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09-12-2010, 10:47 PM   #1
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Flash: The bigger, the better?

Dear All,

For informal indoor portraits I want to buy a flash with bounce functionality. Who can guide / advice me which flash to buy?

At B.H. I noticed the following Metz flashes (cheaper than Pentax and still solic brand, according to so some people maybe I might also consider Sigma and Vivitar but that would even complicate the decision even more...):
- 36 AF - 110 USD
- 48 AF - 225 USD
- 58 AF - 405 USD

I am aware bigger and more expensive also brings the potential to light a target further away (and potentially recharge faster), but the chances I bring / use a flash will be reversely depending on the size & weight.

For indoor usage, < 10 m away, is the 36 AF strong / good enough?

Hmm, now I see the 36 AF has manually adjustable zoom, maining it is NOT-automated...

The Metz 58 AF feels too expensive for my applications and I want to select, so let me add some to get to the following pre-selection:

- Vivitar DF 283 - 90 USD
- Vivitar DF 383 - 130 USD
- Sigma EF-530 ST - 150 USD
------------------------------------
- Sigma EF-530 Super - 220 USD
- Pentax AF 360 - 225 USD
- Metz 48 AF - 225 USD

Is Vivitar a "reasonable" brand for flashes?

The Sigma Super supports "strobe effect), that sounds like a fun feature!!! (but worth 70 USD???)
The Pentax is the weakest of the second group, does that hurt...
Is the Metz the safest pick?

Best regards,

Joep

PS1: Will be used on K-r with mainly 35 mm F2.4 & 18-55 mm kit lens.
PS2: For potential future applications I can buy a cord and/or additional master / slave flash(es).

09-12-2010, 11:02 PM   #2
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you should get an old manual flash
09-12-2010, 11:24 PM   #3
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Short answer: yes

Longer answer: I have a Metz-48 and find it very good. Then I read planetneil. If you are going to buy an external flash and use indoors then you'll need to learn to bounce it. Problem is bouncing eats power. Hence, you need the most powerful flash you can afford. I wish I had bought the 58 for this reason as I do get in situations where the 48 is not able to dump enough light.
09-12-2010, 11:36 PM   #4
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if you don't need something portable, it would be a good idea to buy wall outlet powered strobes instead.

They have more power, recycle faster and are significantly cheaper than speedlights.

You can get 2 180W+ strobes with Soft boxes for the price of a single Nikon SB900 for example

not very portable though!

09-12-2010, 11:54 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by JoepLX3 Quote
Dear All,

For informal indoor portraits I want to buy a flash with bounce functionality. Who can guide / advice me which flash to buy?
Here are two basic principles.

First, look for a hot-shoe flash with a head that can both tilt (up/down, or if you prefer to think of it this way, back/forward) AND swivel (left/right). Some less expensive flashes can only tilt and this makes them MUCH less useful for bouncing. I probably bounce off walls as often as I bounce off ceilings.

Second, make sure that the flash you buy supports Pentax's P-TTL wireless optical triggering system. This will make it possible to place the flash somewhere off the camera, and trigger it using your camera's pop-up flash as a controller. (The pop-up emits a control pulse that triggers the remote flash.) This is VERY useful.


QuoteQuote:
At B.H. I noticed the following Metz flashes (cheaper than Pentax and still solic brand, according to so some people maybe I might also consider Sigma and Vivitar but that would even complicate the decision even more...):
- 36 AF - 110 USD
- 48 AF - 225 USD
- 58 AF - 405 USD
The 58 is terrific—the best flash unit available for the Pentax DSLRs, I think. Certainly the most powerful. But the 48 is supposed to be quite good too and is almost half the price. Never used it myself but I've read about it. Don't know anything about the 36 at all.


QuoteQuote:
I am aware bigger and more expensive also brings the potential to light a target further away (and potentially recharge faster), but the chances I bring / use a flash will be reversely depending on the size & weight.
Not sure but I think there are several possible confusions here.

