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11-09-2011, 05:15 AM   #1
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Cost/Benefit for Flash Options?

So I read this and a few other great references, and it is not as definitive as I'd like.

The Definitive Guide - Pentax P-TTL Flash Comparison

I'm considering two price points for a flash purchase: $100's, and $200's. Do I understand the prices and options correctly for these price points?

$100's - options are Vivitar 383; Bower 926 - Get P-ttl, tilt, swivel, good power, can be used off camera as slave, but won't be activated wirelessly by camera. Do NOT get high speed sync with these options and price points.

$200's - options are Metz 50, Pentax 360 - Get the same as above (except Pentax won't swivel!), but DO get wireless activation off camera and high speed sync.

So if I understand correctly, the current market is charging about $100 mostly for the benefit of high speed sync (and wireless operation, but I could live without that). Is that it? Did I miss anything else that the extra $100 gets you? Is high speed sync worth $100?

Thanks.

Glenn

11-09-2011, 05:55 AM   #2
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You also have to consider flash output power, recycle time, zoom heads, manual controls over power, zoom head position, first curtain/second curtain sync, USB port for updates (only for Metz), AF assist lamp, weigth, auto mode if any, sturdiness, and many other things.
11-09-2011, 07:22 AM   #3
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HSS is very useful at times. I own Pentax AF360 and Sigma EF530DG ST as P-TTL flashes. I use AF360 more frequently because it has the HSS option. I rarely miss swivel, but I appreciate the controls and small size. I only take Sigma sometimes for the 1/3 extra output power.
11-09-2011, 07:30 AM   #4
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Depends on the work you do as well. I can see the concern over HSS for a wedding photographer, but for me, I never use it.

There's another price point of $45 to $75 for YongNuo manual flashes, price depending on whether they have head zoom or not. I have one Metz pttl flash and the other 2 are these manual flashes. for Pentax, radio triggers means manual flashes. so if you are going to do mostly radio triggers, why buy pttl flashes - rhetorical question

11-09-2011, 08:32 AM   #5
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Not only wedding, generally any event photography with better than poor natural light needs HSS. At least if you want to do it properly.
On the other hand for radio triggering I'm happy with pair of AF500FTZ flashes.
It's important to know what do you plan to do with the flash.
For those who do not know yet I usually recommend Mezt 50 or 58, or AF540.
11-09-2011, 11:01 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by GlennG Quote
So I read this and a few other great references, and it is not as definitive as I'd like.

The Definitive Guide - Pentax P-TTL Flash Comparison
Hmmm. If there's anything I'm not definitive on, please let me know and I'll try to fix it.

QuoteOriginally posted by GlennG Quote
I'm considering two price points for a flash purchase: $100's, and $200's. Do I understand the prices and options correctly for these price points?

$100's - options are Vivitar 383; Bower 926 - Get P-ttl, tilt, swivel, good power, can be used off camera as slave, but won't be activated wirelessly by camera. Do NOT get high speed sync with these options and price points.

$200's - options are Metz 50, Pentax 360 - Get the same as above (except Pentax won't swivel!), but DO get wireless activation off camera and high speed sync.

So if I understand correctly, the current market is charging about $100 mostly for the benefit of high speed sync (and wireless operation, but I could live without that). Is that it? Did I miss anything else that the extra $100 gets you? Is high speed sync worth $100?
There are a number of features that the mid-level flashes get you which you won't find on the lower models — wireless P-TTL and HSS are two, but there's also things like more manual control, spot beam mode, other little things which can add up. (Note that, unless there's been a refinement that I'm not aware of, you can't use the models you've identified as even a "dumb" slave with P-TTL, because the preflash will confuse them.) Perhaps more importantly, you'll get a more solid build and a more sophisticated user interface.

But most importantly, the cheaper flashes you've identified are US-labeled versions of a Hong Kong-made flash with little support. If something goes wrong, you're on your own. Vivitar is not the classic company with that name — it's just a trademark owned by cheap electronic junk importer Sakar. If you go with Metz, Promaster, or Sigma — or of course Pentax — you'll actually have a customer service department you can contact and a service center you can send the flash to for repairs or upgrades.

