Review: Nikon SB-700 Speedlight

Only introduced in 2004, the Nikon SB-600 has felt outdated for years. This deficit has been especially notable since the replacement of the Nikon SB-800 with the Nikon SB-900 in 2008, which left a huge disparity between the flagship Nikon speedlight and the middle-market option.

The Nikon SB-700 changes all of that completely, updating the base-level flash with many features from the flagship Nikon SB-900 speedlight. And not only does the new Nikon SB-700 make improvements over the SB-600 that it replaces, but it challenges the Nikon SB-900 with a few features and advancements entirely new to the Nikon speedlight family.

Let’s take a look at how the new SB-700 stacks up to the SB-600 it replaces and the SB-900 it challenges.

Support These Reviews

The Nikon SB-700 tested in this review was provided on loan by B&H Photo Video in NYC. If you find this review helpful, please consider buying your next photo gear purchase from B&H or any of our other affiliate links.

What’s In The Box

Unlike the Nikon SB-600, you get a full assortment of accessories right out of the box with the SB-700, so there’s no need to turn to third-party options for essentials like the diffusion dome. In fact, the included accessories are more in line with the flagship Nikon SB-900.

Included with the SB-700 is a dedicated soft case, stand, diffusion dome, and dedicated hard filters for tungsten and fluorescent color correction.

All these goodies fit into the supplied case for the speedlight, which takes a departure from the soft cases of Nikon’s other flashes in that it zips open like a suitcase.

Key Features

In the official press release for the new speedlight, Nikon touts the primary key features of the new SB-700 as the following:

  1. High-end model functions in a compact body
  2. User interface with intuitive operation
  3. Wireless control for two remote flash groups via CLS
  4. Automatic temperature regulation (tackling the automatic shut-off issues of the Nikon SB-900)
  5. Dedicated hard color filters (fluorescent/incandescent)

In addition, the following advancements are listed as per Nikon’s product page

  • LCD and layout of controls designed for easy and intuitive operation
  • Multi-step auto zoom covers wide 24-120 mm zoom range
  • Three illumination patterns–standard, center-weighted and even–available to match every shooting environment
  • Automatically detects Nikon FX and Nikon DX formats and selects suitable light distribution angle
  • Short recycling time
  • AF-assist illumination for multi-point AF, with wide 24-135mm focal range
  • Quick wireless control mode allows control of remote flash unit groups A and B flash output level ratios
  • Firmware updates via Nikon digital SLR cameras
  • Automatically delays recycling time if temperature of flash head rises in order to avoid deterioration of flash head
  • Automatically detects type of hard-type color compensation filter (fluorescent and incandescent) and automatically transmits filter information to camera for optimum white balance setting
  • Optional Water Guards WG-AS1 (for D3 series), WG-AS2 (for D300 series) and WG-AS3 (for D700) protect camera’s accessory shoe contact when SB-700 is mounted on a Nikon digital SLR camera

We’ll take a look at these features and how the Nikon SB-700 stacks up to the flagship Nikon SB-900 and the Nikon SB-600 it replaces in this review.

Design

In terms of design, the new SB-700 takes many cues from the SB-900, but delivers in a smaller form factor that’s closer to the smaller SB-600.

While the SB-900 has always struck me as a pretty huge flash, the SB-700 strikes a nicer balance – it’s a much more “reasonable” size overall with nice proportions. Though the size differences are slight, the smaller size of the SB-700 make it much easier to pack into a bag than the SB-900.

The biggest outward change in the SB-700 is an evolution of the SB-900′s core user interface, with dedicated controls and a central job dial for quick adjustments.

In a slight departure from both the SB-900 and SB-600, the SB-700 features a two-by-two battery arrangement. More simple than the SB-600′s awkward three-and-one arrangement, but different than the SB-900′s linear configuration.

Aesthetics aside, the astute observer has already noted that the SB-700 lacks the connectivity of the SB-900 in terms of an external power option and a PC sync port. The saving grace of SB-700 in terms of the latter is the proliferation of the wireless flash triggers that feature a built-in hotshoe, such as the Yongnuo RF_602 and Phottix Strato.

