UPDATE: SU-4 tested 03/06/2009

One of my recent projects is investigating the ability to use the Nikon SB-400 speedlight off camera. The SB-400 is both lightweight and compact, lending itself to be easily carried when room in  your kitbag is tight. I want to be able to use mine off camera to extend its versatility, allowing for macro lighting and possibly being integrated into a Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) environment.

This flash does not have any ability to be controlled manually unless being used on a Nikon D40 or newer camera, so it is essentially a TTL only flash.

My initial research has shown that the SC-17/28/29 cables will allow you to move the flash off camera. However TTL cables do not allow you to integrate the flash into a Nikon CLS environment. A TTL cable will satisfy my first desire, to move the SB-400 off camera so I can use it for macro work.

In order to integrate the SB-400 into a CLS environment you would have to be able to trigger the flash without occupying the hot shoe on your camera. As the SB-400 lacks a wireless ability, this leads to the need for an optical trigger. Although not a perfect integration into CLS this will allow you to have an extra ‘popper’ light that may find some use. I have also tried a number of optical slaves with no success. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on a Nikon SU-4 soon so I can test this optical slave.

UPDATE: A friend tested the SB-400 on a SU-4 for me and sadly this has confirmed that the SB-400 is incapable of being used with an optical slave

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  • Jon

    Thanks for this – it was useful info. I was interested in doing the same thing – using it off camera as part of a CLS system for macro. It’s a shame you have to do these tests in order to discover this info. In the SB-400 section of Nikon’s site they should just have “This flash cannot communicate with a CLS system.”

    Simples :O)

  • aim54x

    Nikon never mentions anything in regards to using the SB-400 as part of CLS system. If the SB-400 was compatible with CLS then Nikon would have expressly mentioned this. My investigation was to see if I could wirelessly trigger the SB-400 in an attempt to use it as a slave flash whilst my other flashes (SB-600/SB-800) communicated via CLS.