How to Break your SB-800's Little Neck Like a Chicken

UPDATE: Thanks to Eric, in the comments, for the surgery-based workaround (see comment at 11:58 a.m. on 8/13/08). And yes, I know the vid was way too drawn out. Which is why I told you where you could skip to...

Peter Gregg spends two minutes and 40 seconds admonishing you not to do this. Then shows you exactly how he strong-armed his Nikon SB-800 speedlights so that they will now go 135 degrees to the left. (Clarification: When you are looking at the flash from the front.)

The SB-800s of normal photographers only go 90 degrees to the left.

Many CLS-ers lament the inability to turn the signal receiver window to any angle needed when shooting multi-light, off-camera. This (insane) little mod would seem to rectify that.

FAIR WARNING: I am not going to do this to any of my babies. In fact, I get a little squeamish just watching it. But if you are stupid brave enough, it might give you access to every click-stop through the 360-degree range.

Or it might get you a $320.00 paperweight.



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Blogger prestomation said...

You have a small but very important typo in your entry, twice at that. The SB's are limited 90 degrees to the right, not the left

Has anyone tried this to a SB600?

August 13, 2008 1:36 AM  
Blogger mtreinik said...

135 degrees to the _other_ left.

August 13, 2008 1:38 AM  
Blogger i.n.galbraith said...

yeah thanks.

August 13, 2008 1:42 AM  
Blogger D™ said...

My father has done it to his SB-800 and it worked fine. It took more force than is shown in the video though, I think he secured his in a vice before giving it a twist.

I'm not game enough to try it on my SB-600s yet, has anyone experimented with them?

August 13, 2008 1:48 AM  
Blogger Monirul Pathan said...

Wonder if anyone has *not* done this with a 430EX ?

August 13, 2008 1:58 AM  
Blogger dennis said...

I have done this "modification" twice now. I feel compelled to tell you, only ended well for me once.

i can't recomend doing this again.


August 13, 2008 2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool mod :) He have too many flashes or too much money though, since he attempted to twist the neck of his flash in the first place :)

And yikes, why does Americans have to be so cautious not to be sued? ;)

August 13, 2008 2:23 AM  
Blogger Rollasoc said...

Or, you could take your flash off camera and put it on a stand or clamp it and angle it anyway you like anyway.

I like mods in general, but I don't think I'll try this one at home.

August 13, 2008 2:33 AM  
Blogger Andrew Bangs said...

yikes . . .

i'm definitely gonna pass on this one

August 13, 2008 2:42 AM  
Anonymous Scott Simon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 13, 2008 2:48 AM  
Blogger ShutterBlade said...

LOL. Very funny.

First response. LOL

August 13, 2008 3:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We're sorry but this video is no longer available."

Anyone else getting this?

August 13, 2008 3:37 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What a great video - part of me wonders if it will work on the SB-600 too!

August 13, 2008 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HEH:) Crazy, I like the fact that it looks like it is simple and possible and as well the fact how many times during this video he did say:" Don't do this!!":)
Another way how to have the flash with 135-180 degrees to the right side is sb900:)

August 13, 2008 4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

**** this guy is so annoying. 5min video for a 20sec show.

August 13, 2008 4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, thats crazy... i dont think i would do that..

August 13, 2008 5:15 AM  
Blogger Jesper said...

I 'didn't' do it on my DAF 42 (Nikon) and it works perfect. Real easy and just moderate force.


August 13, 2008 5:21 AM  
Anonymous Markus Petersen said...

Okay, I admit it, maybe I'm a bit of a thrillseeker, but this was not at all like breaking the neck of a chicken. I expected gore. Pure violence. A screaming Nikon flash begging for the violator to stop twisting it.

But no sound. No blood. No begging.

But what the heck, perhaps it's useful for the people out there owning that flash (don't do it!). I'll just sit here and wait for my Vivitar. :)

August 13, 2008 5:50 AM  
Anonymous Fird said...

Uh.. that really send chills to my spine! :O

August 13, 2008 6:10 AM  
Anonymous Ljubo Bratina said...

I wouldn't do this to my flash if i had Nikon:)

August 13, 2008 6:10 AM  
Anonymous Darjan said...

