Nikon F and F2 Handlemount Flashes


Not a whole lot of information is known about this unit, except that it used the same battery as the BC-7, and that it had a fixed (i.e. non-folding) reflector. It apparently takes standard FP bulbs, and comes with a connecting cord (perhaps one of the BD-x series), folding camera bracket, and a separate battery case which also holds the capacitor. The operation of this unit is probably similar to that of the BC-7.


Light Output Control:
manual exposure
Guide Number:
46ft (14m) for color film, ASA 25
149ft (43m) for black and white film, ASA 125
est. 100ft (31m) for ASA 100
Flash Duration:
1/2000 sec.
Number of Flashes:
appox. 80 (SN-1)
300 (high-rate manganese batteries in SD-2)
1000 (alkaline-manganese batteries in SD-2)
700 (SD-3)
as many as you want (SA-1)
Recycling Time (manual setting is higher number):
appox. 4 sec. (SN-1)
5 sec. (high-rate manganese batteries in SD-2)
4 sec. (alkaline-manganese batteries in SD-2)
1.5 sec. (SD-3)
5 sec. (SA-1)
Angle of Coverage:
65 deg.
Power Sources:
SN-1 NiCad battery
six 1.5V D-type batteries (SD-2)
one 510V and four 1.5V AA-type batteries (SD-3)
AC source with aid of SA-1 converter/charger
Open-Flash Button:
Synch Socket for Eyepiece Pilot Lamp:
Ready-light Contact for F2 Series Camera Finders:
requires SC-4 adapter
Color Temperature:
appox. 6000K
Life of Flashtube:
appox. 30 000 flashes
appox. 670g
bounce bracket appox. 270g
SA-1 appox. 1 000g
AC Unit/Charger SA-1
NC Battery Charger SH-1
NC Battery SN-1
D-Cell Pack SD-2
510-Volt Battery Pack SD-3
Synch Cord SC-5
Coiled Synch Cord SC-6
extension cord SE-2
Bracket SK-2
Nikkormat accessory shoe
Eyepiece Pilot Lamp SF-1
Ready Light Adapter SC-4
Ringlight Unit SR-1
Macro Ringlight Unit SM-1

The front of the unit, from top to bottom, has the flashtube/head and the handle, which doubles as the battery holder for the SN-1 NiCad battery (accessed by unscrewing the cap on the bottom of the handle). The right side of the unit (closer to the camera when mounted) has the two-prong-and-a-pin extension socket and the ringlight power supply socket (four connectors), while the left side has only the four-connector AC socket. The back of the flash head has the exposure-calculator disc, the on-off slider, the round white open-flash button, and the ready light. The three-prong socket on the bottom of the flash head is the flash sync socket.

First mount the bracket to the camera's tripod socket. Then remove the bottom cap of the SB-1 and slide the bracket clamp onto the speedlite (this may already be mounted), loosening it with a coin, if necessary, and making sure that (1) the black quick-release lever faces up and (2) the clamp's ridge mates with the groove on the side of the SB-1. Retighten the clamp, if necessary. The SK-2 bracket has three distinct holes in it; the round hole is for use with the F36 (without cordless back), the center slot is for most 35mm bodies and the MD-1/2, and the longest slot is for use with the F36/Cordless and 6x6 SLRs. The bracket should now be slid onto the SB-1's bracket clamp, from the clamp's top edge (the same side as the quick-release) to its bottom. After that, tighten the silver locking screw on the on the back of the clamp. To store the bracket on the flash, reverse the above directions and plug the pin on the bottom of the bracket clamp into the mating socket on the SK-2. The bracket-clamp connection tilts at intervals of 30 degrees up to 120 degrees to provide bounce flash.

