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05-02-2016, 09:49 AM   #1
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Flash/flash amplifier recommendations with 600mm f5.6 or 150-450 lens (bird photo)

Hello All.

I'm doing a lot of bird photography and usually use available light, but I have given some thought to a flashgun + a flash amplifier. My current largest flash is the Pentax 360 (version I) so I'm thinking about a unit with a higher guide number that will work well with either my K3 or K5iis. I am looking for something that possibly has a matched amplifier (snoot, whatever it is called) that will work with the flash gun. Preferably I'd like to keep this sub $250, but I will consider all recommendations.

Thanks.

Doug

05-02-2016, 10:04 AM   #2
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The "better beamers" and similar don't amplify flash they are "extenders" that concentrate the light using a fresnel lens. I think using these and deciding which one works best is a bit of a mix 'n match/trial and error procedure. it is also possible to custom diy a set up.

https://butterflyofdream.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/how-to-make-a-diy-flash-extender/
05-02-2016, 11:24 AM   #3
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I would think an older manual stick and strobe type large unit would give you the power needed when coupled with a high zoom light concentrator. Trouble would be making sure it worked with the Pentax and didn't have too high a trigger voltage but you could use a wireless trigger system or safe trigger to avoid problems there.

Maybe just a hotshoe flash like the Yongnuo 560II - guide number 58 at 105mm zoom setting. (108') If you add a concentrator to the head to make the zoom even tighter you could probably do this well under budget.
05-02-2016, 12:29 PM   #4
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I have 2 Vivitar 283 strobes. One I bought in the '70s (300+volt trigger voltage). One I bought recently (8 volt trigger voltage) for under $30. They are identical in form, fit, and function. The guide number at ISO(ASA) 100 is 120. There is an attachment available for both wide-angle and telephoto fresnel lenses. With the Long Telephoto lens in place, the guide number rises to 174. The coverage area with this 'extender' lens is designed for a 135mm lens (FF), so not as tight as you might want. According to the manual, in the Yellow autoflash mode (calling for widest camera lens aperture) the long telephoto fresnel lens gives you a 'reach' of 62 feet. In manual mode and with a higher ASA set in the camera you could get sufficient light farther out.

The Vivitar 283 and its wide variety of accessories are available very inexpensively. Though they are old-school, they are very capable and have a great reputation.

05-02-2016, 03:13 PM - 1 Like   #5
Des
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I'm considering the same thing.

Here's a cheap and simple option:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/22-pentax-camera-field-accessories/256288...-extender.html
I have one of these and it works well on the K-3. It's cheap (mine was $A25) and light, and gives good fill light up to about 12-15 metres. The limitations are obvious: the popup is only about GN13; shutter speed is limited to 1/180th second (no HSS); and the light beam is only just above the lens, so unattractive eye shine is common. But as a travel/hiking option, at short range, and for occasional use, it's a gem. The eyeshine can be corrected in PP. [Edit: I have also tried the Rogue Safari on my K-30. On that camera it creates a lot of banding, and I wouldn't recommend it,]

For a more sophisticated setup, everything is more complicated. Here are some threads I found useful:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/22-pentax-camera-field-accessories/313305...-wildlife.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/172-pentax-k-3/292825-k3-best-wildlife-settings.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/172-pentax-k-3/288931-using-k3-flash-wilderness.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/60-accessory-memory-articles/214529-bette...-extender.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/125-flashes-lighting-studio/318513-how-ca...amera-hss.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/125-flashes-lighting-studio/313216-better...-extender.html
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/125-flashes-lighting-studio/293474-better...af540-fgz.html

Shooting in low light, 1/180th second might be enough, because the very short duration of the flash beam will freeze motion. (Edit: I seem to get the freeze effect at just about -2EV or -3EV, so the light doesn't need to be very low.) But for fill light with reasonable ambient light, I figure I need HSS for moving subjects, as 1/180th second often just isn't fast enough (especially if trying to use a long lens handheld). But with HSS power drops off quickly as you increase shutter speed. The flash gurus here explain all that in the linked threads (and of course see @mcgregni 's wonderful guide). If I'm wrong about that I've just misunderstood, and I'd be happy to be corrected.

