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PENTAX AF 540FGZ

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22 58,521 Mon July 22, 2019
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
82% of reviewers $378.58 7.14
PENTAX AF 540FGZ

PENTAX AF 540FGZ
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PENTAX AF 540FGZ
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Description:
The most powerful flash in the Pentax line-up with a guide number of 54. The flash is compatible with all Pentax SLR and DSLR cameras (except the auto 110 series). The flash has a zooming flash head, which tilts and swivels for bounce flash, a built-in wide-angle diffuser and a built-in catch-light panel.

Optional accessories:
TR Power Pack 3
Flash nameGuide Number (meters ISO 100)Flash controlFlash exposure comp.Flash range
PENTAX AF 540FGZ45 in 50mm zoom position,
54 in 85mm zoom position
P-TTL auto,
TTL auto,
Auto flash,
Manual (7 power settings)
Yes, in P-TTL mode
(-3 to +1 EV)
P-TTL/TTL auto: 0.7 to 32m
at 50mm zoom position
with f/1.4 lens at ISO 100)
Flash coverage (24x36)Flash coverage (APS-C)Rotating flash headFlash durationModeling light
24mm lens,
20mm with built-in
wide-angle panel
16mm lens,
13mm with built-in
wide-angle panel
Yes, tilt and swivel1/20,000s to 1/1,200Yes
Autofocus spotbeamConnectionsHot shoe pinsBatteriesDimensions (W x H x D)
YesHot shoe, 5P cable,
external power
5 (incl. ground)4 x AA76 x 142 x 107mm
WeightIn production
380g (without batteries)No

Dedicated camera functionsActual availability depends on the camera, exposure mode and flash settings
Set synch speed when flash is chargedYes
Flash ready signal in view finderYes
Flash confirmation in viewfinderYes
Set aperture (Programmed flash)Yes
Trailing curtain synchYes
Contrast control synchYes
High speed synchYes
Slave flashYes
Wireless controlYes
In Production: Buy the PENTAX AF 540FGZ
Price History:



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Community Manager

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Posts: 23,575
Review Date: March 26, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $320.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Powerful, accurate exposures in P-TTL, versatile, smooth bounce/swivel action
Cons: Flimsy hotshoe apparatus, flimsy battery door, flimsy diffuser hinge

This is a fine flash.
Absolutely a dream to operate in all modes.
Does P-TTL well on the K20D - a few inconsistencies on the K10D, though.
Excellent, reliable wireless operation - Pentax (short of having radio triggering) have done very well in this regard.

What brings my assessment of this brilliant piece of equipment down is mainly to do with its build quality. Whilst not weak in any sense (mine has survived a few decent falls to the ground without breaking), it suffers in the simplest things:

1. The locking pin is highly susceptible to sticking and thus rendering the flash completely stuck to the camera's hotshoe, requiring some major surgery to get it off, then rectify the problem (removing the blasted pin).

2. The battery door does feel quite weak and at any moment may decide not to close adequately anymore, although this is yet to happen with my 3 year old unit.

3. Many users have noted that their diffuser flip-out apparatus dislodges completely from its hinges within the flash unit. Again, I am yet to realise this with my own copy, but it is for this reason I gingerly operate this function to avoid it falling out on me.

Otherwise, I have used this unit to create work that turned out better than I thought they would. So I highly recommend the unit.
   
Inactive Account

Registered: September, 2009
Location: SoCal
Posts: 1,292
Review Date: April 10, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Works well, lots of light.
Cons: The battery cover door appears weak

I agree with the above review. I have seen two used and advertised with broken slide-in diffusers. I purchased mine used, mint complete with case, box and papers for $300. Amazon is currently showing them retailing over $400. I do not use it a lot with my K20D, but it has been very satisfactory so far.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Albuquerque NM
Posts: 9,829

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: July 14, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Nice power, wireless features, good manual modes
Cons: Does not have the professional build of older flashes

This is my workhorse flash for DSLR use. I've become addicted to the wireless mode. Put this on a shelf somewhere, aimed at the ceiling, and use the camera's built-in flash for control and fill, and you get professional-looking results anywhere. I've used this setup for everything from children at play to indoor architectural shots.

It rarely sees the top of my camera, but it does an adequate job there as well. Bounced from the camera, it fills a nice-sized room. I'm more likely to hand hold it (again using wireless, or using a cable) or use a bracket. Again, with a bracket and the camera flash, you get the diffusion of bounce with fill that keeps the eye sockets open.

