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Photography QnA: Choosing the Right Camera Flashes

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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Choosing the Right Camera Flashes

Choosing the right camera flashes for you is important. Check out this Q&A to see what other people are saying on this topic.

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Photography Question 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery

member since: 11/16/2004
  1 .  Flash Bracket: Directional and Fill-in Lighting
I'm looking for a flash-camera bracket that can be used to create directional as well as fill-in lighting, such as something that could be placed on the side of the camera.
The brackets I used some 35 years ago were side brackets, but I'm having trouble locating one now. Does it make a difference whether or not one shoots film or digital to how the lighting is created?

1/28/2005 4:26:53 PM

Andy 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/28/2002
  Digital or film are just two different medium to store images. I also have used a side bracket a long time ago. I found that there are always shadow on the background behind the subject. Now I switched to the Stroboframe Camera Flip, and the shadow problem is solved. There are different brands of flash bracket. But I found the Stroboframe is the most economical.
Stroboframe:
http://www.tiffen.com/Header_page_Stroboframe.htm
Newton:
http://www.newtoncamerabrackets.com/newton.html

1/29/2005 12:31:54 AM

  Thanks, Andy.

However, I'm curious. When I use studio lights and I have my fill-in to the right/left of the camera, but about 2-3 feet away (with the height about 6-7 feet, or as high as 3 other moonlights which are on stands) I have no problem with the shadow, which drops below my selected focus and cropping area.

Also, when I have created directional lighting outside (during the time when the ambient light has no direction - heavy overcast), there is no shadow because I'm generally not near a building and the shadow on the ground is irrelevant. Plus, even in open shade to cast catch-lights in my subject's eyes, and the flash is set at 1-2 stops less than the camera, there is no problem. (Now, I'm speaking of past experience using myriad manual TLRs and SLRs, and a variety on non-e-TTL flash units. But, that shouldn't matter.)

Why then, is there a problem when the flash is on a bracket? Is it due to the height of the bracket and flash in relation to the camera?
Thanks.
Bunny

1/29/2005 5:10:37 AM

Andy 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/28/2002
  I think you just answered your question. With the side bracket, you can see the shadow outlining your subject on the opposite side of your flash. If you use the bracket that put the flash above your camera, the shadow will be lower and right behind the subject (if you are not pointing your camera upward, of course).

1/29/2005 1:17:20 PM

Lorraine Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/10/2004
  Hi, Andy. Would you be able to use the Stroboframe Camera Flip on a tripod? If so, do you need some kind of a plate/receiver to do this? And is this tripod sturdy? I was reading a comment about a guy's camera foot being broken because of this bracket.

Thanks.
-Ena-

2/2/2005 9:05:48 AM

Andy 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/28/2002
  On the base of the Stroboframe Camera Flip, there is a tripod socket. You can just mount your bracket on a tripod like the camera. I have a quick release system on my tripod and I attach a quick release plate to the base of the bracket. As long as you have a sturdy tripod and the head can support the total weight of the bracket, camera and flash, it should be OK. I also use the bracket, without the flash attached, for macro photography and many other applications that I need to change orientation from horizontal to vertical or vice versa often. I can just rotate the camera instead of rotating the tripod head. Of course this is only apply to short lenses. If you have a long lens that comes with a tripod collar, don't use the bracket. Hope this helps.

2/2/2005 12:51:27 PM

Lorraine Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/10/2004
  Andy, thanks, especially on the hint regarding not using the bracket on lenses with tripod collars (I do have one of those!). Yes, I did see a little video of the bracket attached to a camera and I like that you have to rotate only the camera instead of the whole thing. I have a new tripod coming--a Bogen 3001N with a 3126 micro fluid head. I should get it today. I have to see if it comes with a quick release system.

Thanks again for the information.
-Ena-

2/2/2005 1:03:09 PM

Robert N. Valine
BetterPhoto Member
robvalineimages.com

member since: 8/3/2003
  There's one other thing that I would like to suggest that may help with the shadows and that is a soft box attachment. This attaches to your on camera flash with velcro. I use a Lumiquest Softbox attachment in combination with a Stroboframe Flash Bracket for Weddings. Since I started using the Softbox I have no problem with shadows at all.

2/3/2005 7:42:29 AM

  Rob,
Doesn't a soft box diffuse the light, and therefore the shadow? It would not eliminate the shadow if the shadow falls in the wrong place, it would just diffuse it like a cloud on a sunny day.

Also, and correct me if I'm wrong. But, doesn't a soft box have to be a certain distance away to work. The term circle of confusion has popped into my head in that light is focused the closer it is to the source and to diffuse the light, the soft box must be further away from the light source, which is not possible with an attachment which goes over the flash head. http://www.northnet.org/jimbullard/CoC.htm

I may be explaining this wrong.

2/3/2005 11:12:43 AM

Robert N. Valine
BetterPhoto Member
robvalineimages.com

member since: 8/3/2003
  Yes Susan, A soft box does diffuse the light. It also softens shadows.Therefore making them less of a concern for photographers to have to worry about.There are small soft boxes that are designed to attach to your on camera flash and they work wonders.Wedding photographers already have enough on their minds without having to be overly concerned with shadows.I shoot weddings in all kinds of conditions.These attachments can save the day. I use several types. I currently have 4 different types.I have the Lumiquest Pro Max Soft Box,Lumiquest Pro max 80/20 bouncer,Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce and a home made Bouncer that a friend gave me.There are many types of light modifiers.Some bounce light off the ceiling. I like the soft box because it can be used in just about any type of situation.I also like the Stofen Omni-Bounce.Some guys like to make their own.I know guys that use anything from coffee filters attached with rubber bands to Shower curtains cut up in pieces.Anything that goes between your flash and the subject will change or modify the light.It does'nt have to be a specific distance from the flash to work.Soft Boxes are also very useful for studio photography and are widely used by professional photographers.Also,They come in many shapes and sizes.It's fun to experiment with different attachments.Give it a try and have fun with it.See which one works best for you.

2/3/2005 3:34:13 PM

  I have a some Chimera brand soft boxes for my White Lightnings, which I purchased several years ago to learn how to correctly light portraits using approximately 45 degree lighting.

It was an expensive lesson, as I prefer to shoot outside. However, now I know how to position my lights.

I don't recall the numbers to figure the diameter of flash box needed, but it seems to me that in order to diffuse the light, the flash box must be a certain distance away from the light source. Otherwise, you have a sharp point of raw light hitting your subject, which is hardly flattering.

With my White Lightnings, each soft box is about 15 inches from the source of light, so the soft box acts like window light, soft and gentle.

I don't understand how minature soft boxes, being as close to the source as they are, would diffuse to the same degree as my Chimera. I should think the light would have sharp, focused edges.

On the other hand, it seems I recall that parameters of human visual acuity when viewing an object depends on size, shape, edge contrast and viewing distance.

http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v03/20011228.htm


2/4/2005 12:01:56 AM

Robert N. Valine
BetterPhoto Member
robvalineimages.com

member since: 8/3/2003
  Yes Susan,Your studio soft boxes would certainly work better than an on camera soft box.I'm not talking about using an on camera flash for studio photography.I'm talking about using a flash bracket and soft box for shooting candids.I've also used them recently for close up flash photography of flowers and they work great!.My wedding customers pay me to get the job done and to get it done quickly.I use what works.If these products did'nt work,There would'nt be so many professionals using them.Companys also would'nt be making them for very long.The Sto-Fen Omni bounce is very popular with photojournalists. I see them being used on TV all the time.Soft boxes are popular with wedding photographers because they work and are very versatile.Of course,If I took a picture of someone from 2 feet away it would throw a shadow.I'm not in the habit of doing that.I'm trying to help with the elimination or softening of shadows.Flash Brackets will not eliminate shadows.They can only change the angle of the shadow.My main reason for using a flash bracket is to prevent red eye which is caused by the flash being to close to the camera.The bracket does help by keeping the flash above the camera.Therefore throwing the shadow down rather than to the side.But,It will not eliminate shadows completely.

