stays in proper electrical contact and does not accidentally slide off the camera while you are using or carrying the camera.
I agree that using a flash unit held off-camera will provide better lighting for portraits because the light will then be coming from the side and above the lens thereby giving more contour to facial features. There are several versions of the Nikon TTL remote flash cord offered. The Nikon SC-17 cord is 5-feet long, more than adequate to let you hold the small flash at arm’s length away from the camera while retaining all the automatic TTL capabilities. Newer model cords, the Nikon SC-28 and SC-29, are 9-feet long, which might be too long a cord for simple handheld off-camera flash use.
I don’t believe you should be concerned about the possibility of high voltage in your flash harming your camera. As I understand the problem, it only occurs when trying to use an older flash with a newer digital camera. Besides, the voltage reduction device is only a small boxy unit that attaches to the camera’s shoe and has another shoe on the top into which the flash attaches. It only raises the flash 1-2” higher above the camera so you do not get any drastic off-camera type of lighting direction shift. Your older SB-30 flash has a GN of 52 at ISO 100 while a newer SB-600 (with a GN of 98) or other similar flash will have a higher GN so you could use your flash at greater distances from the subject. But the flash you have, when used with an off-camera cord, should provide adequate light for most conventional portrait subjects.