Flash & Lighting

For capturing exciting images and well-balanced exposures, a flash is an indispensable tool that can greatly expand the creative possibilities and quality of your photography. Making colors brighter even in daylight, removing shadows from faces, adding catchlight to eyes and opening up the foreground in early-morning and late-evening scenics all become possible when using an accessory flash.

Advanced metering, manual options and a variety of automatic modes offer extended control that goes further than what your camera’s built-in flash can typically do. Beyond that, a flash also can extend the range and accuracy of your D-SLR’s autofocus system with a built-in AF assist beam that aids focusing in low light. Take note of compatibility, though, because some work properly with only their own systems and, more specifically, some features are only available when used with specific cameras.

For even more control and flexibility, you can change the quality of the light emitted by a flash by bouncing or diffusing it. Using a diffuser over the flash head will soften the light’s appearance, reducing harsh shadows and high contrast. Other simple, easy-to-use accessories like portable continuous lights, collapsible reflectors and ring-flash units serve to better illuminate what you’re shooting.

For its convenience and portability, a flash is the most popular choice for adding light to the scene. If you’re considering upgrading an older unit, know that recycling times have been greatly improved in new models, so you won’t have to wait long to continue shooting. Many newer flash units have a swivel head that can be aimed at a reflective surface, like a ceiling or wall, to bounce light for softer, indirect illumination.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II

The Canon Speedlite 580EX II has a maximum GN of 190, rotates 180 degrees in either direction for maximum bounce flexibility, and is resistant to dust and water. Other features include 20-percent faster recycling than its predecessor, E-TTL II operation for a variety of Canon cameras and an external metering sensor for non-TTL automatic flash exposure control. White-balance information is instantly transmitted to the SLR’s processor for ensuring accurate colors. Estimated Street Price: $499.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1

Compatible with all popular D-SLR cameras, the Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 has a USB port that allows future firmware updates via the Internet. With a GN of 190, the bounce head offers zoom coverage from 24mm to 105mm, and a built-in wide-angle diffuser expands that range to 18mm. Depending on the camera model, the 58 AF-1 offers high-speed synchronization and wireless TTL operation. Also included are specially designed reflectors that help boost output, a reflector card that flips open for soft flash lighting and an LCD display. Estimated Street Price: $399.

Nikon SB-900 Speedlight

One of the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight‘s most innovative features is its variety of light-distribution patterns. Standard and Center-weighted are ideal for portraits, while Even works optimally for group or interior shots. With a GN of 111.5, the flash covers an improved zoom range of 17-200mm in FX format (full frame) or as wide as 12mm for DX-format SLRs. Along with standalone use, the SB-900 can operate wirelessly as the trigger unit or as the wireless remote light source. In Wireless Commander Mode, the flash can control an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights. Estimated Street Price: $499.

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Olympus FL-50R

For its E-series D-SLR system, Olympus has the FL-50R, with a GN of 164. The unit works with automatic TTL modes, auto and manual modes and shutter modes. The head swivels 180 degrees in either direction, and a built-in diffuser lets you disperse the light when necessary. The FL-50R has its own AF illuminator, which extends the camera’s autofocus, and flash intensity can be controlled at 1?3 EV steps. Estimated Street Price: $400.

?Pentax AF540FGZ

The Pentax AF540FGZ is loaded with advanced features like P-TTL autoflash with preflash evaluative metering, high-speed synchronization and wireless TTL capability. A simple control dial manages flash exposure compensation, and the unit has auto-zoom capability from 24mm to 85mm. A modeling light strobes the flash for one second before capture so you can check for unwanted shadows or highlights. An AF assist beam helps with focusing in low light. The bounce head swivels 180 degrees to the right and 135 degrees to the left. It has a GN of 178. Estimated Street Price: $479.

Quantum Qflash TRIP QF8

The high-performance Quantum Qflash TRIO QF8 combines a Qflash head that mounts to the camera shoe with a built-in FreeXwire TTL radio transmitter and a QTTL adapter for Canon and Nikon D-SLRs. Key features include a GN of 111, built-in RF capabilities for wireless TTL, sync and shutter control. A parabolic reflector produces studio-quality light and can be removed for bare-bulb, wide-angle, diffused and telephoto reflectors. Also notable is a USB port for firmware updates and a fast recycling time of 1 to 1.5 seconds. Estimated Street Price: $875.

Sigma EF-530 DG SUPER

With auto-zoom capability from 24mm to 105mm and TTL control, the Sigma EF-530 DG SUPER is designed to work with all popular camera manufacturers. A built-in wide-angle panel extends coverage to 17mm. The bounce head can tilt up 90 degrees, to the left by 180 degrees or to the right by 90 degrees. Other features include a manual mode that allows you to set the flash-power level by up to eight stops, wireless capability for using it off-camera and an Auto Power-Off function that conserves the battery. Estimated Street Price: $420.

