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11-12-2007, 11:33 AM   #1
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Fill flash on the cheap

I think it's time for me to stick my foot into the dark room of fill flash. I know nothing about using flash at all. In fact I've never used the built in flash on my K10D other than than to fire it off once last November when I first got the camera to see if it worked.

I saw this unit on the Cameta site, Hi Power Digital Flash for ALL Digital Cameras +Kit NEW - (eBay item 160179511002 end time Dec-11-07 21:41:49 PST)
for $80 which is a lot less than I thought flash units cost. It says it can be used up to 80 feet away and thought if I learned how to work with flash it might extend the time I could shoot in less than perfect outdoor lighting conditions.

Am I on the right track here? Is there a better cheap answer than this unit? You folks always steer me right so once again I'm hoping you can help me out with this.

Thanks,

Ken

11-12-2007, 11:59 AM   #2
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That unit is soo tempting for my entry into medium format as well.
I hope that it's at least 1/2 decent.
11-12-2007, 12:12 PM   #3
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Vivitar 285HV

QuoteOriginally posted by little laker Quote
That unit is soo tempting for my entry into medium format as well.
I hope that it's at least 1/2 decent.
Hi Stu,
35mm film user (Marc) pointed me to this site Strobist. It seems to be a very solid information blog about lighting. They are saying the Vivitar 285HV is about all you need and has a street price of about $89.

My first question is do either or both the Cameta and Vivitar unit work on a K10D?

Thanks,

Ken
11-12-2007, 12:17 PM   #4
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You are only a week or so behind me in flash knowledge. You mention flash for "less than perfect outdoor lighting conditions" and if you mean bright sunny days (backlit) then you would need HSS to get a high shutter speed to balance the fill light with the main sun light. This is a must. Last week I did'nt care about HSS, now it's everything.

11-12-2007, 12:26 PM   #5
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The 285HV is fine for the K10D.

Ken,

Fill flash involves a bit more brain work than just regular flash. Basically what you want to do is figure out how to flash expose your subject at one stop under the ambient light. What that does is just fill in the dark areas so that there are no areas deeply darker than the best-lit areas.

The easiest way to do it with an auto flash such as the 285HV is to use one of the auto settings to control flash output. Let's say you set it so that it cuts off at f8. Put your camera in M mode, set your aperture to f11, hit your green button (or AE-L for us K100D users) to set your shutter speed. If it is below the synch speed of 1/180 but high enough for handheld shooting, you're good to go.

The flash will cut off when it senses enough light for exposure at f8, which is one stop less light (therefore darker) than what you metered for the brighter parts with ambient light.

Remember, fill flash is a mix of flash exposure and ambient light exposure.

On a Yashica Electro 35 it is as easy as rotating the aperture ring one click and letting the aperture priority electric shutter do the rest. I wish it were that easy on these things we use.
11-12-2007, 12:31 PM   #6
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I'm further behind

QuoteOriginally posted by pcarfan Quote
You are only a week or so behind me in flash knowledge. You mention flash for "less than perfect outdoor lighting conditions" and if you mean bright sunny days (backlit) then you would need HSS to get a high shutter speed to balance the fill light with the main sun light. This is a must. Last week I did'nt care about HSS, now it's everything.
Well that's about as clear a mud to me, LOL. I'm still at the stag of trying to figure out what TTL and P-TTL means and what will even work on the camera. So you throw HSS out there and all I can say is "What the---"?

I just read through the manual and that did nothing but confuse me more. Where do I find a primer of flash that is written for dummies?

Thanks,
Ken
11-12-2007, 12:35 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by regken Quote
Well that's about as clear a mud to me, LOL. I'm still at the stag of trying to figure out what TTL and P-TTL means and what will even work on the camera. So you throw HSS out there and all I can say is "What the---"?

I just read through the manual and that did nothing but confuse me more. Where do I find a primer of flash that is written for dummies?

Thanks,
Ken
It's easy and I'll post a complete answer as soon as I can (I'm at work)....from Mike's answer I know he knows a lot more than both of us, but as we are so close to flash knowledge my explanations may be closer to your understanding. I learned about P-TTL a bit over two weeks ago, so don't despair.
11-12-2007, 12:36 PM   #8
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I knew I could count on you

Hi Mike,

Once again you rode to my rescue. Thanks! Now for some additional stupid questions. The 285HV fits into the hot shoe? With additional wiring you can use it off camera?

Thanks,
Ken

11-12-2007, 12:45 PM   #9
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Anything I say may not be the complete picture, but the theory/idea should be correct if not complete, so take it FWIW.

P-TTL is for the digital k10D and TTL for different analog and some other digital camera's and not K10D, so I would totally ignore TTL. Only P-TTL matters. P-TTL is Penatx-Through The Lens.