The main extender options with a speedlite seem to be:
- DIY, like the Pringles tube or the one @marcusBMG linked to
- Better Beamer - bulky (but collapsible), attaches with velcro, tends to sag in use
- Harbor Digital - XT Flash Extender Kit Pricey, bulky, doesn't fold down; solid, fits snugly, quick to attach
- JJC - cheap, collapsible, attaches with straps, users who have tried both seem to prefer it to Better Beamer.

There is another called Magbeam which is due for release mid-year. It looks very promising: MagBeam is a 2-in-1 Flash Extender and Gobo Projector It attaches easily and securely, and folds down - which combines the best features of the existing extenders.

People seem to try all sorts of bracket arrangements to provide more support for the speedlite and extender (which otherwise puts strain on the hotshoe), and to separate the light beam from the lens. These are discussed in the threads above. Brackets etc can add a lot of weight and bulk, and can be expensive.

Your Pentax 360 can do HSS, I think. Maybe try it with an extender and see whether it is sufficient, before buying another speedlite?

Last edited by Des; 08-04-2016 at 05:15 PM.
05-02-2016, 04:37 PM   #6
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I would think that with 2-3 stops (2 stops being conservative) of In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) that 1/180s is about the same as 1/720s at the worst and 1/1440s at the best. That would mean that a lens of up to 480mm should be reasonably stable even if you were ultra conservative and used a number that was 1.5x focal length for your stability calc.

With a 600mm lens you may need a little more stability than this which may mean HSS - but I would certainly try this first. And the Yongnuo units I suggested look to be cheap and safe,
05-02-2016, 08:29 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
- JJC - cheap, collapsible, attaches with straps,
Although cheap, it's a nice item. Comes with a handy little carry pouch. They have 5 models (I got the FX-S for use with my Metz 52-AF1), with some variation depending on the flash model:

Products - JJC


Last edited by rawr; 05-02-2016 at 08:36 PM.
10-10-2016, 11:48 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Since you are K3 and K5 centric....I'd get the Safari Rogue and see if the technique is for you..... it's one of the reasons I was anoyed the K-1 didn't have a OBF. Any way.... K3 and Rogue did this

10-11-2016, 02:20 AM - 1 Like   #9
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This works well with both my Sigma 500 f4.5 APO DG EX and Pentax 150-450. On the K-1, I use it with either a metz %*AF-2 or a Pentax AF200FG. The combination of 150-450, K-1 and AF200FG is great for walk-around birding.
MagnetMod MagBeam Wildlife Kit reviews - Pentax Camera Accessory Review Database
10-11-2016, 08:44 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by stemked Quote
Hello All.

I'm doing a lot of bird photography and usually use available light, but I have given some thought to a flashgun + a flash amplifier. My current largest flash is the Pentax 360 (version I) so I'm thinking about a unit with a higher guide number that will work well with either my K3 or K5iis. I am looking for something that possibly has a matched amplifier (snoot, whatever it is called) that will work with the flash gun. Preferably I'd like to keep this sub $250, but I will consider all recommendations.

Thanks.

Doug
I occasionally use flash for birds (360/540)

I have the better beamer as well

after a couple of years of using flash I find I would rather miss the shot than use a flash

personally I don't find the resulting images appealing

for specimen images documenting some bird...perhaps
but overall to my eye the images tend toward the field guide variety
a bit too flat
a bit too sterile

I've seen other people's work that is quite good using flash I just haven't seen any of mine

to be honest with you I really just hate dragging all that paraphernalia with me in the field
I lose the sense of spontaneity
kind of like using a spotting scope instead of binoculars

if I was reconsidering I think that adrianm's solution is quite workable though

good luck
10-12-2016, 04:57 PM   #11
Des
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Some good points @ccc_

As for all the paraphernalia in the field, a compact setup like Adrian's on the K-1 or his earlier arrangement with a Rogue Safari on a K-3 is much less cumbersome and obtrusive than a full size speedlite and Better Beamer or equivalent. If your subjects aren't too far away, and you can live with the flash sync limit, it can work very well.