2/4/2005 7:10:09 AM

  Rob V. wrote: <>

Rob, I have never had red eye occur to any of my subjects in the 45 years I've done photography.

But, I had never had a camera with an internal flash until now, and the internal flash on my Elan 7E, I don't use on people or animals.

In the beginning (1960), I had TLRs, with an off-camera flash and both attached to a side bracket. During the ('80s), I began using SLR's and always attached the flash by sync cord, off the camera. The flash was held about a foot away and higher than the lens, directed at the subject. No red eye! I've always been taught to shoot on a tripod, which not only increases the sharpness of the photos, keeps the camera steadier, but gives me an extra hand to hold the flash.

But, the point is: NO RED EYE!

Granted, using a tripod is not as fluid moving around at a wedding, but one of my teachers (a pro portrait and commercial photographer) has done it. He and his assistant also had several slave units positioned through the room, so that the lighting of the bride and groom did not come from one flash alone. And, of course, close-ups of the couple always had at least 3 lights, 2 of which were slaved units on them.

Danny (my teacher) does use the Stroboframe Camera Flip on his tripod, but it has less to do with red eye, and more to do with having an extra hand and better coordination.

No one in any of his portraiture classes had problems with red eye, perhaps due to the placement of the off the camera flash.

2/4/2005 8:47:43 AM

  Rob V. wrote: "My main reason for using a flash bracket is to prevent red eye which is caused by the flash being to close to the camera."

Rob, I have never had red eye occur to any of my subjects in the 45 years I've done photography.

But, I had never had a camera with an internal flash until now, and the internal flash on my Elan 7E, I don't use on people or animals.

In the beginning (1960), I had TLRs, with an off-camera flash and both attached to a side bracket. During the ('80s), I began using SLR's and always attached the flash by sync cord, off the camera. The flash was held about a foot away and higher than the lens, directed at the subject. No red eye! I've always been taught to shoot on a tripod, which not only increases the sharpness of the photos, keeps the camera steadier, but gives me an extra hand to hold the flash.

But, the point is: NO RED EYE!

Granted, using a tripod is not as fluid moving around at a wedding, but one of my teachers (a pro portrait and commercial photographer) has done it. He and his assistant also had several slave units positioned through the room, so that the lighting of the bride and groom did not come from one flash alone. And, of course, close-ups of the couple always had at least 3 lights, 2 of which were slaved units on them.

Danny (my teacher) does use the Stroboframe Camera Flip on his tripod, but it has less to do with red eye, and more to do with having an extra hand and better coordination.

No one in any of his portraiture classes had problems with red eye, perhaps due to the placement of the off the camera flash.

2/4/2005 8:49:07 AM

Robert N. Valine
BetterPhoto Member
robvalineimages.com

member since: 8/3/2003
  I have had red eye using the flash directly attached to the camera and I know of other people who have had it also.Since I started using a flash bracket I have never had it again.If you are hand holding your flash that is probably the reason that you hav'nt had it.If you attach your flash directly to the camera odds are you will get it at one time or another.There are many ways to shoot a wedding and my advice is to do what works for you and what you are comfortable with. I work alone and must move quickly.I can't be concerned about red eye or shadows.People who work with multiple flash set ups usually work with assistants.I have seen this done.But,it can be very cumbersome.Another thing is that I don't have the customers that are willing to pay for that.Assistants don't work for free.

2/4/2005 1:26:59 PM

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Photography Question 
Tamara Bradley

member since: 1/28/2004
  2 .  What 50mm Lens for my Minolta Maxxum 5?
I own a Maxxum 5 and am looking to purchase a 50mm lens - mostly for weddings/portraiture. I am looking at the Minolta 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.7 lenses. My question is:
* Which is better and/or what is the difference between the two? It appears that all of the specs are the same except for size/weight.

I am also looking at flashes. Any recommendations? I have looked at the Minolta models (3600 and 5600 models mostly) and some Vivitar models.

2/11/2004 12:05:52 PM

Wing Wong
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2004
  Hi Tamara,
Off the bat, one is brighter(f/1.4). I'm also hazzarding to guess that that one is also the bigger one.

The benefit of brighter optics is that you will be able to take shots even when the situation has darkened, ie. inside the church, at night, indoor shots, etc.

The benefit of the lighter one is that you will be able to heft the setup around longer without arm strain. (sorry if this is stuff you know already, just writing stuff down as it comes off the ol'noodle.)

I'm looking at flashes myself and I would have to go with the 5600 models. More adjustment for the flash head for bounces(getting indirect light from the ceiling/walls/etc). The 5600 is also a remotely programmable flashhead. Ie, you link it with your camera and can trigger it remotely with IR from your camera. Very useful.

For wedding photography, I would be looking at a setup that has a good bounce head and maybe a diffuser cover/sock/hood for the flash head to soften the light for a more natural look.
As for the lens, I think it is a matter of how much weight you are willing to put up with and how steady your hand is in darker situations.
You might want to consider a second lens in the 100-150 range for some mid-distance portrait shots and group shots.

Good luck with your wedding photos and portraits! Would love to see some resulting shots! I'm looking at the 3600/5600 myself. However, I'm using the Minolta A!, so I don't have a choice with the lens.

2/11/2004 1:53:00 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  The price difference between f/1.4 and f/1.7 or f/1.8 50mm lenses is due to
(a) the extra 1/2 to 2/3 stop larger maximum aperture, and the larger glass and extra correction that goes with it.
(b) generally better build quality for professional use.

Up to you whether to spend more for the extra speed and build quality of the f/1.4, or be satisfied with the nearly disposable economy of the f/1.7.

2/11/2004 2:48:16 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  P.S. forgot one other thing.

I don't know about the Minolta line, but in Canon, the f/1.4 50 has more aperture blades (8) for rounder, softer, more pleasing out-of-focus highlights (good "bokeh"). The f/1.8 is good and sharp, but the pentagon shaped out of focus highlights from the 5 blade/straight edged aperture isn't as pleasing.

2/11/2004 2:57:10 PM

Adam J. Lucas

member since: 2/8/2004
  Tamara,

I own the 50mm f1.7 Dynax/Maxxum lens and it is extremely sharp. Now the reason you might want to 'upgrade' to the f1.4 version is if you want a lens that is even sharper! The f1.4 is a G lens which means both optically and in construction it is superior to the f1.7. But seriously, how sharp can you get, the 50mm f1.7 lens is extremely affordable on the second-hand market, personally I would go for this one as it is a top performer, the f1.7 aperture is massively wide, and wide enough for low-light work, it also gives a nice bright viewfinder image for critical and fast focusing (the Maxxum 5 has a good bright viewfinder anyway).
Also, when shooting at f1.4 with the G lens, your depth-of-field will be SO shallow that you will have to work very hard to keep your subject's eyes sharp in the photographs. It will however teach you the importance of choosing your focus point wisely.
As for the flash, the main difference is that the 5600 HS(D) flash has a SWIVEL head as well as a bounce head, whereas the 3600HS(D) only has a bounce head (contrary to the comments of other answers here). The other difference of course is the power of the two flashes, the guide no. being incorporated into the model no. i.e 5600 (GN 56) and 3600 (GN 36). THe 5600 also has a few additional features which may or may not be useful to you. The guide no. of 56 would be better for weddings considering the distance between you and your subjects, even only for fill-in flash. All of the mentioned Minolta products are top notch, and you'd be proud to own any of them.
I hope this helps, good luck!

