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12-21-2015, 01:27 PM   #1
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What are my options in terms of a very cheap flash?

Hi all, I'm trying to acquire a hot shoe flash for my K50 in time for a vacation I am taking very soon. I was thinking of just getting the Pentax AF-200FG, but it seems to completely lack any sort of manual controls. If there's anything I've learned from my first 6 months using a DSLR, it's that I definitely want manual controls because the automatic ones WILL screw up at some point. This in mind, what P-TTL compatible or manual flashes are even out there in the sub-$100 range that are good? I've seen a ton of brands I've never heard of before in Neewer, Yongnuo, Altura, but review ratings seem to be all over the place even for more well known brands such as Vivitar and Matz, so I can't even seem to be able to focus in on one brand, and a lot of flash units that were recommended 2-3 years ago for being great now have horrible review ratings. Besides that, it seems like there are dozens of flash models that look to be exactly the same in terms of features, but the pricing is wildly different. I have no idea what I need or want in a flash either, so that just makes the situation even more complicated. Finally I tried looking at a few resources that were suggested to people who have asked similar questions in the past, but it looks like none of the resources are even up to date anymore.

Bottom line is: What should I be looking for in a very cheap flash (honestly as cheap as possible while still maintaining essential features) as a first-time user of such an accessory, and are there any particular models to pursue/avoid?


Last edited by fullmental; 12-21-2015 at 01:56 PM.
12-21-2015, 02:02 PM   #2
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My workhorse flash has been AF 240 z. cheap and fairly common on fleabay. Set camera and flash to P and all goes well usually.
Lately I found a Nikon sb 25 for nothing. And It actually will work on my K5 in flash mode. Don't know how, and it's not supposed to be compatible but hey I'll take it as a win! This gives me a much enhanced capability with auto and manual settings. Either should give you a good flash on a budget.
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12-21-2015, 02:17 PM   #3
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i have some of the sunpaks listed in this thread:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/168005-sunpak-383-equivalent.html

oldies, but goodies that you can find on keh or ebay from $20-$50. tilt, swivel, thyristor. these are from the film era, so you should always double check the discharge voltage, but mine have been ok.
12-21-2015, 02:32 PM   #4
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Okay, so how do these sort of older models you're all linking to compare to newer cheap models? What features stand out that I need to be looking for in particular? They look just as basic as the cheap pentax flash I passed up on in the first place? For example two newer, cheap models I was looking at were the Neewer TT560 and the Yongnuo YN-560III. Am I getting anything extra or less from buying those vs a used (possibly film era) flash?

12-21-2015, 03:16 PM   #5
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This: Holga Flash
Doesn't have many functions, but it sure has a low price. And it comes in funky colours!
12-21-2015, 03:17 PM - 1 Like   #6
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the pentax 200fg only flashes straight on. you can't turn it vertically to bounce off a ceiling or rotate the head to bounce behind you. not many advantages, in my opinion, to the pop up flash.

actually, i'd consider the Yongnuo 560-iii. in my opinion, these are the similarities and trade offs:

similar: bounce (tilt up and down) and swivel (left and right to shoot behind you). don't communicate with pentax cameras (not p-ttl)

560-iii advantage: probably faster recycle time. finer control of flash down to 1/128th power. built in radio to trigger other Yongnuo flashes. built in optical trigger (this flash can act as a slave and be triggered by another flash), auto zoom head (adjust the flash according to your lens. wide angle or long range.)

older film flash advantage: auto thyristor circuit. (pretty much the only advantage, but it's nice to have. basically a built in mode without communicating with the camera. you plug in ISO and aperture on the flash and it'll shut itself off at the "proper" exposure.) i guess there's also a price advantage, but i don't know if it's worth it.
12-21-2015, 03:39 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by ppppsssstttt Quote
the pentax 200fg only flashes straight on. you can't turn it vertically to bounce off a ceiling or rotate the head to bounce behind you. not many advantages, in my opinion, to the pop up flash.

actually, i'd consider the Yongnuo 560-iii. in my opinion, these are the similarities and trade offs:

similar: bounce (tilt up and down) and swivel (left and right to shoot behind you). don't communicate with pentax cameras (not p-ttl)

560-iii advantage: probably faster recycle time. finer control of flash down to 1/128th power. built in radio to trigger other Yongnuo flashes. built in optical trigger (this flash can act as a slave and be triggered by another flash), auto zoom head (adjust the flash according to your lens. wide angle or long range.)

older film flash advantage: auto thyristor circuit. (pretty much the only advantage, but it's nice to have. basically a built in mode without communicating with the camera. you plug in ISO and aperture on the flash and it'll shut itself off at the "proper" exposure.) i guess there's also a price advantage, but i don't know if it's worth it.
Interesting. So if I understand correctly, basically the 560-iii is suitable for more varied use - particularly once I get used to using the flash and perhaps decide to experiment with multiple flashes - but the older film flashes are easier to learn to use because of the auto thyristor circuit that will sense an appropriate exposure given the iso and aperture, thereby simplifying the process. In other words, I have to seriously consider whether or not I value quick setup and shots or more versatility, correct?