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45 comments

  1. Great review! Very informative. I love the amount of detail you went into. I look forward to future reviews.

    • Anonymous /

      Hey Jim, thanks for the comment – please let us know if there are any particular features you’d like to see here on FlashRAW.

  2. Great review! Simple, yet in depth. Thank you so much for preparing this!
    I was wondering.. what’s your views for the SB-700 vs the SB-800? I currently own two SB-800s and would love to see a comparison of the two units. I know the SB-800 is a bit more powerful but is it really more efficient? There doesn’t seem to be anyone online covering this topic and I’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks!

    • Hey Kelvin, thanks for the comment.

      If you already own two Nikon SB-800s, I wouldn’t trade them for SB-700s. However, if you’re looking to supplement your flash kit, the Nikon SB-700 would make an excellent

  3. Most detailed review I’ve seen yet. Good work!

    • Anonymous /

      Thanks, Curtis. Hope this review helps people decide which flash is right for them.

  4. Vartok /

    Fantastic review, thanks for doing this Curtis. Been waiting to see a good review. Yours covers all the right details and I like the fact that you compared up and down.

  5. Awesome review! Now I’m even more glad my new 700 came in today. The only thing I was surprised about was the size of the box and case. It looks so small!

    • Anonymous /

      Thanks, Joey. Let us know how you like the SB-700 – it’s a great flash. The case is a little unusual compared to most other Nikon speedlights, but it’s nice that everything fits perfectly.

  6. Very nice thorough review. Thanks!

    Although I have already decided to buy it before I read your review (waiting for stock in my city), your review helped assure me that I’m making the right decision by upgrading from the SB-600.

  7. Ben Sailo /

    The best SB-700 review I’ve read so far. It would be nice to see “Flash Power Output comparison” with actual pictures rather than just the histogram though. All in all a very detailed and nice review.
    And Thanks for the review.

    • Anonymous /

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for the kind words and feedback on the review. For future flash comparisons, will definitely consider including a test scene instead of just a blank wall sample and the histogram. Thanks again.

  8. great review!!!

  9. Best SB-700 review I’ve read as well. Nice job. Will look forward to future reviews. =)

  10. broxibear /

    Really good review.
    I was looking to buy the SB-700 a few weeks ago but then the price of the SB-900 dropped so much it was only £7 more expensive so I bought the SB-900 instead, it’s gone up since but worth keeping an eye on for those thinking about which one to get.
    I’ve heard on forums that the battery door hinge you mentioned is breaking.

    • Anonymous /

      Thanks for the comment broxibear. It sounds like you got a deal on the SB-900!

  11. TheFuzz /

    One thing that may be worth noting is that the newer flashes SB900 and SB700 don’t support TTL or auto zoom with film cameras like the F75. Otherwise the SB700 looks like a great flash

  12. Fantastic review… and congrats on the launch of the new site. Looking forward to some ‘technique’ articles soon!

    You’ve convinced me to buy the SB-700.

    • Anonymous /

      Thanks Rhys. We’re working hard to get the technique articles up and running. Are there specific topics you’d like to learn about? If so, give us a shout on Twitter.

  13. Small correction. Nikon SB-600 has no built-in bounce card and it has pull-out wide-angle diffusion panel.

  14. Bill990 /

    Great review of the SB-700, best I have seen on the Web. I have all three flash: SB-900, SB-700 and SB-600. I have to say that the SB-700 is my favorite. Only complaint I have with the SB-700 is the new case does not fit my camera bag as well as the SB-600 and SB-900 case and does not fit on a waist belt, but that is a minor issue.
    For multi-flash command, the SB-900 is my go to Flash as the best commander with the most power.
    The SB-600′s I have are great for wireless slaves and have not been in the camera hot shoe is many years.
    Cheers, Bill

  15. Very nice review of a very good flash.

    But I found the SB-700 NOT to be compatible with Quantum’s Qnexus.

    SB-700 ist fully compatible with Nikon’s CLS system, but cannot fire a Qflash w/ Qnexus, while SB-800 and SB-900 can.

    I wrote a mail to Quantum support. Answer: Cannot be. It is compatible to the other Nikon flashes, so it must be compatible to Qnexus.

    But it really is NOT.

    I like that SB-700 so much that I bought two of them, but wanted it to trigger my slave Qflash also.

