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12-18-2012, 04:41 AM   #1
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Just bought a hotshoe flash.....now what?

So, it's been recommended that I get a flash & a faster prime lens with a wide angle. The lens is going to have to wait as I'm a little low on cash at the moment, and the one I've got my eye on is that 31mm F1.8 Limited. The recommendations came about as a result of a recent posting about how to get decent indoor shots with my kit lens (18-55mm) in low light situations. I hate using a flash, but I guess I need to learn now to use one properly - that's where your replies to this post will come in handy.

I just bought a hotshoe flash - probably an unknown name to many as it was purchased in China. It doesn't swivel, but it does tilt up and down - so I can bounce it. It's got several modes and settings, of which I have no idea what most of them are for. Here's where I need some general info. The instructions have been translated from Chinese into English - so they're not the easiest to fully comprehend.

Basically, I'd like a brief description / summary of how to use of the following:

1. Flash ratio output. What is it? I can go up and down between the following settings:
1/1, 1/1-0.3, 1/1-0.7, 1/2, 1/2-0.3........1/128 - what do all these numbers mean, and how do I use them? Are they
similar to EV compensation steps?

2. I have two modes: <M> and <MULTI> - I'm not sure what they're for either, or what the difference is.

3. It also has a stroboscopic flash function, and a wireless slave function - both of which I have some minute idea of what
they're for and how to use them - so I don't really need feedback on this one.

Looking forward to hear from the community.....and thanks in advance!

12-18-2012, 05:06 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
probably an unknown name to many
People need to know which brand it is to answer your questions.
12-18-2012, 05:42 AM   #3
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It sounds like a full manual flash, so you'll have to either set the power with the guide number formula (hopefully they list accurate GNs in the manual) or just go by trial and error.
12-18-2012, 05:55 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
So, it's been recommended that I get a flash & a faster prime lens with a wide angle. The lens is going to have to wait as I'm a little low on cash at the moment, and the one I've got my eye on is that 31mm F1.8 Limited. The recommendations came about as a result of a recent posting about how to get decent indoor shots with my kit lens (18-55mm) in low light situations. I hate using a flash, but I guess I need to learn now to use one properly - that's where your replies to this post will come in handy.

I just bought a hotshoe flash - probably an unknown name to many as it was purchased in China. It doesn't swivel, but it does tilt up and down - so I can bounce it. It's got several modes and settings, of which I have no idea what most of them are for. Here's where I need some general info. The instructions have been translated from Chinese into English - so they're not the easiest to fully comprehend.

Basically, I'd like a brief description / summary of how to use of the following:

1. Flash ratio output. What is it? I can go up and down between the following settings:
1/1, 1/1-0.3, 1/1-0.7, 1/2, 1/2-0.3........1/128 - what do all these numbers mean, and how do I use them? Are they
similar to EV compensation steps?

2. I have two modes: <M> and <MULTI> - I'm not sure what they're for either, or what the difference is.

3. It also has a stroboscopic flash function, and a wireless slave function - both of which I have some minute idea of what
they're for and how to use them - so I don't really need feedback on this one.

Looking forward to hear from the community.....and thanks in advance!
Step #1. Take it off the hot shoe

12-18-2012, 06:00 AM   #5
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1- 1/1 means full power, 1/2 is half power and any other fraction means that fraction of full output. how much is full power? check the manual.

2- Looks like it is full manual only, but the second mode might mean an auto mode (not likely for a new flash - check the front of the flash for a sensor) or if you're really lucky P-TTL, in the latter case just try it out with your camera, you'll know whether it works.

3- don't need feedback so you'll not get any.

Don't forget to bounce!
12-18-2012, 06:16 AM   #6
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"What now?"

Experimentation! Try these settings. Camera in M mode. ISO 200. Shutter speed 1/60. Aperture f5.6. Flash on full power, tilted to the ceiling. Too dark? Increase aperture or ISO... etc.
12-18-2012, 08:11 AM   #7
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Tryouts?

