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02-04-2016, 11:44 AM   #1
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Flash options for Birding/Wildlife

I'm looking for advice...

I'm shooting K-30 with DA*300.
Looking for a flash to assist in tricky situations with birding and wildlife photography.
I want something that's relatively inexpensive, but will give me reach out to 60ft+ when needed.

I've considered the Rogue Safari for my pop-up flash, but I worry that won't be enough.
I like the idea of it because there is no need to carry extra batteries or extenders. I like going into the field with as little as possible to promote mobility.

I've also considered the AF201 but I'm not sure how much better that would be compared to the pop-up w/ Rogue... If better at all?

Next would be the 360/540 FGZ/FGZII
these are great and I'm sure I'll get one eventually, but they are a bit out of price range right now. In addition, wouldn't I also need an extender (Better Beamer) to get the 60ft+ I'm looking for?


I just notice when I'm out in the field that some, if not most, of the action occurs just before sunrise and just after sunset.
There is not enough main light to produce quality pictures without ramping up the iso. Dropping the shutter speed results in my missing some quality opportunities.


I know my best bet would be get a K-3, buy a 540 FGZII and Better Beamer... Unfortunately I don't have that kind of cash right now.


Let me know what you think!


Cheers,
Logan


Last edited by UserAccessDenied; 02-05-2016 at 04:58 PM.
02-04-2016, 12:09 PM   #2
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A Metz 58 should be less expensive than the 540 FGZ. I got a second hand Metz 58 AF-1 for about $150. To get sufficient light at 58m unaided you will need (I think) ISO1600 at f/4. I have no idea what a Better Beamer would add to the mix.
02-04-2016, 12:12 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Try the Rogue Safari first, UAD. Like the Better Beamer, its Fresnel lens keeps the light rays as parallel as possible rather than diverging. It may be all you need.
02-04-2016, 12:13 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I use the 540 FGZII with a harbor digital flash extender. This is similar to the better beamer. It works well.

The reason I got the Pentax flash is weather resistance. The only reason.

Otherwise, there are cheaper alternatives. Get as powerful a unit as possible, you will use it.

There are a few different modes/approaches for this type of shooting.

PTTL. Not optimum, in fact pretty lousy. You don't want to meter the whole scene, you want to highlight something, and the results have been unsatisfactory in my experience.

HSS. Useful for close in, very close in where you want to fill shadows. I find that I rarely have an opportunity to use it. The power drops off quickly if you increase shutter speed, so to freeze action you need something very close, or just a tiny bit of light. Both automatic modes have a flash delay on the K-3 which precludes using it for capturing something moving.

Fully manual. This is the mode I use it in mostly. The flash power is controlled by the duration of the light being on; full power is something like 1/250 of a second, half power 1/500, etc. Check the specs of the flash. To freeze motion I shoot between 1/4 and 1/16 power, and here the more powerful flashes give you useful levels of illumination. Set your body to X mode, adjust your iso, aperture and flash power to meter. It sounds complicated, but is not. A few sessions and you will be finding the settings that work and adjusting slightly up or down to suit.

I shot with an inexpensive Yongnuo with the flash extender for a couple of seasons but got nervous taking it out in wet weather. If you don't think that is going to be an issue, you probably will find that manual mode is the most useful so a cheaper flash unit will be adequate. As I said, the weather resistance is the only reason I bought the Pentax.

02-04-2016, 12:44 PM   #5
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I just ordered the Rogue Safari off amazon for a tenner. Fot that price no reason not to have one in the kit.
Update $20 from BHP

Last edited by marcusBMG; 02-04-2016 at 12:56 PM.
02-04-2016, 12:45 PM   #6
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I thought of Rogue Safari too, but according to their website they are not compatible with Pentax.
02-04-2016, 01:06 PM   #7
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According to the review on this site all that is required is a simple mod.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/accessoryreviews/rogue-safari.html
02-04-2016, 01:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by marcusBMG Quote
According to the review on this site all that is required is a simple mod.

Rogue Safari reviews - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database
Thanks - I hadn't seen that. Will give it a try.

