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10-17-2012, 08:35 AM   #1
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Flash advice needed

OK, let me say that I'm an idiot when it comes to flashes.
In my early years I've done mostly outdoor daylight shooting so flashes have never really entered into the picture. (Although I've come to learn that you can use them in daylight as well, fill light on a portrait anyone?)

Since taking up photography again after nearly 20 years I've really enjoyed shooting more at night and indoors. So I think it's time to look into getting a flash.

Right now I'm shooting mainly with a Pentax LX so I'm not sure what to get. I've read everything on the net I can find and I think I've just gotten more confused.

Do I get an older flash from the film era? Do I buy a newer flash that is compatible with my LX and a digital body (which I might get soon)?

Which brands? Which models?

10-17-2012, 09:28 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by SCADjacket Quote
OK, let me say that I'm an idiot when it comes to flashes.
In my early years I've done mostly outdoor daylight shooting so flashes have never really entered into the picture. (Although I've come to learn that you can use them in daylight as well, fill light on a portrait anyone?)

Since taking up photography again after nearly 20 years I've really enjoyed shooting more at night and indoors. So I think it's time to look into getting a flash.

Right now I'm shooting mainly with a Pentax LX so I'm not sure what to get. I've read everything on the net I can find and I think I've just gotten more confused.

Do I get an older flash from the film era? Do I buy a newer flash that is compatible with my LX and a digital body (which I might get soon)?

Which brands? Which models?
Okay, I am in precisely the same boat! I have three LXs and a K-10 and K-5. As you doubtless know, the two systems use different flash protocols; the LX uses TTL in which the camera controls the flash during the exposure by measuring light falling on the film and quenching the flash when the film is properly exposed. Works very well, but if there is a figure far enough from the center of the frame against a dark background the sensor might get fooled.

All Pentax DSLRs except for their three earliest use PTTL exclusively, which uses a pre-flash to measure the amount of flash needed. Supposedly this system was implemented because of the reflectivity of the sensor. Strangely enough those early Pentax DSLRs could use either TTL or PTTL. See this site Welcome to Bojidar Dimitrov's Pentax K-Mount Page for great info on all Pentax SLRs.

I have been using the Pentax AF400T which is a big, powerful, bulky, heavy handle mount unit with auxillary battery pack intended for professional use. With the LX is is a wonderful combo, and not expensive on the used market. But beware, it really eats AA cells, six at a time. That's why I sprang for the battery pack which uses 6 C cells. I think this battery pack could be used with the current high-end Pentax flash, but for a different connector. Grrrrrrr!

I also have a Promaster Pentax dedicated TTL flash along with the apparently discontinued handle/battery pack (uses 4 C cells and gives easy off camera use with a coiled cord) on both my LXs and digital DSLRs. This has been reliable for 15 years; the modules are still available as I discovered to my relief when the latch on mine broke. Here is their site. Promaster Binoculars, Camera Flash and Lenses, Rechargeable Batteries and Accessories at Camcor

When used on the DSLRs both the AF400T and the Promaster function as old-style "automatic" flashes; you choose and set a f-stop determined by film speed and the flash measures the light and shuts off automatically. With digital its easy to tune the exposure with the LCD screen.

Sigma and Metz are other big players. Metz is great, but expensive.

Be careful with used flash gear. Some have trigger voltages high enough to fry DSLRs' electronics, although Pentax is better in this regard than most. Whether or not the LX with its electronic innards is vulnerable I don't know nor do I want to find out! This site lists trigger voltages for dozens of flashes Photo Strobe Trigger Voltages my understanding is that Pentax is safe up to 10 or 12 volts. Any comments out there?

Pentax also sells several flashes for PTTL. This fine site details these units and other manufacturers' products: The Definitive Guide - Pentax P-TTL Flash Comparison But I'm not certain whether there is backward compatibility with TTL. Can anyone fill this in?

I hope this is some help. Certainly if you're buying new you'd want something compatible with both TTL and PTTL. I bought before the digital era, so I'm making do with TTL units while I check finances, etc.
10-17-2012, 01:26 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by SCADjacket Quote
Which brands? Which models?
How much money do you plan to spend?

What features are "must-have"? High speed sync? P-TTL wireless? Trailing curtain sync? Zoom head? Bounce and swivel? Auto mode? Multiple power ratio settings?

Do you plan to use the flash with cameras of different brands?

Do you prefer new or used?

The more details you provide, the better replies you'll get.

Without knowing the answers, I can still recommend a used copy of Sunpak 444D, 422D, 30DX, or 36DX. They all have:

- Auto mode with 3 aperture settings
- 5 settings of manual power ratios
- Bounce and swivel head
- Reasonable price, about $30 - $50.
- Compact and solid build

The nicest thing about them is that if later you acquire a better-featured (read: costlier) flash unit, the Sunpak doesn't become obsolete. It can still be used as a backup, or as a remote flash in multiple-flash setup.

