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09-05-2015, 10:23 AM - 1 Like   #1
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New AF-540FGZII WR - Key Impressions

I've been the lucky owner of this now for over a week, in addition to my MkI model of this flash. I'm intending on adding more material, photos etc, relating specifically to the new model in the next edition of the Pentax Flash Guide. Here are some first impressions, things that stick out as significant over and above the previous model.

I draw attention here as well to the excellent staff review posted within the accessory section of this site .....

Pentax AF360FGZ II Flash Review - Introduction | PentaxForums.com Reviews


Here is a quick bullet point listing of the key changes and significant new features for me ......


1) Flash head zoom faster, very responsive

2) Controls tighter, more secure

3) Battery cover improved, more secure and robust

4) Smaller and lighter. Plastic casing similar in quality, but tight tolerances.

5) Red ' flash ready' light clearer.

6) Easier and simpler control layout with less buttons. More logical button functions, eg modes and the new custom function menu.

7) Flash exposure steps can be configured to display in 1/2 or 1/3 ev steps or with an auto setting that matches the camera custom setting for ev steps.

8) Increased low power performance, with P-TTL flash compensation now available down to -4.0 stops and Manual power down to 1/256th.

9) Flash head angle has button to press to release and make changes ... Easy though.

10) LED light beam is a constant light source. It must be regarded as ambient lighting, and metered for and controlled as ambient. Once switched on it can be set from full power 1/1 through to low power 1/16, and the camera exposure value indicator used to assess the required exposure. The flash head can fire as well and will still act as a standard flash exposure, while the LED combines with, or provides all of, the ambient light. Flash white balance seems to provide accurate colours with the LED as only light source.

11) Soft case is better, more padded.

12) Metal shoe slots in to camera hotshoe more easily and securely.

13) Traditional pull-out catchlight panel has gone, replaced with a catchlight function provided by the front facing LED light. This is entirely automatic during bounce operation once activated in the functions menu. There is no power control for the catchlights strength.

14) LED Catchlight function is effective during bounce flash, giving a small approx 1/3stop of ev increase to midtone areas (as assessed on the histogram). There is a handy symbol which appears on the flash control panel when LED catchlight is active.

15) Big advantage is that it is still effective even when the main flash head is bounced sideways (a catchlight panel is not in these situations as it also becomes angled to the side).

16) The older TTL mode (for 35mm film cameras) and 'Auto-A' flash mode have gone, meaning that there is no auto-exposure mode available for Pre KAF mount FA-type lenses (including all manual focus and F-series AF lenses ) . Use manual flash mode and manual exposure mode instead.

09-07-2015, 02:41 AM   #2
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Nice summary thanks
09-07-2015, 04:23 AM   #3
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Good to know, McGregni ... I've two of the old model.
09-07-2015, 05:25 AM   #4
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Glad its useful ! I know a lot of people face the buyers choice of going for the newer, expensive one, or the older, a little less expensive one.

09-07-2015, 05:20 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
I know a lot of people face the buyers choice of going for the newer, expensive one, or the older, a little less expensive one.
Too bad the new models lost the ability to work with external power packs.

An external power pack increases the stamina and considerably reduces recycling speed.

Very strange that the FGZ II models forgo this option, given that they are not very fast regarding recycling natively.
09-07-2015, 10:15 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
Too bad the new models lost the ability to work with external power packs.
+1, Class A!
09-07-2015, 10:59 PM   #7
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Yep, it's a good question. It's not like you'd think the internals are much different to the older models, so no obvious reason for losing it. It's not something I use myself so wasn't part of my own 'key impressions', but will need to be included in side by side comparisons, so thanks for the pointer to that ClassA.

I wonder for how long it will still be possible to buy new ones of the older model ?
09-08-2015, 02:12 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
Yep, it's a good question. It's not like you'd think the internals are much different to the older models, so no obvious reason for losing it.
Scrapping the external power pack plug may be one of the design decisions that has made the V2 version so much smaller.


Regards,
--Anders.

09-08-2015, 02:37 AM   #9
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Additionally,
Pro: it is weather resistant.
Pro: It will flash again as fast as the camera requests, assuming of course that enough power exists. Old version would flash no faster than 1-2 seconds apart regardless of flash power. (i.e. 1/128) This can lead to quicker over-heating, though.

