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03-03-2010, 07:00 PM   #1
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digital cameras with old flashes

I am a quite experienced Pentax user, with both 35mm and 6x7 systems, but a have almost quitted, since many years.
My favourite was travel pictures, but when i found myself traveling a lot less than before, the result was an almost complete neglect for my reflexes. I resorted to a small digital compact camera (an all-metal one, at least!), and the pictures i took were fewer and far between.

Now, after my Minolta compact camera died, i promised myself that in the near future i would not leave unused all the beautiful Pentax lenses i own.
having said that, i purchased a third-hand K200D body on.. well, guess which bay was it.
Before buying a second used body for my wife (i prefer that if she breaks her own camera, it's hers, not mine!), i would like to better understand the problems involved with the use of old flashes with new Pentax digital bodies.
I have searched on the web, read a few posts on this forum, and tried to fully understand the technical limitations, but something is still a little misterious to me.

I have three TTL-compatibel flashes, one Metz 32 CT 2 with dedicated SCA shoe and compatible extensions (helical) cable, one AF-400T with various accessories (extensions cables, distributor, etc.), and a slightly newer AF-400FTZ.
The former two have four contacts in total, if i remeber, so should be compatible in TTL mode only with film cameras, plus all the *ist digital models.
But the latter has five contacts, like the new flashes, and i have read somewhere that the fifth contact is for the digital signal. But i have also read that only the flashes with the "G" in their name are compatible with the p-TTL pre-flashing system adopted on newer digital cameras.
If that is true, what's the use of the fifth contact? Even if the focal length is transmitted, i see no use for it, cause the zoom head is manual!
I understand that the AF-400FTZ is made for TTL AF cameras, as the previous ones where made for TTL MF ones, but i still don't understand what's the difference, if i mount it on my K200D.

Having read that the trigger voltage of some old flashes is too high for modern digital cameras, i went to Metz site to look for an answer:
all the available manuals are for recent models, no mention of the older ones, but the very diffused CT 45, the wedding photographer's tool of choice!
The only thing i could understand is that i am out of look again, cause the old models use SCA 300, and the new ones adopt the SCA 3002 standard.
So, even with the Metz, no p-TTL!!

If someone is kind enough to answer about the AF-400FTZ, is he/she so helpful to give me the right advice about flash macro with digitals?

I used to go "hunting" for small animals or any other kind of small subjects, with an LX, an auto bellow, a macro lens, and with an AF-400T mounted on the bracket, with a bank-like diffusor, and with a flash holder screwed to the front thread of the lens, where a second TTL flash with a small diffusor was positioned. All that bulky "ensemble" was quite easy to use, cause the exposure was automatic (most of the times with EV correction), and not so bad to carry around, thanks to an ergonomic handle connected to the bottom of the bellow.
I also had a Pentax anular flash, but that is gone by now.
But i still have most of that stuff, and i'd like to change the body only and go digital!
I understand that it's just a dream, cause new bodies don't support TTL, and with such system there is no way to use the flash in Auto, and also manual is quite impractical, specially if you use two flashes, shoot in different environments, and use different lenses and with different bellow extensions.
The fact that many of my best macro lenses were not automatic (25mm prime for 16mm camera used inverted, 50mm russian with lanthanum glasses, Pentax 100mm macro bellows, Componon, Componon-S, Repro-Claron) was sometimes a problem when focusing, but not with exposure: the TTL system shut the two flashes when the film had enough of it!

To do the same now i should either buy a *ist (i found a DS, that can be upgraded to use SDHC), or buy a completely new flash system.
The former is by far the cheaper option, but is the quality of the *ist DS still satisfying? Would it be a good choice for flash macrophotography?

Any advice/tip/warning is welcome

have fun


03-04-2010, 05:41 AM   #2
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You can measure the trigger voltage to make sure the Metz is safe. Keep your trigger voltage below 20 volts to be safe.
The DS and DS2 are 6mp cameras, but take great shots. I've used my DS for hundreds of macro shots. You can pick up an AF280T flash to have full TTL on a DS2.
03-04-2010, 07:14 AM   #3
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The Metz website states that all 45CT models are digital safe with exception of the 45CT1 with serial numbers below a certain value. One of my posts about the subject:

My 45CT1 has a safe serial number and works with a cheap hotshoe-to-PC adaptor on a K10D (not tried on my K100D yet). Only disadvantage is that the built-in flash can not open and therefore one will be missing the focus strobe for autofocus.
03-06-2010, 12:26 AM   #4
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Original Poster
Thanks for the replies, but i'd rather go for TTL, instead of manual.
Auto is a no go in macro (too close to the subject).
Setting the flash/flashes in manual would be quite easy, after a few test pictures, but you have to keep everything the same.
When you shoot with different lenses, at different apertures, with different bellows extensions, and with a distance of the subject that is not always the same.. it takes too much time to calculate the right aperture for the given conditions.
Even the subject itself plays a role, if it's very dark or very light it makes a difference.
With TTL it was so easy! The flashes stopped at the right time, with a reading made off the film itself.
Now all the three (maybe four, i can't find one) TTL-compatible flashes i own are useless for this kind of work. If i want to use them i have to resort to a simple setup, with just two lenses , two predefined bellows extensions, and a flash in fixed position. Then make a few test and stick a piece of paper on the back of the flash to memorize the combinations i have just tried. This is not so inconvenient with short macros on tubes or bellows, set for example at three positions: 1:2, 1:1, 1.5:1. But when you use a long macro (i have a Sigma 180 Apo, that can reach 1:1 with a T4 closeup), that with digital camera are even longer, and you focus with the focusing ring on the lens, having the flash in manual is not that great!

Is there anybody out there who knows what the fifth contact on the AF400FTZ is for, and what i get on a K200D that i don't get using the older flashes with only four contacts?

have fun



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