The relationship between size and weight, on the one hand, to power or reach, on the other, is a rough one. Nearly all of these flashes weigh about the same thing, because the most significant part of the weight of a flash is the batteries, and they pretty much all take 4 AAs. There may be differences in size, but once again, if you want to bounce, then having a flash that can both tilt AND swivel will be very useful, and that means you probably cannot get one of the very small units.


QuoteQuote:
For indoor usage, < 10 m away, is the 36 AF strong / good enough?
Check out its guide number and see if you can figure out how to interpret that.

And remember that the distance that matters isn't the distance of the camera to the subject: it's the distance that the light from the flash has to travel to reach and illuminate the subject. You might be 3 meters from the subject, but if you're bouncing off a ceiling, the light has to travel 5 meters, or 6, or whatever it might be.

Moreover, it's not a simple matter of distance. More power is almost always a good thing. You can dial it down, but you can't dial it up beyond its capabilities. I've had to bounce of barn ceilings at wedding receptions: I was glad then to be using the Metz 58 AF because I needed that extra power.

*

Now, the truth is, you really won't know what you need for sure until you buy something, work with it, and find out if it works okay for you. With the caveat stated, my advice would be as follows.

Buy Metz (48 or 58) or Pentax (360 or 540). The only other brand I'd consider is Sigma, which a number of folks here have said good things about.

I'd buy as much flash as I could afford, that is, if you can afford the Pentax 540, get that rather than the 360. (I don't think the 360 can swivel but I might be wrong.)

I will warn you also that a fairly significant number of people (including me) have had problems with the build quality of the Pentax 540. I've had TWO of them get stuck in the hot shoe on me. It's not a common problem, but it's not exactly rare, either. (Check out Google.) I don't plan to buy any more flashes from Pentax, at least not until they release a new model.

*

I just checked the guide number for the Metz 48. It's 48m at ISO 100 and a focal length of 50mm. This tells you the distance the flash can reach, at that ISO and that focal length or field of view. The Sigma 530 is a little more powerful and costs a little less. (I'm looking at prices on Amazon.) I am pretty sure that both of these models can tilt AND swivel and both also support P-TTL. The Pentax 360's guide number is about the same as the Metz 48, but the Pentax is more expensive AND it doesn't swivel.

So, if I were making the choice for myself, I'd go with the Sigma 530 or the Metz 48. How do you decide between those two? Somebody else might weigh in here in a way that will help you out. I will say that the one drawback of the Metz 58 AF is that the UI is, well, downright odd. I've practiced with my Metz 58 so much that I'm able to get it to do what I want effectively when I'm working, but I had to STUDY the users guide and I had to practice. If the UI on the 48 is the same as the UI on the 58, and if somebody here is able to say that the Sigma flash UI is more user-friendly, then that might be a good reason to go with Sigma.

Will
09-13-2010, 01:26 AM   #6
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Original Poster
Good answers / advice, thanks!!!
- I forgot about bouncing against the wall (swivel)...
- And a none-white surface requires more power as well!!!

The 400 USD ones are a little too expensive for me, maybe I try to find a used one to play with for some time.

Good high ISO performance doesn't really help if you want to stress the people with some light from a different angle, right? It is all about the relative balance between new/additional light vs old/available light, so independent of ISO.

The remark on light options without battery is also very good, so for less-to-none-spontaneous shots at home I can consider that, but still need one flash when not at home...

Thanks,

Joep
09-13-2010, 05:18 AM   #7
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JoeP, I highly recommend you read this forum article -
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-camera-field-accessories/43215-pen...omparison.html

Enjoy!
09-13-2010, 06:34 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
if somebody here is able to say that the Sigma flash UI is more user-friendly, then that might be a good reason to go with Sigma
The User Interface for my Sigma EF 500 Super is not too bad but there are so many options that I carry a copy of the instruction book to help me remember the less used features.

Tim

09-13-2010, 06:44 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JoepLX3 Quote
The 400 USD ones are a little too expensive for me, maybe I try to find a used one to play with for some time.
That's why I suggested the lower-priced Metz 48, the Pentax 360 (although it doesn't swivel) or the Sigma 530. All three are under $250 USA at Amazon right now (at least in the USA). From the nature of your question, I suspect that any one of these would be a good choice for you.