Now you can synchronize flash and body by attaching the SC-5. For those of you with a choice, the PC plug should go into the "X" terminal, rather than the "M". Then, you can hook up the appropriate power source. Note that the SN-1 goes into the bottom of the handle, while the SD-3's cord attaches to the ringlight socket, and the SA-1 and SD-2 both attach to the square four-connector port on the left side of the flash head. The SA-1 serves as a charger for the SN-1, which requires 7-8 hours of charging after 40 flashes, or 14-16 hours after 80 flashes. The SH-1 charges the SN-1 much more quickly, only 3 hours after 40 flashes. You can also hook up the appropriate eyepiece pilot lamp, via SC-4 (F2) or SF-1 (F, Nikkormats), at this point, and have wires dangling from virtually every port of the SB-1. If that's not enough, and you manage to dig up more SB-1's, you can connect up to two more for multiple flash, as well as their various power accessories (although, thankfully, you only have to sync the first one; the SE-2 connects the sync socket on the left side of the flash head to the regular sync connection on the bottom of the next flash).

Exposure calculation is relatively straightforward, thankfully. The SB-1 is a manual flash with one output setting -- full blast -- so you only need to know how to work the calculator dial. Align the proper ASA number with the appropriate mark (color or black and white film); you will then be able to read the guide number for the film speed selected. Alternatively, determine your focus distance (compose, focus on the subject you'd like to expose, and transfer the indicated distance to the calculator dial) which will line up opposite the aperture you need to set. Based on this aperture, you may select a shutter speed at sync or slower to properly expose the background. On the other hand, if you don't want your subject to have the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look, rate your film somewhat faster than normal -- and now you're doing fill-flash with thirty-year-old equipment. Yes, it's not 3D Matrix-Balanced (tm) but you've done most of what automation has taken over -- determined distance, trimmed light output, etc. Of course, if you really want to be serious about it, you should have the NPC ProBack on, take a couple of test Polaroids, move the flash far off-camera ...


Light Output Control:
automatic: direct series control with silicon controlled rectifier using optional sensor unit SU-1
manual: three output settings; full, 1/4, and 1/8 (MD) power
Guide Number:
32m (104ft) for ASA 100 film at full power
16m (52ft) for ASA 100 film at 1/4 power
11m (36ft) for ASA 100 film at MD setting
Number of Flashes (appox.):
420 (SN-2, automatic, orange)
340 (SN-2, automatic, yellow)
230 (SN-2, automatic, blue)
3 000 (SD-4, automatic, orange)
2 200 (SD-4, automatic, yellow)
1 500 (SD-4, automatic, blue)
75 (SN-2, manual, full)
270 (SN-2, manual, 1/4)
400 (SN-2, manual, MD)
250 (SD-4, manual, full)
1 800 (SD-4, manual, 1/4)
4 000 (SD-4, manual, MD)
Recycling Time:
<= 0.5 sec. (automatic, any battery, at 2m)
2.6 sec. (SN-2, manual, full)
0.5 sec. (SN-2, manual, 1/4)
0.25 sec. (SN-2, manual, MD)
1.5 sec. (SD-4, manual, full)
0.4 sec. (SD-4, manual, 1/4)
0.25 sec. (SD-4, manual, MD)
Angle of Coverage:
67 deg. horizontal, 48 deg. vertical (speedlite positioned horizontally, 28mm field of view)
Automatic f/ Numbers:
Choice of three -- f/4, f/5.6, f/8 with ASA 100 film
Automatic Shooting Range:
0.6-8m (2-26ft) at f/4 (orange)
0.6-5.6m (2-18ft) at f/5.6 (yellow)
0.6-4m (2-13ft) at f/8 (blue)
Power Sources:
rechargeable NiCd battery unit SN-2
battery pack SD-4 for laminated batteries
Open Flash/Test Firing Button:
Synch Socket for Eyepiece Pilot Lamp:
Ready-light Contact for F2 Series Camera Finders:
provided with accessory SC-4
Bounce and Tilt:
provided through rotating bracket, flash head
Dimensions and Weight:
93 x 252 x 125mm ; 900g without batteries
3.7 x 9.9 x 4.9 in. ; 31.7 oz. without batteries
ready-light adapter SC-4
sync cord SC-5
coiled sync cord SC-6
sync cord SC-7
extension cord SC-9
extension cord SE-2
flash unit coupler AS-2
eyepiece pilot lamp SF-1
sensor unit SU-1
mounting bracket SK-3
battery pack SD-4
NC battery unit SN-2
NC battery quick charger SH-2