2/14/2004 6:59:42 AM

Tamara Bradley

member since: 1/28/2004
  Thank you everyone for your input and suggestions!! Perhaps for now I will go with the f/1.7 and consider upgrading in the future should it be necessary, and go with the 5600 flash for added versatility.

Thanks a bunch!

2/14/2004 9:14:18 AM

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Photography Question 


member since: 12/1/2003
  3 .  Flash for Canon EOS 650
I just bought an old starter camera for my husband for Christmas. He thinks he might want to get into photography but doesn't have a lot of time, so I just bought him an inexpensive second hand camera to start out with. It does not, however, have a flash with it and I was wondering if anyone could recommend a good but inexpensive flash that I could buy that will work properly with this camera? Thank you.

12/1/2003 9:27:50 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  You should look into getting a Vivitar 285 HV for your Canon EOS. This flash unit has variable power settings built-in, and can be used in automatic or full manual mode. Its flash guide number of 120, makes it one of the most powerful hot-shoe flash units in its price range. While some have complained that the plastic shoe mount is weak, I have never found this to be a problem. The average cost is @ $125, but you can usually find a better price by shopping around.
Good luck,

12/2/2003 4:38:29 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  The Vivitar 285HV is a terrific flash and a new one should give you no problems, but be cautious buying it (or other non-TTL automatic flashes) 2nd hand. Older models (especially the non-HV version of the 285) create high voltage across the contacts that can destroy the 6 volt circuits of an EOS camera.

Flashes designed to function with TTL (through the lens) metering with Canon cameras will be ok to use. Many fine ones to chose from Canon, Vivitar, Sunpak, Sigma, Metz, etc. You'll want a flash head that will tilt/swivel so that you can bounce flash, and the higher the guide-number, the better. These models also tend to have a red autofocus assist light on them to improve focusing in low light.

The newest -EX line from Canon have extra features that the 650 cannot use, so unless you think you'll upgrade to a late model EOS later these should be avoided. Canon's older -E and -EZ line are 100% compatible with the 650.

12/2/2003 5:44:18 AM

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Photography Question 
Simone Severo

member since: 7/30/2002
  4 .  Using Studio Flash
Is it possible to use studio flash without a flashmeter?
I have a Canon Eos Elan 7e and no flash. I am thinking of buying the Alienbees b800 but if I do I won't have the budget now to acquire a flashmeter.

Does any one use a studio flash without the flashmeter? How do you know how much light you use? I have experience in photographing portraits with available light and continuos light, but have never used a studio flash.

I also need to know what to use to connect the flash to my camera, since there is no "hole" to plug any wire to an external studio flash. What kind of cord should I need with this camera?
Thanks for any help.

10/3/2003 3:07:26 PM

Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/20/2001
  Hi Simone.
Yes, you need a flash meter. There is no other way to measure for exposure without a flash meter. Why not get the B400 instead of the B800 and then get a basic flash meter from ebay to get started. JTL and Interfit make really cheap ones that aren't the best meters, but they would get you started until you can afford a "real" meter. I think the Interfit sells at warehouse photo for $69.

As for the "wires" you need - you will need a PC/sync cord, but this comes with the ALien Bees lights. If your camera does not have a PC 'hole' for connection, you can search Adorama for an adaptor (dedicated to your specific camera) that fits on your Canon's hotshoe. Check your camera manual for info on which sync adaptor to use with your camera. Another choice is to go with an infrared remote sensor that also fits onto your camera's hotshoe. This device will remotely set off your strobes without needing a sync cord. Be sure to check around for info on voltage limits, if any, for your camera.

Hope this helps.

10/3/2003 6:57:04 PM

Piper Lehman
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/20/2001
  Forgot to add that you will use the flash meter to find the aperture needed for the shot. Your camera has a sync speed (check your manual) that you must set (in manual mode) on your camera and then you set the aperture given by the flash meter reading. You will connect the sync cord supplied with your B400/800 to your flash meter, which should be set to your desired ISO and sync speed. (note: you can set any speed lower than the sync speed, but never above/faster). Next, you will take a reading by holding the meter at your subject's face (for instance) and pointed toward your camera. The meter will trip the strobe via the sync cord connection and will display the correct aperture to set on your camera. Take the sync cord out of the meter and connect it to your camera via the hotshoe sync adaptor. Now you are connected to the strobe and can take the picture.

Check out Scott Smith's site for more info on lighting and metering. www.lightingmagic.com

10/3/2003 7:03:33 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  The PC adapter for the hot shoe need not be a "dedicated" one for the camera. Any one of the better "generic" types will work just fine. The only thing it needs to connect to is the hot shoe center contact and camera "ground" via the sides of the hot shoe. None of the other hot shoe contacts are needed.

I agree with Piper . . . you really do need a flash meter. Not all come with a trigger socket, especially some of the older ones. I trigger the studio lights by turning on their slaves and using a small hand held flash in a very low power setting aimed straight up and punch its test button when I'm ready to meter the lighting. The light from a hand held flash in a greatly reduced power setting is so low compared to that from the studio lights that it adds nearly zero light . . . especially when aimed upward . . . and it has an equally near zero effect on the metering . . . I'm not certain the difference could even be measured using a practical photographic flash meter.

BTW, even though all my cameras have PC sockets on them I still use the hot shoe adapters. Plugging and unplugging PC cords constantly is hard on the PC sockets. The hot shoe adapter can be left on the end of the cord and simply slid in and out of the hot shoe saving wear and tear on the camera's PC socket and some on the cord plug. It's much, much cheaper to replace one of these adapters than to have a PC socket on a camera body repaired!

10/3/2003 8:51:46 PM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  Get the 400 lights and use the savings to buy a cheap lightmeter. The 400 will give a more accurate visual appearance with the modaling lights. Don't buy a used lightmeter as used usually means something doesn't work all the time. After a couple tests you have the aperture reading memorized and might not need to use the lightmeter all the time if the speed of the film and shutter remain consant.

10/6/2003 5:28:42 AM

Patricia A. Cale
BetterPhoto Member
photosbyphotobug.com

member since: 3/25/2002
  John: I have a question for you about adapters. I have bought generic adapters, but they do not work with my Elan II or my Canon G2. A salesperson at my camera store said I needed to get the dedicated one for Canon EOS cameras. I am using Novatron lights, which I've had for about 15 years.

10/6/2003 6:57:19 AM

RoxAnne E. Franklin

member since: 6/26/2002
  Hi there,
I also have the canon elan 7E and my suggestion to you would be to buy a wein safety sync. You can buy them from B&H and I think mine cost around $69.00, not sure, i've had it for awhile. The reason I suggest this to you is because of all the mechanics inside the elan 7E. It protects the mechanical "workings" of the camera and my philosophy is that it's far better to be safe than sorry. It attaches to the hot shoe and then you attach the pc cords to it. If you have a slave or mono light with slave setup, they will all fire when you press the shutter button.
If you have any questions about the elan 7E, you can email me and I'll help as much as possible.
Happy shooting.

10/6/2003 7:35:11 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Pat,
That may be the case with older studio lights such as yours. Current ones shouldn't be a problem.

