I just strangled my Nikon SB-800 speedlight …

modifying the Nikon SB-800 speedlight

One of my major frustrations with the Nikon SB-800 flashgun (other than the clumsy controls to get into the master/slave settings), is that it doesn’t twist 180′ in either direction like the Canon 580EX speedlites do.  The SB-800 rotates 180′ to the left, but only 90′ to the right.  This difference is huge!

If for example you wanted to photograph a vertical portrait and bounce the light from your SB-800 over your left shoulder, you wouldn’t be able to. Instead you’d have to accept that the flashgun only rotates 90′ and you’d have to accept the paltry compromise that you’d have to bounce the light from your flashgun upwards into the ceiling from where you are.

Here’s an example of where it is essential to throw the light from the flash in a direction which is limited by the SB-800 ..

On the left, just the ambient light. On the right, light from a Canon 580EXII that was gelled for tungsten with a 1/2 CTS filter. In getting the correct angle that I needed the light from the flash to bounce back from, I had to bounce over my left shoulder .. NOT into the ceiling.

As I said, this limitation of the SB-800 has been a real frustration .. until now.

A while back Peter Gregg (of the ‘A Better Bounce Card‘ fame), sent me this You Tube link ..

… to show how he had forced the flashhead of the Nikon SB-800 past the natural stop point.  Yes, he had managed to twist the SB-800 an additional 45′ which is perfect for what I had always wanted from this flashgun.

Well, when Peter told me about this on the phone originally, and later on showed me the clip, I was skeptical. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t so much skeptical as that I just didn’t have the balls to do it. Until now. I tried it …. and well … seriously, as Peter advises, don’t do this!  He can’t, and I certainly can’t take responsibility for this.  But here it is …. my Nikon SB-800 now rotates 135′ to the right.  Just enough for what I have always wanted it to achieve .. it’s now an SB-850.

Now here’s the irony – I finally managed to pull together the guts to do this … on the eve of the release of the Nikon SB-900 which will rotate a cool 180′ to either side. That alone would make the SB-900 an automatic upgrade over the SB-800.

23 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1ronnie says

    how i got rid of the stopping point.
    opened it up. @ the pivoting point theres a metal c ring with a tab on the outside. i shaved that tab off so that is perfectly rounded. put it back together. now it turns in any direction freely.

    the only thing is that i have to remember what direction i turned the flash because if i dont i can end up twisting the wires off

  2. 2Nina says

    I just watched that clip the other day and told my husband about it. Right. I got the “you want to do WHAT to my $300…?!!?” I just have to find the right opportunity, preferably when he’s not looking. :)

  3. 3Eli says

    I saw this video about two nights ago from abetterbouncecard.com and I was really skeptical. However, when you said you did it I got the guts to try it.

    I did it! With not just one one, but with two SB-800. Thank you.

  4. 4Richard Selby says

    Hi Neil,

    I saw this about a month ago and I like you didn’t have the stones to do it. I may take mine apart like Ronnie did and see if I can set it up to stop at 180*. The new SB900 looks nice, but wow it’s pretty steep for the new features it offers, however price has not stopped me yet:)

    Regards,

    Richard

  5. 6Michael says

    Any idea if a similar (or dissimilar) trick would work with my old Canon 550? I’d love to have that extra 45° without shelling out for a 580.

  6. 7Mike S says

    Cool. I always hated not being able to use that range of the flash. I have 5 SB-800s and just did this to all of them with no ill effect. Thanks Neil

  7. 9Harry Simpson says

    I didn’t even realize or I’d forgotten that my 430EX Canon flash has the same restrictions. Anyone tried this operation on a 430EX yet?

    Harry

  8. 11FJG says

    Well I worked up the nerve to try it on my sb600…and it goes 180 degrees to the right now!

    I’ll probably stop at 135 degrees since I have no idea what the inside wiring looks like. I don’t want to twist any wires off after repeatedly going 180 degrees…if that would even happen.

    But great tip! I hated the fact the sb600 stopped at 90 degrees to the right. It would drive me nuts at times. Now…180 both ways (if I want)!

    Thanks!

  9. 13Michael says

    To answer my own question, yes indeedy, the same trick, which you shouldn’t try of course, works on a Canon 550EX with the added benefit that you no longer have to push that damn button to rotate the head to the right. There’s still a good detente at 0°, so no worries, I think. I also found this which could be useful if someone wants to take it apart and do the job right:

  10. 15Robert Woudenberg says

    Tried this with a SB600 and you won’t get the stop at 135 degrees. So you will have to be super careful not to twist the wires of!!! However that said you get nice smooth 180 both ways. Works great with my SB800’s I am only doing it to the ones that are out of warranty.
    Thanks Niel ..

  11. 16Anita Chapman says

    Help! I’ve tried this to no avail. Am I just a big chicken and “strangling” it too lightly? I put a lot of elbow grease into it and it doesn’t budge.

  12. 18Joe Upfield says

    Well, I am a poor student who saved up for an sb800 for months and I was really nervous to try this. But after reading all of your comments I grew a pair and did it. No complaints as of yet. The rotation of the flash is a little stiff for that last 45 degrees but as far as I can tell it works perfectly.

    Thanks Neil, for the tip and the great website!

  13. 19 says

    Still haven’t done it! I did give a sb600 a going.. but like anita.. not quite enough. Back to the gym for me! That or i’m off to search for a parts catalog like the one posted above, but for sb800 and 600!

  14. 20Jan says

    I just strangled my two SB600’s yesterday. Didn’t want to be fried chicken so I strangled the chickens neck. I got two very beautiful SB650’s now! Thanks

  15. 22Jason Smith says

    I opened mine up and used a dremel to grind down the lug on one side so it turns 180 degrees both ways. Works well

  16. 23 says

    Woo hoo! One strangled sb-600 = one lovely sb-650 = one very happy photographer! Yay! Thanks so much, Neil, for passing it on, and thanks Peter, for having the balls to do it in the first place.

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