Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Additional info on Nikon Speedlights SB-1

Nikon Original Speedlight.jpg
Nikon Original Speedlight Unit

An image of the earliest Nikon bracket speedlight around the early to mid '60 that I can find - unit provides ample and uniform illumination over the entire film frame. It offers many standard and optional accessories to meet various lighting requirements.

Instruction manual for Nikon SB-1 Speedlight
- Content contributed by: Mr. Werner Schrittesser <>

Several different light sources are available. Nickel-cadmium, 510V or D-size batteries or AC (100, 117, 220 or 240V) power and two ring light attachments for close-ups and macro-photo work are available. Extension cords and a movable bracket may be used. Also available is an eyepiece pilot lamp to show the power charge which is fitted into the camera eyepiece. Standard equipment includes the main unit, bracket, nickel-cadmium battery pack, sync cord and an AC unit/charger. "... SB-1 was launched in 1971, it was a hammer-type with a guide number of 28 at ISO 100/21º (fix angle covered of a 35mm lens, fixed reflector and no output-reducing facility), powered by a rechargeable battery (time of charge: 15 hours ! ) in the grip. For more capacity, it could use six D-size cells in the battery pack SD-2, that could give more than 1000 flashes Both gave a recycling time of 4 seconds; If a faster recycling time where required, one could use SD-2 or the special SD-3 power packs, with its 510 volts, that could give 700 flashes with a recycling time of just 1.5 seconds. " Credit: - Com. Augusto Staut, Brazil -

Nikon SB2.jpg 911k) Loading...
Nikon SB-2 Flash Unit (Credit: Prepared By: Michael Liu)

SB-2 and SB-3 was believed to be introduced almost at the same time. Both units are identical in features and power output. The main difference is their mounting foot to camera. The SB-2 has a Nikon F/Nikon F2 type of dedicated flash foot while the SB-3 employed with a standard ISO-type flash mounting foot. Both provide automatic flash control from 2 to 20 feet (0.6 m to 6 m). The SB-2 and SB-3 also use an energy-saving thyristor system. It only requires 4 x AA batteries to operate, Guide Number is 80 in feet (25 in meters) with ISO 100 film. No physical images of the flash. I have been unable to locate any images for posting here for your reference. IF you do, I would be more than happy to provide an appropriate credit for your kind contribution.


Light Output Control: Silicon controlled rectifier and series wiring
Guide Number: 25m (81ft) for ASA 100 film on manual
Flash Duration: 1/1200 sec. on manual
Number of Flashes (manual setting is lower number): 40-400 (high-rate manganese batteries); 140-1400 (alkaline-manganese batteries)
Recycling Time (manual setting is higher number): <1 to 8 sec.
Angle of Coverage: 56 deg. horizontal, 40 deg. vertical (speedlite positioned horizontally)
Automatic f/ Numbers: Choice of three -- f/4, f/5.6, f/8 with ASA 100 film
Automatic Shooting Range: 0.6-6m (2-20ft) at f/4; 0.6-4.5m (2-15ft) at f/5.6; 0.6-3m (2-10ft) at f/8
Power Sources: four 1.5V AA-type batteries; AC source with aid of SA-2 converter
Ready-light: provided, doubles as open-flash button
Synch Socket for Eyepiece Pilot Lamp: provided
Ready-light Contact for F2 Series Camera Finders: provided
Flash Foot: tilts through an arc of 180 deg.
Dimensions and Weight: 110 x 104 x 40mm ; 430g without batteries
Accessories: Soft case SS-21; sync cord SC-6;; sync cord SC-7; extension cord SE-2; flash unit coupler AS-2; Nikkormat accessory shoe; eyepiece pilot lamp SF-1; wide-flash adaptor SW-1; (spare) battery holder

Calculator Dial.jpg (23k) Loading..
The calculator disc, which indicates which three f/stops are automatic, is on top of the flash. The f/number setting slider, which selects the automatic stop (or sets the flash to manual operation) is on its front. On the back, from left to right are the on/off switch, AC power socket, ready-light/open-flash button, and swivelling foot mount. The three slots on the bottom accept either sync cord SC-6 or -7, or the SF-1 attachment.

The SB-2 is the spiritual ancestor to today's modern gee-whiz "D" flash, the SB-27. Both feature the same basic bar-of-soap size and swivelling foot attachment. This was a tremendously popular flash-market segment, and many similar designs were offered by third-party manufacturers, such as Braun and Vivitar, although as far as I know, only Metz (with their 218N) manufactured one with an F/F2 foot. Remember, Nikon F owners, to set your shutter to 1/60th or slower and the flash sync to "FX"; F2's should set to 1/80th or slower (indicated by the line between 1/60 and 1/125). You then set the ASA against the white triangle on the calculator disc of the flash.

sb2-3manualcover.JPG (26k) loading ...
" .... This is a 31 page JAPANESE language operating instructions manual for the collectible Nikon SB-2 AND SB-3 Speedlight flash unit. The manual is in very good condition with some wear due to age and was printed in January 1976...."

<<< ---- Credit: This rare Image of the SB-2/3 manual courtesy of Mr. Benny Horn®, <> from Garland, Texas, USA. Image copyright© 2003. All rights reserved.

After having focused on the subject in your viewfinder, note the distance to the subject (from your lens's focus scale) and find the appropriate f-stop from the calculator dial. You may use automatic flash as long as the distance you have focused upon (assuming that you want it lit by flash) is less than the maximum automatic distance -- in this case, 6m (20 ft) at the orange mark (if you want more depth of field, use a differently coloured mark but note that your maximum range decreases accordingly). Congratulations. You have now performed much of the function of a "D" lens, which sends the exact same information to the SB-27. Alternatively, you may set the f-stop to the one that lines up with the focusing distance, in manual mode. This will ensure that everything up to the focused subject will be properly (over) exposed; the background is more a function of which shutter speed you set. For nicer results, you may want to decrease the flash exposure by 1/3 to 5/3 of a stop (by rating the film correspondingly faster), take a meter reading of the background, and use an aperture-priority (based on the aperture from the flash's calculator dial) exposure calculation to get decent fill-flash.

One general tip with elderly electronic flashes, especially if it hasn't been used much lately: the main storage capacitor may need reforming, especially if your flashes are coming out weak or if it takes a long time to recharge/recycle. Thankfully, reforming is quite easy: let the flash charge up, and discharge it about ten times, using the open-flash button.

More... Batteries and alternate Power sources for Older Nikon Speedlights: Check out Don Walsh's articles in the Nikon F's site in PIM.

Useful accessory:- Nikon original Flash couplers for various flash models foot incompatibility

  | Previous | Next |
  Back to Index of Nikon F3 Flash
  Back to Index of Nikon F3 Models
  Back to Pictorial History of Nikon SLRs
About this photographic site
Contributions and Credits
  Home - Photography in Malaysia

Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Additional info on Nikon Speedlights SB-1

Copyright © 1999. leofoo ®. MIR Web Development Team.