02-05-2016, 11:43 AM - 2 Likes   #9
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One important consideration is that while using the flash, your shutter speed will be limited to 1/180th, unless you are using HSS. For birds in trees that may be ok, but for birds in flight, I would think that would make things difficult. And even if you do use a HSS compatible flash, the first stop over the max sync barrier will cost you 3/4 of your flash power, and it just gets worse as you increase your shutter speed (though not as quickly as that first stop), so you'd want something with a guide number around 120 (meters) and a flash extender. Now birds in flight at night, or dusk might be a different story. If there is insufficient illumination from the sun, then the short duration of the flash can effectively act as your shutter. You might be able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000th.

"But," you say, "I see a lot of birding photographers using flash extenders." Yeah, I see a lot of wedding photographers using sto-fens outdoors with no walls or ceiling around. It doesn't mean that it's having the effect that they intend, they probably just saw someone else doing it.

As far as recommendations for a flash unit, I would look for an old used model with an auto mode (doesn't need to be TTL just "auto") and plenty of horsepower. Maybe a sunpack or a vivitar, but ideally you want something with a zoom head, many of those old models just have a fixed 35mm position.
02-05-2016, 12:57 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
One important consideration is that while using the flash, your shutter speed will be limited to 1/180th, unless you are using HSS. For birds in trees that may be ok, but for birds in flight, I would think that would make things difficult. And even if you do use a HSS compatible flash, the first stop over the max sync barrier will cost you 3/4 of your flash power, and it just gets worse as you increase your shutter speed (though not as quickly as that first stop), so you'd want something with a guide number around 120 (meters) and a flash extender. Now birds in flight at night, or dusk might be a different story. If there is insufficient illumination from the sun, then the short duration of the flash can effectively act as your shutter. You might be able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000th.

"But," you say, "I see a lot of birding photographers using flash extenders." Yeah, I see a lot of wedding photographers using sto-fens outdoors with no walls or ceiling around. It doesn't mean that it's having the effect that they intend, they probably just saw someone else doing it.

As far as recommendations for a flash unit, I would look for an old used model with an auto mode (doesn't need to be TTL just "auto") and plenty of horsepower. Maybe a sunpack or a vivitar, but ideally you want something with a zoom head, many of those old models just have a fixed 35mm position.
Great post.
I used to own a Yongnuo IV but it was defective and I ended up returning for a refund.
Unfortunately, I hated the fact that I had to carry it in the field, plus 4 batteries on standby when it died (it died a lot - too often [defective])

I just purchased the Rogue as a quick and lightweight option when on hikes.
If it does not meet my expectations I will look elsewhere.

The cost alone of batteries for external flashes sways me away from them...
I hope this Rogue is as good as I expect it to be!
02-05-2016, 02:49 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by maxfield_photo Quote
One important consideration is that while using the flash, your shutter speed will be limited to 1/180th, unless you are using HSS. For birds in trees that may be ok, but for birds in flight, I would think that would make things difficult. And even if you do use a HSS compatible flash, the first stop over the max sync barrier will cost you 3/4 of your flash power, and it just gets worse as you increase your shutter speed (though not as quickly as that first stop), so you'd want something with a guide number around 120 (meters) and a flash extender. Now birds in flight at night, or dusk might be a different story. If there is insufficient illumination from the sun, then the short duration of the flash can effectively act as your shutter. You might be able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/2000th.

"But," you say, "I see a lot of birding photographers using flash extenders." Yeah, I see a lot of wedding photographers using sto-fens outdoors with no walls or ceiling around. It doesn't mean that it's having the effect that they intend, they probably just saw someone else doing it.

As far as recommendations for a flash unit, I would look for an old used model with an auto mode (doesn't need to be TTL just "auto") and plenty of horsepower. Maybe a sunpack or a vivitar, but ideally you want something with a zoom head, many of those old models just have a fixed 35mm position.
Flash sync is meaningless in this context. Either you use HSS to fill the shadows, the extender giving you a bit more reach than otherwise, or you use flash power reduction to freeze action. I was using 1/16 power, about 1/6000th of a second to freeze flying bats; hummingbird shots are done this way. You stop down to diminish the background.

