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07-18-2008, 11:44 AM   #1
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Which flash??

I am interested in a Pentax flash to use with my K20D.

Which one is recommended for general use - groups, close ups, and bounce flash.

Is there any difference between the available units other than power??

Any diffrence in features??

Any problems using the flash with bright backgrounds which could fool TTL flashes??

Thanks.

Martin

07-18-2008, 12:17 PM   #2
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I would recommend an AF540FGZ.

Aside from being compatible with your K20D, it can operate in what ever mode any past pentax camera supports.

It also has A mode which uses its own sensor, so you can meter with non A lenses. It is a good powerful flash, and has all the tilt and swivel etc that you would want
07-18-2008, 12:18 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by martin s Quote
I am interested in a Pentax flash to use with my K20D.

Which one is recommended for general use - groups, close ups, and bounce flash.

Is there any difference between the available units other than power??

Any difference in features??

Any problems using the flash with bright backgrounds which could fool TTL flashes?

Martin,

This is a hard question to answer, in one sense. I am afraid that flash support is perhaps the weakest part of the Pentax system.

There are two current Pentax brand flashes: the 360 and the 540 FGZ. The 540 FGZ has a higher guide number (more powerful output) and can both tilt and swivel, which is very important for bouncing the flash. I personally would not buy any unit that couldn't be pointed pretty much in any direction. But I'm not sure what you need. The 360 is certainly an enormous improvement over the camera's built-in flash.

I regret however to have to mention that the build quality on the Pentax flashes does NOT seem to be commensurate with the build quality of the camera bodies. Both my Pentax 540 FGZ units have broken on me, one of them has broken in more than one way. I don't mistreat them and in fact don't even use them excessively. They just aren't well built. You can read about my experiences here by searching the forum.

There are cheaper alternatives and more expensive alternatives. I haven't tried either. The cheaper alternatives might work fine. There is a more expensive Metz flash unit that will probably be my next purchase. I don't think the Metz unit I'm looking at supports P-TTL but actually I don't find P-TTL to work all that well so this wouldn't be a huge problem.

As I said, it's a touch choice.

Will
07-19-2008, 08:07 AM   #4
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The Sigma 530 Super supports P-TTL, swivels up, to the side & even down for macros. It has virtually the same power as the Pentax 540. As far as I can tell has all the features of the Pentax 540 but it costs about the same as the Pentax 360.
Sigma - Flashes

07-19-2008, 08:33 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by martin s Quote
I am interested in a Pentax flash to use with my K20D.

Which one is recommended for general use - groups, close ups, and bounce flash.

Is there any difference between the available units other than power??

Any diffrence in features??

Any problems using the flash with bright backgrounds which could fool TTL flashes??

Thanks.

Martin
I would recommend the 360(FGZ), which is the best buy out there and is not ridiculously high priced. Forget about 3rd party flashes, which are either not P-TTL compatible or can be problematic (poor compatibility and even more inaccurate).

I think the 360 will do most of the jobs you ever need, except it does not have a swivel head, which will only be required very occasionally when bounced flash is required when shooting vertically with the camera.

The 360 is lighter and more compact too. If you are lucky enough, you can find some used ones of early production which were made in Japan, which should have the best quality. However, the latter versions which are not MIJ should have better compatibility with latest P-TTL algorithm anyway for the firmware inside.
07-19-2008, 08:49 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by RiceHigh Quote
I would recommend the 360(FGZ), which is the best buy out there and is not ridiculously high priced. Forget about 3rd party flashes, which are either not P-TTL compatible or can be problematic (poor compatibility and even more inaccurate).

I think the 360 will do most of the jobs you ever need, except it does not have a swivel head, which will only be required very occasionally when bounced flash is required when shooting vertically with the camera.

The 360 is lighter and more compact too. If you are lucky enough, you can find some used ones of early production which were made in Japan, which should have the best quality. However, the latter versions which are not MIJ should have better compatibility with latest P-TTL algorithm anyway for the firmware inside.
I use both the 360 and 540. The 360 is my on camera flash, often with a Stofen diffuser when using it for fill flash, and the 540 is most often used off camera and often with some form of light modifier (i.e. an umbrella).

The 360 does an excellent job with fill flash and such, but the 540's extra power is useful when using light modifiers. Recently, I have been doing a lot of portrait and wedding shoots and so using these flashes a lot. I have come to the conclusion that Pentax needs to upgrade the flash system. I would love to see them offer the ability to use different ratios on several off camera flash's (as does Nikon) and if they really want to one-up Nikon, offer a radio trigger system that retains P-TTL and the different ratio feature. And improve the build quality too...

Cheers, Mike.
07-19-2008, 09:19 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by MikePerham Quote
The 360 does an excellent job with fill flash and such, but the 540's extra power is useful when using light modifiers. Recently, I have been doing a lot of portrait and wedding shoots and so using these flashes a lot. I have come to the conclusion that Pentax needs to upgrade the flash system. I would love to see them offer the ability to use different ratios on several off camera flash's (as does Nikon) and if they really want to one-up Nikon, offer a radio trigger system that retains P-TTL and the different ratio feature. And improve the build quality too...
Agree with all of the above. I would add that the 540's higher guide number comes in very handy not just when bouncing or using a modifier but also when shooting wedding formals at the altar, where you often have strong backlighting to overcome. I use BOTH 540s in that situation. Output also matters when using flash for fill in bright sunlight. I believe that the Metz model I'm looking at has a higher guide number and some other features that the Pentax 540 lacks:

Amazon.com: Metz MZ 54247P 54MZ-4 Flash for Pentax Cameras: Electronics

This model does NOT support P-TTL, I think, and that may be one of its advantages.