My only nit with this flash is that it is plastic and does not have the tank-like build of my older Pentax pro flash. Also, powering it from outside requires a faux battery rig, rather than a neat plug. To my knowledge, there is not an HV option from Pentax to use AC power.

My other nit now with this flash is that the swivel does not lock. A diffuser of any weight will have the head swaying about with your movements. The finish also lacks much grip, which makes accessories harder to attach. I have numerous other flashes, and this is still the easiest to use with a Pentax camera, but it really needs an upgrade to the physical package.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2009
Posts: 1,689
Review Date: August 24, 2010 I can recommend this item: No | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 4 

 
Pros: HSS, Wireless off camera, powerful, easy to use interface
Cons: Lousy build quality, flimsy battery door, noisy, expensive, no WR, doesnt save settings when powered down, unreliable

I purchased my 540 about a year ago online and I do regret purchasing this flash and not spending the money on a Metz.

My main gripe is simply build quality, it's just terrible for the money!

Yes it is a genuine Pentax flash but for the money it does not deserve to sit on top of a solid body like the K-7, it feels like a tacked on add-on rather than a serious accessory.

Comparing it to a Canon 580EX Mkii which is similarly priced here in Australia the AF540 feels cheap and tacky by comparison, it feels like it could potentially fall apart at any minute.

The battery door is a joke and is very flimsy.

The zoom head motor is noisy and sounds like it's about to jam at any moment.

The the tilt and swivel head feels rather loose and went using flash heads like a Fong lightsphere it doesn't stay locked into place.

In terms of reliability I never had issues with wireless triggering and metering in that sense it's a great flash, but it sadly just doesn't last. Mine packed up at only 9months old where it has now decided to only trigger at full power regardless of the settings, it will need to go back to have it's mainboard replaced.

Worse in Australia this place is over $600AUD which is ludicrous, considering the quality of the equivalent priced Canon 580exII.
   
Senior Member

Registered: November, 2007
Location: Tennessee, USA
Posts: 110
Review Date: August 27, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: versatility, performance, features
Cons: less than sturdy foot

I own two of these:
  • First was purchased brand-new in 2007. ($399.99 + tax)
  • Second purchased used (floor demonstrator) in 2009. (It was a steal at $300 plus shipping.)

I initially used the first unit with a 3rd party flash for line-of-sight off-camera work. Since I wanted to use the full capabilities of the AF540-FGZ for wedding receptions and indoor events, hence the purchase of the second unit. I realize that I could have purchased a less expensive AF360, however, I require tilt and swivel.

The one negative for me is that the foot was always rather less sturdy on my original than other Pentax and 3rd-party units I've used. Five months after receiving it, user laziness and a pot hole caused the small protrusions on the edge of the foot to crack. The flash abruptly left the top of my K10D when I picked up camera. It would work if I held it or taped it. I ordered the replacement feet from Pentax USA for ~$87 USD (including tax & shipping). It was easy to replace it. I'm hoping that I never need to use the spare.

The 2nd unit didn't have a weak foot. Neither flash has presented problems with their locking pins nor the pull-out bounce cards or diffusers.

ETA: pricing for 2nd unit
   
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2008
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Posts: 108

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: November 18, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $700.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: When it works, it works well!
Cons: Noisy Zoom, Flimsy battery door, sticks to hot shoe

I bought mine here in Adelaide in 2007 with the K10. Paid a premium price for a less than premium product. Operation is/has been inconsistent.

Apart from the noisy zoom and the flimsy battery door, both of which I can tolerate, the issue is performance or rather non-performance. Sometimes fires, sometimes (more often) doesn't.

I have made sure batteries are brand new, the camera battery is fully charged, camera firmware is up to date (1.30), the contacts are cleaned, the flash is positively mounted, restarted the camera, restarted the flash. No joy.

The flash was sent back to the agents for inspection and they pronounced it "healthy"- sadly, nothing has changed.

Rather dissapointing given it's a genuine Pentax unit considering all the other Pentax gear I have is great. When money permits, I will purchase something better.
   
