Review of the Neewer NW985N Speedlight

Review of Neewer NW985N speedlight (Triopo TR985N, for Nikon)

The price of $63 USD is amazing, because the speedlight is fully powered and fully featured. Amazon says guide number 58 (meters) at 180 mm zoom. The manual says guide number 55 at 180 mm zoom. There is no guide number chart in the manual, so no other GN values are given, but at 24 mm zoom, the power results compare close to a SB-800 or a Yongnuo YN565. It is a full powered unit.

Neewer seems to be an import/marketing company, a distributor for relabeled products from various import manufacturers. My NW985N flash from Amazon was packaged and labeled as a Triopo TR985N Speedlight, so I'm not sure what to call it.

The flash has all the necessary features to use it: Zooms 18 to 180 mm. iTTL of course, bounce head tilts to 90 degrees, head rotates 180 degrees left or right. A pullout bounce card and wide angle diffuser. It has compensation for TTL mode, ± 3 EV in 1/3 stops (and the camera can of course set it too). It has a PC sync connector for Manual flash (power levels in third stops down to 1/128 power level). FV Lock and Rear Curtain Sync work of course (those are camera functions).

It recycles fast, full power level in 2.35 seconds (Eneloop NiMH, batteries Not included). Comes with a padded fabric case and a plastic flat slave stand (brass threads on bottom), and a snap-on plastic dome diffuser. Foot has a steel hot shoe plate. Sync voltage is a safe five volts. Has port to accept an external battery pack. There is more description about flash features at Beginners Guide to Select a Hot Shoe Flash.

There are flash models for Nikon and Canon cameras, this is the Nikon version. It works well in TTL and Manual modes, has S1 and S2 slave modes. It has HSS mode, and a N slave mode for use as a wireless remote with the Nikon Commander (channel 1-4, groups A,B,C). But slave N with Commander in TTL mode, and HSS, did not work right for me (below). If you have the Commander, you probably want these features. But a camera without Commander or HSS would not see these two issues, and the rest seems pretty nice.

Much is impressive. The menu system is pleasure. It's a nice flash that does the basic TTL and Manual jobs very well. Its power and basic performance, and the price for this much flash seems amazing. The price is a great feature, which simply buys a lot in this model.

However yes, there certainly are a few little things.

The first four items especially surprise me. The last four are not specified as features, but should be.

The flash does have some strong virtues, especially price, and the basic features do work well, but some of it doesn't work, and I dislike the misrepresentation. So frankly, if you don't need HSS and commander Remote mode, see the review of the Neewer VK-750 II flash. Many cameras don't have the Commander anyway. Frankly, I'd prefer the Neewer relabeled Meike brand instead of Triopo).

But the NW985N Plus Factors are: (arguing with self)

Neewer NW985N (aka Triopo TR985N): - Neewer website - Amazon   $63!

You have to hold the power button down two seconds to turn it on or off, no faster override is available. The Mode button cycles through four menus for TTL, Manual, a repeating flash mode called Multi, and the Slaves. The menus seem very efficient, and easy to use, especially so for the slave modes.

The music note icon in upper right notifies that the sound beep is on. The lightning H icon notifies of HSS mode is available (meaning, camera Auto FP mode is set, but the shutter speed has to exceed maximum sync speed to actually shift to HSS mode).

Pressing the center selector button for three seconds brings up a Custom Settings menu, for Auto power off, AF assist on or off, Beeper on or off, Language (English or Chinese), and a Reset.

This flash has both the wheel and pin shoe lock, so you have to rotate the wheel all the way up, which retracts the pin, then you can remove the flash.