Con: Settings such as HSS are software controlled (soft buttons). Once you power off the flash, you have to go back and re-set all of the settings.
Would have been nice if they were retained.
09-08-2015, 03:40 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by asp1880 Quote
Scrapping the external power pack plug may be one of the design decisions that has made the V2 version so much smaller.Regards,
--Anders.
I thought about that but wondered if the socket and other electronics would make much difference. I suppose it might require more height on the main flash body? There's a little more height on the old model, plus I think the flash head is shorter on the new one as well.

Is it not true though that nowadays there is far better availability of the higher capacity AA battery types, and they are obtainable at far more reasonable prices (Amazon etc) than would have been the case when the old models were designed ... ? Is it possible that Pentax saw less of a need now for the battery pack given the better availability of high capacity batteries ? For the occasional user of rapid and high number of discharges they may have felt that the battery pack was no longer a cost effective option, given the cheaper batteries on the market ... ?

Or ... do you think they may never have thought of any of this at all. .. ?

---------- Post added 09-08-15 at 11:54 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by amoringello Quote
Additionally,
Pro: it is weather resistant.
Pro: It will flash again as fast as the camera requests, assuming of course that enough power exists. Old version would flash no faster than 1-2 seconds apart regardless of flash power. (i.e. 1/128) This can lead to quicker over-heating, though.

Con: Settings such as HSS are software controlled (soft buttons). Once you power off the flash, you have to go back and re-set all of the settings.
Would have been nice if they were retained.
Yep, I can see us all leaping out into the rain for our flash photography now

I'm not sure about that re-cycling point ... ? I get continuous flash bursts from my old model AF540 at a rate of about 2.5 frames per second, and similar on the new one, up to the cameras buffer limit in RAW (15 shots). This is at fairly low power.

Good point about the software mode controls now. There seems to be some demand expressed for a memory option to retain user settings after switching off ... No doubt that would be useful. The physical controls are nice too although of course they can be left in the 'wrong' position as well ..... it is helpful to see them straight away at a glance though.
09-08-2015, 08:27 AM   #11
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Thanks for the summary.

Dropping the option of an external power pack seems like a step back from having a complete overall "professional" package. I'm not sure what they were thinking.

QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
Yep, I can see us all leaping out into the rain for our flash photography now
Precipitation is practically made to be backlit:P.
09-09-2015, 01:50 AM   #12
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You're right, we need to explore the creative possibilities! The WR aspect is widely hailed as a good step forward, making sense paired with a WR body .... It would be interesting though to hear of real life practical situations where it has actually been utilised .....
09-09-2015, 02:51 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
You're right, we need to explore the creative possibilities! The WR aspect is widely hailed as a good step forward, making sense paired with a WR body .... It would be interesting though to hear of real life practical situations where it has actually been utilised .....
hehe, yeah. I would like to say I wouldn't be silly enough to explicitly run out in the rain to take flash photos... but I can't. I've done it before.
It can make for interesting images.
Although I guess one could also take photos that did not necessarily include falling rain, and simply not have to worry about using high voltage equipment in wet conditions. Rather than putting everything away or covering everything in a plastic bag (which may melt and stick to the flash's front element), or risk possibly 300+ volts shorting me and the camera...


It is interesting that you get quick flashes in succession on your older 540. Mine is probably from around when they first came out. I wonder if newer models added that or maybe mine was just bad. It has never had that capability.
09-09-2015, 03:40 AM   #14
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I'm not sure ... It's true my unit is only 3 or 4 years old, presumably one of the last ones made ..... it still has the name 'Hoya Corporation ' on it .....(it was at a knockdown price so I assume it was an old stock clearance).

I did think though that continuous firing in bursts, certainly at low power settings, was a normal expected behaviour .... There's a video posted on the 'Pentax's Sorry Flash' thread that shows one firing bursts .....

Does your camera keep firing the shots even though the flash stops, or does the whole thing seize up?
09-09-2015, 05:14 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
You're right, we need to explore the creative possibilities! The WR aspect is widely hailed as a good step forward, making sense paired with a WR body .... It would be interesting though to hear of real life practical situations where it has actually been utilised .....
I've used old manual flashes in fluffy snow many times. WR on them would be added piece of mind




Rain is another matter. Almost all my flash pictures involving rain are cheats where I keep the flashes from getting wet, usually by making localized rain with a water bottle (like the one below) or a garden hose. But I'd love to feel more confident leaving flashes in a light rain, even for a brief time:





At this point, the price of the Pentax flashes is too rich for my blood, but maybe when version 'III' comes out I can get some clearance deals
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