This is not a full review of the new Nikon SB-5000, so I won't be going too much into detail with anything. I'm sure some of those are floating around by now for you to check out. This is just my initial thoughts after two weddings with the SB-5000's, which I used with the new Nikon D5. I'm gonna jump straight to the punch line here and let you know... I sent them both back.
First, let me start off by stating, I am a Nikon shooter as of 2015 after years of shooting Canon. In the past month I picked up the new flagship D5 to accompany my D810 which also afforded me the opportunity to test out the new and "revolutionary" Nikon Creative Lighting System, CLS. I'll be writing up my "First Impressions" on the D5 in the coming weeks, but this is about the new SB-5000 CLS setup. The only thing I had been missing about shooting Canon this past year was the ease of use with the Canon 600EX-RT's, which have been available since 2012. When I first heard about the SB-5000's coming out with the D5 I definitely got excited. I mean after 4 years the SB-5000's would at least have the reliability and functionality that I loved so much about the Canon 600EX-Rt's, right? 100% wrong.
Instead of taking the next step in innovation with the SB-5000 system, Nikon took a step backwards from the 2012 Canon technology. Not only did they not include a transmitter in the D5 but they didn't even add the transmitter to the SB-5000 itself. Instead, they require you to purchase the WR-R10 and WR-A10 to attach to your camera in order to communicate with the SB-5000's. Wait what!? While it is nice that the WR-R10/A10 do not take up the hotshoe, in real world functionality it is no different then a Canon ST-E3 transmitter. However, I can also use a 600EX-RT to talk to another 600EX-RT. I can't do that with the SB-5000's.
With the so called "revolutionary radio control" (Nikon's words, not mine) being a big disappointment in functionality and design, I could have still been won over with performance. I wasn't quite ready to throw the towel in yet. I mean, I did buy the SB-5000 knowing it wasn't fully wireless to begin with.
Before I rip the performance, let me state that I only tested one set of WR-R10/A10's. I also do not care one bit about being able to fire off 100 consecutive flashes in my line of work. I don't care about 10 consecutive flashes. With that said, the one set of transmitters I did test was unreliable at best. I had numerous issues getting it to pair to either SB-5000. The SB-5000 is supposed to pair automatically once turned to remote and the WR-10's are attached to the D5. Well more often than not it would not pair and I would either have to re-pair them manually or use the 2nd SB-5000 on Camera to pair to the off camera SB-5000. Once paired that way I could then remove the on camera SB-5000 and they would both work remotely. Needless to say in the fast paced wedding world I found this infuriating. With not testing a 2nd set of transmitters it is possible that I had a lemon. I'm interested to see if others have the same issues over the coming months.
In the end, I decided not to go through with having B&H send me replacements of everything. For the price Nikon is commanding, I at least want technology on par with what is out there today, not a step backwards. In order to use 2 SB-5000's off camera it would cost you $1,350. Instead, I'm picking up two Cheetah V860X speedlites and a CL-600X which is a little more powerful then the Profoto B1 with similar portability. Best part, the speedlites and strobe all talk to each other in a very functional manner. All of that will cost me $400 less than two Nikon speedlites and WR-10 setup. The SB-5000 radio control is definitely not revolutionary, and to be honest, it is a big fail for Nikon in my opinion.