Modern flashes are extremely versatile, thanks to their compact size and relatively low power consumption in comparison to studio lights, alongside amazing features like wireless control over flash functions, a variety of lighting modes for a variety of lighting effects and automatic TTL (through-the-lens) synchronization of exposure even at long distances. There are more choices to consider than your camera maker’s dedicated system flash, as well.
The fully featured Mecablitz 58 AF-2 flash from Metz offers TTL abilities with most of the major camera brands. The head features a 300º swiveling design with evaluative preflash for establishing best exposure, as well as a W/A Diffuser for an even spread of diffusion when using wide-angle lenses. If the camera offers a built-in flash, the 58 AF-2 also can be controlled wirelessly from the camera and an auto-zoom feature can be set to match the sensor size. List Price: $445.
For Canon, Nikon and Sony models, the Di866 Mark II flash from Nissin includes an easy-to-navigate, two-way color display. The Mark II can be used with wireless TTL setups and flash groupings as both commander and slave unit, and it includes an adjustable TTL default level for an additional source of exposure compensation. Estimated Street Price: $349.
With a guide number of 80, the Starfire Digital Flash from Photoflex is an affordable, no-frills manual flash that can be used as an optical slave. It also can be used in a mode that will ignore preflash for use as a slave when working with TTL flashes. What makes it really exciting is that it’s available in studio kits with a variety of light-modification tools for transforming the flash into a small studio lighting setup. Estimated Street Price: $129 (flash only).
Quantum Instruments TRIO series of TTL hot-shoe flashes include built-in FreeXwire radio triggers for up to 600 feet of reliable control over remote Qflash units, and even Nikon or Canon flashes with the optional Qlink. The parabolic reflector produces a high-output burst with an even light spread. Bare-bulb lighting is possible by removing the reflector. The TRIO requires an additional Turbo battery purchase. Estimated Street Price: $875.
The Sigma EF-610 DG Super Flash produces a powerful light output that’s compatible with wireless TTL systems from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sigma. An auto-zoom function covers a range of 24mm to 105mm with a built-in Wide Panel for working with wide-angle lenses. The head swivels 180º to the left and 90º to the right, with a tilt of +90º to -7º for close-up work. Sigma also offers cost-saving "ST" versions of the flash that forego the more advanced features of the Super models. Estimated Street Price: $255 (Sigma EF-610 DG Super Flash); $165 (Sigma EF-610 DG ST Flash).