Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon AF Flash - The SB-20 Speedlight

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f501.jpgNikon F501 (N2020 in US) of 1986 carries with an almost similar configuration in specification with earlier F301 (N2000) but with other enhanced features. But the most significant change is the Autofocus function it offers. It was Nikon fist mass production AF camera. The AF calls for a new generation of AF Nikon speedlights for all subsequent Nikon AF bodies. SB20frontB.jpg (20k) Loading ..
Nikon Autofocus SB-20 Speedlight

Introduced to supplement the F501, the autofocus flash SB-20 was designed originally as a companion flash unit for the second Nikon AF SLR camera, the F-50. In many ways, although it was designed as an AF flash, but most of its features can also be use on any of the TTL or non-TTL Nikon bodies. As the flash has an standard ISO-type flash foot, and during its introduction, Nikon F3 was still a flagship model in the Nikon SLR lineup, so it needs a flash coupler such as AS-4, AS-7 (TTL coupler AS-17) to bridge for the Nikon F3. For other Nikon bodies that has ISO-type accessory shoe, the connection is direct.

It has a high-tech styling, and packed enough features to supplement the autofocus Nikon F501 (Or called N2020 in U.S). With the F-501, F801 or any Nikon AF cameras, you can use them safely even in total darkness and still obtain perfect, automatically focused pictures. This is how it works: When the existing light is below a certain level, the focus-assist LED AF illuminator of the SB-20 automatically turns on when the camera is set for Single-Servo AF shooting mode. The illuminator gives contrast to the subject allowing the F501 and other subsequent Nikon camera's autofocus system to function as though it were daytime. Exposure control is automatic too. ALL you do is set the selector of the SB-20 to TTL setting and with the exposure mode selector to any of the AUTO mode - and you don't even have to worry about shutter speed error as along as you are using a Nikon AF SLR camera.

Although the SB-20 was originally designed as a dedicated flash for the F501, it can also be used safely as a companion flash in situations where you need a secondary flash in a multiple flash setup. TTL can be retained via proper use of Nikon sync cords. In fact, this AF Speedlight can synchronize in Multi-Sensors balanced fill flash with other later Nikon AF bodies such as F90 (with AF or AF-I Nikkor series lenses). With the Nikon f4, Matrix Balanced Fill flash is possible (so does F801s, F601, F601s, F50 or F55 in conjunction with an AF and/or AF-1 lenses).

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Nikon SB-20 Flash / speedlight compatibility chart with various Nikon cameras.

Source: Nikon Europe

Extra features as selectable flash coverage angle and bounce flash (its tilting flash head provides -7° to 90° adjustment) make the SB-20 an even more attractive addition to the autofocus system. You can even select three different flash lens angle coverage without optional accessories; the SB-20's flash tube rotates for wide coverage of 28mm, 35 and 85mm. And you get bounce flash capability as its uniquely designed flash module.

sb20automode.jpg sb20manual.jpg sb20ttlmode.jpg

Automatic Mode Operation The SB-20 lets you choose from five alternative apertures indicated on the back panel. Manual Mode Operation Lets you choose from five different levels of flash light output: full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16. TTL Flash Mode. The TTL mode lets you enjoy the ease of TTL flash exposure control as long as the subject is within the flash working range, you have have the widest selection of aperture to control depth of field.

The flash has an additional TTL sync connecting socket provided at the side which made this flash a ready companion if you intend to setup your camera for TTL multi-flash operations. It is simple and straight forward in its layout and I think this can well be a very good alternative if you find the SB-16B and/or older Nikon AF speedlight that you think is too bulky to carry along on a short trip and/or for location shootings.

