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Nikon SB900 Overheating

KallarianKallarian Member
edited April 2011 in flash & lighting
I was wondering if anyone else had experienced the same problem with this flashgun. I’ve had it over a year and used it successfully plenty of times in past, so can’t understand why yesterday of all days (Shooting a wedding) it overheated twice. Fair enough, it was a warm day yesterday here in UK and the ambient temp in room was quite high. I was also using some hybrid AA batteries, which are new, and new to me. Could this be the problem or was it just a one off? Would an SD9 battery pack make any difference and be worth the investment? Appreciate any ideas or suggestions. Cheers Steve.


  • MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
    edited April 2011
    Hi Steve
    The Type of Battery and Firing rate is what causes the overheating in the SB-900
    Here is a link that explains it with movies , you may what to mute music.

    Lou Recine
  • I know I haven't been able to use lithium batteries in the Canon 580 because it overheats, but in my smaller nikon flashes lithium is fine. I think it's a matter of testing flashes with each kind of batteries and then just buying bulk of the batteries that work best!
  • Lou, Shannon. Thank you both. I watched the You Tube movies (without sound,see what you mean! lol) and will experiment with batteries a bit more. It may be a one off but from a confidence viewpoint I think I will invest in a SD9 pack at some stage very soon.
  • Hi Kallarian
    I have one my self , expensive but at the same time indispensable.
    It will save you a tonne of post processing , flash exposure is a lot more even
    I don't have the problem of one image good then the next image dark.

    Also Recycling time is really improved and I can normally do a whole wedding with 12 batteries 4 in camera 8 in SD-9 in problem.
    I keep the SD-9 in my pocket so I can quickly unclip and I have a holder on my light stand so its easily transferable.

    and the best part.......... When the batteries wear out ( and they will wear out ) I just go my local shop and pick up brand new NiMh batteries ( no down time )

    Also I forgot to mention the warning beep on the SB-900 can be turned off , because it turn out it's becomes very loud in a church , and for some reasons even louder in a catholic ceremony ( go figure ) LOL.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Maaan, I wish those video clips were text I could read instead.
    They are 7:30 minute video clips that would take a fraction of the time to read.

    Regardless .. thanks for posting! Solid info there.
  • I use Duracell and Energizer batteries and my SB-900 still overheats and when I take the batteries out they are red hot....I have learned to work with two SB-900's for when one overheats....Anthony
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I've been lucky re my 900s, not a problem.

    What I am using: The Battery Pack + Flash all loaded with Sanyo Eneloops.

    But I do keep my frame rate down, in short 2-5 frame bursts, then around 3-5 seconds pause, just seems to work out that way. I have never seen the temp indicator climb yet.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited April 2014
    I will say this ... I've burnt out SB-900 and SB-800 and 580 EX and 580 EX II speedlights. They will all go melty if you work them too hard. It's not just the SB-900 (which unfortunately has gotten a bad rep about this.)



  • I know this is a late reply but hopefully it helps a bit.

    Flash tubes and power. These little nukes put out a lot of juice in a very short time. Any resistance to the transmission of that power translates into heat. Gels, front freznel, cheap battery construction, you name it and it's got resistance.

    The front freznel of the flash falls victim. Plastic clouds up as it ages or gets dirty and that extra resistance to light transmission starts heating up significantly and then we see the freznel going all bubbly in those pics (but luckily they can be replaced) or you have a gel that seems to have fused itself to the front lens. Slight cloudiness can be polished out (with polishing toothpaste I've heard???) or the fresnel replaced relatively cheaply so don't think a bubbled front lens is fatal.

    Ditto for batteries. Do you have a particular set of batteries that heats up in the charger? Battery internal resistance is a parasite for the fast flow of current needed to quick charge or discharge a battery. If it heats up charging, it'll heat up discharging and contribute to the heat inside your speedlight. Even if it's just one cell out of 4, the resistance of one will kill recycle times because of lower current and voltage left available to the capacitor charging circuit.

    I have purchased one set of every NiMH cell I've ever come across and have seen drastic differences in their thermal characteristics during charging. Equal comparison is tough during discharge since we all tend to run around and so the cells wouldn't get an fair chance but the internal resistance is the same for discharge as it is during charging. So far high capacity Duracells (>2500mAh) are the WORST I've seen and can bleed power through internal resistance almost as fast as a quick charger can push it it....never finishes charging and is practically untouchable with bare hands. The same heating is present when the cells are discharged....not good if you're trying to keep the heat from building up in a speedlight! Honestly I think my happy place is around 2300mAh. It's nice to have a bit of capacity but the higher capacity cells seem to be the ones that heat the most in general. My absolute fav's (never been more than luke warm if memory serves) are some 2000mAh and 2500mAh Sony cells.