Sony HVL-F58AM

With a recycling time that’s 55-percent faster than its predecessor, the Sony HVL-F58AM features auto-zoom capability from 24mm to 105mm, and a built-in wide-angle panel extends that coverage to 16mm. The Quick Shift Bounce system allows the flash to swivel 90 degrees left and right, as well as tilt down 10 degrees or back 150 degrees. It also offers a GN of 190, high-speed sync (up to 1?4000 sec.) and wireless control of up to three groups of flashes. Estimated Street Price: $499.

Sunpak PZ42X

Designed for Canon and Nikon D-SLRs, the affordable Sunpak PZ42X has a GN of 138, bounce and swivel capability, and an AF assist lamp with a 16-foot range. Other features include an automatic zoom head from 24mm to 105mm, built-in wide-angle diffuser, variable-power-output settings, an automatic shutdown mode and a bright LCD display with easy-to-use controls. Estimated Street Price: $149.


Litepanels Micro

Collapsible reflectors are ideal for travel and outdoor photography because they’re easy to transport and allow you to bounce light to open shadows, increase contrast or change the light’s direction.

A continuous light gives you a better idea of how an image will look, but it also consumes a lot of power and produces a lot of heat. The Litepanels Micro resolves this issue through heat-free LED technology. The camera light provides 11?2 hours of light on four AA batteries and up to eight hours on Energizer’s e2 AA batteries. It outputs 5600°K cool, white daylight while drawing minimal power. Light can be dimmed using a dial at the top of the unit’s housing. It measures 3.3×3.3×1.5 inches and weighs less than four ounces. Estimated Street Price: $299.

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Creative Light Spring-Loaded Reflectors

Flashpoint 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc Reflector

Creative Light‘s spring-loaded reflectors pop open and come in gold/silver, silver/white, sunfire/white and translucent. With the Flashpoint 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc Reflector, you can add warm or soft fill light, and there’s a black cover for shielding light from part of the scene. The kit contains translucent, white, black, silver and soft gold, and it’s easy to break down for travel. Estimated Street Price: $15 to $143 (Creative Light); $39 (Flashpoint).

LumiQuest Quik Bounce

The LumiQuest Quik Bounce and Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce diffuse the direct light created by a flash and spread illumination more evenly on your subjects. The Quik Bounce features a unique design that includes mini-barndoors that open to combine bounced light from the ceiling with bounced light from the rest of the room

Sto-Fen Omni-

for a more ambient mix. The Omni-Bounce is a plastic diffusion cap that creates a bare-bulb effect. Tilted to 45 degrees, the unit produces nice wraparound light with a soft shadow behind the subject. Estimated Street Price: $44 (Quik Bounce); $19 to $24 (Omni-Bounce).

Imaging Ray Flash

For portraits, a ring light is a great tool because it creates a soft, shadow-wrapped look around your subject, but they can get expensive. ExpoImaging’s Ray Flash and the Orbis Ring Flash are a couple of more affordable options that are designed to achieve this look. The Ray Flash is a light, portable adapter that relies on the hot-shoe flash to generate light so it contains no electronics or flash tubes and requires no cables.

Orbis Ring Flash

The Orbis Ring Flash works with a range of flash units and strobes, and weighs just over a pound. Estimated Street Price: $199 (Ray Flash); $199 (Ring Flash).

Containing a mix of grids, snoots, reflectors, gobos and gels, the Honl Photo Speed System represents a versatile collection of sturdy and compact light modifiers. The

Honl Photo Speed System

tools are designed to fit all shoe-mount flashes and attach easily with the Speed Strap, a non-slip Velcro® strap that wraps around the flash head. Estimated Street Price: $9 to $29.

Photoflex LiteDisc

Photoflex LiteDisc reflectors are durable, lay flat for creating even reflections and are double-laminated to prevent light from going through the surface, giving you more reflection on your subject. They’re available in gold/silver, silver/black, soft gold/white, translucent, white/gold and white/silver, and range from 12 inches to 52 inches. They fold down to one-third of their actual size for easy transport. Estimated Street Price: $16 to $79.

About Guide Numbers
The power rating of a flash comes in the form of a guide number (GN). The traditional equation for calculating a guide number is: GN = ƒ-stop x flash-to-subject distance (assuming an ISO of 100). So, the guide number, divided by the selected aperture, will give you the approximate range of illumination. The problem with this spec is that it’s not consistently reported. Some manufacturers base their calculation using ISO 200, for example, which increases the GN by a factor of about 1.4. To further complicate the equation, some flashes will adjust their output based on the focal length of your lens. You can use the guide number to get a general idea of how powerful the flash output is (higher numbers mean more power), but with the caveat that this is more useful for comparing flashes within the same family than from manufacturer to manufacturer.

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