There is one very important caution about using old lights with some of the current camera bodies, especially it seems with Canon's. Trigger voltage on *some* older lights is too high for the electronic trigger circuits on current camera bodies. The hot shoe center contact (and PC socket) flash trigger on older cameras used to be mechanical and trigger voltage didn't matter much, other than extremely high voltages could eventually burn the trigger contacts on the mechanical relay inside the camera over a long time (many, many firings). Old lights with high voltage triggers can damage the camera's flash triggering electronics. This isn't just a problem with older studio lights, some older camera mounted flash units are also a problem. I have two like this and must remember never to mount them on two of my camera bodies. Older Vivitar 285 and 283 flash units are notorious for this, likely due to the huge quantities of them made and being commonly found in the old, used generic flash bins at camera stores and at garage sales. It's easily measured using a voltmeter. Old ones will run several hundred volts across the contacts. The new versions shouldn't be more than about six volts. Canon's current camera bodies, both film and digital, are apparently among the more sensitive to higher voltage triggers (I've seen a lot of discussion about this on other forums).

Even with older lights having low voltage flash triggers that won't damage the camera, I've encountered a few problems with a couple camera bodies (they're not Canon) not being able to trigger the lights reliably from a PC cord. Seems the internal light electronics doesn't present enough of a "load" to the camera's triggering electronics. Sometimes, reversing the polarity of the trigger cord solves the problem and sometimes it doesn't. Depends on camera/lights. I know that the Olympus OM-2S, OM-4 and OM-4T are sensitive to this; Olympus' earlier OM bodies with electronic shutters used mechanical relays (OM-2 and OM-2n). Again, current lights shouldn't be a problem . . . and I've never encountered one with a variety of them.

I always measure the trigger voltage with a voltmeter before using lights (or a non-OEM camera mounted flash) I haven't used before. If in doubt about older lights, there are devices that can protect newer cameras from high voltage flash triggers. Paramount and Wein both make them. I don't know if they help with cameras that are finicky about older lights with low voltage triggers. I've always worked around that by using slaves and a very low powered shoe mounted flash aimed straight up to trigger them.

-- John

10/6/2003 8:01:04 AM

Ignacio Alvarez

member since: 10/9/2003
  A most definite YES!!!

How do you think old photographers found the correct lens aperture without a flash meter?

This is how you have to do it.

Set your light the way you want main light and fill in light. Set the shutter speed on your camera to 1/60. Using several sheets of paper 8.5 X 11, write an aperture on each sheet starting with f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8 f/11, f/16 and f/22. Have your assistant or any other person hold one sheet of paper at the time and take one picture of your assistant with each aperture. Have the film developed.

One of these pictures will look very good. You will be able to know which aperture you used in the lens because your subject will have in its hands the sheet of paper that has the correct aperture printed on it.

Now every time you take pictures with this setup, all you have to do is set your light at the same distance and output and you will be all set. You may want to do a test with your light set at different distances. Just write everything down so you know what is what.

Ignacio Alvarez

10/9/2003 11:12:00 AM

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Photography Question 
Karin 

member since: 7/12/2003
  5 .  Buying a Flash
I own a Canon Rebel G. I need some help chosing a flash. When I try to take pictures at night, I push the button to take it and I get a delayed response. Then the picture comes out blurry as if the subject was running by. I don't have one sole purpose for the flash, I take pictures of many different things.

7/23/2003 8:26:13 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  The delayed response is probably due to the red-eye reduction feature, a bright light on the body shines for a second or so to make your subjects' pupils close down. Check your manual, I'm pretty sure this can be turned off so that the flash and shutter will fire immediately.

One reason you may be getting a blurry picture is if you are shooting in Av mode or *Night Scene PIC*, which are slow-sync modes. Shooting flash pictures in green box, P, Tv, or M modes should give you faster shutter speeds, though the Rebel G is limited to 1/90 and slower unless you have an EX series flash.

7/23/2003 11:28:42 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Should be: "One reason you may be getting a blurry picture is if you are shooting in Av mode or *Night Scene PIC* , which are slow-sync modes."

7/23/2003 11:33:00 AM

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Photography Question 
Linda Kessler

member since: 6/24/2003
  6 .  Quickness and Simplicity of Autofocus, Fill Flash
It is getting more difficult to focus with close baby portraits and children on the move with my Nikon FM2. However, I love the simplicity, smallness, and lightness. I am used to shooting manual. I am considering the Nikon N80, for TTL fill flash vs. the Canon EOS system with focus auto tracking. What are your opinions?

Also, when using fill flash that is non-ttl, automatic Sunpack 28 I use the light meter to take a non-flash reading and then open up 2 stops on the flash, e.g. F8 to F4 (can't open up 1 stop on the flash). Or, I keep it at the setting at F8 and use 1/4 power. Is this the best strategy for soft fill flash either outdoors in sunlight or indoors/outdoors with light behind the subject?

7/1/2003 7:15:51 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Linda,
My method for fill outdoors when using a manual camera (Olympus OM-1n) which has an X-sync of 1/60th:
(1) Meter scene somewhere with shutter speed at 1/30th second. Set aperture for that or between that and about half-way toward 1/60th. This is one shutter speed setting longer than the OM's 1/60th X-sync and tightens up the aperture by one to one-half f-stop compared to metering it at 1/60th.
(2) Shift shutter speed to 1/60th. Alternative method is metering at 1/60th and then stopping down by one to one-half f-stop. I've done it both ways.
(3) Ensure flash is turned on and in the Auto mode (uses the sensor built into the flash). Set flash to lens aperture setting. My Sunpak handle mounts and the Metz shoe mounts allow setting power level for "Auto" mode in one f-stop increments over a wide range of lens apertures.
(4) Shoot photograph.

This gets about half the light from ambient and the other half from flash. With your FM2, you should have a little more flexibility with shutter speed. IIRC, its X-sync is 1/125th which would allow you to use that or 1/60th hand held.

I'm not that familiar with the Sunpak 28. Sounds like it's an older unit. My Sunpak's are the 544 and 555 "potato masher" flash handles. The Metz units are the 40 MZ-2 and 40 MZ-3i shoe mounts (very similar to each other), but I have a bracket and handles for them. I also have softboxes for the Sunpaks and bounce cards for the Metz's to soften and diffuse the light.

You might think about buying a more capable flash unit if yours doesn't allow setting power level for its "Auto" mode in single f-stop increments . . . or if it doesn't allow a wide range of them (about five minimum). This could prove to be much less expensive than an entirely new camera system.

Regarding fast moving kids:
Watch their behaviors, what triggers them when they're playing, etc. I think you'll find there is a fair amount of repetition. Then set up the situation to trigger what you want where you want it, or simply wait for it to occur and be prepared in advance as it unfolds. Patience is key and you won't get everything (even with an AF program mode camera).

Hope that helps.

7/4/2003 12:16:47 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Oops . . . garbled (1) above:
(1) Meter subject/scene with shutter speed at 1/30th second. Set aperture for that or somwhere between that and about half-way toward 1/60th. This is one shutter speed setting longer than the OM's 1/60th X-sync. It tightens up the aperture by somewhere between a half and a full f-stop compared to metering it at 1/60th.

Hope that's a bit more understandable.

7/4/2003 12:24:34 AM

Linda Kessler

member since: 6/24/2003
  John,

Thanks for your response. I checked and have a Sunpack 383. I auto mode it only gives me 3 f-stops, e.g. 400ASA, 4, 8 and 16. If I am understanding you correctly, I meter for a scene using 30 for the shutter speed. So let's say it comes to F8. I close down to F11 and change the shutter speed to 60. On the flash unit I use F8 and shoot.

