Nikon SB-500 Speedlight £195/$250
Compact and capable, but quite basic
Compact and lightweight, the SB-500’s downsizing comes at the expense of a reduced feature set. It’s the only flashgun on test to lack an information screen, which is substituted with basic status LEDs. It also lacks a zoom head, built-in diffuser panel or reflector card, instead being limited to an (effective) focal length of 24mm (16mm for DX cameras). Power is supplied by two AA batteries, rather than the usual four.
On the plus side, it’s one of only two flashguns on test to feature an additional LED ‘constant’ lamp. This adds to the flashgun’s versatility because, naturally, flash is useless if you’re shooting video, whereas the constant LED can give useful short-range illumination. It’s also good for shooting extreme close-up stills.
Maximum output is pretty respectable at the 24mm fixed zoom length, although recycle speed is sluggish. The wireless slave mode is a bonus (channel 3 only), but the commander mode only works with recent midrange and up-market cameras.