Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon SB-15/SB-17 - Operational Manual - Part IV

Flexible Flash Head

The SB-15's flash head rotates through an arc of 180° with click-stops every 90°. With the flash unit mounted on the camera, it is recommended to turn the flash head to the horizontal position (with the calculator dial on top) to insure adequate coverage when using wideangle lenses. Of particular interest is the SB-15's tilting flash tube module which has click-stops at the 15°, 30°, 60°, and 90° positions.

These movements used singly or in combination allow you to bounce the light off the ceiling or walls for softer, more flattering lighting when shooting portraits or snapshots. To tilt the flash tube module back, slide the lock in the direction of the arrow as you move the flashtube.

Note that unless the surface you are bouncing the light off of is white or silver, your color photographs will come out with an unnatural color cast similar to that of the reflecting surface.

flash02.jpg flash03.jpg
Notes: 1) A special red LED is built into one end of the flash tube to ensure stable light output.

If you release the camera's shutter or push the open-flash button before the SB-15/SB-17 is fully charged, the LED might light up—this is not a malfunction.

2) When mounted on F3-series cameras with the AF Finder DX-1, the SB-15/SB-17's flash head cannot be rotated so that it is over the finder

The color temperature of the SB-15's light output is balanced for use with daylight-type color film.

In bounce-flash photography, the exposure calculator dial cannot be used to determine the correct aperture or the automatic shooting range.

Therefore, it is recommended that you make sure there is adequate illumination by watching the ready-light after the shot is taken; in the regular automatic (non-TTL) mode, you can test fire the SB-15 using the open-flash button to determine whether the illumination is sufficient. Because there is less light illuminating the subject in bounce flash, fast film such as ASA/ISO 400 is recommended.

Warning: Electronic flash produces a color temperature of around 6,000 degrees Kelvin. They are generally considered to have the same photographic effect as daylight.

Filters on the camera or over the flash unit can be used to alter the color if necessary. The same applies to bounce flash if the medium (like ceiling or wall) has a strong color.

For shooting close-ups with the flash mounted on the camera, you might try this method: rotate the flash head 180° so that the exposure calculator dial is on the bottom; then tilt the flash tube module down to illuminate the subject directly.

Depending on how close the subject is to the camera, you can select either the 15° or 30° position. It is also recommended that you use the Wide-Flash Adapter SW-6 to insure even lighting.

Wide Flash Adapter SW-6

This diffuser snaps into place in front of the SB-15/SB-17's flashtube to increase the angle of coverage from the normal 56° horizontal and 40° vertical to 67° and 48° respectively, allowing the SB-15 to be used with a 28mm wideangle lens.

To mount the SW-6, hold it with the smooth side up; then insert the protruding tab into the groove and push the diffuser down until it click-locks into place. To remove it, insert your fingernail under the tab on the left-hand side of the SW-6 and lift it out.

Warning: With the Wide-Flash Adapter SW-6 attached, remember to set the mode setting knob to "W", Because the SW-6 diffuses the light emitted from the SB-15, the guide number is reduced to 18 (ASA/ISO 100 and meters) or 30 (ASA/ISO 25 and feet); in addition, the auto shooting ranges for regular automatic operation are less. the previous SW-4 designed for the SB-12 is not compatible in size (But no one stops you from held it manually... hehe.)

Flash Terminal

Located on the bottom of the flash head is a threaded terminal which serves two purposes: it can be used to attach a sync cord to the SB-15 for off-camera operation or you can attach a second electronic flash in series for multiple lighting setups.

For off-camera operation, use either the optional SC-10, 11, or 15 sync cord; screw one end of the cord into this terminal and the other end into the camera's sync terminal.

Shown above is the SB-15. However, the SB-17 designed for the F3 has an additional TTL Sync socket in addition to the normal sync terminal as shown here in the SB-15. That enables F3 with SB-17 can truly enjoy the convenience of TTL multiple flash setup. Why Nikon left this feature in the SB-15 ? May be intentionally to push you to go and buy the SB-16B which has both of the sync sockets in place for normal and TTL flash setup.

