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09-27-2011, 12:05 PM   #1
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External flashes for off-camera shooting - recommendations?

Hello!

I've got this K-5, and I'd like to get into off-camera external flash shooting. I've got a super old, clunky Olympus PS 200 flash (not even on Amazon or eBay anymore), but it works!

To shoot off-camera, I need a hot shoe extension cord, right? Do I have to get a Pentax-specific one, or can I just buy whatever? I see there's "Nikon" and "Canon" ones, but if the hot shoe cord just extends the electric current, what's the difference?

If I decide to buy a new flash, anything to keep in mind? I've heard rumors of external flash problems with the K5. True or not? Any flash recommendations, under $100? Does really anything work okay?

Thanks!

09-27-2011, 12:10 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by mmrempen Quote
To shoot off-camera, I need a hot shoe extension cord, right?
No - wireless triggers work quite well...

QuoteOriginally posted by mmrempen Quote
I've heard rumors of external flash problems with the K5. True or not?
The only problems I have had was incompatibility with different triggers, solved myself and no problems since.

QuoteOriginally posted by mmrempen Quote
Any flash recommendations, under $100? Does really anything work okay?
I am guessing you are ok with manual flashes? <- (That's about all $100 will get you)...




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09-27-2011, 12:17 PM   #3
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Is there a site where I can bone up on the difference between manual and auto, and the kinds of wireless vs. wired flashes? I'm reading "Strobist," but I'm still a little confused by the jargon. So I can't quite honesty answer your question
09-27-2011, 01:15 PM   #4
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If you can forego the PTTL (which pretty much sucks in many regards -- although better with the K5), you have a lot more and cheaper options.
If you want High Speed Sync, allowing you to retain a shutter speed higher then 1/180s when using flash, you have no choice but to get a Pentax flash or one of the few third party models that fully support PTTL. (Pentax has "crippled" their cameras by physically disabling the hot shoe above 1/180s shutter speed... no pushing the envelope on these babies without PTTL flashes!)

Price is going to be your biggest limitation.
Other than that.. any manual flash and a set of radio triggers work just fine. Or if you're OK with a cable, any PC sync cable or single pin hot-shoe cable will fire just about any other flash you can find. (if its an old flash you may need to be careful of trigger voltage).

I almost always shoot in manual with off-camera flash, so any flash will do.
If you can get a Nikon SB800 and their battery pack, it makes a great portable flash system -- fast recycle times, high power and long use times..
(not gone be under $100 though)

If you need light weight, go with a speedlite type off-camera flash. Lots of inexpensive options. Youngno (spelling?) flashes are looking pretty nice. With recycles times as low as two seconds with the right batteries, it beats the pants off any Pentax flash!!

If you simply want a portable studio, the Elinchrome Quadras are quite nice but over way priced at more than $2500.
I love the Paul C Buff Einsteins or Alien Bees coupled with their Lithium battery pack. (but at 5lbs for the light and about 3lbs for the battery, its not a light carry) They are not cheap either. Just less expensive than the Quadras.
[ and in my own opinion, a much better choice than anything Elinchrom... but I have a long-term bias against that company due to their tech support, management and quality control issues].

09-27-2011, 01:33 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by mmrempen Quote
Is there a site where I can bone up on the difference between manual and auto, and the kinds of wireless vs. wired flashes? I'm reading "Strobist," but I'm still a little confused by the jargon. So I can't quite honesty answer your question
Sadly, its like asking about how to bone up on the different types of cars... auto, manual, race cars, trucks, 2-door-specks, etc... Thats a lot to try to swallow in one sitting or to find in one location.

Best thing might be to google as much as you can and ask people here when you run into something you don't understand.


To start you have a few types of wireless or wire-less functionality.
Yes, some people do argue about the usage of the term with and without the hypen. ugh!

Regardless,

- you have some that fire by radio waves.
Pocket Wizards are the most common. Cactus are the cheap Chinese versions of wireless radio triggers.
Works great through walls and around corners, and long distances... (maybe not so much with Cactus - results vary)

- you have some that fire by "salving" off a main flash. This means a sensor in the flash sees a high spike in ambient light from a nearby flash, and it flashes immediately. No need for extra triggers or wires. Very hit or miss if the unit is around a corner or if you have a large object blocking the direct line of sight of the light flashing (e.g. a soft box or a person's body).

- some use triggers that use InfraRed, probably not so common any more. They require line of site from the controlling module that tells the external flashes to fire. Not good in bright sunlight either, as it can overpower the IR signals.

- lastly, you have PTTL, (or iTTL or other names by other brands) It works by the camera's flash sending communication flashes to the external flashes (known as pre-flash)... although metering also uses pre-flashes. So adding PTTl will add more pre-flashes and sometimes cause "long" delays. (milliseconds but sometimes enough to affect timing of critical moments)
With PTTL, the controlling flash can be seen in reflective surfaces, which may or may not be a good thing.
All of the flashes in use must be using PTTL in order to communicate properly.
e.g. If you were to mix some slave-sync'ed flashes (remember these flash immediately on a high spike in ambient light from a nearby flash) this may result in the external slaved flashes firing on the controller flash's PRE-flash. So your image will be very dark since the external flashes could very well have completed firing before the attempted PTTL communication pre-flashes were complete.

Only an ALL PTTL flash setup will allow full automatic setup.

For everything else, you'll need to manually set up the flash power and match your camera to properly expose the scene.
You could use a flash meter to ensure proper exposure, but just popping a few shots and checking your LCD is not a bad way to learn how things look either.



I don't know if that answers any questions, or makes things worse. But let us know if you have any specific questions.
Keep playing with it, and you'll quickly figure out what questions to ask. :-) :-)
09-27-2011, 01:53 PM   #6
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This is great - very detailed, thank you. So looks like I'll be going in the direction of doing a very basic manual flash with a simple cord for extending from the hot shoe. Then when I feel like buying a new flash, I might go for something wireless.

Cheers!
09-27-2011, 02:06 PM   #7
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For a cheap, fast and easy solution for most portrait style shooting, any flash in manual mode and the Cactus Flash V transmitter/ receiver will work wonders. Problem free, no cords, and with a little practice you can get some very nice lighting. Easy to learn, easy to use...and won't break the bank.
Regards!
09-27-2011, 02:09 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rupert Quote
For a cheap, fast and easy solution for most portrait style shooting, any flash in manual mode and the Cactus Flash V transmitter/ receiver will work wonders. Problem free, no cords, and with a little practice you can get some very nice lighting. Easy to learn, easy to use...and won't break the bank.
Regards!
Additionally, this may actually be cheaper than some sync cords... and IS WAY cheaper then the 5pin Pentax PTTL cord!
Note, when I started, I found I only needed one radio trigger. The rest of my flashes sync'ed using the slave sensor.
Just have to beware of potential limitations, but rarely ran into those in the studio.

09-27-2011, 10:51 PM   #9
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Start with the vivitar 285hv's. Or the Cactus variety (they manufacture it now).
It's a truly pro tool, with a pro feel. Reliable like a rock. Used it in pairs, and not much else needed so far.
I use Flashwaves 2 for radio triggers and a couple of rather cheap light stands.

Strongly recommend Strobist site. Just go through the Intro section. A life changer in M mode.

Octav
09-29-2011, 10:19 PM   #10
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yongnuo yn560 + cactus v5

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