New Member

Registered: January, 2010
Location: BC
Posts: 7
Review Date: February 6, 2011 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $399.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: powerful, reliable, pentax
Cons: build quality, rather expensive

This has been a great flash for me. I have used it off camera, on a K7, a MZ5-n and even a 645. P-TTL works great...an hey, it's really your only option for a Pentax with full tilt and swivel.
The only cons - the foot is very flimsy. You have to be careful you don't put it down with the flash mounted (good practice anyways). I have lost one with a very small bump. Cost of about $130 at the shop. Also the infrared cover has inexplicably fallen off. I have since glued it back on but looks a little cheesy.
The thing is also bloody expensive in Canada - $649 regular price. I got a deal on mine but at that price an SB900 looks like a bargain!
   
Veteran Member

Registered: August, 2010
Location: South Florida
Posts: 312
Review Date: April 7, 2011 I can recommend this item: No | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Bright, Even lighting, very fully featured, build quality acceptable except for battery door, amazing battery life
Cons: Flimsy Battery Door, plastic foot tough to slide in, recycling issues

I don't have a lot of experience with modern flashes, mainly I remember playing with my dad's flash as a kid, and remembering that it would get maybe 20 pops before it went dead.

Technology has come a long way since then, and the 540 flash really impressed me with its battery life. It was also capable of producing some amazing shots and very even lighting. The AF light was quite useful in the environment I was shooting in. The situation was that my cousin and I were asked to shoot a friend's wedding for free, but they offered to rent us equipment. So we rented these two flashes and some lenses.

I can't speak to the TTL performance, because the person that trained me to use the flash emphasized manual control. It actually worked out great, bouncing on manual. This shot was typical of the results I was getting. Just what I wanted:


However, it wasn't all rainbows and puppies. There were a few complaints I mainly had about the flash unit when I had it:
  • I couldn't get optical slave to work reliably. I really wanted to try some off-camera stuff but didn't have time or budget to get a radio slave. The wireless option was iffy at best. When it worked, it produced great results, but I couldn't trust it enough to even try it during the wedding.
  • It loses settings when you turn it off. The LCD readout is nice and all, but when you turn the unit off, it reverts back to auto, and if, like me, you were shooting not only on manual, but stopping down the light quite a bit, it was many button presses between turning the flash on and being able to shoot.
  • The foot is plastic - and this wasn't a comment on its sturdiness, because it felt VERY sturdy and durable, but the plastic was "sticky" in my K-X's shoe. It was difficult to manhandle it in there, and didn't feel like it was all the way in. I didn't quite feel like I was going to break it, but maybe that I was putting it in wrong.
  • The battery door felt as though I would break it every time I opened it. Fortunately, through over 1000 exposures with about an 80% flash rate, I only had to change batteries once.
  • Finally, and this is the most important one, the recycle is very quick on the flash. This in itself is not the bad thing. However, it will fire even though it's not fully recycled. I shot mainly on 1/16th and 1/8th, bounced off the cieling with a slight forward tilt. On many posed shots, I would take two or three shots to be sure. Invariably, when I got to post, the second and third shots had lighting issues. They were noticably darker, and the white balance was way off. Now maybe I was doing something wrong, but when I was in the field, it seemed to be coming out fine. It's a slight difference but one you should be aware of. This happened no matter whether there were half-dead alkalines (what came with it) or the fresh Lithiums I put in. (Maybe Lithiums aren't the right battery?)

Once I gave the flash back, I started investigating how much scratch I would have to come up with to get myself a nice bounce, swivel manual flash to own. I discovered Metz, the Vivitar 285 and Sunpak 383, and even Yongnuo's line.

From the strobist reviews of Yongnuo's high end offerings, which mention burst-speed recycling on most of their units, features missing from the Pentax like the under-flash to reduce the harshness of bounced light on faces, I wish I hadn't spent the $25+ shipping to rent the 540, but had spent ~$100 on any of these other options, because I'm about to spend that money anyway.
   
New Member

Registered: July, 2011
Posts: 8
Review Date: May 1, 2012 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $550.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Power, wireless, compatability with body
Cons: Price, build quality, foot

A good powerfull flash, which matches the Pentax bodies brilliantly. For easy photography it works very good: TTL techniques makes sure you get a well-lit image. Tilt and swivel head makes it possible to to use the reflective walls/ceiling and more depth in the image. That was the reason to buy a 540 (and not 360 instead, although I did not need the enourmous power of the 540).

Apart from the simple settings, I like more and more using the 540 for advanced picures in the wireless mode. This really makes some special images. The set-up is easy (manual settings are intuitive). I will need to buy a radio trigger or so, since now it is triggered by the pop-up flash of my camera, which means it has to stand in the line-of-sight from the camera. That is fine if it is out of the frame of the image, but I simply do not like the flash itself in the picture.

