Nikon gets flashy with the Speedlight SB-500

Nikon SB-500
Use the Speedlight SB-500 flash for regular stills photography and the LED for movies.

The Speedlight SB-500 sits roughly in the middle of Nikon's range of external flashguns for its D-SLR cameras (and some compatible CoolPix models). It delivers more power than the camera's built-in flash with the added flexibility of tilt and swivel movements (90 degrees and 180 degrees respectively) so that you can 'bounce' the light off nearby walls or ceilings to produce softer, more varied lighting effects.

It's compatible with Nikon's wireless 'Creative Lighting System', though if you want to control other Nikon Speedlights remotely, you'll need to be using a camera equipped with Nikon's 'Commander' mode. The more advanced Speedlight SB-700 and SB-910 models have this built in to the flash itself.

The SB-500 can also be a 'remote' flash fired by the camera's built-in flash or another Speedlight – it even comes with its own stand. It's powered by two AA batteries and you should get 140 shots from a pair of NiMH rechargeable cells.

Lights, camera, action…

But flash is no good for movies. That's where the LED strip on the front of the flash comes in. It's powerful enough for close-range movie footage, and you can adjust the intensity for close-up shots.

It's not just movie makers who will get the benefit, though. Many photographers prefer the predictability of continuous lighting – what you see is what you get – and don't mind bumping up the ISO to increase the range of the lamp.

The SB-500 will cost £200 and goes on sale from September 24th. It's neat, versatile, and just the right size for slipping into that spare pocket in your camera bag.

Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.