Hands-on Review – Nissin Di700A Speedlight and Wireless Trigger Kit

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Following the big bang that introduced capable and affordable digital cameras, the digital photography universe has been expanding at an astounding rate. So much amazing imagery is being produced, and equipment manufacturers are working tirelessly to develop, and improve upon, the products you use to create those images.

Despite the tendency of some photographers to not even consider third party brands, that market exists and is flourishing. It seems that there are more players in it than ever before, and the competition is stiff.

Photography accessories

The market for third party photography equipment and accessories is bustling.

If you are considering adding a speedlight to your arsenal of gadgets, it’s definitely worth having a look at third party brands. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a product is inferior because it’s not the same brand as your camera.

Although the industry dominators (Nikon and Canon) have a large array of speedlights to choose from, you just might find that you have to pay for features which you will never use, or their products may not have the features you need.

One company that has gained some ground, making a name for themselves in the third party sector, is Japan-based Nissin. They are a dedicated photographic lighting company who just released a new flash system for Nikon and Canon (Sony version coming in September) and one just showed up on my doorstep.

The Nissin Di700A speedlight shown with the Air 1 wireless commander.

The Nissin Di700A speedlight shown with the Air 1 wireless commander.

I shoot Nikon so they sent me the dedicated Nikon system but don’t worry, the Canon and Sony versions are similar, so this review is still worth reading even if you’re not a Nikon shooter.

First of all, this is exciting for us Nikon shooters. Unlike Canon, Nikon doesn’t have any flashes with radio triggers built-in, only optical. Why? Good question. Get it together Nikon.

First Impressions

Excavating the Nissin Di700A out of its packaging – yes, that’s the alphabet soup name they gave this unit – it was instantly apparent that it is meant to rival the SB-900/910, at least in size and weight.

Side by side comparison of the Nissin Di700A and the Nikon SB-900

The Nissin is in many ways comparable to the Nikon SB-900.

A quick inspection of the unit shows it to be sleek, simple, and solid. The plastic seems heavy-duty and I suspect it would survive some abuse. The locking head swivels and swings into the same positions as its Nikon counterpart – 7-degrees down, 90-degrees up and 180-degrees left and right (as every flash should).

On the back, below the matte-finish LED screen, is a dial with a Select button in the middle, a flash test button, and the power button. They went for the minimalist approach which I applaud. It has a small rubber cover on each side; one with a socket for a battery pack hiding behind it, and the other with a PC cable and auxiliary sync inputs.

The metal hot shoe mount is a welcome sight but the circular threaded disc for tightening the flash onto the hot shoe seems a bit archaic. A slide-out diffuser and reflector panel are also familiar features.

You may have noticed that earlier I called this a camera system. The kit they sent me comes with a radio trigger called the Air 1 Commander. The hot-shoe-mount Air 1 matches the flash in most respects, but has an extra Mode button. It automatically locks into place when slid onto the hot shoe, and has a button which is held in to release it. Personally, I would have preferred the same button on the speedlight instead of the threaded disc.

Firing it up

I popped in four AA batteries, hit the power button, and a kaleidoscope of colorful lights sprung to life on the rear panel. However, the flash was effectively frozen and would not work at all. Come to find out, the Eneloop XX rechargeable batteries that I prefer to use for all of my speedlights do not work in this unit. I swapped them out for the regular Eneloops which work fine. The only difference that I’m aware of is the XX are 2,500 mAh compared to the regular’s 2,000 mAh (any electrical engineers out there please chime in).

Following the thread of simplicity that Nissin has going, I just tightened that baby down onto my hot shoe and it did what it is supposed to do, fired away in TTL metering mode.

I instantly fell in love with the rear display. Various bright, vivid colors, clearly visible in any lighting conditions, indicate the six different menu settings:

  1. A (automatic)
  2. TTL (through the lens metering)
  3. M (manual)
  4. SD (slave digital)
  5. SF (slave film)
  6. And the wireless setting identified by a little radio tower symbol

A few things I liked immediately were: a quick press of the power switch locks all functions of the flash so you don’t inadvertently change settings, the tactile feel of the buttons and wheel are soft but feel very sturdy, and changing modes and adjusting exposure compensation is quick and easy.