In simple terms or the way I understand P-TTL automatically gets all the info needed and gets a correct flash exposure by firing an imperceptible pre-flash, and basically does everything for you to get the correct flash exposure. I mean it knows your bounce angle, whether you have a filter etc as it is through the lens measurement. In theory it's great, but in practice most say it does'nt work well and that's why 'strobist's' don't use it. I'll be recieving my Pentax 540 in a few days, and I'm not giving up on P-TTL.

I'll get to you on HSS etc in a minute

Last edited by pcarfan; 11-12-2007 at 01:16 PM.
11-12-2007, 01:15 PM   #10
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Mike in his response says, after setting the Aperture to what ever balance (between the main subject and background, I guess the ideal is 1 stop less for the subject as Mike says, my knowledge is not there yet) you want to achieve and then set the appropriate shutter speed that will work (green button does that for my K10D). If the shutter speed needed is less than 1/180 (max sync speed for the built-in light) then we don't need HSS. HSS increases this speed to upto 1/4000. Now, WHY would you need this.

For instance on a bright day and you are either taking a picture indoors with the bright sun shining through the window behind the subject or in a picnic setting under the shed with the bright sun outside. Now, how do you balance the sun on the outside and the person inside. To be able to fill the face and at the same time avoiding the sunlit area from blowing out, you need a very high shutter speed and HSS comes to your rescue.

You set the camera to the appropriate aperture (flash is affected by the aperture) and then increase the shutter speed to what ever is needed to get the correct exposure for the sun. But, now the subject who is in the dark will be well underexposed-if not for the flash with this shutter speed that is needed to avoid the sunlight blowingout, but your flash with HSS comes to your rescue. It will light up the subject....whola! now the whole image is well exposed. The subject with your flash and the bright window by the shutter speed for the given aperture. HSS gives you freedom from the sun.

If, all you have is 1/180 to work with, you cannot balance the subject in total shadow and a bright window. Either the window will be overexposed or the subject underexposed.

Last edited by pcarfan; 11-12-2007 at 01:36 PM.
11-13-2007, 03:08 AM   #11
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Ken, you can use the 285HV off camera in a couple of different ways.

One way is to get a hotshoe to PC (not "Personal Computer" but "Pronto Compur") adapter to mount on your hotshoe. You then use PC cables to connect to the flash. The cables can get to be a hassle, though.

The other way is to use wireless remote triggers, which work by using radio transmitters and receivers. Fortunately, there are very cheap models available. (About twenty to thirty bucks). You mount the transmitter in your hotshoe, connect the transmitter to the flash, and away you go. You have to do the flash calculation manually, but that is not a big deal.

The recent photos I posted of the dancing girls and the dinner concert were both shot using radio remote triggers. I just set up the flashes where I wanted them, eyeballed the distance to the place I wanted to shoot, and consulted the handy dandy calculator on the flash to determine what my aperture would be. So long as you are at or below sync speed (almost never a problem indoors, where you're not competing with the massive nuclear fireball in the sky) the only exposure value you are concerned with is aperture. Also, the only important distance to consider is the flash-subject distance. The camera-subject distance is irrelevant. So once you have the flashes set up and the aperture calculated, you have your shooting aperture for wherever you are when you shoot. All the dance shots were done at f4 and all the concert shots were done at f5.6. Shooting in RAW leaves enough leeway to miss it a bit one way or the other with no adverse effects, as you can easily fudge one way or another when converting the RAW file to TIFF or JPG, if necessary.

Once you try for yourself and see 1) how really simple it is and 2) what a huge difference it makes, you'll most likely find yourself wondering why the hell anybody would ever want to use a flash mounted on the camera and aimed at the subject. Mounting on the camera and using bounce and/or swivel is really just a method to try to achieve the same effect but without the extra gear and setup. I manage to fit all my flash and trigger gear into the same small camera bag I carry my K100D and a half-dozen or so primes in, so that part really doesn't take up much space. Any tripod can be used in lieu of a "proper" light stand, although tripods can't achieve the height a light stand can. Or you can make homemade light mounting solutions, such as rigging up something with clamps or bungee cords. You can even use a putty spatula converted with a 1/4" 20 bolt from your hardware store. Just jam the blade under books on a bookshelf or whatever comes handy. Tripod not high enough? No problem....aim the flash up and ceiling bounce it. At the concert I had one flash just lying on top of a stereo speaker that was on a shelf near the ceiling and pointed it at the ceiling, fired with an optical slave (also cheap) with the sensor pointed back at the main flash....which was strapped to a beam with one of those sponge-covered wire things that I just happened to find already wrapped around the beam.

It really is very inexpensive to work with off-camera flash, and there really is nothing particularly intimidating or complicated about the basic use of it.
11-13-2007, 04:30 AM   #12
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Thanks Mike

Sounds easy enough. I'll start working on it this weekend. My main interest is outside fill flash and can think of several shots that could benifit from doing this. Thanks for the easy to understand explanation.

Thanks,

Ken
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