Last edited by SOldBear; 10-17-2012 at 01:34 PM.
10-17-2012, 01:51 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
How much money do you plan to spend?

What features are "must-have"? High speed sync? P-TTL wireless? Trailing curtain sync? Zoom head? Bounce and swivel? Auto mode? Multiple power ratio settings?

Do you plan to use the flash with cameras of different brands?

Do you prefer new or used?

The more details you provide, the better replies you'll get.

Without knowing the answers, I can still recommend a used copy of Sunpak 444D, 422D, 30DX, or 36DX. They all have:

- Auto mode with 3 aperture settings
- 5 settings of manual power ratios
- Bounce and swivel head
- Reasonable price, about $30 - $50.
- Compact and solid build

The nicest thing about them is that if later you acquire a better-featured (read: costlier) flash unit, the Sunpak doesn't become obsolete. It can still be used as a backup, or as a remote flash in multiple-flash setup.
I bought the $30 422D after I googled to your post sometimes before. Really like the "auto" feature.

10-17-2012, 01:59 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
How much money do you plan to spend?

What features are "must-have"? High speed sync? P-TTL wireless? Trailing curtain sync? Zoom head? Bounce and swivel? Auto mode? Multiple power ratio settings?

Do you plan to use the flash with cameras of different brands?

Do you prefer new or used?

The more details you provide, the better replies you'll get.
Good points. With the Promaster you could buy one flash and add modules for other systems. Metz offers firmware updates via your own computer; whether or not you could buy a Canon module to work with a Pentax flash head I can't tell from their website. And certainly cost is a factor. Again, like SOldBear says, the more info you furnish the better suggestions you'll get. And his/her recommendation of a used Sunpack is a good one, they are reliable. Do note that these are neither TTL nor PTTL, so macrophotography, for example, would be considerably less convenient due to light loss via lens extension. You'd probably have to play around with manual power setting or with the 3 f stops available. Cheap and fast to do in digital but slow and costly with film. TTL will automatically compensate for this on the LX; I've shot butterflies at a foot or 18 inches with my Vivitar macro and the Promaster on 400 ASA C-41 with consistently excellent results. Of course, YMMV.

BTW the LX is killer for close-up and macro work. And, put that bad boy on a tripod and try pictures by moonlight. Be prepared for exposures lasting for many minutes.

Please note that my experience has been ONLY with the Promaster and the Pentax AF400T. Also have a look at Pentax Accessories - Flashes, Tripods, Grips - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database Here are user reviews of a wide range of flashes.
10-17-2012, 02:10 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by grhazelton Quote
... a used Sunpack is a good one, they are reliable. Do note that these are neither TTL nor PTTL, so macrophotography, for example, would be considerably less convenient due to light loss via lens extension....
Sunpak 4xxD with PT-2 module does support TTL. No p-TTL, however. But no Pentax film cameras have p-TTL.
10-18-2012, 08:33 AM   #7
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Correction noted. The Sunpak sounds like a good, economical choice.
10-19-2012, 09:37 PM   #8
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There are many flashes. Older flashes can be used with dslr but you may have a radio trigger/receiver to isolate the voltage. Older ones can be used with manual mode, power vary. These are cheap, so just get several to begin with.
Must have feature: power vary, then wake up by center pin.

Anyway,i recommend a newer flash, with all features like pttl, hss, 2nd curtain, zoom head, angled swivel head, in addition to manual.

10-20-2012, 05:14 AM   #9
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Well, now I understand a confusing post in another thread about ttl and pttl and preflash! As soldbear mention in that thread, pttl is not referring to preflash...it is about that it is a proprietary system for Pentax. I think nikons is called ettl...anyway, they are all ttl systems they are just designed to work with the different camera systems.

And if you are wanting to use an older pentax flash from the film days on your dslr, you can also throw a flash trigger between the flash and the hotshoe. You definitely don't want to fry the electronics of your dslr, but there are many work arounds.
10-20-2012, 07:48 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
Without knowing the answers, I can still recommend a used copy of Sunpak 444D, 422D, 30DX, or 36DX.
Yep. I have three 422Ds I use for portraits with radio triggers & umbrellas. They're all I need. They're a workhorse, and I especially am fond of the variable power feature. I wouldn't have a flash without it.
11-05-2012, 02:29 PM   #11
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Original Poster
Thanks a lot for all the feedback everyone.
I still haven't figured out what to purchase, I'm gonna put it on hold for awhile (can't spend too much right now)
But after reading your responses I have a better idea of what I'm looking at.

So much to learn.
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