The advantage doing is that I can work in 1 stop increments. As mentioned, I have experimented with shooting the scene usng 60 getting F8 and then opening up to F4. Alternatively, I will stay at F8 both on lens and flash and use only 1/4 power. With using this last way, it may work more like 1 stop.

I like your system and will do a test roll.

If I do invest in another flash unit for my FM2 which do you recommend?

Thanks.

7/4/2003 3:19:16 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Linda,
Hmmmm . . . guess I did garble it some, and your Sunpak 383 complicates things a bit.

I have a 383 although it hasn't been used in quite a while. It's a reliable, fairly powerful, basic shoe-mount auto flash, and their price makes them a very good value. Also can swivel and tilt which most others in is price range cannot do. Even if you get another one, don't get rid of it. Keep it as a backup. It's why I still have mine.

The one drawback of the 383 is its auto mode settings. There are only three, they are two stops apart, and the three f-stops you can use depend on film speed. For the ISO 400 film you mentioned, it can be set for f/4, f/8 or f/16.

This complicates things a little in trying to use the method I tried to outline before.

With ISO 400 film:
(a) Adjust shutter speed using 1/60th or 1/125th for a lens aperture of f/2.8, f/5.6 or f/11. Do this as if you were going to shoot it without flash. If you cannot get one of these apertures using 1/60th, then use 1/125th. Don't use a shutter speed faster than that or your FM2 will not X-Sync properly. If it's a very bright scene such as direct sunlight, you may not be able to do this with ISO 400 film.
(b) Stop down by one f-stop. Your lens aperture should now be set to one of the options you have on the 383.
(c) Set flash in auto mode and select the same f-stop setting on the flash as on the camera lens.

What you are doing:
You are setting an exposure that would be one f-stop underexposed if you shot it without a flash. By setting the lens to an aperture that matches one of the three you can set on the flash, and then adjusting the flash to that same aperture, it will put out enough light to properly expose the photograph.

You may find ISO 400 film too fast during the day outdoors, unless it's very overcast and you're in deeper shade. If you find you cannot get the shutter speed down slow enough to allow an aperture setting you can use on the flash, try ISO 200 film.

This method produces a 1:1 fill ratio. Half the light for the exposure is ambient and the other half is from the flash. It's about the maximum ratio you can provide from a flash before it becomes obvious you used one.

I use this method quite a bit with ISO 160 professional portrait film and a flash that has a lot more auto settings on it than the 383 does. I still have trouble in direct sunlight because I cannot stop the lens down far enough to get an X-sync shutter speed. Because of this I put people into shady areas with lower light levels when doing it. The ambient light in shade is also diffused which eliminates harshness.

Flash recommendations:
These will be a bit more expensive than your Sunpak, but you should be able to find them in excellent condition used with a little patience:

Shoe mount:
Metz 40 MZ-2
Metz 40 MZ-3i
For the FM2, you only need the generic SCA-301 foot and these Metz units should come with one. Used price should be about $200 (presuming it includes the SCA-301 foot). The MZ-2 and MZ-3i are nearly identical with some minor changes in the switches on the back. The 40 MZ-2 is the better value as it a slightly older model and sells for a little less. Metz is a German company and the name is well known among pro photographers. They are very well built, pro grade units.

Handle mount:
Sunpak 544
Sunpak 555
For your FM2, the 544 would be the better choice, and would be a little less expensive. It is more flexible with film speed and auto mode settings. Flash hooks up to camera using a short cord that plugs into the PC flash socket on your camera, and it should come with this cord. The cord will look like a longer, coiled and heavier duty version of the one that came with your 383. You can also use a hot shoe adapter with a PC socket on it if you wish.
The 555 has about the same power level, looks almost identical, but is really made to work with TTL flash control which the FM2 cannot do. It's great with a camera that supports TTL control, but it doesn't have quite the flexibility in Auto mode. I have a 544 and a 555; IIRC they were about $150 or so used.

I'd like to be able to suggest one of the older Nikon Speedlights for your FM2 and found the specs for them (SB-10, SB-15 and SB-16B). Unfortunately, all offer only two f-stop settings in Auto mode giving you less flexibility than your 383 has. Otherwise, the SB-16B is a fine flash unit.

7/4/2003 7:31:11 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Just occurred to me . . .

Do you have an FM2 or an FM2n?

Look at your shutter speed dial. The FM2 has a red "125" in the middle of the other shutter speeds, and a red "X 200" at the end of the shutter speed range. The later FM2n has a red "250" in the middle of the other shutter speeds, and there is no additional red number at the end of the shutter speed range.

7/4/2003 7:37:08 PM

Linda Kessler

member since: 6/24/2003
  John,

I guess I have an FM2n although it says FM2 on the camera, which I always thought I have. But, according do your questions the red "250" is in red. I guess this will play a role in sync speed?

Also, according to your suggestion why is the only advantage of doing it the way you suggested to have a 1 stop vs. 2 stops decrease of light? Why is not the way I mentioned practical, outside of the problem with the two stops. All the literature I have read says to open up not to stop down on the flash. I am just curious. I have done tests and it seems to be fine but I would prefer your expertise. Also, why is not just using 1/4 flash power practical? Again, just interested from a technical point of view.

As far as the flash, I need to understand the shoe and handle mount. I was hoping to get a flash that would fit into the shoe of my camera and also use off the camera with the stobofrom bracket I have. I try to keep things simple. However, I will research what you mentioned. What about the Vivitar flashes? But, not when I think of it I think it also is limited in the Fstops like the Sunpak 383.

Also, I rented a Nikon N90s and set it on auto for fill flash with aperture priority and it seemed to work pretty good. I know the N80 has a pop up flash and I was thinking trying it out with the babies/children portraiture. Do you think that would solve some of my problems. As time goes on I find it difficult to focus with my macro 90 lens with extreme close up portraits. There are some that are too out of focus, even a tiny bit, for my liking. this is why I was thinking of the N80 autofocus, which I can use manual and purchasing a 28-105 macro zoom, 1.4 or close for the aperture. Perhaps in Tokina or maybe Nikon if I can afford it. Any thoughts? I may try to keep using the Nikon FM2 (n) but I will have to see how my focusing goes. I use progressive lenses which I had problems with due to the narrow ranges of optics for each of three distances. So, then it was suggested to have just distance levels when photographing. It has been quite an ordeal. I photograph exclusively fine art, natural shots of pregancy, babies, children, families. If you have the inclination you can view my website, www.focuspocusphoto.com and see some of my work.

You have been terrific. I am a self-taught photographer and always learning.

7/4/2003 7:59:25 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  To address the last thing first . . .
I'm into the Presbyopia age bracket. Won't tell you long I've been there though. :-) It's a PITA getting a waiter to hold the menu across the restaurant so I can read it. Had one pair of progressives made and that was the last set. Drove me crazy hunting for the "sweet spot" all the time.

I assume from your posting that your glasses have some correction for far distance, and not just for mid and reading distances. If you do NOT have astigmatism, or if it's very slight, one of the best things you can do is put a dioptric correction lens into the viewfinder and get rid of your glasses when using the camera. I did this a number of years ago and it was the best thing I ever did to improve focusing speed and accuracy. The difference was quite dramatic. Couldn't see the entire viewfinder image with them and couldn't focus accurately without them. Lived with this misery for many years and now I don't know why I put up with it for so long when the fix was so inexpensive! Unfortunately, if you have significant astigmatism, a dioptric correction lens on the viewfinder won't help. Astigmatism is oriented in a particular direction and cannot be corrected for both orientations of the camera.