Specifications for Nikon SB-20 Speedlight:

Light output control: Silicon thyristor-controlled rectifier and series circuitry
Angle of coverage: 45° horizontal and 60° vertical; with zoom head set at N, tilting flash head provides -7° to 90° adjustment
Automatic TTL flash
output control with Nikon AF SLR cameras with AF assisted control. For other Nikon SLR with ISO-type accessory shoe such as F301, FA, FE2, or FG; automatic exposure control with any Nikon SLR (with Flash Unit Coupler AS-4. AS-7 or AS-17 required with Nikon F3). TTL Balance filled-flash possible with capable Nikon AF bodies.

Manual control: choose from full, 1/2 1/4 1/8 and 1/16 output
Guide number
(ASA/ISO 100 In feet) 100 with zoom head set at N
ASA/ISO film speed range: ASA/ISO 25-1600
Recycling time: Approx. 6-7 sec

Number of flashes: Approx. 150
* AF assist LED Automatically fires LED beam at the subject when below predetermined level of brightness when F501, F801 etc. is set at Single AF Servo mode. * With fresh alkaline-manganese batteries at full output


Power source: Four 1.5V AA-type penlight batteries; also usable with optional accessories in C-cell Battery Pack SD-7 (with SC-16 Power Cord) or High performance AA Battery pack SD-8.
Dimensions (excluding mounting foot): Approx. 2.8"(W) x 4.3"(H) x 2.7"(D) (71mm x 110mm x 70mm)
Weight (excluding batteries): Approx. 9.2 oz. (260g)
Other features: Ready-light, open-flash button, sync/multiple flash terminal
Accessories provided: Soft Case SS-20

NOTE: TTL mode - workable with F-501/N2020, F301/N2000, FA, FE2 or FG. ISO 25-1000 with F-501/N2020 and F301/N2000 or ISO 25-400 with FA, FE2 or FG. Usable apertures f2 - f22 at ISO 100. AF Assist Illuminator - automatically fires LED in Single Servo Autofocus with the F-501/N2020 in insufficient light. - source: Nikon Links -

Download a free instruction manual in PDF (4.1MB), courtesy of Mr. Jim/ pls send a thank you note on my behalf as well.

| NEXT | Nikon AF-TTL SB-22 Spedlight

Main Index Pages for Nikon Flash Photography with Nikon F4 and others: | Part I | Part II | Part III |

Nikon AF-TTL Speedlights | SB-20 (1986) | SB-22 (1987) | SB-23 | SB-24 (1988) | SB-25 (1991/2) | SB-26 (1994) | SB-27(1997) | SB-28 (1997) | Nikon SB-29(s) (2000) | Nikon SB-30 (2003) | Nikon SB-600 (2004) | Nikon SB-800 (2003)
Nikon AF-TTL Speedlight DX-Series:
Nikon SB-28DX (1999) | SB-50DX (2001) | SB-80DX (2002) (updated)

Nikon BC-flash Series | Original Nikon Speedlight
SB-2 | SB-3 | SB-4 | SB-5 | SB-6 | SB-7E | SB-8E | SB-9 | SB-E | SB-10
| SB-12 | SB-14 | SB-140 UV-IR| SB-15 | SB16A | SB-17 | SB-18, SB-19 | SB-21A (SB-29) Macro flash | Flash Accesories | SF-1 Pilot Lamp

The Camera Body - Features | Reliability | Focusing | Metering | Exposure Control | Lense Compatibility| Various Power Sources | Interchangeable Prisms | Data Film Backs | Focusing Screens | Flash Photography | Other system accessories | Cases for Nikon F4 Series | Remote Control |

| Specification | Main Reference Map | Nikon F4 Variants
Instruction Manual: PDF (4.5M) - External Link

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Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
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Index Page
  Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm

MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm

Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

W A R N I N G: The New G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lense, they cannot adjust aperture(s) when operating in manual exposure control even with certain earlier AF Nikon SLR camera models. Similarly, not ALL features provide in a modern AF-S series AF-Nikkor lenses can be utilized fully with a Nikon F4. Please refer to your local distributor for compatibility issue(s).
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