For multiple-flash, you can use this terminal to attach a second Nikon flash unit to the SB-15 in series. If the secondary flash unit is either the Nikon Speedlight SB-11, 12, 14, 15, 16 or 17, the use of either the SC-10, 11, or 15 sync cord is recommended; however, with the Speedlight SB-7E or 10, you must use the SC-5 ( 15cm), the SC-6(1 m), or the SC-7(25cm) sync cord.

Warning: 1) When the SB-15 is used off-camera via a sync cord, the ready-light inside the camera's viewfinder will not operate, nor will the correct flash synchronization speed be automatically set when the SB-15 is turned on; 2) The SB-15 employs a special low-voltage triggering circuit to prevent electrical shock and damage to the hotshoe contacts. Nikon claimed they do not recommend mixing Nikon Speedlights with flash units of other makers for multiple flash photography; unless you use slave units for remote triggering. Otherwise, incorrect operation and/or damage to the unit may result.

All the diagrams above illustrate multiple flash setups with the sync/multiple flash terminal of the SB-15/SB-17. However, if your Nikon camera has a sync terminal, it may be used, too.

Download a PDF File (140k) Excluding possible combination with the newly introduced AS-17 flash coupler.

Some Handy Accessories for SB-15 and SB-17:

SC10.jpg SC11.jpg
Sync Cords SC-10, SC-11 and SC-15.

For use with cameras not provided with a hot shoe or for off-camera or multiple-flash lighting setups. The SC-11 is 25cm long while the SC-15 is one meter. To use the SC-10 with F3-series cameras, the Nikkor Flash Unit Coupler is required.

AS7.jpg AS4.jpg
Flash Unit Coupler AS-4 and AS-7 and the AS-17 (new)

These accessories convert the accessory shoes of Nikon F3-series cameras to the standard ISO-type accessory shoe, allowing direct attachment of the SB-15. A special feature of the AS-7 is that it lets you change film with the Nikon F3 without removing the flash unit.

The newly introduced AS-17, was 20 years late since F3 was introduced way back in 1980, it solves a big problem for many F3 users who has to maintain two flash module all these years if ones has a backup compact body such as models within the FM, FE series or the FA. The new coupler allows flash with standard ISO type accessory shoe to be used on the Nikon F3 without the expense of TTL flash exposure control. (With AS-4 and AS-7, those flash units NOT designed for F3 will have only AUTO and manual flash modes to operate). Which also means flash like SB-15, SB-16B and many other autofocus based TTL flash can also be used now on the F3 series models (except on finder like DE-4 on camera like F3 P and F3H).

TTL Remote Cord SC-17

The coiled cord SC-17 enables the SB-15 to be used up to one and half meters off a Nikon FA, FE2 or FG camera. Even with the SC-17, automatic switch over of shutter speed and ready-light indication in the viewfinder are provided just as if the flash unit were mounted directly on the camera.

TTL Multi-Flash Sync Cords SC-18 and SC-19

They are used to connect flash units in TTL multiple flash operation. The SC-18 is approx. 1.5m long while the SC-19 is approx. 3m.

This is especially comes in handy for SB-17 which has the TTL sync terminal, you can combine the SB-17 to several TTL flash units such as SB-16A or 16B or for that matter any flash units that has a TTL sync socket for multiple TTL flash. If you intend to use more than three, the multi TTL flash connector AS-10 should comes in very useful for such application.

TTL Multi Flash Adapter AS-10

When you plan to perform TTL multiple flash operation with more than three flash units or to use the SB-15 as a slave flash unit, the AS-10 is required. With one AS-10 having three TTL multiple flash terminals, you can use up to three slave flash units including one mounted on it.


Cleaning: Never use tissue moistened with thinner, benzine or alcohol, because these solutions might damage the plastic parts which forms the basic structure of the exterior. If the Wide-Flash Adapter gets dirty, wash it with soap and water. Before you put away the SB-15/SB-17, make sure to turn off the power switch. If you do not plan to use the unit for more than two weeks, it is best to remove the batteries to avoid possible damage to the circuitry by battery leakage.

Keep the camera away from places where the temperature is likely to go higher than 60°C, such as in the trunk of a car under the summer sunlight, and places full of moisture, to prevent circuit damage. (The ideal working temperature range in which the flash should be used is from -10°C to +50°C).

Reforming the capacitor

If you haven't used your flash unit for a long time, the recycling time may differ from that listed in the specifications. If this is the case, use the open flash button to fire the unit a few times to bring it back to normal working order.