Your eye focuses on the image on the focusing screen. The viewfinder optics effectively place this image as if it's several feet in front of the camera. Because of this, viewfinder correction should be based on far distance vision, not reading or mid-distance correciton.

The best method to set up your camera with correction is to go to a camera dealer that has the Nikon dioptric viewfinder correction lenses for the FM2 and find the correction strength that works best for you (same style fits FE2 and FA also). The marked strength may not be exactly the same as your distance prescription due to interaction with the viewfinder optics. Nikon still makes them and suggested list price is just over $20. It screws into the threads on your viewfinder. Then consider adding a eyecup if you haven't done that already (DK-3); list price on them is $12. Didn't improve focus, but it's another Good Thing I did some time ago!

More on fill in a little bit.

7/4/2003 11:04:40 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Major T-storms tonight . . . shut down for a while to protect computer from surges. What a fireworks display we've had this year!

About Fill:
Perhaps I should have first asked why you're using fill.

If it's to bring a shaded subject up to the brightness level of a directly sunlit background, the technique is different from what you've been doing, from what I've described, and a little more involved. Because of the setup time required to do this, I use find acceptable backgrounds outdoors that are equally shaded as the subject (e.g. north side of building, thick stand of trees, tall hedge, etc.) and avoid trying to fill to match a bright background if at all possible. It takes too long to set up and I usually don't have the time to do it (wedding stuff). In addition, the brightness level difference between subject and background is too high to make the effect subtle (usually 3-4 stops). It almost always results in a photograph that shows obvious use of flash.

I use the method I described to add catchlights to the eyes and let the shaded background fall a little lower in brightness compared to the subjects by about a half stop or so (due to farther distance from flash). With a diffuser to cut the harshness (large bounce card on the Metz), the effect is relatively subtle. This is the effect, or something similar, I presume you are trying to achieve.

Metering and setting exposure on the camera as without flash, then setting flash at two stops wider without changing camera settings:
This sets a proper exposure as if there were no flash, and then adds some light with the flash. You will get a slight overexposure, but I believe it will result in variability with the results. Electronic flash output is varied by changing the duration of the flash, not by changing brightness of the Xenon tube. Its brightness when it fires is always the same. As a result, there is a minimum flash duration. You are demanding so little light from the flash that it's very likely up against the minimum duration most (if not all) of the time, and that's why I'm thinking you will get varied results.

Metering and setting exposure on the camera as without flash, then setting flash at same aperture and power level switch to 1/4th:
This will result in much greater overexposure than the other method you've been trying and I belive it's enough to be noticeable. The power level switch has no effect on flash power when the 383 is in Auto mode! Doesn't matter what position the switch is in, it's as if it's set to the "full" position. It's why there's an "A" printed above the "full" position on the switch. The power level switch is only for Manual mode, and only affects flash output when the 383 is in Manual mode.

Handle Mount Flash:
You've undoubtedly seen a "handle mount." They're also called a "potato masher" due to their shape. The flash is permanently attached atop a handle. The handle attaches to a base plate that bolts onto the bottom of the camera using its tripod screw socket.

The handle ends up on the right or left side of the camera depending on how you mount it. Think press photographer from about 25 years ago. It's also how the larger flashbulb units attached to cameras.

Hot shoe mounted flashes can only have so much power. If you really need mondo flash, the only ones that can deliver it are the potato mashers. The 544 has a GN of 140, the 555 has a GN of 150, and they're mild. The Metz 60 CT-4 and Sunpak 622 Super Pro with standard head deliver a whopping 200 GN; almost enough to light up a block party. None of them have a zoom head. These are the GN's for 35mm wide angle lens coverage. Most flash brackets have an optional mounting scheme that allows puting a handle flash onto the top of the bracket (without the base plate for the camera base). They tend to end up being mounted rather high and many feel they make the bracket top heavy.

Shoe Mount:
Your 383 is a "shoe mount" flash and it's what most people own. Do you have a "flip flash" stroboframe, or the "camera rotator" style? Either way, since you're using a camera bracket I recommend you think about one of the two Metz units. Because of their profile, you might have to adjust a "flip flash" style bracket slightly compared to how it would be set up with the slightly higher profile Sunpak 383.

7/5/2003 1:48:48 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  More on the Metz flash units:

There are other reasons I'm thinking one of the two Metz units (40 MZ-2 or 40 MZ-3i) might serve you better than a handle flash and would greatly increase your flexibility using a flash in Auto mode. Both of the the Metz units have an enormous range of settings in Auto mode. IIRC, the aperture settings span f/1 through f/45 in one-stop increments. Unlike every other flash I've used, this doesn't shift with film speed setting. Both also have tilt/swivel zoom heads, *and* a secondary low power flash tube under the main one that does not tilt/swivel. The secondary can be turned on or off as needed. This allows using the main head for bounce and still getting catchlights and eliminating shadows in the eyes using the secondary. All the significant settings are displayed on an LCD panel on the back, and settings are made using pushbuttons just under the panel. I can very rapidly change settings on the Metz units. For use on a bracket there are several methods for mounting cabling them to the camera.

The easiest is using the Metz SCA-307A remote cable. One end replaces the removable foot on the bottom of the flash and has a standard size foot of its own (without any trigger contacts). The SCA-301 foot is attached to the other end and slides into the hot shoe onto your camera. The cord is coiled and fairly heavy duty.

The SCA-301 foot also has a sub-mini phone jack on the side, similar to the one on your 383. A cable similar to the one that came with your 383 plugs into the foot and has a PC plug on the other end to connect to the PC socket on the camera. When the cord is plugged into the SCA-301 foot, the flash contacts on the foot are disconnected so they don't short out if it's mounted in a solid metal shoe (such as the one you have on your Stroboframe).

There's one more method that isn't documented much, even in Metz's literature that uses an SCA-300E foot and an SCA-300A cable. A little more expensive because of the foot and cable, it ends up being very similar to using the SCA-307A remote cord, which is likely why it isn't documented in Metz's literature. Had to figure this one out on my own after becoming familiar with the Metz system of SCA modules, cords and flash feet.

If you ever decide to switch to an AF Nikon, or some other brand, you can create a "dedicated" TTL controlled flash out of either one for whatever camera you purchase. Metz makes an enormous number of SCA-300, SCA-3000 and SCA-3002 series modules that cover nearly every make and model of 35mm SLR manufactured within the past 20+ years.

I use the Sunpak 544 on a Custom Brackets flash bracket with a medium format Mamiya M645, and a Sunpak 120J TTL on another rotating bracket with the 35mm OM bodies indoors. However, for outdoor events I put the Metz units on the brackets. Their flexibility and very wide range of settings enable coping with the very wide range of ambient light encountered outdoors.

You may have to be a little patient in finding one of the Metz flashes. They're not rare, but it took a couple months of checking B&H and KEH used stock periodically to find the second one so I could have one for each camera bracket.

7/5/2003 1:54:30 AM

Linda Kessler

member since: 6/24/2003
  John,

Thanks again for your prompt response. Yes, the fireworks were exceptional tonight. Where do you live?

In regards to the diopter. I went this route already and it doesn't work for my vision. I am inbetween two of them. My progressive lenses work fine, I have had them for years and adjusted to them. They have prescriptions for reading, mid and far. For the reason you mentioned, as far as finding the 'sweet spot', the optometrist made me a pair of distance glasses just for photographing. It works fine. It is just that the detail I need to focus on, reflections in eyes using a 90 macro lense, super close portrait, is diffcult for me to focus. This is the reason I am thinking of the Nikon 80 with autofocusing. I miss having my eye into the viewfinder. I loved that but needed to adjust. I have tried everything else short of an autofocus. As mentioned I will see how the last few rolls of film did. I cannot use an eye cup with the glasses. I thought I couldn't use an eye cup with the diopter either as I recalled as I used to use the diopter until my vision worsened.

