Nikon F and F2 Shoemount Flashes


BC-7 Bulb Flash

On the front of the flash, you can see the reflector, the three-way bulb socket in its center, and the F/F2-type foot. When the reflector is folded, you can see the test button. The left side has the two-socket (non-PC) sync connector, while the right side has a small white charge tester button. The silver button on top of the unit is the bulb ejector. On the back, from top to bottom, are the test lamp, exposure calculator-disc, and the rear-cover clip. The reflector may be rotated through an angle of 135 degrees, from directly pointed at the soon-to-be-blinded subject to nearly facing the wall behind you.

The first step should be to insert the battery, which is a 15V dry cell, Mallory 504 or equivalent (Duracell 504, Radio Shack Unlimited #RSU10048510, or Varta V74PX, which is alkaline and not recommended). Slide the rear-cover clip down and remove the cover (which holds the exposure-disc); the positive terminal should be aligned towards the top of the unit. Then mount the unit on the camera.

Before loading any film, wind the advance lever and hold in the (front-mounted) test button for a few seconds. When you release the shutter, the test lamp should light up to indicate that everything is working properly.

Now you can deploy the reflector by hooking it into one of the two slots. The "nearer" slot (shallow bowl) illuminates approximately a 35mm lens's field-of-view, while the "farther" slot (deeper bowl) illuminates about a 45mm lens's FOV. Of course, you can leave the reflector furled and use bare-bulb flash at a fraction of the cost of a new Sunpak 120J (on the other hand, the Sunpak offers 3 auto-apertures, manual power attenuation, and on one model, TTL flash control).

The three-way bulb socket will accept bulbs of the S.C. bayonet-base, minature base (M2, M3, etc.), and all-glass (AG-1) types. When you insert a bulb, the BC-7 begins to charge its capacitor; full charge is reached when the test lamp glows after pressing the white charge test button. Note that bulbs are either clear or blue-coated: clear bulbs are suitable for black and white film, because their light output is very warm, while blue-coated bulbs approximate the sun's light output temperature (appox. 5800K). Blue-coated bulbs are designated by a "B" at the end of their name. The flashbulbs recommended by J.D. Cooper in his Nikon-Nikkormat Handbook are the FP 6, FP 26, M3, and AG-1 (preferred in that order, because of their sync speeds).

Basically, appropriate sync speeds are determined by the type of bulb in use (different types have differing flash durations); in general, type FP bulbs should sync at all shutter speeds. I have a table that explains this more clearly on either the F Questions or the F2 Questions pages, depending on your camera.

Determining exposure is relatively simple. You line up the shutter speed in use with the ASA film speed in use (use the black scale for black-and-white film with clear bulbs, or the red scale with blue-coated bulbs) and determine your aperture based on the shooting distance. For shutter speeds slower than 1/30, you can use the guide-number to determine exposure.

SB-2

Light Output Control:
silicon controlled rectifier and series wiring
Guide Number:
25m (81ft) for ASA 100 film on manual
Flash Duration:
1/1200 sec. on manual
Number of Flashes (manual setting is lower number):
40-400 (high-rate manganese batteries)
140-1400 (alkaline-manganese batteries)
Recycling Time (manual setting is higher number):
<1 to 8 sec.
Angle of Coverage:
56 deg. horizontal, 40 deg. vertical (speedlite positioned horizontally)
Automatic f/ Numbers:
Choice of three -- f/4, f/5.6, f/8 with ASA 100 film
Automatic Shooting Range:
0.6-6m (2-20ft) at f/4
0.6-4.5m (2-15ft) at f/5.6
0.6-3m (2-10ft) at f/8
Power Sources:
four 1.5V AA-type batteries
AC source with aid of SA-2 converter
Ready-light:
provided, doubles as open-flash button
Synch Socket for Eyepiece Pilot Lamp:
provided
Ready-light Contact for F2 Series Camera Finders:
provided
Flash Foot:
tilts through an arc of 180 deg.
Dimensions and Weight:
110 x 104 x 40mm ; 430g without batteries
Accessories:
soft case SS-2
sync cord SC-6
sync cord SC-7
extension cord SE-2
flash unit coupler AS-2
Nikkormat accessory shoe
eyepiece pilot lamp SF-1
wide-flash adapter SW-1
(spare) battery holder