Another issue I encountered was that the zooming flash head feature didn’t work. It zooms all the way out when deploying the small diffusion panel but did not respond when changing the zoom on any of my lenses as the manual says it should, nor does it respond to the manual zoom control feature of the Air 1. We’ll assume I got sent a defective unit. To play devil’s advocate, this can happen to any brand so I’m not going to throw them under the bus just yet.

The controls on the Di700a are intuitive and very easy to adjust to get the exposure just how you want it.

The controls on the Di700A are intuitive and make it quick and easy to adjust and get the exposure just how you want it.

A detail that could prove handy is the standalone battery magazine. Spares can be purchased which can be pre-loaded for easy swapping. This can save you time and prevents fumbling around for batteries in the heat of the moment.

Perusing the instruction manual divulged that the flash has an overheating circuit which supposedly shuts it down for 15 minutes, to recover after firing 20 to 30 times (presumably at full power). This is a significant detail as 15 minutes might as well be an eternity for professional shooters. I immediately had flashbacks of the SB-900 which would overheat and shutdown often, and at the most inopportune times.

The system supports all of the nifty features found on the camera body: high-speed sync (FP for Nikon and HSS for Canon) to 1/8,000th of a second, red-eye reduction, slow and rear -curtain shutter, and on-camera exposure compensation which is added onto the unit’s own exposure compensation, covering two stops in both directions.

The Nissin Di700A not only has a built-in wireless receiver, but can also be optically triggered by the camera’s built-in flash. This is cool because you can mix and match flashes that have optical receivers. The Di700A and the Air 1 can be purchased separately. The Air 1 wireless commander claims a 100 foot effective range. Although this may seem generous, and plenty for most applications, the Cactus transmitters I use boast three times the range but do not support TTL metering, so it’s a trade off.

Using the Air 1 with the Di700A proved undependable. My first attempt at about 50 feet, with the flash behind a motorcycle for backlighting, was met with intermittent results. The signal seemed weak, and I had to move around to get the flash to finally fire.

Testing the Nissin Di700a and Air 1 commander.

I had mixed results using the Air 1 to trigger the Di700A. The system struggled having the motorcycle between the flash and transmitter at about 50 feet.

The Air 1 can also support three groups of flashes, on eight separate channels, with exposure compensation for each group in half stop increments.

I would certainly recommend the kit to beginning through intermediate shooters, but despite Nissin’s efforts to offer some pro-level features, it falls a little short to meet the demanding needs of working photographers.

All in all, for a sub $300 kit, that is sleek and easy to use, versatile, and capable of wireless TTL shooting, the Nissin kit is definitely a strong contender.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Nissin Di700A Speedlight and Wireless Trigger
Author Rating
4

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Jeremie Schatz

is a freelance photographer, photojournalist, journalist, copyeditor and videographer for a variety of clients and companies in the United States and Thailand. Find his portfolio of colorful images and more of his writing at Exposed World Photography and on Facebook.

  • Chris Estonia

    I am using the eneloop 2550 and it is working fine.

  • Jeremie

    Thanks for the heads-up. There must have been something awry with the unit they sent me.

  • Chris Estonia

    Today, at an event the flash would not fire sometimes, for no apparent reason even though the status light was green. Also noticed the auto ISO reading comes from the ambient, without taking into account the flash. So I got some 25000 ISO with flash in TTL. Weird; Sony A7ii

  • Jeremie

    That’s not good. Reliability is at the top of my priority list for a speedlight. Probably a silly question but are you sure you had the threaded disc tightened down all the way? That’s one reason why I don’t like that attachment system. Sounds like they still have some interfacing problems to work out. I know that I received an early run so I tried to keep that in mind when testing. I think their customer service should be responsive and I encourage you to contact them about your issues.

  • Chris Estonia

    The one I have does not have the threaded disc. It is the push button release type.. The threaded disc would be more secure if tightened well. My manual flashes have worked well using only the center pin.It was the first day I used the flash for other than testing.

  • Chris Estonia

    Apologies to Nissin and you. Maybe just a loose connection. Tried about 300 shots today, just testing, and the flash fired at all times.

  • Jeremie

    Good news. Hopefully the connection issue was just a fluke and isn’t a recurring issue. Thanks for the update.

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  • Chris Estonia

    The plastic feet of my Nissin have given way after only 10 shoots. The fit was never secure as the version I have is the push button type. Sent back to Nissin for repairs.