    Mario

    • I got it. Nikon SB-700 CAN trigger the Qflash, but works only on channels 3 and 4, not on 1 and 2 (Quantum as flash A).

  16. Hi! Very nice review, great job! I was just wondering about SB-700 as a slave – if it can only poorly control two groups, does that mean that in slave mode, can it be only in an A or B group? If I use SB-900 as a commander, can SB-700 be set in a different mode then other slaves (ttl, manual, etc) or must they all be the same?

    Thanks

    • In SLAVE mode, the SB-700 can be set to group A, B or C, on channels 1-4 and can be set in every mode you like (TTL or M).

      When used in MASTER mode, it can trigger group A and B only, not group C.

      Mario

  17. Rcambler /

    Thank you for the excellent review, I have a question I hope someone could reply to. I have a D7000 and intend to use a dedicated flash sb-700 or sb-800 for on camera flash. Which of the 2 would you recommend as I am confused as I can get both for near similar prices.

    • Anonymous /

      Hi Rcambler, thanks for the comment. Unless you’re shooting all-day events and need to drive the flash with an external battery pack or need a higher guide number, I would buy the SB-700 instead of (I assume) a used SB-800. The user interface and included accessories are far superior.

      • Rcambler /

        Thanks for the info, just one more question if you don’t mind, If budget is not an issue which would you then recommend the Sb700 or SB-900 as an on camera flash for the D7000. I am a newbie and very keen to go further into photography, my lenses are not fast primes (10-24, 55-300, 18-105) except the 50mm f/1.8 and hence considering this I want to take the hit one time only for the on board flash. I also have the SB-50DX from 5700 coolpix days and wondering if they could be used in the CLS arrangement for the future. Thanks again.

        • Anonymous /

          Hey Rcambler. At this stage, I would buy the SB-700. It’s a great flash that will do absolutely everything you need at your level. Since it’s a new product, your purchase will also be futureproof. If you get very serious about using off-camera flash in your photography, you’ll likely purchase additional SB-700s, an SU-800, or an SB-900 further down the road.

  18. Fotojack /

    Excellent review on this flash…..the best one I’ve read about the SB-700.

    One question: How exactly does one update the firmware on the SB-700? I see no input ports for USB connection, or any other connection, for that matter.

  19. Idphua /

    hey. i hav a SB600 and a SB800. if i looking at selling one away and buy a SB700. Which one would u recommend me to sell?

    • Anonymous /

      We’d recommend selling the SB-600 and grabbing the SB-700. That’ll give you the SB-800 as a very powerful remote flash and with the great UI of the SB-700 as the commander (if you’re using CLS).

      • Idphua /

        Thanks.. Make great sense… Looking forward for my new SB700…

  20. Iloveu /

    Don’t buy it.
    They are overpriced.

    Buy Nissin Di622 Mark II or Yongnuo 565EX flash, if you are on a budget.

    Buy ATG Nissin Pro 1K, ATG Nissin Pro, Nissin Di866 Mark II, if you need more power and can do more than Nikon flashes.

    ATG/Nissin/Metz are hurting Nikon flash dept for years.

  21. Kristen Branch /

    This was a good review. I had the 600 and all of a sudden it broke/stopped working a year later. I was looking to buy the 900 but its damn near $500 so I just been using my flash on my nikon D7000.  I did talk with someone about buying the 700 because its up to date and its cheaper. Aso it comes with little gagets you can play with. I think ill be buying the 700 soon

    Thanks For The Info

  22. Hi FlashRAW,

    Thanks for the thorough review. I mainly use D5K which should work perfectly with SB-700. But I also still use a Nikon FM and a Panny LX-3 that obviously don’t work in TTL mode. I wonder if the SB-700 has non-TTL auto function a’la SB-28 (just set the aperture and ISO on the flash, and it gives you the range it can cover)?

    Thanks in advance for responding :)

  23. Juniorsimpson /

    Where can I get a Battery Pack with connecting cable to work this flash on my D90?

  24. Davidsan_jaya /

    hi, just got? mine. just wondering how many light (AF-assist illumination) that lights up when you press the shutter button half way? because my sb 700 just lights one light. hope you understand my question. thx.

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