My first 540 I bought about 3 years ago, and it broke (a broken electrical capacity) for which Pentax made an offer for 250 euro. I reclined, and instead bought a second one (400 euro =~ 550 dollar). And now I bought a third second hand (175 dollar), not because the second is broken, but to add for more creative light. I constructed a diffusor myself later.

When placed on the foot, the unit will fall over, and there is no easy tripod mount. This is rediculous. If anyone has a solution (Pentax should have tested this - are the Pentax engineers much more clever than I am?), please send me a pm.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: June, 2011
Location: Chester
Posts: 719
Review Date: May 25, 2012 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Power, good display, useful control wheel, easy to turn on and off.
Cons: YN560 is better built!, smaller zoom range, old, head not tight enough

Considering the ridiculous price (I can't remember exactly, but it was expensive) it gets a 6. It's fantastic flash though, don't get me wrong. I just don't use the p-TTL function as much as I thought I would, and considering a YN560II is like, 50, this seems like a lot of money for very few extras.

The key thing I prefer about the YN560 is the easier control of manual settings. That said, the 540FGZs scroll wheel is actually very useful, I just wish you didn't have to press the button every time you wanted to change the power.

The display has VERY poor viewing angles which is a little irritating.

That said, it's powerful and consistent, and it looks very nice too. The times I've needed the p-TTL it's been very handy, and it makes a great team with the YN560 which, by the way, broke recently and inconsistently fires. No such problems with the Pentax. Fingers crossed for a replacement soon.
   
Junior Member

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Sydney
Posts: 42
Review Date: October 18, 2012 I can recommend this item: No | Price: $600.00 | Rating: 3 

 
Pros: Easy access to settings, wireless mode, HSS etc
Cons: Cheap and nasty battery door cover

I've had this flash for about 2 years and in all other respects, apart from the flimsy battery door, it has served me well. I particularly like how easy it is to change settings & to use wireless mode, etc.

However a small piece of plastic has broken off the battery door cover and I am now stuck with a $600 flash which is more or less broken owing to a 50c piece of plastic. I will have to resort to wrapping tape around it to keep the battery door shut enough to make an electrical contact.

This should be an excellent flash, however Pentax screwed badly up with the battery door design. This silly design flaw has turned an otherwise excellent flash into a cheap & nasty little toy. I am not impressed & would not ever buy one of these again.
   
New Member

Registered: December, 2008
Location: winnipeg,manitoba,canada
Posts: 6
Review Date: November 28, 2012 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $399.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: lots of power,swivel head is great & battery life is very good
Cons: Battery door is flimsy

I purchased this flash on line about 2.5 years ago. I did not use it for a long time because i was ignorant on how off camera flash worked,& was intimidated by the technology. I realized i had to come terms with it, read all i could about flash photography.Started to use my old/new AF-540FGZ & lo & behold the flash synch switch is inop.I cannot use it to switch from "trailing curtain mode" which it is stuck at to any other mode.I will bring it in for repair but if it is to expensive i WILL buy another brand.
Does anyone out there have this problem????
   
Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2011
Location: In the boonies (NW Penna)
Posts: 5,745

2 users found this helpful
Review Date: December 17, 2012 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $399.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Powerful - Easy off-camera P-TTL - Nice Controls
Cons: Plastic foot

This is the flagship flash for Pentax which for me has been worth the money spent buying it new ~1 year ago.

I always do a lot of research before buying any equipment including all the user reviews I can find. The two main negative comments I found were the plastic foot design and a weak battery door. I haven't had any problems with either issue, but I am always very careful how I handle all my equipment.

The first flash I bought for my Pentax system was the Metz 48 AF-1. The Metz was a very good flash and had most of the same features and power of the Pentax AF 540. But, 2 issues led me to sell the Metz and buy the Pentax. First were the controls of the Metz. I found them not intuitive at all and found myself going back to the manual many times to review how to set the flash to different functions. I know that possibly given some more time I might have learned it, but still found it difficult especially because all settings were done with button pushes - sometimes pushing 2 buttons together at the same time - and having to cycle through screens to find my settings. With the AF 540 this is not an issue at all. The controls are intuitive enough to find the setting you are looking for easily using a combination of slide switches, buttons, and a scroll wheel. Very easy to use and that alone made me very happy with the purchase.

