I was having a discussion with reader "Uncle Louis" the last few days about alternatives for inexpensive manual flashes. Louis was complaining that he was having trouble finding the old Nikon classic manual flashes (SB-80dx and SB-26) that are so popular with real estate photographers.
For the new comers, these flashes are popular because they have reliable, built-in, optical slaves and their power can be adjusted down low (1/128 for the SB-80dx and 1/64 for the SB-26). It makes them ideal for hiding around a room to put the right amount of light exactly where you want it. An then triggering optically with a low power on-camera flash.
Because David Hobby (strobist.com) has been blogging about these old Nikon Flashes for so long they have held their value (I paid $130 for a SB-80dx on E-bay late last year) and become scarce. They are still available on E-bay and at keh.com if you are patient. Because they are second hand you always take a risk that they have a a problem. I got burned on one I purchased on E-bay because the optical slave didn't work and I ended up having to pay another $90 to get it fixed. Because of the increasing scarcity and the lack of warranty it would be great if there was a simple no-nonsense manual flash like the SB-80dx that you can purchase new with a warranty.
As of spring of 2009 there is; it's called the LP120. Moishe Applebaum of Midwest Photo Exchange and David Hobby realized the need for a "open source flash gun" that has all the features of the SB-80dx but has a 2 year warranty and did what it takes to create one. They are available at Midwest Photo Exchange for $130. The LP120 has been getting pretty good reviews. So you might want to check it out if your are building up your flash inventory.