Digital Photo Magazine’s 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards
BEST HIGH-POWER FLASH
Profoto bills the A1 as “the world’s smallest studio light,” and this first on-camera flash from the legendary lighting company can produce 350 full-power flashes with a 1.2-second recycling time. The round flash head produces light that’s more pleasing than traditional rectilinear flashes and the flash works with other Profoto lights.
Digital Photo Magazine’s 2016 Editors’ Choice Awards
Shooting with available light is great, but at a certain point, you need to be able to control your light to get the photos you want. Many photographers feel intimidated by using strobes and flashes, though today’s camera technology makes using “artificial” light easier than ever. Better still, manufacturers are stepping up the technology in the systems, allowing photographers to trigger them wirelessly from great distances, prevent overheating, allow for settings to be changed via apps and allow for firmware updates. The strobes and flashes in this year’s Editors’ Choice Awards all represent the smart product and interface design elements that are making it easier than ever to take control of your lighting.
BEST ON-CAMERA FLASH
Canon Speedlight 600EX II-RT
If you’re a Canon shooter, you should have the 600EX II in your camera bag, as it’s the best on-camera flash the company has ever created. Flash-firing speeds are improved up to twice the speed of the previous model when using the new Compact Battery Pack CP-E4N. The flash auto-adjusts focus for lens lengths of between 20mm and 200mm, and the unit has wireless and optical controls that allow remote placement of up to five groups all triggered by one commander, all metered in-camera for perfect exposure. The flash is dust- and water-resistant, allowing for continued shooting when the weather turns foul.
BEST ON-CAMERA FLASH
Nikon Speedlight SB-5000
Nikon’s new SB-5000 is the company’s top-end flash, and it (finally) supplements the existing wireless optical system with a radio-based trigger. As many as six groups of lights can be controlled from a single unit, and they can be managed up to nearly 100 feet away. We particularly like that the SB-5000 features the first hot-shoe strobe flash-cooling system, which allows for up to 100 flashes before it needs to stop and cool—solving a longstanding issue often encountered by wedding, event and news photographers.
BEST COMPACT FLASH
Metz mecablitz 26 AF-2
In addition to having an awesome name—who doesn’t like to say “mecablitz”— the 26 AF-2 is a perfect go-anywhere flash for those who don’t want to carry around a large, bulky unit but still want plenty of power. The “26” is the guide number in meters, meaning the flash can illuminate subjects up to 26 meters (about 80 feet) away. It also has a built-in video light, making it a perfect choice for the photographer who’s also shooting talking-head video and B-roll. The flash has a built-in USB port for installation of firmware updates, allowing the 26 AF-2 to stay up to date at all times.
Broncolor Siros 800 WiFi/RFS 2.1 Monolight
We love the features packed into the new Broncolor Siros unit, like the built-in wireless control that enables users to dial in settings with the bronControl app. Of course, you can also use a standard PC cable or flash detector (for slave mode) to control the light, but we like to set it up and control it from a tablet as if we were the staff photographer aboard the Enterprise. The Siros 800 has a “Speed Mode” that reduces the flash duration and charging times to allow for back-to-back shooting without overheating. Broncolor has color temperature regulators to ensure that the light color is the same at any output level, a must for serious studio shooting.
BEST COMPACT SELF-CONTAINED STUDIO FLASH
Paul C. Buff DigiBee DB400 and DB800
The AlienBees line of studio flashes has always been some of our favorites, and the new DigiBees line is even better. More compact than the AlienBees, the DigiBees offer seven stops of power and come in a 400 w/s and an 800 w/s unit, both of which get our nod for Best Compact Self-Contained Studio Flash. All the models, which are available in four colors, include a 400W LED modeling light that’s daylight-balanced. The “Digi” in the name refers to the port for the company’s CyberSync CSXCV transceiver, which can control up to 16 lights on 16 different frequencies, plus it can store lighting setups, so you’ll never have to dial into your favorite studio solution again. At 2.5 pounds, the DigiBee can go anywhere, and even can run off of the company’s Vagabond portable batteries.