Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 with SB-16A

Nikon introduced a flash unit called SB-16 with a modular body concept when a series of TTL-flash equipped SLR models started rolling out from the production plants after the original effort of the Nikon F3 in 1980. I remember it was not available  when the second TTL flash capable Nikon FG was introduced in 1982 and it was not until the Nikon FA and the revised Nikon FE-2 were marketed during the beginning part of 1983 that eventually saw the debut of the SB-16. Both of these camera models from Nikon were immensely popular because of their TTL flash capabilities and other wonderful features.

f3md4sb16front.jpg
The compact TTL flash SB-15 was the companion flash unit originally meant for the FG and it was also the logical portable flash for FA and the FE2 as there was no other similar class compact flash unit in Nikon's product line. The Nikon F3, with only the SB-12 as the sole portable unit started to feel the strain and time for the call of a high performance TTL flash unit was needed. As you already know the constraints that circled around F3's proprietary accessory shoe which was different not only from main stream market designs, but also differed from many other Nikon camera models.

The new flash design had to cater to both the F3 and other mid-compact models and some of the well known third part flash manufacturers like Metz and even Sunpak had begun to introduce system flashes with modular design. These designs incorporated an interchangeable mounting foot for the main flash unit as well as some nifty features such as zoom head to extend the flash working range, plus better flash coverage when using lenses of specific focal length. I wouldn't consider the SB-16 as a copy, but it carried on with such similar concepts and it was also designed to be fully compatibility with virtually all Nikon SLRs.

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Nikon SB-16B (AS-`17) Flash / speedlight compatibility chart with various Nikon cameras.

Source: Nikon Europe

sb16expsdial.jpg
As a system flash, it was separated into two system components. In one way, you have a SB-16A (with Flash Unit Coupler AS-8) offers TTL automatic control with F3 series while the SB-16B (with Flash Unit Coupler AS-9) - BOTH offer TTL automatic flash exposure control with F5, F100, F90X (F90), F4 series, F70, F60, F50, older bodies such as F801s (F801), F-601 or even the APS PRONEA 600i.

Instruction Manual (HTML) for Nikon SB-16A/B (Uploaded !)

Highlights: SB-16A/SB-16B

* Multi-Sensor balanced fill flash with N90 or AF and AI-P Nikkor lenses
* Matrix-balanced fill-flash with F5, F100, F4-series, F90x, F90, F70, F60, F50, F801s, F601, F501, and AF and AI-P Nikkor lenses
* Selectable main flash coverage angles (28mm,35mm,50mm,85mm)
* Tilting, rotating main flash head from -70 to 90° for bounce flash shooting
* Secondary flash fills shadow
* SB-16A for F3 series cameras includes AS-8 Flash Unit Coupler
* SB-16B for Nikon cameras with standard ISO hot shoe includes AS-9 Flash
Unit Coupler (Both interchangeable with AS-8 or AS-9)
* Both models include Nikon Wide Flash Adaptor SW-7, Soft Case SS-16, Battery Holder MS-5
* Guide number (ISO 100 in feet) 105 with zoom head set at N (35mm)
* Recycling time at full manual output approximately 11 seconds, more flashes and shutter recycle times are possible in TTL mode.

sb16base2.jpg sb16base3.jpg
What is the AS-8 and AS-9 ? It sounds more like a flash coupler.

The SB-16 can be separated into two portions, the top, essentially a flash module plus the battery compartment, being the main flash unit and the bottom half is the SPD sensor for automatic flash and also the flash mounting foot for either the AS-8 flash coupler for Nikon F3 or AS-9 with standard ISO type mounting foot.

sb16sytem2.jpg
The main unit has bounce flash capability with two flash heads - it remains as the sole 'portable Nikon-made flash with fill-in secondary flash for quite a long time even until today. The main unit also has a zooming capability which can extend the powerful light intensity to beyond 100' ! On the wideangle coverage, when used with the Wide-Flash Adaptor SW-7 it provides a good and even coverage for a 24mm wideangle lens. With its moderately high powerful guide number as equivalent to bracket flash SB-14, a new rapid firing setting was also being considered and eventually incorporated, that is the 'MD' setting which stands for 'Motor Drive' mode.