The SB-5 is clearly a bridge between the relatively unsophisticated SB-1 (full-manual only) and the later SB-11 (TTL capable). It offers the next-best-thing: automatic flash control, using essentially the same unit mounted to the SB-2/3, along with the versatility and power of a side-mounted handle unit. In addition, it looks considerably more modern than the earlier SB-1, having the SB-11's general form but with the optional SU-1 sensor mounted on its right (camera) side. The SB-5's head may be rotated in 30 degree increments (in a plane perpendicular to the line of the handle) and/or the entire unit may be tilted at the junction with the SK-3 bracket, in order to accomplish bounce flash. It is clear that the SB-5 was designed for photojournalists and other photographers demanding a powerful, portable unit; no AC unit was ever offered for the SB-5. Incidentally, the Metz 45-series flashes (another PJ fave) are contemporaries of the SB-5 and are still being sold new. Although the 45-series doesn't have a detachable sensor (you have to buy a separate unit), they offer slightly better performance.

Flash attachment is similar to that of the SB-1, and standard sync is accomplished in the same way, via a PC-to-prong cord snaking from the camera to the bottom of the right (camera) side of the flash head. The main difference comes from the presence of the sensor SU-1, which may be mounted, via a circular socket, to either the side of the flash head, or to the camera body itself via the SC-9 cord, which has the circular plug (to go into the flash head) on one end and a F/F2-type foot on the other. This foot has the ready-light contact provided by the SC-4, as well as a circular socket on top to receive the SU-1.

Presumably, the SB-5 has a calculator dial on the back of the flash head, and a switch to change full-manual power to 1/4 or 1/8 (MD), as well as an on-off switch, ready light, and open flash button. The actual mode (manual, three automatic settings, and slave) is set via the SU-1; without it, the flash operates only in manual mode. Just like the SB-1, the appropriate NiCad battery (SN-2) slides into the handle of the SB-5 similar to hand torches. The optional high-voltage battery pack (SD-4) connects to a special connector in the same way as the SD-3 hooks into the side of the SB-1.

As befits a flash intended for photojournalist duty, the SB-5 offers a "motor drive" (MD) power setting. The flash will recycle in approximately 1/4th of a second at this setting; thus it can keep up with the MD-2 set at a speed appropriate to the shutter sync speed. On the other hand, at the time of the SB-5's introduction, most reporters were taking the Vivitar 283 along with them, which offered many of the same advantages (including automatic exposure) with even more power in a smaller package. With the appropriate battery packs, the 283 offered similar recycling performance, making it nearly unbeatable until the mid-eighties.

After having focussed on the subject in your viewfinder, note the distance to the subject (from your lens's focus scale) and find the appropriate f-stop from the calculator dial. You may use automatic flash as long as the distance you have focussed upon (assuming that you want it lit by flash) is less than the maximum automatic distance -- in this case, 8m (26ft) at the orange mark (if you want more depth of field, use a differently colored mark but note that your maximum range decreases accordingly)). Congratulations. You have now performed much of the function of a "D" lens, which sends the exact same information to the SB-27. Alternatively, you may set the f-stop to the one that lines up with the focussing distance, in manual mode. This will ensure that everything up to the focussed subject will be properly (over) exposed; the background is more a function of which shutter speed you set. For nicer results, you may want to decrease the flash exposure by 1/3 to 5/3 of a stop (by rating the film correspondingly faster), take a meter reading of the background, and use an aperture-priority (based on the aperture from the flash's calculator dial) exposure calculation to get decent fill-flash.

The slave function of the SB-5 provides a convenient way to fire a remote flash without the hassle of the SE-2 extension cord. You will need the receiver of the ML-1, though. When the SU-1 of the SB-5 is set to "S" (for slave), the SB-5 will fire the appropriately modulated light pulses to trigger another flash that is hooked up to the ML-1's receiver. Yes, wireless slave photography, along with image stabilizers and autofocus, was another forgotten Nikon innovation of the 70's. The more that I write about F2-era accessories, the more I realize that Nikon was on the leading edge of developing camera items that we take for granted nowadays, and the very impressive SB-5 system is just one of them.

What would you do if I sang out of tune? Thanks to

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