    Offloading your batteries to a 8cell pack moves this heat source somewhere else other than inside your speedlight (a plus for bigger speedlights with an auxiliary power pack option). I took one 'dumb' speedlight and looked at trying to add a heat sync but it would be nice if higher power lights had some form of thermal PREVENTION in the design instead of just a saftey shutoff.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Thank you for the solid info in that post!
  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited June 2012
    Nikon Speedlight Overheat Test: Nikon SB-900 vs Nikon SB-910

    Results from this test:
    SB-900 : Overheat - 50 continuous shots
    SB-910 : Overheat - No overheating at 200 Shots. The unit reduces power of the flash to prevent overheating.

    Note made in video: An external battery pack reduces the operating temperature of the SB-900.
    (I don't know is a battery pack was used with this test)
  • So, what are the most common types of damage to a flash gun, and what are the prospects for repair?

    I've heard strobe units are replaceable, but if you damage, or crack off, the hot-foot (hot shoe for hot foot?) then it's trashed.

    I did some shots in the rain this weekend (freezing splashing puddles), and I put my speedlights on phottix triggers, inside of ziplock bags, seated in open tupperware containers to shield from the rain. The flashes were set to full power since i was shooting in cloudy daylight, and things were a bit warm when I was done, but not severely so.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Nice shot Mgarber. :)
  • Thanks Trev.

    But as for the speedlights, can you replace the flash bulb end of the thing if it melts?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I should think so, dunno re cost though. If it's like a lot of places with the freight, time, and their cost, almost make it worth while to get a new one. Most certainly would check with service center first, but then you could almost guarantee that once it got there, you would get 'the call' telling you it will be more expensive because when they opened it there was this and this and this to replace/repair.

    I got caught from Canon once [go figure] dropped my 24-70 lens in sand, minus the front/rear caps. They had to replace 2 seals and clean, seals were $9.95 approx. each, but I got the bill, $550+.

    Seals: $20
    Canon: $530+
    My face when I got the bill: Priceless. :(
  • !!!! yeesh! Extortion! Thanks for the tip.
  • Sb 900 flash tube burned out yesterday on first shot
    Found service manual online, my main consideration was discharging the capacitor before replacing tube it explains how. will order part from nikon.

    Can anyone explain how the flash can get so close to the correct exposure when bouncing?

  • neil recenly wrote a tangents post that should answer ur question, it has to do with the inverse square law b/c the flash fall off is slower since it has to travel further to hit the subject
  • Great info, everyone. But I love the music in the Nikon videos - it's Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
  • I have to share my "thing" on SB900.

    I owe two of them...and yesterday I had a wedding to do and as alwasy started with my first SB900. After 20-30 shots, not fast, slowly one by one... it startet do scream that it is overheated. I instantly replaced it with my second unit and continued with the same setting. And guess what...second one did not get overheated. Not even 50-60 shots.
    And this happens every time...

    Any idea, what should be wrong woth first, or the second one? They are both right from shop, nothing changed in settings so it is strane, only one gets overheated.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    The difference may be that when you start the flash is working harder than later on, so with more work to pump out light, the more heat generated.

    There should be no difference between them; do you have them marked and if so does one scream out more at you than the other?
  • Well, settings stayed the same. Nothing changed. And yes, I have marked them and only one is causing problems/screams out. :-/
    Since it happens on a scene that has constant light and nothing changes in settings, it is frustrated. Maybe better start to think about SB910.
  • I got tired of buying batteries and the time it takes to recharge them so I purchased a Godox PB820 820 External Flash Power Battery Pack. It is a bit heavier than the Nikon battery pack, but the charging time is a lot better and you never have to buy new batteries.

    Bought mine off ebay and it's less than $100.
  • slightlydazedslightlydazed Member
    edited February 2014
    For what it might be worth at this point, I always attach a battery pack to my SB-900 when I'm doing events otherwise the overheating problem does seem to rear its ugly head - usually at the most inconvenient moment!

    I don't use the Nikon SD-9 pack as there's a Pixel alternative for about a third/ quarter of the price that has identical functionality, called the Pixel TD-382. I've used them without problems for a couple of years for both SB-900s and SB-910s.
  • photos2photos2 Member
    edited February 2014
    jstelting said: I got tired of buying batteries and the time it takes to recharge them so I purchased a Godox PB820 820 External Flash Power Battery Pack. It is a bit heavier than the Nikon battery pack, but the charging time is a lot better and you never have to buy new batteries.
    jsteling - I searched for an image of this Godox Pack - can't make out - how does it connect to your Speedlight?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited February 2014

    The Battery Pack: BATTERY PACK

    Those are made by the same company only to spec for Cheetah Stand and absolutely do work. I have the batteries for my Cheetah Lights.

    If you have any spare Quantum Turbo batteries, which I do since changing to Cheetah Lights, the same cord can be used on them also.

    Having dealt with Cheetah Stand for a couple of years now, I can guarantee Edward (owner) is the most friendly, trustworthy guy around and I had 1 tiny fault with a product, and even before I sent it back, he had already shipped a replacement to me, no questions asked, within 12 hours of getting my email (I am in Australia).
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