Getting flashy with the Nikon FE

Along with the Nikon FE (see earlier post: From Voigtlander to Nikon) there was also a flashgun, the Nikon Speedlight SB-10 (factoid: Nikon use the term Speedlight but Canon use the term Speedlite).

NIKON SB-10, front

NIKON SB-10, rear

SB-10 mounted on NIKON FE, front

SB-10 mounted on NIKON FE, rear

When I opened up the battery compartment I was pleased to find the flashgun had been stored without batteries so no leakage. However when I put new batteries in I sadly found the unit was dead. I'm guessing maybe the electrolytic capacitor had failed sometime in the 36 years since the unit was manufactured.

So what would make a good alternative to deliver a similar lighting effect to the original unit? Well the SB-10 worked as a manual unit (and also had a limited auto option).

NIKON SB-10 Exposure Calculator disc

The Guide Number was a very modest 25. My nearest equivalent is a Yongnuo YN560 which offers manual power setting with a max Guide Number of 39.

Sorry, now the maths bit!

The basic calculation is guide number / f-stop = max flash distance.

As an example with the SB-10 at ISO 100 with guide number 25 (metres) and an aperture of 10 would give a shooting range of 2.5m. At f5.6 this would increase to about 4.5m.

As an example with the YN560 at ISO 100 with guide number 39 (metres) and an aperture of 10 would give a shooting range of 3.9m. At f5.6 this would increase to about 7m.

However at ISO 200 (the film I have) the guide number goes up by 1.41 (sensitivity doubled so square root of 2).

As an example with the YN560 at ISO 200 and effective guide number 55 (metres) an aperture of 10 would give a shooting range of 5.5m. At f5.6 this would increase to about 10m.

NB The actual real-world guide number is usually somewhat less than the claimed published guide number. For those with a flashmeter you can check this yourself with a simple test: set flash to full power and max zoom, then in a dimly lit room take a reading with the meter at 1 metre distance from the flash, the f-number you get for base ISO should be the actual GN.

Nikon FE with the YN560, front

Nikon FE with the YN560, rear

A quick test confirmed that the Nikon FE hotshoe mount fired the YN560 without any problem. The FE has a maximum sync speed of 1/125th, somewhat slow when a typical full frame digital will manage 1/200th and those with an APSC sensor usually manage 1/250th.

The Yongnuo has a wonderful angled head allowing for a number of bounce options but to be true to the old Speedlight with that deer in the headlights look I should keep it pointed straight ahead. There is also a zoom option but I should keep this consistent with the 50mm lens. Also I should not use it past about 70% power.

I probably won't use it but for what it's worth the FE also has a sync port on the front of the body. Once I started with radio triggers using a sync cable was not something I wanted to do again.


Shooting flash with the FE is going to rely on some rough guide number based calculations (yes I know I could use a flash meter but not really in the spirit of my experiment) and a bit of luck. I won't know how things will turn out until the film is developed.

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