  • Declan Murphy

    I’m torn between this system and the new Shanny SN910EX-RF. FML. I wish Yongnuo would just fix this 🙂

  • Daniel

    First of ale it îs funny to se that the Sony version that came out later has a release button instead of the locking wheel. So that’s a welcome adition. About the build quality, it seems decent. The only thing that I can point to îs that when mounted on the flashstand provided it really moves around, it doesn’t fit tight at all. That’s a problem with the provided stand as I found out when mounting it on the HVL F60 from Sony where it felt solid. About the 2500 eneloops, at first i thought you made a joke, as i user them with absolutely no problem. If the transmitter was correctly set up with the flashes that îs really quite a mistery. When shooting TTL the zoom function works on mine just fine. I don’t remember as to manual mode but i will also check. The range is sort of a limitation. I haven’t encountered any problems below the 30m range though.

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  • iphoto27

    ATG says before blaming the flash system, check the following:
    1. Do not use NiZn batteries
    2. Use Energizer Lithium Battery, Nd-Cd, Ni-MH, Eneloop (2.1A & 2.55A)
    3. DVM is must to check. An inexpensive models would be fine
    4. Insert all batteries in the correct positions
    5. ATG/Nissin A1 Transmitter requires 2 AAA batteries (uses Energizer Lithium)
    6. Make sure both battery doors are fully closed
    7. Both, transmitter & flash, must be sync together for shooting wireless radio
    TTL/zoom 24-200mm/manual power/groups/ratios
    8. If camera is slow in getting AF, park the ATG/Nissin A1 on the camera
    Remember these cameras have no AF assist beam nor pop-up flash:
    *ATG Canon EOS-1D Cr
    *ATG Nikon D4sr
    *ATG Canon EOS-5Dsrr
    *ATG Sony A7rIIr
    *ATG Sony A7rII IR & UV
    *ATG Sony A7s II IR
    *Canon EOS-1D X
    *Canon EOS-5D Series
    *Nikon D4 Series
    *Nikon D3 Series
    *Sony A7 Series
    9. During extreme temperature changes, greater than 20 degrees,
    avoid using system for 20 to 38 minutes.
    10. Avoid turning camera/flash/lens on & off often.

    If you are a beginner /or photographer on tight budgets use Eneloop rated @ 2.1A.
    Because this can be recharged more than 2Kx vs 500x.

    Always check with DVM to see if you get 1.2VDV minimum on each cell battery.
    DO NOT assume you have batteries fully charged after charging.

    If you are a working professionals, then save up the money and buy the
    ATG Gold MG8k Flash Kim X3.
    This flash will make the two Canon 600EX-RT, Nikon SB910 with Pocket Wizard FLEXTTL and Sony HVL-F60M look really bad.

    ATG Gold MG8k Flash Kim X3 Specs:
    * ATG ETTL II, ATG ITTL or ATG ADI TTL
    * ATG up to nine wireless flash modes
    * ATG Auto2, TTL, Manual & Strobe
    * ATG 1st, 2nd, HSS, Auto FP
    * ATG wireless radio TTL
    * ATG wireless radio 24-105mm zoom
    * ATG wireless IR for all pre-flash cameras
    * ATG wireless IR for all cameras
    * ATG AF assist beam to turbo your lens in total darkness
    * ATG better hotshoe

    * ATG 1.5 year supports and warranty
    * Combine more than one to get more power
    * No overheating
    * No shutdown
    * 0.5 recycle time from full 1/1 manual power
    * PC Sync Port
    * HV Port

    Above specs are better than these overpriced bricks, Profoto B1 and Phottix Indra500.

    If you have any questions, contact ATG or Nissin.
    I am glad I found out ATG from Alzo Digital.

  • Jeremie

    It sounds like you have had a good experience with your purchase. Sometimes companies send the first version of a product to reviewers which may still have quirks to iron out (probably not a good business strategy). As for the Eneloops, I tested multiple sets of batteries across four different flashes and the Nissin was the only one with an issue. That’s great news that everything works as it should on your flash, it otherwise seemed like a good quality product.

  • Jeremie

    Just out of curiosity, how was your experience with Nissin carrying out the repairs?

  • Chris Estonia

    2 months and counting. I have not received it back from them. Apparently they have to send it to the country of manufacture

  • Chris Estonia

    I have received the flash back bit now one pin of the commander unit has come loose. This is one of the the worst products from Nissin.

  • nishantratnakar

    Would love to know how the experience has been shooting on HSS/FP?

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