I need to research the flash situation as all of what you mentioned is new to me. I didn't know about the 1/4 output nor that the flash is controlled by duration only. Why are there f stops on it then it that doesn't make a difference? And, is the only advantage to your method the fact that I will have a slight (1stop) increase of brightness? Yes, I do not want to light situations. I have used it for when it is dark (subject and and background) but also want to use it for when sunlight is shining on someone's face to prevent dark shadows. However, I do not have time to make many adjustments as when I do my professional shoots I need to be fast, fast, fast. I need to set up a system so I could just put the flash on the camera or bracket, set the shutter, f stops on camera and flash and shoot away. My experience when using 60 on the shutter is that the background is too dark for my liking. I like the scene to look as I see it. Perhaps using a longer shutter would be better. And, perhaps using your method with my Sunpak would work fine except that I ultimately change the shutter from 30 to 60.

And, yes I have the flip-flip strobofrome I can shift it for vertical shots. However, I have done test where it doesn't make a difference whether I use it or not, so for simplification on the camera seems to be best. Red-eye, from my reading, should not occur as it is still high enough above the lense. And, for using the flash outdoors or indoors in not formal, lighting situations I think the flash on the camera would be fine. What are your thoughts. However, I will look into the Metz thing. Again, do you think getting the TTL flash for the Nikon 80 solve my problems, with autofocusing, etc.? I know ultimately I need to test it out and will see. Being in NYC I will go to B&H. If need by I can return it within 2 weeks for a full refund.

Thanks again

7/5/2003 5:08:58 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Linda,
Central Indiana, north of Indianapolis. About seven inches of rain in as many hours. Major flooding . . . worst I've ever seen here. The local man-made show ended just in time. It was eclipsed by a much more spectacular one provided by Mother Nature throughout the night.

The switches on the back of the 383:

Mode Switch:
This one has a manual plus three different auto settings. In the manual position, the flash puts out the amount of light determined by the power level switch. In the three auto positions, it sets the sensitivity of the auto sensor on the front of the flash, not the flash power level. In all three auto mode positions, the position of the power level switch is disregarded and has no effect.

Power Level:
Allows setting flash output level when flash is used in Manual mode and has no effect on flash output if the mode switch is in one of the three Auto settings. It also moves the distance scale across the lower window, but it does not change the position of the lens apertures in the upper one. If the flash is in one of the three Auto modes, the only relevant position for this switch is in the "full/A" position . . . the distance scale in the lower window will show the correct flash range (minimum and maximum distance) for an auto setting only if it's in the "full/A" position.

Film Speed:
This is not really an electrical switch. All it does is move the lens apertures back and forth across the upper window to show what aperture to use for a particular auto mode setting and film speed . . . or in manual mode to show what aperture to use based on film speed, power level setting and focus/subject distance.

I'll get to the rest of your questions tommorrow . . . getting late and need to put a dent in a pillow for a while. :-)

7/6/2003 12:51:36 AM

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Photography Question 
Laurie Terry

member since: 6/5/2003
  7 .  Where to begin with External Flash Options
I, too, have been asked to shoot a friends wedding. I feel it's time to invest in a flash unit. There are so many options, that I'm baffled as to which one and which bracket will work best with my Nikon N80. I usually use my Nikon 28-80mm lens and love doing portraits. Another neighbor of mine had a friend do her wedding and not one shot turned out as the amatuer said her flash was not in sync. This is my fear. Can you explain the external flash TTL process or recommend some good reading material so that I will know what to purchase and how to begin practicing with it.

7/1/2003 7:00:03 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Before I get to your specific flash question . . .

I have been photographing weddings professionally on a part-time basis for a number of years. IOW, I also have a "day job." The weddings are not the "high end" ones so often depicted in magazines. They're the mainstream middle-class ones, and I work them "solo" without an assistant.

Unless this is a *very* casual ceremony with only a few in attendance, shooting a wedding is a huge responsibility and entails a *lot* more than those who have not done it before can imagine. It will challenge everything you know about photography, and then some. It may also exhaust your diplomatic skills working with people you have never met before . . . who may or may not be all that cooperative or respectful of what you're trying to do. It's not that common, but it can happen. Paid photographers are also subjected to this, but probably not quite as often. The key is the respect and cooperation you get from bride/groom. The rest generally follow their lead.

I have a "wedding survival guide" that I wrote specifically for those who have been asked by friends/relatives to shoot their wedding:
http://johnlind.tripod.com/wedding/

On to your question:
TTL = "Through the Lens"

Built in exposure meters on SLR's measure the light coming through the lens. Only that portion of the scene that will end up on film influences the metering, and consequently the exposure. Although it's not 100% perfect in any camera, it is inherently more accurate than other reflected metering methods that average across an entire scene as it is not influenced by anything just outside the view of the lens.

TTL Flash Control makes use of the camera's metering to control how much light the flash puts out. To do this there must be additional electrical connections between flash and camera beyond the one used to trigger the flash. Each camera manufacturer has implemented TTL flash control differently, including the number, location and function of electrical contacts in the "hot shoe." Becase of this, TTL flash requires a "dedicated" flash unit that is made specifically for your camera brand and model.

For Nikon system TTL flash units, I strongly suggest the SB-28 or SB-28DX which you should be able to find used. It was recently replaced with the SB-80DX which is quite similar. You will NEED the flash power these are capable of producing. A bit of "overkill" in power capability allows your flash to recycle much, much faster if it's not having to punch out everything it has (it keeps what it didn't use). The recovery time difference is dramatic . . . from 6-7 seconds down to only 2-3. Might not sound like much, but 6-7 seconds waiting for flash recycle at a wedding doing the portraits, or during the major reception events seems like an eternity . . . and can cause you to miss candids.

-- John

7/3/2003 12:04:12 PM

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Photography Question 
Paul K. 

member since: 6/14/2003
  8 .  Flash Equipment
I have retired and now have time to follow my interests. I have a Minolta SRT-101 (1974) and the flash unit I purchased with it will not charge.

I guess I'm looking for a suggestion on what flash to get (new or used). The Minolta is match needle and there is neither automatic focus nor auto exposure - only a hot-shoe mount.

Therefore I guess my flash needs are pretty simple - although I think I've forgotten everything I once new about guide numbers. Thanks

6/14/2003 11:27:00 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  You don't need/can't use a dedicated TTL flash, just get a good manual or auto via built-in sensor. Fitting this category:

Vivitar 2800 is a nice basic inexpensive unit. More powerful and more manual modes are the Vivitar 283 and 285HV. Sunpak 383 is similarly powerful, and allows head to swivel as well as tilt, so you can bounce flash with the camera held vertically. I'm not as familiar with Metz's line, but they are also highly regarded.

6/14/2003 1:51:45 PM

Paul K. 

member since: 6/14/2003
  Thank you very much, Jon C, for your helpful answer. I'm very glad I found this site.

6/14/2003 6:45:30 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Jon mentions all three of the standard, basic, shoe mounted auto flashes that have withstood the test of time, and they're among the most powerful on the market.

IMO, the Vivitar 285HV is a better buy than the Vivitar 383. The 285HV comes with some features that are accesories to the 283 and must be purchased separately. Add up the cost of a 283 plus these accessories and it's more than the price of a 285HV.