I kinda felt sorry for the lil SB when i saw that video :( Isn't something like this called murder? I think that every photographer should respect their gear.

August 13, 2008 6:33 AM  
Blogger Hartsord said...

Don't you mean 90 degrees to the right?

(I'm sure glad I use Canon!)

August 13, 2008 6:34 AM  
OpenID stockfotografie said...

I have to agree with you: Looks frightening...

August 13, 2008 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch...I would never ever do that to my SB-800. Watching him turning the flash head like that makes my neck hurt. My SB 800 is a voodoo doll for me, if you hurt it I will really get hurt.

August 13, 2008 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- only go 90 degrees to the left?

Our left, his right, right? :-)

August 13, 2008 7:30 AM  
Blogger budrowilson said...

Wow....that guy has some big ones. I'm not sure I would have ever done that without someone showing me it would work. Wait, did he say not to do it?

August 13, 2008 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Waldek Chadzynski said...

and who is the chicken David? ;)

August 13, 2008 8:16 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

"If he was a real photographer I might almost take it seriously, but this is just some random pathetic guy".

Peter Gregg is actually a well-known, well-respected photographer in the pro-wedding and portrait photographic community. He did this, as he says, because for his purposes he needed the flash to do more. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it was either this or spend several hundreds on new SB900s. For him it was worth the risk. If you don't have a major need for more range, then, of course, don't do it. But do be nice to him, eh?

August 13, 2008 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More importantly, what kind of light modifiers was he using on them? they looked like rubber. Anyone had any experience with them?


August 13, 2008 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that if my SB28's don't go to 135, and my SB600's don't go to 135, and my SB800's don't go to 135 then the designers at Nikon must have a reason for that... kinda like how the person who designed my house put a steel "I" beam across the foundation to hold the place up.

I'm not about to knock a piece out of the structure in my home... and I ain't gonna break any Nikon necks today either.

As has been mentioned by someone here already... if you're using your flash OFF CAMERA (which is what Strobist is, right?) then you can point it anywhere by using stands, clamps, bungees, your hand etc... and firing with CLS, a cable, radio triggers, or an SU800.

"Don't do this." OK. I won't. Zoiks!

John - Ottawa Canada

August 13, 2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

David, I just heard about you and the Sun, I hope things are well and your new venture goes well for you. I miss the idle bantor from the sidelines on the high school tour. Take care

Billy Dixon

Thanks for the radio poppers tip

August 13, 2008 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Scott Simon: It's a B-L-O-G.

August 13, 2008 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any reason you can't just take the flash apart and shave or break off the stop on your own that way without running the risk of breaking the wires (whole unit)?

Seems to me if you took it apart and did it you could see if you ad enough wire available as well and see how far you could go around....

this idea just seems stupid, when you want something to do something you use force instead of your head and do it the "right" way?

August 13, 2008 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just tried this mod on a broken SB600 I had laying around... (so I can't test if it still would fire, it didn't work before) but the head swivels just the way he described it. Seems like if I tried it again it may break the plastic, but it seems fairly successful this time.

August 13, 2008 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Eric Grenier said...

wow. just wow. might I suggest actually doing it right.

separate the front cover from the back cover, the head will come away as well. 4 screws on top hidden under the head when it is forward. 6 on the bottom freely accessible. the unit comes apart very simply. two small metal screw plates will probably drop out when you pull them apart unless you are holding the back of the unit toward the floor. in any case don't worry they are simple to put back in place at reassembly. disconnect the blue and gray (on my units) AF assist light wire so you have more room to work otherwise the front cover won't move very far from the back one. file, chisel, sand, or grind away the plastic stop on the front cover that prevents rotation. it is the one closest to the cord connector. I removed both stops so my units now rotate through 900 degrees from -360 to +540 or so. I left a little hint of the stop so that I still feel mild resistance passing the negative 180 position to remind my of what I'm doing.

macro of plastic stops before:

and after:

and finally an overview with the work done, the wire disconnected (don't forget to reconnect it), and the screw plate in the background.

forgive the poor pictures I wanted to get this up before any unfortunate person decided they needed this functionality badly enough to actually try this with unfortunate result.

