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10-04-2013, 01:12 PM   #1
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Mini softbox

I use the onboard flash on my K-7 for the occasional low-light portrait.

Everyone keeps telling me the flash is too bright (and it's on the low-power setting at -2.0 EV)

Are there mini softboxes I could slip on and off the flash?

10-04-2013, 01:35 PM   #2
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There are modifiers you can use. I have both a Stofen Omni-bounce and a Gary Fong Lightsphere. The Lightsphere is a lot better than the Omni-bounce, but its also huge. Probably the best thing you can do is to bounce the flash. The larger the light source, the softer your light will be. Both of these items will enlargen your light source, and both are meant to use on the bounce.

I just read you are using your pop-up flash. There is a Lightsphere for the pop up flash, but its only ok. I would not use your pop up flash. If you need more light, its usually better to use available light or use a bounce flash.

Last edited by miltona580; 10-04-2013 at 01:38 PM. Reason: i idiot
10-04-2013, 01:56 PM   #3
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I'd avoid covering the popup with anything.
I made a loose white paper diffuser for the popup flash once as I had nothing else, but the power of the flash was enough to bounce it back into the unit and cause a distinct burning plastic smell.
10-04-2013, 02:02 PM   #4
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You can try adding a diffuser or softbox, even make one yourself (there are many blogs with DIY instructions). You can even try deflecting the flash and bounce it off a wall or ceiling. This can improve the overall quality of the light. But the popup flash can only do so much - there is a reason pro portrait photographers have a bunch of flashes and other light tools set up.

The reason people say the flash is too strong is because it is direct and it lights up near subjects much more than even slightly farther subjects. The usual way to balance this is to simply manipulate the aperture. If f5.6 is too bright for someone 1m from you, then try f8. If you raise the shutter speed accordingly, it will keep the background at the same brightness, but make the flashed subject a little bit darker, relatively (as in, not as overexposed)

10-04-2013, 10:22 PM   #5
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Hi chattphotos,

The problem with the popup flash is that it's directly in the line of sight of your subjects, and since the ambient light is relatively low indoors, your subjects' pupils are pretty dilated, so even a low powered flash appears super bright. Turning the flash Ev down won't help -- the flash exposure is largely achieved by limiting the duration of the flash, not by changing the intensity.

Even the popup flash can provide some reasonable pics, It's handy because it's always there. The relatively low power can be worked around by using higher ISO on any of the Pentax DSLRs. Those who don't believe this should try shooting an indoor scene with and without flash at the highest ISO available on your body. You'll probably be surprised at how little noise there is on the flash shot compared to the ambient light only shot. Each stop of ISO above 100 increases the range of the popup by a factor of two. the K-5's popup is rated at a GN of 12 ft at ISO 100. AT ISO 1600 (+4 stops), the effective distance is 16x. There is easily enough power to bounce it if you can accept the IQ at that ISO exposed well with the flash.

There are some very sophisticated popup flash modifiers available commercially. Here are a few that I've found:

Spark Pop-up Flash Diffuser

Demb Flash Products - Demb Pop-up Flip-it! Flash Reflector

These soften the light coming from the flash by effectively enlarging the light source the size of the diffuser or reflector. The Demb is very clever, a plastic mirror reflects the light 90, then the hinged reflector redirects some or most of the light forward again. It's very compact and is always in my pocket whenever I'm carrying a DSLR. I also like the variable reflector, and the flash can be bounced totally off the ceiling or a wall if shot in portrait orientation.

The Graslon reflects the light to the back of its case, then forward again through the diffuser. I've never tried one of these, but IMO, the design is sound, and should give much more appealing lighting.

If you're handy, the Demb can be replicated pretty easily and cheaply. It's a sound design IMO.

The popup flash is not the most desirable light source, but it's always with the camera, and if you can shoot at all, you can shoot with the popup, unlike an external that you either leave at home or forgot to charge the batteries on. Make the light less directional and softer, or bounce it off the ceiling, and you can get some very respectable results.

Scott
10-05-2013, 05:41 AM   #6
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You can get modifiers for a pop-up flash, but I'm not crazy about them, and most of the cheaper ones are close to worthless. One problem with a flash modifier on a pop-up flash is that pop-ups are typically a lot less powerful than a good shoe-mounted flash, so when you try to bounce or diffuse that light, it lessens it further.

Instead of spending $20 or $30 on a modifier for the pop-up, I think you'd be much better off spending it on a good used swivel/bounce flash and bouncing the light off the ceiling or wall. I have three Sunpak 422D flash units, which work great. Plus they have variable power which is a necessity, in my opinion. The 433D & 444D units are also great and safe for a DSLR. You should be able to get one for $20 or $30. I've even bought them for as little as $6. After you learn the ins & outs of using a good external flash, I'd wager you'll rarely use the pop-up flash anymore except for snapshots.

The difference between bounced light and on-camera direct light flash is huge. Bounced light is much more natural and less harsh. Just make sure whatever flash you get has a safe trigger voltage for your DSLR, or you could fry your camera.

Good luck & have fun!
Bob :-)

Last edited by GibbyTheMole; 10-05-2013 at 05:52 AM.
10-05-2013, 11:28 PM   #7
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Attached is an example photo, shot with K-7, the DA* 55mm and popup flash. (sorry the focus is wonky) I just popped a snap to upload.

The 1/15th of a second shutter + F/1.8-2.0 and the ambient background light make the photo more evenly lit when adding the quick flash pop.

Everyone says the explosion of light is just too bright. I had someone shoot me with my camera and the flash didn't bother me at all.
Maybe photographers natively know where to look without burning out our retinas?

Also, where I shoot is not a normal room, it's a big open room with at least a 15-20 feet high ceiling and the walls are darkened due to sound absorbent material thus reducing the bounce considerably.
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10-07-2013, 11:57 AM   #8
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The Gary Fong Puffer works quite well, but it's a bit fiddly and you can easily lose it if you're not careful. Indoors no problem.

You can probably make a homemade diffuser box (or cylinder) from milkjug plastic and some staples.

10-08-2013, 12:01 PM   #9
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I agree that you should spend your $$$ on an external flash.

Also, I have covered my on camera flash with either tissue paper or thin fabric and it does help, but it is not an optimal solution. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the flash or it make crack.
10-09-2013, 06:36 PM   #10
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I've used a gary fong puffer and it works well. the knock-off's on ebay are super cheap.

I don't own a K-7, but I've noticed on my K-01 that if you're using an iso range, ie 100-1600, it will give horrible results. I think on my K-01, it likes to choose the high value. I always manually set it to 100 or work my way up.
You can try reducing the aperture to compesate for the harsh flash, but you'll lose the background in darkness.

I shoot regularly in a indoor karate studio with a black roofs and I use a regular flash (pointing up) with diffuser to spread it out. Manual settings with ISO 400 to compensate for the light fall off.
10-10-2013, 04:43 AM   #11
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I also have a Fong Puffer. You can find a lot of "with & without" comparison shots on the internet. The thing with most of them is the "without" shot is usually overexposed so the "with" shot looks better, and a side effect of any flash modifier is a loss of exposure. If you lower the exposure on the "without" shot though, they both look similar. There is a softening of shadows behind the subject when using the Puffer, but it's not usually a dramatic difference.

After trying the Puffer on a few shots, I don't really use it anymore. It just didn't do that much, in my experience. The reason is simple: You're still using a small, straight-on light source. There's just no substitute for the "big" light you get when shooting with a large umbrella, reflector, or bouncing it off something.

Also, if you get an external flash with adjustable power (like the ones I mentioned in my previous post) you can lessen the intensity of the flash so you don't blind your subjects.
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