Metz is a German company that makes an enormous line of superb flash units. They're reliable, very durable and the upper half of their line caters to professionals. Well known in Europe and among professionals in the U.S., most non-pros in the U.S. have never heard the name. The design, build quality, and durability of their pro-grade flashes spill downward into the lower half of their line that caters to the consumer market. Within the Metz line for the SRT-101, the "32 Z-1" and slightly less powerful "36 C-2" are their basic auto-flashes. Between the two, the 32 Z-1 is more powerful (in spite of its model number). Both have a manual zoom head that tilt. The 32 Z-1 also swivels. Between the two, my recommendation is the 32 Z-1. More expensive new compared to the Vivitar 285HV or Sunpak 383, they can be found used in very excellent condition for about the price of a new Vivitar or Sunpak. The English version of Metz' web site with their Mecablitz flash products:
http://www.metz.de/1_metz_2000/m_pages_english/main_index_e.php3?link=4&sub=1&linkname=mecablitz

6/15/2003 6:49:40 AM

Maynard  McKillen

member since: 3/5/2003
  Dear Paul:
If I write a few sentences I suspect you'll quickly recall everything you may have forgotton about guide numbers.
Current "auto" flash units are so quick and easy to use that fewer photographers use a flash in manual, which is where it helps to know the guide number. With the flash set to manual, you focus the lens, read the subject-to-camera distance off the lens, and divide the guide number by that distance. The number that results is the f/stop you will use. If you give it a moment's thought, you probably realize that the f/stop number you get as an answer will not always be one you recognize, or one that appears on the f/stop ring of the lens. It may, in fact, be some intermediate value, in which case you might round it to the nearest full f/stop, or half stop, and depend on the exposure latitude of the film to cover the slight discrepancy.
All of the flash units mentioned in the responses above will also have some sort of graph, scale or display on the back or side of the unit that indicates which f/stop should be used for a given distance and film speed. Purist practitioners of manual flash will tell you to be wary of these scales or displays: They argue, often accurately, that the guide number assigned by the manufacturer to a given model is often, well, "generous."
Of course, you can use the auto flash settings these flash units also have, which work just fine for an SRT-101. A thyristor circuit in the flash will quench output when it detects enough light has reflected off the subject to provide correct exposure. A scale or chart on the flash tells you which f/stop to use. In auto flash mode, an f/stop will provide correct exposure over a range of distances, say, five to fifteen feet, not just one specific distance, which is the case in manual mode. Auto flash is convenient, to say the least.
Sometimes auto flash circuitry can be fooled by very light or very dark subjects, just the way the camera's built-in meter can sometimes be fooled, but as someone who has used almost every one of those flash units mentioned above, in auto, I can say that auto flash is accurate for a wide variety of situations. (Again, the exposure latitude of current films can often help you obtain satisfactory results in those situations where auto flash might be fooled.)
Well, once again I've managed to write more than anybody cared to know on a topic. I'll have to rig a timer or a lock-out on this keyboard...

6/15/2003 6:09:53 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Maynard remembered the GN math correctly . . . divide GN by subject distance for aperture setting. However, the GN for nearly all electronic flash units is ONLY given for ISO 100 film. A flash's GN changes with film speed. For something other than ISO 100 film, here's the conversion formula for a GN given for any film speed to another film speed:

GN[new] = GN[old] * squareroot(ISO[new]/ISO[old])

Examples:
If the GN for a flash is given in the specs as 120 for ISO 100 film, in feet, and you wish to use Kodachrome 64, the new GN becomes:
GN[new] = 120 * squareroot(64 / 100)
GN[new] = 120 * squareroot(0.64)
GN[new] = 120 * 0.8
GN[new] = 96
Now load up a roll of Royal Gold 200 and calculate the new GN:
GN[new] = 120 * squareroot(200 / 100)
GN[new] = 120 * squareroot(2)
GN[new] ~= 120 * 1.414
GN[new] ~= 170

Do this in the comfort of your home using a calculator and write the guide numbers for a list of different film speeds for your flash onto a 3x5 card. Stuff the card into the camera bag . . . or tape it to the flash (if taping things to your equipment doesn't bother you). This beats carrying around a calculator and trying to remember the equation to use.

-- John

6/15/2003 9:20:17 PM

Paul K. 

member since: 6/14/2003
  Thanks again to Jon, John and Maynard. You guys have been great. I am going to start looking for a flash this week.

6/15/2003 9:40:50 PM

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Photography Question 
Gary 

member since: 6/13/2003
  9 .  Flash Sync Speeds
I have a manual camera with "flash sync" speed of 1/30 (I don't know what
that means) and I want to take pictures at longer exposures
(.5-1 seconds @ f/2.8). What type of flash do I need to buy and how do I set up the flash? The camera has a hot shoe & PC socket.

6/13/2003 8:42:45 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Yours sounds like an older camera model without any electronic communication with the flash. What you need is a basic manual or "auto-thyristor" (built-in sensor) flash, like the Vivitar 2800, 283, or 285HV. If your camera has a "hot" shoe then there is an electronic contact (small round bare metal dot in the middle) to activate the flash and you do not need to use a PC cord. If the shoe does not have that contact, then you need a flash that will accept a PC cord from the camera.

The flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with electronic flash. You can use any longer shutter speed with flash. Using longer shutter speeds will not affect the exposure given to your near subject that is lit by the flash, but will give more exposure (brighten up) to the background.

6/14/2003 2:13:15 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  All three flash units Jon mentions come with a short PC cord when new. When plugged into the flash, it disconnects the flash hot shoe contacts so they won't short out on a solid metal accessory shoe. Many people throw them away, or lose them, so they're not often found with used ones. However, you can get replacent cords from Vivitar and Sunpak.

I am curious . . . what make and model is this camera? If the sync speed is 1/30th, it must be quite old, and that *may* be what the sync speed was for flashbulbs. Depending on the make/model and how the flash sync was designed, you *might* be able to run it at 1/60th with an electronic flash. Depends on whether or not it was set up for "X-Sync" or not (common when "F" type flashbulbs were created). OTOH, there are many older cameras with "M" and "F" syncs thay may cause some problems with electronic flash (fires too early). One way to find out is to test it with some film and a flash.

-- John

6/15/2003 12:27:51 PM

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Photography Question 
Paully O'Reilly

member since: 11/29/2002
  10 .  what is a guide #?
I use a Canon Rebel G, and am in the market for a decent bounce flash. In some very preliminary research I have taken an interest in Sunpak's 383 Super something, & the 433D TTL models. I have yet to look at many other brands, mostly because Sunpak came highly recommended by a friend of mine. I am a 2nd year student at an art college, so I don't need anything too crazy, but on the other hand I would like to have something that will last me a while. Not just in terms of ruggedness & durability, but also sufficient features
to the extent that I won't likely outgrow it in 2 or 3 years. I intend to use it chiefly for portraits, but I suppose once I've familiarized myself with it well enough I'll want to use it to enhance alot of my pictures. I'm thinking somewhere in the realm of $60-$200. Anyway, any thoughts on these or other units would be sincerely appreciated. Also, in referencing specs I came across a few mentions of the flashes "120 guide #". Could anyone tell me what this is? A power output rating perhaps? And I was also curious as to whether a dedicated flash would work with a Nikon digital camera. I know it wouldn't meter TTL, and I suspect it wouldn't meter at all. But would it at least go off in sync when the shutter opened? Do I need manual controls to do this? Even if it's only to answer one of these many questions, I'll value any response or suggestion anybody can give me. Thanks a lot.

- Paully Fitz

11/29/2002 3:13:37 AM

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