For Nikon, its TTL mode is actually TTL BL mode (same Balanced Fill Flash system default mode as the SB-700, SB-400, camera internal flash, and Commander - Nikon is a TTL BL system). TTL BL mode is automatic balanced fill flash in bright ambient (i.e., reduced flash when affected by ambient level, not the full metered exposure flash level). Camera Spot metering switches it to instead be actual TLL mode (full metered flash level regardless of background). The camera Exif reports this NW985N and also the Yongnuo YN565EX flash as "ExternalFlashFirmware: 2.01 (SB-800)". The SB-800 itself is ten years old, and is reported as: ExternalFlashFirmware: 1.01 (SB-800 or Metz 58 AF-1). A few flashes (the Nikon SB-600, SB-800, SB-900) have a menu with overt TTL vs TTL BL override choices on it, but the rest (without said menu choices) default to the TTL BL in the Nikon system (it is the camera that controls this).

The camera controls TTL flash and TTL metering. And like the Nikon flashes too, indoor TTL BL flash often is better exposed with up to about +1 EV flash compensation, but that's the camera metering system, not the flash. Camera Spot metering mode switches the flash metering out of TTL BL mode, to be actual TLL mode (which is good to know about), but Spot metering itself is only about the ambient light, and the flash system does not use Spot metering. More about that Here.

Manual mode power (to 1/128 power level) is changed one stop at each half power step (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc.) with the horizontal buttons, and does 1/3 stop clicks with the vertical buttons. The little LCD symbols always point this out very clearly. Tapping the center select button highlights the zoom line, then can become manual zoom. For off camera use, it has a PC sync connector (not threaded), or the slave modes. No distance range is shown on the LCD, possibly related to no guide number chart?

Zoom - Tapping the center select button in TTL or Manual mode highlights the zoom value, and it can be changed manually. If the M is showing with Zoom, it zooms manually with the arrow keys, but if M, it will not zoom automatically with the lens. To reset Auto Zoom, select the value lower than 18 mm, which is an Auto position. This resets M off, and says 35 mm if off camera.

Slave Modes - There is an actual Wireless menu which is very convenient (which is Not selectable when the flash is on-camera). It can select N or C, S1, or S2 slave mode. The slave modes then wait to be triggered (off-camera use). S1 is a normal optical slave (manual flash mode). S2 is manual flash, but can be triggered by TTL, for example, from compact cameras without manual flash. And N mode is the AWL wireless remote mode for the Commander, which can be TTL or manual flash. In the Nikon system, TTL vs Manual, and compensation or power level is set in the Commanders menu. It has N or C modes, compatible with Nikon or Canon commanders. You do have to buy the right Nikon or Canon version, the hot shoe pins are Not compatible, but this remote slave mode can be compatible.

N slave mode - You can select group A,B,C or Channel 1,2,3,4. Flash mode and compensation are set in the Commander at the camera. Flash menu shows mode from Commander menu (might take a couple of times to show up), and shows manual power level, but TTL compensation always shows zero in flash menu (and really doesn't work). It triggers well, but it has serious TTL power level problems. See below.

S1 slave mode is a simple optical slave (manual flash mode), just set it out there and it will flash in sync with the other manual flashes.

Slaves and Standby: It has a LCD sleep mode after one minute of no activity. With flash on the camera, half press of shutter button wakes it up. Cameras have no way to wake up a remote flash from standby (there is no connection). You can press a button on the flash to wake it up. Nikon flash models disable standby in Remote modes, and the NW985N also still remotely triggers at least for 30 minutes. The flash will turn itself off after 30 minutes of no activity (this can be disabled in the setup menu).

When the batteries run down, it just stops responding and will not recycle ready. The recycle will get long and slow first, and then when it quits, a little battery symbol appears on the top menu line to tell you why it won't work.

Press the Ready LED for the Test fire button. Manual flash should fire at the menu power setting, but TTL just flashes at very low level (on this flash), because its TTL level is not metered and programmed yet.

Like the Yongnuo, it must not have a tilt switch on the flash head, because direct flash is not troubled by incorrect D-lens data - which is a real plus on zooms, or in umbrellas on hot shoe extension cables (see Part 3 and Here). That seems a feature to me.

NW985N Part 2 - Continued - HSS and Commander

NW985N Part 3 - Continued - Exposure Comparisons

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