The calculator disc, which indicates which three f/stops are automatic, is on top of the flash. The f/number setting slider, which selects the automatic stop (or sets the flash to manual operation) is on its front. On the back, from left to right are the on/off switch, AC power socket, ready-light/open-flash button, and swiveling foot mount. The three slots on the bottom accept either sync cord SC-6 or -7, or the SF-1 attachment.

The SB-2 is the spiritual ancestor to today's modern gee-whiz "D" flash, the SB-27. Both feature the same basic bar-of-soap size and swiveling foot attachment. This was a tremendously popular flash-market segment, and many similar designs were offered by third-party manufacturers, such as Braun and Vivitar, although as far as I know, only Metz (with their 218N) manufactured one with an F/F2 foot. Remember, Nikon F owners, to set your shutter to 1/60th or slower and the flash sync to "FX"; F2's should set to 1/80th or slower (indicated by the line between 1/60 and 1/125). You then set the ASA against the white triangle on the calculator disc of the flash.

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, 6m (20ft) 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.

One general tip with elderly electronic flashes, especially if it hasn't been used much lately: the main storage capacitor may need reforming, especially if your flashes are coming out weak or if it takes a long time to recharge/recycle. Thankfully, reforming is quite easy: let the flash charge up, and discharge it about ten times, using the open-flash button.

SB-7E

Light Output Control:
silicon controlled rectifier and series circuitry
Guide Number:
25m (81ft) for ASA 100 film on manual
Number of Flashes (manual setting):
60 (zinc-carbon batteries)
160 (alkaline-manganese batteries)
Recycling Time (manual setting):
appox. 8 sec.
Angle of Coverage:
56 deg. horizontal, 40 deg. vertical (speedlite positioned horizontally)
Automatic f/ Numbers:
Choice of two -- f/4, f/8 with ASA 100 film
Automatic Shooting Range:
0.6-6m (2-20ft) at f/4
0.6-3m (2-10ft) at f/8
Power Source:
four 1.5V AA-type batteries
Ready-light:
provided, doubles as open-flash button
Synch Socket for Eyepiece Pilot Lamp:
provided
Ready-light Contact for F2 Series Camera Finders:
provided
Flash Foot:
tilts through an arc of 180 deg.
Dimensions and Weight:
110 x 79 x 37mm (w/o mounting foot); 300g without batteries
Accessories:
soft case SS-7
sync cord SC-6
sync cord SC-7
sync cord SC-10
extension cord SE-2
flash unit coupler AS-2
Nikkormat accessory shoe
eyepiece pilot lamp SF-1
wide-flash adapter SW-2
(spare) battery holder

The calculator disc, which indicates which two f/stops are automatic, is on top of the flash. The f/number setting slider, which selects the automatic stop (or sets the flash to manual operation) is on its front. On the back, from left to right are the on/off switch, ready-light/open-flash button, and swiveling foot mount. The three slots on the bottom accept either sync cord SC-6 or -7, or the SF-1 attachment.

You've read the numbers; the SB-7E is essentially the same flash as the SB-2, but in a slightly different package and a bit simplified. Nikon lopped off the middle automatic f/stop of f/5.6 and the AC socket; both moves make sense, especially as these flashes were meant to be portable and as simple as possible. One really, really minor point is that the SB-2 can accomodate up to two additional SB-2/3's (one on an SE-2, the other with an SC-5/6/7, and the main one mounted via the F/F2 hot shoe or AS-2), while the SB-7E can only accomodate one more SB-7E/8E (via an SE-2). I guess you might miss the extra flash if you have a difficult macro lighting setup; otherwise, I don't think you'll have any problems.

Other than that, operation of the SB-7E is essentially the same as that for the SB-2. Note that the battery clips are not interchangeable between the SB-7E and SB-2.


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