Reset your SB-800's

Over the weekend I was shooting a family portrait and noticed that one of my Nikon SB-800's, working off a Pocket Wizard and supposedly firing at around 1/2-power, wasn't putting out as much light as I expected. Chimping first alerted me to this, and my flashmeter confirmed it. Sure enough, no matter what power level I set the flash at it was just clicking out a little wink of light. Bummer.

Checking it out the next day, I learned that I had two SB-800's acting this same way. More aggravating was that these were the same two flashes that I sent to Nikon Professional Services in February to get fixed (for other problems.) Man, was I ready to fire off one angry letter when I sent them in to be re-repaired. But then I remembered a question the repair technician had asked me back then when I was trying to figure out what was wrong:

"Did you try re-setting it?"

Turns out, doing that simple step fixed my problem. It's like the old computer nerd's fallback: most of your problems can be cured by just re-booting. It's not going to work for all your problems, but it is a useful first-step. Here's how to do it:

Turn your SB-800 on, then hold down your "mode" and "on/off" buttons simultaneously. (Press the "mode" button first or all you'll do is turn off the flash.) You have to keep holding them for 2-3 seconds.

The display screen on the back of the flash will "reverse," so that you'll see white lettters against a dark background instead of dark letters against the green-ish light background.

That's it. Now see if that fixed your problem.

Bear in mind that if you had custom settings arranged, they will have gone back to their defaults. If you're like me, and hate the little whistle tone that confirms that the flash fired, you'll make the first thing you cancel.


Ed Wilson, Professional Photographer said...

try and find that in the manual in less than 30 minutes

Thomas said...

You're right, it's tucked deep in the book and isn't obvious. But it turns out it's also printed on the little flip-up bounce card that's recessed in the head assembly near the fresnel lens. Even that doesn't give you much clue as to what it does or why it's important.

Since writing this I've gotten in to the habit of resetting my flashes before every major shoot, just to be safe. I work the hell out of 'em, and it seems to cut down on the amount of frustrated head-scratching that sometimes occurs when I forget to do the reset.

nik freak said...

i havent been using my sb 800 for a few months now and when i did, it wouldn't sync with my d80. resetting the flash unit did solve the problem. thanks you're a life saver!

Anonymous said...

Thanks - that was very helpful

Bob Rhea said...

Great tip but here's another. I've had the same problem described here with getting low/limited output from the SB-800 on a Nikon D3.

I've found that "resetting" the D3 also solves this problem.

ClickIT said...

Shoots with confidence after reset. Thanks a lot.

Lincoln Resident said...

Still misfires on D7000 BUT not on D3200!!??? Works fine on D3200. Other SB800 fires fine on D7000 and D3200. Weird! Any ideas? lee@lincolnmaine.us

Thomas said...

Lincoln — Not sure on that.. Ordinarily I'd say that the problem lies with the D7000, as it's not firing on that. But since you've got the other flash to test with, it seems to kinda rule out the camera.

My guess is, it's time to send that puppy off to Melville NY for testing and repair! Sorry. The only other thing I'd suggest is to check that you don't have some sort of issue with the contacts on the hot shoe or the foot that might be solved by cleaning. But if it's not something you can just wipe off then it's probably still going to have to go to Nikon for service.

Best of luck to you,


Tom Laurijssens said...

THANX to you and google for finding your post. Today 2 d800's stopped working for no reason.
Both on d3, d700 and d7000.

reset fixed it. (for now)


Conrad R Good said...

Well my hopes of this working were dashed... My SB-800 just fires on it's own, even when it is not hooked to the camera but just turned on and sitting by itself???

I have sent it in once to Nikon for repair for another reason and now this! To be quite honest I have been disappointed with Nikon service and their knee jerk response it that I have mis-handled the equipment or abused it (had a lens issue as well) I can quite guarantee neither of those scenarios have occurred!

Anyone else had this constant flash firing issues? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem with my sb800. Please be kind enough to suggest where I should send it to be repaired.

zeiss ikon said...

thank you so much !!!

Unknown said...

And still helping people, thanks

Anonymous said...

Works great to reset it. Thanks!
However my much beloved SB800 (owned and used for some 12 years) is not firing any more. It seems the capacitor is discharging as after each ' non-flash' the red LED flickers for a few moments until it gives me the steady glow that it is ready for the next flash. I'm fearing major damage which will see me throw out the SB 800 - but just last one chance - has anyone ever seen this sort of problem please?

Andy Gray said...

Tried it and it didn't work. The reason is that I had locked in a setting. unlocked and then reset and it works great. Thanks.