The second issue was the wireless P-TTL performance. Just starting out with off-camera flash, I wanted to use this function while learning lighting techniques before I ventured into manual flash. The Metz was finicky on where the flash was placed to receive the control flash from the on-camera flash. Once in the proper position for the Metz to receive the signal, it worked fine. With my purchase of the Pentax unit I was hoping for some better performance in this respect and I was rewarded. The Af 540 picks of the signal of the control flash much better than the Metz had. I use it on a light stand shooting into an umbrella, and get the flash to fire in wireless P-TTL mode even when the flash is off to the side at a 45deg angle and behind the actual path of the control flash - very impressed!

I am now venturing into manual flash, and as expected the AF 540 works perfectly with my Cactus flash triggers and very easy to change the power settings on the fly. I guess the only short coming of the flash in this use is the minimum power level is 1/64 where some other manual flashes will go to 1/128. This has not been a problem so far as it is easy enough to move the flash away from the subject some or just add some diffusion of some sort.

I'm happy with the AF 540 for the versatility, power, and ease of use. It will remain as my main flash now that I will be adding a second flash in the near future. I was going to buy a Yongnuo 560II as a second flash unit, but I may just pick up a good second hand AF 540.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: March, 2008
Location: Quebec city, Canada
Posts: 6,988

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: March 29, 2013 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $240.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Powerful, offers just about every control possible
Cons: No standard synch port

My experience with flashes is as follows : Pentax AF280T, Vivitar 285HV, Pentax AF500FTZ, Yongnuo 460, Yongnuo 560, Sigma 530 ST DG and now the Pentax AF-540FGZ. I've tried a bit of everything.

This flash is the best I've owned.

It offers every control, setting, adjustment possible. controls are quite intuitive (I was able to get most things to work without reading the manual). In PTTL, the flash just delivers as it should. In manual mode, it has more power levels than any other flash I've seen. You can use it in auto thyristor, PTTL, TTL, manual, wireless slave, wireless TTL. You can trigger it with a radio trigger.

I like that you can disable auto-sleep. I love the catchlight panel. I like that, contraty to my previous Sigma flash, you do not have to press a button to swivel or tilt the head. I like the AF spotbeam, very effective. I like the recycle time and the long time it lasts with good batteries.

I have no issues with the foot, it's not worse than any other flash. I also don't have issues with the battery door, people complaining about it must not have used many other flashes. I feel your pain but it's not worse than any other flash. The 500FTZ had a sturdier door but no hinges (it simply came off), meaning you risked loosing it every time you removed it. I like that the batteries are in a vertical line, too.

The flash is a bit bigger than expected, and quite thick. Not an issue but a surprise.

I dislike that the synch port is proprietary to Pentax. You cannot use a standard X-synch cable (incidentally, the K20D has a port just for that, but you cannot use it). It means most radio triggers will need to attach to the hotshoe.

My unit has an intermittent issue with the wide converter, sometimes it seems it forces the zoom head to 16mm, disabling auto zoom. Maybe a false contact, I'll look into it.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: September, 2010
Location: Somewhere in the Southern US
Posts: 12,243
Review Date: April 20, 2013 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $235.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Powerful, versatile, actually works with K-01
Cons: no USB port, resets itself when it sleeps

I've got some older used Pentax Flashes (AF16 a& AF400) that I got with other gear that I have been able to use in addition to a Bell & Howell (rebranded Tumax) Z680-AF-P that is TTL and fairly versatile. I had debated getting an AF540 but the price put me off. Then a nice one came up on the Marketplace and I jumped on it because none of my current flashes will work on my K-01. There's a thread about his problem (it's not just me) https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-k-01/219174-problem-external-flash.html.

The AF540 works like it should on the K-01, despite other flashes - even Pentax Flashes - balking. That's a big plus.

I'm not even a journeyman strobist but I do know that when I mount the 540 on my K-5 I get better pictures with more natural looking lighting than with any of my other flashes. I realize that there are things the 540 doesn't do well, and I am sure I'll find out about them as I use it more, but so far its outperforming any other flash I have used. My first immediate negative, and its very picky of me, is that the case that it comes with is of no use in the field because it has no attachment points whatsoever. In this day and age why make a nice case, and it is a nice enough storage case, and not spend the extra nickle on a strap or d-ring attachment point? Is the battery door flimsy? Yes and there is no real excuse for that. Is the foot plastic? Yes. Could it be updated - absolutely. Does it work well for what I am doing, so far its been a joy to use.
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