Synchronization with motor drive (at MD mode): Both SB-16A (with AS-8) for F3-series cameras and the standard ISO mounting foot SB-16B (with AS-9). At the motor drive (MD) setting, the SB-16 is able to recycle fast enough to synchronize with a motor driven camera firing continuously up to around 3.5 frames per second. It is possible to take up to 8 consecutive frames at 4 frames per second. The SB-16's guide number is 32 (ASA/ISO 100 and meters) or 52 (ASA/ISO 25 and feet) as compared with the Nikon SB-17's guide number of 25 (ASA/ISO 100 and meters); 41 (ASA/ISO 25 and feet). However, in MD mode, the SB-16's maximum light output will be diluted and guide number will be approx. 8 (ASA/ISO 100 and meters). Like the M setting, this is also a manual setting; therefore, the exposure should be calculated manually by experience and also with the aid of the calculator dial.

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At the back of the AS-8 is the command centre - the mode selector where you select the mode of operation either in AUTO (A1 (Blue) & A2 (Orange) ); the MD (Motor Drive) mode, Manual flash and TTL flash mode.

At the top of the flash module is the flash zooming selector - which has a good angle of flash coverage that covers picture angles of 85mm, 50mm, 35mm, 28mm, 24mm (with SW-7) lenses by zooming (Pulling) the main flash head.

zoomsetting.jpg
The "T" stands for "Telephoto", "S" for Standard lenses, "N" for normal wideangle lenses of 35mm focal length and "W1" for 28mm wideangle setting.

The wide flash adaptor SW-7 has a snap on type design. To use the 24mm lens (with SW-7), you have to set the zoom setting to "W1" (28mm) position to ensure proper flash coverage is evenly distributed across the picture frame.

flashadaptor.jpg
Other than using ultrawides or intentional diffusion of the light intensity of the flash output, it is advisable to remove the SW-7 for normal flash photography.

One of the two features I find extremely useful is the secondary fill-in flash. It is a great feature for those newsmen and journalists who always work indoor and find it favourable for ceiling or bounce flash photography. The mini fill flash should be able to fill perfectly the shadow cast by bounce flash.

fillflash.jpg
I don't understand why Nikon let go with this wonderful feature in their AF flash units (Or maybe they have too much confidence in their matrix-fill flash designed for the AF bodies). Warning: bounce flash onto coloured ceiling may create a colour cast on your image.

Another very handy feature that can be found on the SB-16 flash (on SB-17 as well) is the dual sync socket. One socket for the TTL and another is the normal sync terminal. The TTL socket enables FULL TTL multiple flash setup.

synccontct.jpg
You can even mix them in use with many of the current AF TTL flash units. Strangely, this was not found on the SB-15.

The viewfinder ready light feature is not a new thing for Nikon flash units. I remember the Nikon F2 with the Nikon SB-7E already provided a viewfinder ready light. It is quite useful as it can alert the photographer as to the status of the flash. Its LED in the viewfinder lights up when the flash is being recycled. This way, you're easily informed of flash readiness without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder. Depending on which Nikon flash unit is attached, the same LED blinks to warn of insufficient flash output, incorrect setting of the flash unit or incorrect setting of the Nikon F3.

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In the case of Nikon F3/SB-16A combination OR by way of the new flash coupler AS-17 with Nikon TTL flash with standard ISO type accessory shoe:

As soon as the LED ready-light comes on the flash is ready to fire. If you depress the shutter button halfway, you'll notice that the LCD displays 80 indicating that the proper synchronization speed of 1/80 sec. has been automatically set by the speedlight. The ready light at the back of the SB-16A can also be used to determine the status of the flash charge.

sb16angles.jpg sb16tilt.jpg zoomsetting.jpg bounce.jpg
Multiple capabilities of the SB-16A/B and making it easily the most flexible Nikon flash to date !

Warning: Electronic flash produces a colour 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 colour if necessary. The same applies to bounce flash - Unless the surface you are using to bounce the light off of is white or silver, your colour photographs will come out with an unnatural colour cast similar to that of the reflecting surface.
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Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon F3 with SB-16A
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