David feel free to use this info as you like. thanks for this site by the way, I'm more informed than I used to be when it comes to light...

Eric Grenier

August 13, 2008 11:58 AM  
Anonymous jhk said...

I just tried it on an already defective SB-80DX, so it was no risc at all. It is possible to turn the head to the 135° Position like mentioned in the video. Maybe I'll do this to one of my SB-800s, but I think I save this trick to the moment it is really necessary.

August 13, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous ku manahan said...

Yeah, you could do this... OR you could use a 580ex since you're gonna put it on a lightstand and use a receiver anyway...

August 13, 2008 12:37 PM  
Anonymous htom said...

eric grenier -- it would seem you could clip just one of the stops and have +-180 degree, and have a stop there? I totally agree, this is a much better way to do this. Any idea why it was not set up for this to begin with? Some limit switch not working properly?

August 13, 2008 1:54 PM  
Anonymous heinsite said...

There are many reasons to do this to a chicken (think: fried, broiled, baked, and more) but none for an expensive SB-800. With all the available work-around options at a user's disposal, this choice is just plain stupid.

August 13, 2008 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering how he found out about this trick. Just imagine a photographer getting very annoyed at a wedding because his flash only turns completely to the left and loosing control... :)

August 13, 2008 3:45 PM  
Blogger J. Beckley said...

Wow I didn't know the oh so powerful SB800 could not turn 180 each direction. As much as I envy the Nikon CLS system compared to Canons, I'm glad at least in this way that I own Canon 580EXs.

August 13, 2008 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How dare you talk about my chickens that way!

Debbi (LOL)

August 13, 2008 5:02 PM  
Anonymous clint shuttlesworth said...

Oh yeah, it works great... nice little upgrade to the
sb-800 :)

August 13, 2008 5:32 PM  
Blogger Kat G said...

You resisted embelishing the flash in some kind of chicken suit!! Settled for a batman cape instead....

August 13, 2008 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Nathanael Gassett said...

Holy wow, I seriously felt a little sick watching that. Totally R rated.
Please don't let your kids watch this.

August 13, 2008 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Harry said...

I read his mod weeks ago and tried it with one of my sb800s. Worked great, but I was too chicken to try it with the others. Reading Eric's excellent post, I just took that one apart to see what happened inside. Sure enough the metal plate that's attached to the head sheared off the 90° stop. So it's basically the same thing arrived at with different methods. Don't know if I want to take off the second stop.

August 13, 2008 9:43 PM  
Blogger -Adam Lichty- said...

omg. That was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo drawn out. I got the point after 15 seconds. that video could have been fully explained, understood, and done with in under 60sec. I want 4min of my life back

August 13, 2008 11:05 PM  
Blogger John Ricard said...

I'm confused as to why it took this guy 5 minutes to explain this. He could have done this entire video in like 30 seconds. It's not like he was explaining something complicated...

August 14, 2008 8:07 AM  
Blogger Andy T said...

If you think the video is long and drawn out, try his Better Bouce Card videos...

August 14, 2008 9:06 AM  
Blogger Mark Scheuern said...

Peter Gregg is actually a well-known, well-respected photographer in the pro-wedding and portrait photographic community.

Four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona, too. Oh, it's not that Peter Gregg?

Anyway, I'm definitely not doing this to mine. I have to think the stop was placed there for a reason. That was painful to watch. For those who have tried it and then opened up the flash, how tight are the wires when it's rotated to 135 degrees?

August 14, 2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Franz said...

That was painful to watch. And I didn't even watched the whole thing. I should have stopped when he called it a "movie" camera.

August 14, 2008 11:10 AM  
Blogger Ted said...

Here's your $1.25, 5 second solution....
You don't need to twist the neck off of your beloved SB800/600. The solution was found at Walmart. When your strobes are facing the wrong way, an old fashioned cheap 7" diameter makeup mirror with a hinge/stand can easily be hung from your strobe with the mirror pointing at your IR sensor. Worked like a charm in bright sunlight.

August 14, 2008 2:12 PM  
Blogger Desmond Lewis Smith said...

C'mon now, how realistic is the need to turn the neck of your off camera flash and break it?