"Red eye"
"Red eye', is a phenomenon in flash photography where the center portions of the subject's eyes appear as bright red orbs in color photographs (or white in black and white pictures). This is a result of the light from the flash illuminating the retina directly. If the subject looks straight into the lens and there is little or no ambient light, the pupil is wide open, making the retina clearly visible in the picture.

To avoid "red eye," you can take any or all of the following precautions:

1. Ask the subject not to look directly into the lens when the picture is taken. 2. Remove the flash unit from the camera and hold it as far away as possible from the camera by using a sync cord. 3. Increase the room's overall illumination to reduce the opening of the subject's pupils.

Batteries Issues
New batteries: Between manufacturing and first use, all batteries exhibit some drain. Therefore, care should be taken to purchase the newest (and freshest) ones possible. To help you do this, some manufacturers stamp the date of manufacture on the bottom of each battery. Ask your camera dealer for assistance in interpreting the codes. Battery life ratings are based on operation at around 25°C (77°F). At other temperatures, battery life is shortened. Spare batteries should therefore be kept available if operation in low temperatures is anticipated.

When not in use, the batteries should be removed to prevent damage from leakage. To minimize drain during the period of disuse, store the batteries in a cool, dry place below 20°C (68° F). If possible, avoid mixing new and old batteries since proper performance will not be obtained and battery leakage into your SB-15 may occur. Do not dispose of batteries by burning. Also, for safety's sake, do not disassemble batteries when disposing of them.

When installing batteries, observe the voltage polarities carefully. Reversal of the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals will result in leakage.

Notes: In comparison with regular batteries, NiCd batteries provide faster recycling time and better efficiency at low temperatures. However, note that the recycling time and the number of flashes per battery set are dependent on the age of the batteries, how much charge they have, and their capacities.


Electronic Construction: Automatic silicon-controlled rectifier and series circuitry
Guide Number: 25 (ASA/ISO 100 and meters); 18 (with Wide-Flash Adapter SW-6); 41 (ASA/ISO 25 and feet); 30 (with Wide-Flash Adapter SW-6)

Angle of coverage:




Usable Lens




35mm or longer

With Wide Adapter SW-6



28mm or longer

Recycling Time:

Battery Type

Number of Flashes

Recycling Time

Zinc Carbon

60 times

About 9 sec at minimum

Alkaline Manganese

160 times

About 8 sec at minimum

TTL auto exposure: Through-the-lens automatic exposure control with the Nikon FA, FE2 and FG, Nikon F3 series bodies (Direct mount for SB-17 or using AS-17 with SB-15), film speeds from ASA/ISO 25 to 400; Film speed range: ASA/ISO 25 -1000 (For SB-17); usable aperture range from f/2 to f/22.
Automatic Non-TTL flash control: Possible with any Nikon SLR cameras. For SB-15 on Nikon F3: use flash coupler AS-4 or AS-7. For SB-17 with other SLRs with Standard ISO accessory shoe: Use flash coupler AS-6.
Recycling Time: variable depending on shooting distance; Manual: approx. 8.5 sec.
Regular auto exposure: Automatic exposure control via the front-mounted light sensor; film speeds from ASA/ISO 25 to 880; two working apertures depending on film speed.

Working Aperture

AUTO shooting distance range

f/4.0 (ASA/ISO 100)

A2: 0.6 - 6.2m (2 - 20 ft.)

f/8.0 (ASA/ISO 100)

A1: 0.6 - 3.1m(2 - 10ft.)

Manual exposure control: Full output at M setting; approx. 1/13 power at MD setting
Dimensions: Approx.101mm x 90mm x 42.5mm (excluding mounting foot)
Approx. 270g (without batteries) for SB-15; Approx. 300g for SB-17

Batteries: Four 1.5V M-type penlight batteries, alkaline-manganese batteries recommended; Ni-Cd M-type batteries usable, but performance is lower in power efficiency but recycling time is faster

Others: One sync socket provided on SB-15; One normal sync socket and one TTL sync terminal for SB-17.
: Wide-Flash Adapter SW-6; Soft Case SS-15, Battery Holder MS-6

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Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon SB-15/SB-17 - Operational Manual - Part IV

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