Hello sir_neophyte,
Good to hear that you took our advice, a flash will serve you well in several different areas of photography. The most obvious is, of course what you mentioned, dimly-lit or indoor group photos. But it's also great for portraits, macro, and "fill flash" is good for situations where the subject is partly-lit by daylight, but some parts (like the face) is in shadow. Fill flash or partial-power flash can even out the lighting.
But first, you have to get used to using it. Just leave yourself plenty of time to test it, and keep notes on settings, distance, etc. Your first set of batteries will be used up quickly, but that's a small price to pay.
Let's clear up the "Bounce" feature, which is why most flashes have the tilt option.
When you face a subject and fire the flash directly at them, the flash (usually) overpowers all other light and gives the subject the classic "Deer in the headlights" (think about it!) look. It flattens their features, throws deep shadows directly behind them (like Film Noir) and is generally considered the least flattering use of light. It's called "Direct Frontal Light". Avoid it if you can.
Instead, tilt the flash head up about 45 degrees, so the light bounces off the ceiling and back down for a more indirect lighting angle. Of course, the exact angle will vary, depending on the subject distance from the camera and the height (and color) of the ceiling.
Another use of tilt is to angle the flash head up and use a "Bounce Card" to bring it back down. Many newer flashes have the card built right into the front of the flash, you just pull it out. If not, a plain white card rubber-banded to the top/front of the flash works fine.
If you can talk a friend into modeling for you, try different power settings and distances. If you can't get a suitable model, there's another solution; A styrofoam "Head", the kind used to display wigs, necklaces, sunglasses, etc. I found a used one in a thrift store for $3.00 US. Set it up in a room, turn off all the lights and blast away! Try full frontal light first, to see how it looks. Now try bounce, at different settings. When you find a setting (ISO, shutter speed, f/stop, flash power setting) that works at 5 meters (camera to subject distance) write it down.
Now try 3 meters, find a good setting. How high is your ceiling? That setting will work for that height, a higher ceiling will need more power, a lower ceiling will need less.
There's lots more experimenting to do, but this should get you started!
Good Luck!
Ron

Last edited by rbefly; 12-18-2012 at 08:17 AM.
12-18-2012, 10:32 AM - 1 Like   #8
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The fractions like 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64 and 1/128 indicate flash power: full power is 1/1, and the other steps reduce power by cutting it in half each time. Each step therefore is a full stop. In other words, if you go from 1/1 flash power to 1/2, it's the same as closing the aperture on your lens from f4 to f5.6 or changing ISO from 400 to 200. When I say "the same", I mean the same in the amount of light reaching your sensor. Flash changes a lot about the photo so it's not quite the same as changing ISO a full stop, but you'll get to that later.

I think the other ratios with decimals are ratios of light for multiple flashes. If you had two flashes, you could have one flash supplying one-third of the light and another supplying two-thirds. My flash does this and I don't get it so I just ignore it. <MULTI> might refer to using multiple flashes.

The slave flash might be intelligent or dumb. Your camera's popup flash normally works in P-TTL, which means it fires a preflash to decide how much flash power to use. When you have a slave flash, it might see the preflash and fire too soon. Some newer flashes have a setting to ignore the preflash, which is smarter. You can see the preflash if you set your camera to a 2 second delay: the preflash will fire when you hit the shutter, then the flash will fire again after the delay. At lower power settings, a dumb slave might have time to recharge and fire again in that 2 seconds.

You can get a cord to use the flash off-camera, wired. I got a third party Promaster brand with all the Pentax P-TTL connections for $35. The extra connections aren't necessary for your flash so there may be cheaper solutions.

Experimenting is a good idea to find a point where you get a decent looking shot. I have one lens that I know works well with my flash, and a few starting settings. In my case it's the DA 16-45/4 lens, I use M mode, f5.6, 1/30 sec. and adjust ISO to the scene brightness. My flash has a zoom head to match the lens's zoom and P-TTL so it won't be the same for you, but the idea of starting with some settings, then adjusting, should help.

12-19-2012, 07:53 PM   #9
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time fore this. Milk carton diffuser
google: flash diffuser milk
Mark's Website
12-22-2012, 08:06 PM   #10
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Wow....lots of feedback and great advice. Thanks for all the constructive comments. I have had a little time to experiment and have found out that it is indeed FULL manual. In other words, I don't think the flash settings on the camera will affect my hotshoe flash (eg, pressing the flash button, and adjusting the +/- steps with the dial, or the Trailing Curtain Sync Mode, etc.) Anyways, I have learned that the numbers do affect the power output of the brightness / light coming out of the flash when fired. As far as I can tell, the MULTI mode is only for stroboscopic flash use. I'll continue to experiment with it. I'm going away for a few days (short trip), and will take it with me and try it out in various situations. Again - thanks for all the feedback.
12-22-2012, 09:33 PM   #11
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What is the brand of the flash you bought?
12-22-2012, 10:02 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
What is the brand of the flash you bought?
It's a Viltrox Speedlite JY620
12-22-2012, 10:24 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pablom Quote
2- Looks like it is full manual only, but the second mode might mean an auto mode (not likely for a new flash - check the front of the flash for a sensor) or if you're really lucky P-TTL, in the latter case just try it out with your camera, you'll know whether it works.
What is P-TTL ???
12-23-2012, 01:00 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
What is P-TTL ???
P-TTL is an automatic mode that is metered by the camera (through the lens), rather than the flash. It appears that you won't get to enjoy that feature with your current flash.
For a more technical explanation see post #8 by Just1MoreDave
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