Sunday, February 1, 2015

Remotely Plausable - The Off-Camera Nikon SB-24 Speedlight

My fascination with the SB-24  knows no bounds. This older flash, introduced in 1988 for $249.95, has an incredible build quality and is a very capable unit, limited only by the state of the electronic arts of the time. As I mentioned, I recently purchased  a pair of very nice ones for $50.00 at a local camera store, significantly less than I would have paid on E-Bay. (I have not always been so astute: I found an E-Bay transaction that proves I paid about $80.00 for an SB-24 about five years ago.) With that kind of history, you can see why I'm still doing the happy-dance just thinking about my two newest acquisitions. Incidentally, a new Vivitar 283 sold for $69.95 in 1988, which should give you an indication of just where the two units stood in terms of quality. Check out Fred Miranda's comments on the SB-24 by clicking here.

The SB-24 does not have a built in remote sensor, which I'll simply call a "slave". Nikon added this most useful feature on the SB-26, the SB-50, the SB-80, and the latest generation of iTTL units, with the exception of the SB-600, which has only iTTL wireless connectivity. Just a reminder: I am talking about simple devices that respond to a sudden change in ambient light intensity. Nikon calls this simple slave the SU-4 Mode in current production speedlights.

Photo #1
Adding slave capabilities can be as simple or as complicated as you care to make it. I'll give a shout-out to Wein slaves, which are extremely sensitive and well received by amateur and professional photographers. My personal favorite is the Wein "Peanut", a unit designed for plug-and-play deployment with the Vivitar 283 and 285.

There are two interface ports on the SB-24's side (Photo #1). Later Nikon streetlights have a snap-on rubber cover to protect them, so they are easily overlooked. The upper port accepts a 3-pin interlace used for the first iteration of multiple TTL flash exposures, while the lower is an industry standard PC female connector. It's this lower port that interests us.

Photo #2
Photo #3
The port on the SB-24 can accept a male-tipped (the end with the pin) PC cable. But it does pose a problem for the Wein Peanut, which itself has a female PC connection. The answer? Wein makes a Double PC Male Ended Adapter just for this purpose. Insert the adapter into the SB-24's port, and then attach the Wein Peanut into the other end.In this closeup (Photo #2, above), you can see, on the left, the Peanut with its female connector, and the Adapter with its male connector. Seen from the underside, the Peanut reveals its internal circuitry locked in a strong,resin dome. This close crop of the lead photo (Photo #3 left) shows the adapter in place, looking a bit fragile, but successfully linking a reliable optical slave to a robust, very affordable speedlight.
This combination is very sensitive. In a very informal outdoor test, the sensitivity of Wein Peanut came was on the same level as the built in SU-4 sensor on the SB-800 when properly aligned. At the time of the writing, adding this slave capability to your SB-24 (or SB-25) will cost you $14.50 for the adapter and $14.95 for the Peanut , which is ironic because this costs more than I paid for the speedlight. But if you think about how much the SB-24 would cost in 2015 dollars, it seems quite affordable, considering the performance level of the Wein.