Mount the flash on a stand and you fix the issue...

Some folks just can't leave good enough alone.

August 14, 2008 2:38 PM  
Blogger David said...

Um, to the several people who have said the orientation does not matter when the flash is off-camera, it very much matters to people who use CLS and want to keep the receiver window pointing in the right direction.

August 14, 2008 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Tom M said...

Ok, this was a great video. I now have full 360 degree rotation on the 800 (180 left, 180 right). Everything still works.

August 14, 2008 5:36 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Great Modification. Worked fine for me with a SB-800 and SB-80DX

August 15, 2008 1:18 PM  
Anonymous THURO said...

I saw this vid like 4 months ago, grabbed my SB800 and twisted it. it wasnt hard at all and it works absolutely fine. i guess i "like to live on the edge" and thanks to that i now have full rotation on the SB800.

August 15, 2008 6:21 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I've done it to a working SB600. It's probably easier to just wring the neck on the 600 than on the 800. There's a wide plastic stop in there that you're essentially cutting off by giving it the "neck-twist-o-death" maneuver. It can be modded "professionally" by taking it apart, but it's a lot more complicated than the 800 due to the positioning of the stop. All in all, I would say that the neck-wringing is a better option for the 600, while you should probably use the sugery method for the 800.

Oh, one more thing... I don't believe there is anything stopping you from going past 360 once you kill the stop on the SB600, and the wires are getting to their limit at that point, so don't use the Torque-Master 2000 on it or you will be sorry.

August 15, 2008 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Well did it to 2 SB 800s a couple of months ago and they continue to work no problem. Only "more better!" if you're into bouncing on camera flash

Thanks Peter - even if you do tend to go on before getting to the point.

August 18, 2008 9:02 AM  
Blogger jeroen said...

A few models of Metz do this without force. At least my 32 MZ-2 does.

August 19, 2008 4:41 AM  
Blogger Ken S. Kotch said...

I 'didnt' do this to 2 of my 4 sb800's. works fine. i dont want to push my luck though....

August 25, 2008 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and what is the moral of the story? Why did you not show samples of what you did with this useless information?
too much time on your hands.........go shoot something!

October 08, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger Andy Villarin said...

There is a reason why it doesnt turn around all the way , first the internal wiring to the strobe bulb need to have a ring collar so that it can turn freely in any directions and will still have contact to the main board without ripping the wiring from the stobe bulb. Before doing this procedure I would open the the body of the flash and inspect. Andy insure that its ok to do this stunt.

that's what i would do first or if you can get a diagram or schematic from nikon it would also help.

October 09, 2008 7:54 AM  
Blogger Boyan said...

I did the "surgical" method tonight --- very simple and very effective. A couple of things to note:

1) The metal plates, when they do fall out, require tweezers to position correctly and a bit of patience to re-attach. It is better to never let them fall out by removing only the four screws on the bottom and two on the top that face the "Nikon Speedlight" sign (the AF illuminator). The other four screws (two on top and two on bottom) can remain fully screwed in without affecting the procedure.

2) After removing both tabs I now wish I had done only one. Now if I don't pay attention I am in danger of twisting the wires off the head, because once you are past the tab there is no way to tell which way you should go... so tread carefully.

June 07, 2009 2:10 AM  
Blogger Peter Zhang said...

i did the mod on my new canon 430ex II and it works !! stopped at 135 degrees ... not willing to go beyond
cheers mate !

August 25, 2009 2:56 AM  
Blogger Prcek said...

Thanks to pics made by Eric Grenier I decided to do the inside-surgery (I've melted the redundant plastic with soldering iron) and it works great. No Superman's power needed. I don't really understand the guy from the video - have you seen how thick is the part he broke?

August 29, 2009 4:38 PM  
Blogger M1911.ORG said...

OK< I am sure that I'll be able to figure and perform the surgical procedure, but just to be sure, which of the two tabs is the one which removes the 90 degs stop and which is the one which removes the 180 degs one?

September 17, 2009 3:26 AM  
Blogger Maik said...

Just did it to 3 of my SB's without a problem. Not much force needed and they are all working fine. Should have done that a long time ago.

February 04, 2013 9:51 AM  

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