QuoteQuote:
Good high ISO performance doesn't really help if you want to stress the people with some light from a different angle, right? It is all about the relative balance between new/additional light vs old/available light, so independent of ISO.
Sorry, I don't understand the question. What I will say is that the camera's ISO DOES matter, even when you are shooting flash. As you learn more about flash photography, you'll learn (I hope) about how to use a slower shutter speed to give the ambient light more weight. (This is called "dragging the shutter.") Well, sometimes, in order to get the picture I want, I have to set the camera to ISO 800, get my camera exposure settings correct, and then ADD flash.

Will
09-13-2010, 06:55 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Sorry, I don't understand the question. What I will say is that the camera's ISO DOES matter, even when you are shooting flash. As you learn more about flash photography, you'll learn (I hope) about how to use a slower shutter speed to give the ambient light more weight. (This is called "dragging the shutter.") Well, sometimes, in order to get the picture I want, I have to set the camera to ISO 800, get my camera exposure settings correct, and then ADD flash.

Will
Whether or not I'm dragging the shutter, my life with flash got much easier when I got comfortable with ISO 800. The K20d performs very well at that setting, and the K-x a tad better. Bouncing at ISO 800 is much easier.

The one hesitation I have about the Metz 48 is that it can't control another wireless flash. It would be fine for me, since I already have the AF540FGZ, but if one wants to use two flashes wirelessly (other than the miniscule built-in flash), one of theme will need to be a Metz 58 or one of the two Pentax flashes you mentioned (360 or 540).
09-13-2010, 07:09 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
The one hesitation I have about the Metz 48 is that it can't control another wireless flash. It would be fine for me, since I already have the AF540FGZ, but if one wants to use two flashes wirelessly (other than the miniscule built-in flash), one of theme will need to be a Metz 58 or one of the two Pentax flashes you mentioned (360 or 540).
Didn't know that about the Metz 48. However I get the impression the OP is buying just 1 flash right now, and may never buy a second. So this would not be an issue. If a second flash does get purchased down the road, then at THAT time this issue could be taken into consideration.

The specs for the Metz 48 say that it supports P-TTL. Assume that means pre-flash metering, but I'm not sure if it also includes support for the Pentax optical triggering system. Does the Metz 48 have the ability to be a slave? If so, it could be triggered from the camera's built-in flash.

Will
09-13-2010, 07:52 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
The specs for the Metz 48 say that it supports P-TTL. Assume that means pre-flash metering, but I'm not sure if it also includes support for the Pentax optical triggering system. Does the Metz 48 have the ability to be a slave? If so, it could be triggered from the camera's built-in flash.
Yes, it works as a P-TTL slave triggered from the built-in flash.
09-13-2010, 08:41 AM   #13
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The Sigma EF-530 DG ST will do everything you want, is PTTL and has a high guide number.
09-13-2010, 08:51 AM   #14
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I do very little flash shooting so I know equally little about using one. I bought the Metz 48 this spring with 2 kids graduating college and a lot of indoor shooting. It has performed well, producing a lot of fine flash shots for me. I pretty much just mounted the flash and went out and started shooting, using it in P-TTL and the camera in Av. I based my choice on what I had read in the forum about this model. I think it is the best flash for the price, at least for my needs and I have no regrets on the purchase. One of these days, I'll take the time to really learn to use it.
09-13-2010, 11:42 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ahab Quote
The Sigma EF-530 DG ST will do everything you want, is PTTL and has a high guide number.
If you take a lot of vertical pics, take in consideration that this flash (like most others)
has a PLASTIC hotshoe assembly and it's a pretty heavy flash to flip on its side all the time.

Mine broke off the camera while taking a very light tumble (1 1/2 ft. drop) while INSIDE my well padded camera bag.

If you don't mind using a flash without a compatible P-TTL mode,
I have always preferred Nikon flashes (I have an older SB-80 and use it Manual mode)
for the simple reason the hotshoe plate assy. is made of METAL.

Last edited by mlatour; 09-13-2010 at 11:53 AM.
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