You'll note that my guide is missing some power information for these flashes at most zoom levels — something that's there for all the other flashes. That's because unlike reputable flash manufacturers, they don't publish this, and all my attempts to ask them for the information have gotten me nothing. Metz, on the other hand, actually measured something with a digital oscilloscope when they couldn't tell me right away! Eventually I may buy one and measure it myself for the sake of science, but the fact that I have to says something important.
11-09-2011, 11:34 AM   #7
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Don't forget ebay is loaded with auto flashes that work just as well as pttl. I picked up a vivitar 5600 with zoom head, lots of power, and 4 manual power levels for $20 shipped. It has a digital screen to dial in your f-stop and iso and it tells you the flash distance on a scale. If you don't need HSS, I would get one of these, in some ways I like it over my Metz 58 cause I know if something goes wrong, it's cheap to replace and it gets the job done.
11-09-2011, 06:35 PM   #8
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A flash is a tool. All the different things that a given flash can do are also tools. All you need to work on a car is a one adjustable wrench and a screw driver so why do mechanicís have some many tools in there tool box? Tools just help solve problems (they can also make them too) or help get a better outcome. Unless you have a very limited set of problems more tools are usually better. The biggest problem with tools is until you know what a tool can do and how it is best used it is hard to say you don't need that tool. Basically if you don't have the tools you are somewhat limited on what you can do. When you have learned you can pair down if you decide to but until you learn you may just have to buy and learn. I started by getting many simple flash units but I was always having to get some thing better to go the next step. Finally I just went the other way and got as good a flash (not a big mono block) as I could and went the other way. In hind site it would have been better (and cheaper) to go good and learn what I needed first.


DAZ

11-09-2011, 06:41 PM   #9
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Thank you greatly for the nice responses - they really help. Matt (mattdm), I certainly did not mean anything negative by my comment - I do appreciate the best reference guide in existence for Pentax P-TTL, and thank you for that. I'm not a pro, but do want something of lasting value that has only the features that I would use, and not features that I would not use, and a quality/price point to match. I'm leaning toward the Pentax 360 or Metz 50, thought I've not researched the Sigma or Promaster options. It appears those would be the optimum features/power/quality/price for me for now and forseeable future. Thanks again, Glenn
11-09-2011, 07:22 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by elho_cid Quote
Not only wedding, generally any event photography with better than poor natural light needs HSS. At least if you want to do it properly.
On the other hand for radio triggering I'm happy with pair of AF500FTZ flashes.
It's important to know what do you plan to do with the flash.
For those who do not know yet I usually recommend Mezt 50 or 58, or AF540.
if weight/size are priorities what flash with hss and good blend of power / weight ratio would you recommend ?
11-11-2011, 04:29 AM   #11
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I usually find the AF360 powerful enough for me and I like the direct controls. If you need some more power, Metz 50 is probably good choice, but I only have experience with Metz 48 so far. Metz misses the auto mode and controls are not so obvious, but it is a good flash.
11-12-2011, 02:58 PM   #12
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If you're going to be using the flash on-camera I *strongly* encourage you to get a flash that can swivel. I recently returned my SIgma EF-610 Super and got (2) YN-560's and so far I'm very happy with their build quality and functionality (and price!)
11-12-2011, 04:08 PM   #13
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I rarely see anybody using the swivel... And I cannot imagine me really using it. I know what is it for, I just rarely had the oportunity and never had the need...
11-12-2011, 05:14 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by elho_cid Quote
I rarely see anybody using the swivel... And I cannot imagine me really using it. I know what is it for, I just rarely had the oportunity and never had the need...
Do you never take photographs in portrait orientation with on-camera flash? If you never do, then you don't need the swivel ó although it's still useful with optical wireless off-camera, because you can make sure the flash sensor is better aligned.
11-12-2011, 06:41 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by elho_cid Quote
I rarely see anybody using the swivel... And I cannot imagine me really using it. I know what is it for, I just rarely had the oportunity and never had the need...
Personally, when the flash is on camera, I never shoot straight on unless there is another primary light source and I'm using it just for the tiniest bit of fill. With something like the Lumiquest Softbox III (or a comparable diffuser) I would consider doing that in a pinch, but usually prefer to bounce the flash whenever possible.
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