Edit: Now that I think about it, I do have an old Minolta film flash lying around (can't remember the model exactly, it's an "auto" something though with a sensor in front). I didn't think it would work with a modern DSLR and it has no tilt/swivel or built in anything really so it wasn't going to fit my needs anyway, but now I wonder if I can hook it up to my K50 and at least test the auto function on it to see if that would be good enough for me.

@Na Horuk: Interesting option for the extreme budget. Luckily I have about 3x that to spend, so I think I'll go with something a little better with more features. While cheap is a term I used, I more meant "I can't spend $350 on a fancy flash with P-TTL."
12-21-2015, 03:58 PM   #8
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you should check the discharge voltage of the minolta flash before you try it! you'd have to hook up the leads of multimeter to it, trigger the flash, and see the voltage that's discharged. i think some older flashes are ~150v! there are discussions about safe voltages, but i don't think pentax has ever said what should be ok. i think ~5-7v is ok, if i remember correctly. please don't quote me on the numbers

12-21-2015, 04:09 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ppppsssstttt Quote
you should check the discharge voltage of the minolta flash before you try it! you'd have to hook up the leads of multimeter to it, trigger the flash, and see the voltage that's discharged. i think some older flashes are ~150v! there are discussions about safe voltages, but i don't think pentax has ever said what should be ok. i think ~5-7v is ok, if i remember correctly. please don't quote me on the numbers
Yes, good idea. I'll have to pick up a multimeter tonight to test before I hook it up to my camera. Thanks for your help, by the way!

Last edited by fullmental; 12-21-2015 at 04:57 PM.
12-21-2015, 04:29 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
This: Holga Flash
Doesn't have many functions, but it sure has a low price. And it comes in funky colours!
Also comes with a 40v trigger voltage, which is a bit high. I managed to touch both leads when attaching one to the voltmeter, and that sucker bites!
12-21-2015, 04:58 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by THoog Quote
Also comes with a 40v trigger voltage, which is a bit high. I managed to touch both leads when attaching one to the voltmeter, and that sucker bites!
Good to know, thanks!

Also gonna throw this here because I'm pretty sure I waited too long before editing it in my last post:

One more question if you don't mind. The sunpak models were mentioned and linked to. I was browsing a few of those on keh and ebay and it looks like the 422D is a nice model. Do I need to get the ones that specifically say "for Pentax" or can I get the canon/nikon models and just use auto mode? As far as I can tell, the program modes won't actually work on DSLRs since it's not the same as TTL, I think.
12-21-2015, 04:59 PM   #12
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i know the canon ones work, and i THINK minolta is a different type of hotshoe...
12-21-2015, 05:07 PM   #13
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I use a number of manual flashes that were between $20 and free. They are various brands and not all are for Pentax. They all work well but only in manual mode. I would recommend a p-ttl flash for a trip. I find that it takes quite a bit of experience to quickly use a manual flash in changing conditions.
12-21-2015, 05:09 PM   #14
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Flash selection

I use old flash units for sale dirt cheap, Sunpak 422 (a hot shoe flash) or the big Sunpak 522 with hammerhead unit and flash bracket to mount on camera. I use only manual mode on both the camera and the flash unit for flash shots. Just set the flash unit on manual, set camera at 1/160 second shutter speed, 8.0 aperture, and ISO at lowest available setting. You can chimp up or down on the flash strength (full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc.), aperture, or up on the ISO to get a good exposure. Leave shutter speed alone. For me, it works better than P-TTL or any other automated approach. If you are shooting an event, the lighting throughout your shoot tends to be somewhat the same. You can sense if you are entering an area where there is less light or if your distance is much farther than when you made your original settings, and adjust accordingly. Only thing is, you will need a voltage reducer to fit into the camera hot shoe, available on eBay for less than $50. There is another hot shoe on top of the voltage reducer for the flash unit to fit into. I also highly recommend the older model Pentax-500FTZ, again for totally manual use, same directions as above except voltage reducer is not needed.

The approach I am discussing is good for one flash on one camera. I have no experience with multiple flashes, setting off sync flash, etc. I am not recommending my rough and ready manual flash approach for professional use at weddings and other important assignments, but I think it will be fine for 90 percent of what most amateur photographers do.
12-21-2015, 05:26 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by ivanvernon Quote
you will need a voltage reducer
I need one of those. I have a Sunpak 411 and they say it's rated at like 10,000 volts! Enough to make my beloved Pentaxes paper weights!
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