In low light or shadows in the bush it is very difficult to capture some critters. They either move fast, are out at dusk or dawn, or hide in dark places. The additional stop or two gets a shot you couldn't get otherwise. Well done you get nice contrast and better colors.

There are additional challenges. The flash ruins eyes, similar to redeye. Offsetting the flash 18-24" from the lens axis diminishes the effect. Switching between modes and setting up manual settings is a learning curve, quite steep. Wet surfaces or rain gives you hot spots, as well as reflections off leaves. The flat surface look is unpleasant as well, unless you can set up for a more 3d look using remote and/or multiple flash units.

But you can get shots you otherwise couldn't. Not a panacea, but an additional tool.

A stop in long lenses usually means a few thousand dollars. A well applied flash can get you a stop or more for a couple hundred.
02-05-2016, 03:45 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by UserAccessDenied Quote
.

The cost alone of batteries for external flashes sways me away from them...
???

Eneloops, recharger ... less than a camera battery [edit].

Last edited by clackers; 02-05-2016 at 06:01 PM.
02-05-2016, 04:52 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
???

Eneloops, recharger ... less than a camera body.
Right... I forgot about them, haha.

I guess at first I was afraid of flash photography; just one more component to learn when I was already a novice (still am).

Now that I'm a bit more comfortable with camera in hand, I suppose it's time to invest in a flash again and see how my photography will benefit.
02-06-2016, 12:33 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by derekkite Quote
I use the 540 FGZII with a harbor digital flash extender. This is similar to the better beamer. It works well.

The reason I got the Pentax flash is weather resistance. The only reason.

Otherwise, there are cheaper alternatives. Get as powerful a unit as possible, you will use it.

There are a few different modes/approaches for this type of shooting.

PTTL. Not optimum, in fact pretty lousy. You don't want to meter the whole scene, you want to highlight something, and the results have been unsatisfactory in my experience.

HSS. Useful for close in, very close in where you want to fill shadows. I find that I rarely have an opportunity to use it. The power drops off quickly if you increase shutter speed, so to freeze action you need something very close, or just a tiny bit of light. Both automatic modes have a flash delay on the K-3 which precludes using it for capturing something moving.

Fully manual. This is the mode I use it in mostly. The flash power is controlled by the duration of the light being on; full power is something like 1/250 of a second, half power 1/500, etc. Check the specs of the flash. To freeze motion I shoot between 1/4 and 1/16 power, and here the more powerful flashes give you useful levels of illumination. Set your body to X mode, adjust your iso, aperture and flash power to meter. It sounds complicated, but is not. A few sessions and you will be finding the settings that work and adjusting slightly up or down to suit.

I shot with an inexpensive Yongnuo with the flash extender for a couple of seasons but got nervous taking it out in wet weather. If you don't think that is going to be an issue, you probably will find that manual mode is the most useful so a cheaper flash unit will be adequate. As I said, the weather resistance is the only reason I bought the Pentax.
Did you go with the Harbor Digital Flash Extender that is listed to fit Pentax AF 540 Series or did you get the Universal? Thank you!
02-06-2016, 01:49 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by UserAccessDenied Quote
I'm looking for advice...

I'm shooting K-30 with DA*300.
these are great and I'm sure I'll get one eventually, but they are a bit out of price range right now. In addition, wouldn't I also need an extender (Better Beamer) to get the 60ft+ I'm looking for?
Just to add some understanding to the HSS options:

A 540FGZ has a GN (metric) of 28 at 1/1000 second / 300mm / ISO 400 in HSS mode.
Using the F4 lens that means a reach of 7 meters. Using one of the flash extenders, which typically seem to double the reach that would be 14 meters (46ft).
If your subject is fine with 1/500 second shutter the GN goes up to 37,6 or 19m/62ft reach.
Change ISO to 800 - which should be well acceptable for most - the reach ends up being 26m/86ft at 1/500.
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