I'm still on a learning curve with flash for wildlife, but for me it is worth it. If the flash is just fill it can be barely noticeable (like an outdoor portrait) but allow more even light and maybe more detail. The more light you need the greater the trade off. But after trying unsuccessfully to get half-decent shots with a telephoto lens in poor light (300mm f5.6 !S0 6400 1/125th second or slower, that sort of thing) I'm pleased with the results from flash, even if the light is harsher and flatter than would be ideal. Turning down flash exposure compensation helps, as well as setting the ISO at a level when the flash isn't too overpowering (e.g. ISO 400 or 800 rather than ISO 100). You are right that too much flash can produce flat and sterile shots.

I posted some samples taken with the humble DA-L 55-300 in the Rogue Safari thread linked above. (Results from the FA*300 f4.5 are better, and I'll post some of them eventually.) Here's just one example of a bird I would be struggling to get without flash (Bassian Thrush), because it generally skulks in undergrowth. Not the ideal lighting, but I'm pleased to be able to get the shot at all (with a slow lens like that, particularly; with the FA*300 I would get a better result, by using a wider aperture such as f5.6 rather than f7.1 as in this example).


Last edited by Des; 10-13-2016 at 01:38 PM.
10-13-2016, 05:01 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Des Quote
Some good points @ccc_

As for all the paraphenalia in the field, a compact setup like Adrian's on the K-1 or his earlier arrangement with a Rogue Safari on a K-3 is much less cumbersome and obtrusive than a full size speedlite and Better Beamer or equivalent. If your subjects aren't too far away, and you can live with the flash sync limit, it can work very well.

I'm still on a learning curve with flash for wildlife, but for me it is worth it. If the flash is just fill it can be barely noticeable (like an outdoor portrait) but allow more even light and maybe more detail. The more light you need the greater the trade off. But after trying unsuccessfully to get half-decent shots with a telephoto lens in poor light (300mm f5.6 !S0 6400 1/125th second or slower, that sort of thing) I'm pleased with the results from flash, even if the light is harsher and flatter than would be ideal. Turning down flash exposure compensation helps, as well as setting the ISO at a level when the flash isn't too overpowering (e.g. ISO 400 or 800 rather than ISO 100). You are right that too much flash can produce flat and sterile shots.

I posted some samples taken with the humble DA-L 55-300 in the Rogue Safari thread linked above. (Results from the FA*300 f4.5 are better, and I'll post some of them eventually.) Here's just one example of a bird I would be struggling to get without flash (Bassian Thrush), because it generally skulks in undergrowth. Not the ideal lighting, but I'm pleased to be able to get the shot at all (with a slow lens like that, particularly; with the FA*300 I would get a better result, by using a wider aperture such as f5.6 rather than f7.1 as in this example).
dramatic little guy!
thrushes do like to make you work for it don't they?

our hummingbirds only had a day or so to hang around
so I wanted to get a few more shots
of course it was overcast and rainy....almost dark at noon

pulled out a flash and a rogue flash bender
set the angle at about 45 degrees and actually got a couple of shots that I wouldn't have otherwise

at shorter distances I've found reflectors provide a more "natural" solution
as does your idea of using flash as fill instead of point lighting

I realize there is some disagreement but I find the 55-300 (in all of its iterations) to be a vey satisfactory companion in the "wild"
I have longer and more expensive lenses but it's the one that has seen the most use

using a flash negates any liabilities in available aperture and you get good DOF

you've gotten some nice shots
10-13-2016, 05:40 PM   #13
Des
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Thanks for all that, ccc_ The tips about the flash bender is interesting - will give that a go. (Like human portraits really.)
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