QuoteOriginally posted by RiceHigh:
I would recommend the 360(FGZ), which is the best buy out there and is not ridiculously high priced. Forget about 3rd party flashes, which are either not P-TTL compatible or can be problematic (poor compatibility and even more inaccurate).
I don't have experience with a lot of third-party flash units, but my experience with Pentax hasn't been very good and my problems have been reported by many other users as well. I've heard a lot of good things about Sigma flashes, from folks in this forum that own them; and Metz is the gold standard. I owned the Metz unit above briefly and sent it back for some reason I can't even remember (lack of P-TTL, perhaps) and later regretted sending it back. It seemed really solid. I don't personally see how the Sigma units could be much worse than the Pentax units, and they certainly are cheaper. The one caveat that I have heard expressed about buying third-party flashes is that you might occasionally have a compatibility problem introduced by a firmware upgrade to the camera. I would personally want to investigate this a bit more before buying a third-party flash, but I gather that, if it is a problem, there's a fix for it.

Many third-party flash units do indeed support P-TTL, if you want it. But P-TTL has some serious problems. I would like to have a chance to try old-fashioned TTL and see if I can't do better with it.

I'll say again: This is simply not a strong point of the Pentax system, and I quite agree with Mike that releasing a couple new, really good flash units would be a tremendous boost for the Pentax line for the people most likely to be interested in it, which are wedding and portrait photographers (like Mike and me and many others on this forum) who find Pentax appealing for other reasons (price, image quality, prime lenses, etc) but who really need good flash support.

Will
07-19-2008, 10:15 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Agree with all of the above. I would add that the 540's higher guide number comes in very handy not just when bouncing or using a modifier but also when shooting wedding formals at the altar, where you often have strong backlighting to overcome. I use BOTH 540s in that situation. Output also matters when using flash for fill in bright sunlight. I believe that the Metz model I'm looking at has a higher guide number and some other features that the Pentax 540 lacks:

Amazon.com: Metz MZ 54247P 54MZ-4 Flash for Pentax Cameras: Electronics

This model does NOT support P-TTL, I think, and that may be one of its advantages.
Metz have a new model, the 58 AF1 that does P-TTL with Pentax and while it is rated higher, it is in fact no more powerful than the 540. These ratings are for the flash at their maximum zoom and the Metz goes to 105mm but the Pentax to 85. If you compare the guide number at the same focal length, say 50mm, you will find that they are the same power.

However, I too am looking at the Metz. But, debating between the 58 AF1 or the handle mount 76 MZ-5 which is definitely more powerful. Since I don't live in a big city where you have major camera stores where I can handle one, I am waiting till I can do that and check out the build quality. If they are as good as I hope I will likely switch to Metz. Another consideration is the recycle time ...Metz seems to offer faster recycling when used with their external (and rechargeable Vs Pentax C battery) battery pack.

Mike.

07-21-2008, 06:05 PM   #9
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I'd love to have the dedicated Pentax flashes in my collection. At least two, for cross-lighting in studio situations. The cost of course is prohibitive, so I've compromised on my desires and concentrated on my needs, and purchased alternative equipment accordingly.

I have a bunch of old pre-digital flashes. Two have zoom and tilt, but not swivel capabilities. I got over this by buying a $10 swivel-mount. This allows the flash to be aimed in any direction, but means the flash relies on remote triggering. This is a moot point as none of the flashes are dedicated anyway, so I'm not game to connect them to my K10D (either by hotshoe or cable) until I can find out what their voltages are.

In the meantime, to fire the flash I've bought a wireless trigger system (quite cheap on eBay). The master unit fits to the camera's hotshoe while the slave-unit has the flash mounted to it. The slave unit is then mounted to the swivel-mount.

To keep the camera and flash together, I've bought a basic metal flash-bracket that fits to the camera's tripod-thread and allows me to attach the flash (on its swivel mount) next to the camera.

It sounds convoluted, but the entire kit is quite neat and compact when brought together, and provided you don't need TTL capabilities, it works nicely at a fraction of the cost of genuine Pentax flashes.

Best of all, it means I can buy used non-dedicated flashes and use them safely.

NB: Everything was bought on eBay.
07-22-2008, 01:39 PM   #10
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reply to marc

I like your system. It is much the same as mine. I use a flash bracket that moves flash unit 1 off the lens axis to next to the camera - this eliminates red-eye without the need to use preflash. The flash is mounted on a tube that rotates in its mount so the flash is effectively a swivel flash.

I connect the flash with a sync cable to an adapter shoe mounted on the camera hot shoe.

My second flash has an optical slave fitted to it and is hand held in my other hand at whatever height and angle I like.

Both flashes are auto flash units and the auto system works fine on these. For long shots I switch to manual on the camera and flash units and do guide number calculations to figure out the aperture.

i've managed well with auto flash i.e. have had no need to use a TTL flash system.

Flash unit next to the camera is a Nikon SB22 and the hand held unit is an Achiever TZ250. Both bought second hand, same guide number (necessary for this type of system). The Achiever has a zoom setting which helps the long shots.

I'd like to know how many other folk find that an auto flash meets their needs.
07-22-2008, 07:39 PM   #11
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I also went with the Sigma 530 Super and have not regretted it. Things have been great since I got my usual cast of subjects to wait for the second flash in P-TTL (LOL).
07-23-2008, 12:26 AM   #12
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Considering Sigma 530 DG ST

Does the Sigma 530 DG ST support off-camera wireless triggering from K10d? That is one feature I sure would not want to do without!

Does Sigma 530 DG ST support off-camera P-TTL?
07-23-2008, 06:18 AM   #13
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Try the following link to get direct answers from Sigma or the 530 ST and 530 Super:

Sigma - Flashes
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