Help choosing a flash

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Aperture, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. Aperture macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #1
    Hi Everyone. Keep in mind I don't know too much about lighting, but know some. I am looking for an external flash of some sort for my Nikon D50. The reason I am looking to be purchasing one is I feel I want more control with the lighting.. Most of the time I have bad lighting to work with. I've looked around and really don't understand the point of having a radio one as opposed to having an onboard one. What are some good brands? Am I looking at even somewhat realistic budget of around $70-100?

    Thanks
     
  2. Silentwave macrumors 68000

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    #2
    That sort of budget is pretty low. the D50 uses the state of the art i-TTL flash system, and TTL metering only works with compatible flashes. There are only three companies that make them- Nikon proper, select Sigma flashes, and Metz makes an i-TTL version. Out of these, the Nikon ones are the most reliable and diverse, as some of the Sigmas have had trouble with certain cameras.

    Normally you'd be looking at at least the $165-180 range, but Nikon just released the compact but powerful and versatile SB-400 strobe for about $110ish. Far more power than the built-in flash, tilting head, and the like. I'm thinking about buying one for a travel strobe.
     
  3. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Not if you want TTL. You can use an old nikon speedlight in manual mode.

    For all you ever need to know about off-camera lighting, http://strobist.blogspot.com

    I use a nikon sb-28 on my canon 20D in manual mode.
     
  4. failsafe1 macrumors 6502a

    failsafe1

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    #4
    You have several options. You mention a radio unit but I don't think you can find one in your price range. There are several generic brands in that range but I don't have any experience with any of them. I have only used Vivitar, Nikon, and Canon flash units. If you search on the BH photo web site you can see the generics I mean, Nissin, Culmin, Phoenix etc. There are a couple of name brands, Sunpak and Metz that fall in your price range. KEH is a good place to look for used gear. The strobe mounted unit will give you more coverage, more power for a better F stop and if you combine it with a coiled cord from Nikon you can get great results. Bouncing your strobe becomes available with a shoe mounted unit and this gives nice results. Most people want to move on to a shoe unit from the pop up flash after some work. My experience with external units and a pop up unit show that the pop up will not fire the external unit. This may not be the case with a D50.
     
  5. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #5
    This is dependent on the flash and not the camera. The flash must be able to be fired as an optical slave.
     
  6. wmmk macrumors 68020

    wmmk

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    #6
    Hey Kevin

    As I've said before, the $20 RF slaves at gadgetinfinity .com are great. They're not pocketwizards, but certainly better (from my own experience) than optical slaves. While newer nikon speedlights offer iTTL and such, an old Vivitar workhorse will be much cheaper. Oh, and when I say workhorse, I mean it. While daunting at first, operating the 285HV can be very pleasant once one becomes competent with its functions (if the last sentence sounded like a term paper, it's because I just wrote one:p). I got a decent single flash off camera lighting setup with an 8' stand for $120. If you buy a used flash and Japanese generic brand RF transmitters, your budget is fairly realistic. Also, don't bother getting a flash if it won't be used off camera. Unless you shoot news or something like that, a flash has no place on the top of your camera. It will make everything look washed out and 2 dimensional. As others have said, the strobist blog is basically the online bible of cheap lighting.

    Happy shooting!
     
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #7
    If you want autometed flash you need about 3X more budget. Put if you can do simple math in your head and your subjects don't move a lot you can do fine for $75 and no one will know you didn't use an expensive SB800.

    If you are wiling to use manual flash, the brand does not matter. Light is light. The "clasic" is the Vivitar models 283 and 285. These are very powerfull sturdy and available used for maybe $60 to $50. Buy two or three of these. mount them on cheap tripods and you have a studio light system for cheap. Trigger then either with long sync cords or use "peanut slaves" made by a company called Wein. I used a setup like then until a bought a "real" studio setup from a studio that went broke and sold off some Norm and power pack stuff.

    If you can't find the Vivitar strobes, look for Sunpack. But the older Nikon strobes are going cheap now. Under $100 because Nikon changed their flash system. Look for SB27 and lower numbers down to SB16.

    Not much to know about light. It has "intensity", "softness" and "direction" and you can control all three.
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #8
    Even if it would work you would not want it to.

    When I use my lights I place an optical slave in a power pack unit that sets under the tripod. Yes I could use the pop-up flash on my D50, The pop-up's light would hit the subject and some of it bounce back and trigger the slave which in turn would trigger the big strobe heads. But I don't like that part where I said "The pop-up's light would hit the subject". Three inches above the lens in almost always the wrong place for a light. So I use an older Nikon SB26 set to 1/16th power aimed backwards and up. to trigger the slave. If you are using an optical slave you want the triggering strobe pointed away from the subject.

    The make infra-red systems and radio systems too
     
  9. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #9
    I know this is a generic brand, but as you guys said light is light. What do you think about this one? The reason I mention it is it does support iTTL2.. Which I assume is the auto-exposure system for Nikon?
     
  10. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #10
    I wouldn't bother. It has zero manual settings on it for when you will inevitably want to start experimenting.

    Keh has sb-24's in stock right now for $59 in bargain condition. They rate conservatively. My sb-28 was in bargain and there are scratches on one corner and that's it.

    Chris, were you suggesting this flash? Maybe they have the wrong picture or you just made a mistake, but I don't think that can even be rotated or tilted.
    [​IMG]

    Read through this stuff:

    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html
     
  11. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #11
    Where are you seeing these sb-24s @ keh? I can't find anything on their site.
     
  12. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Click the camera store tab at the top. Under 35mm, click on nikon auto focus. On the right side under flashes and accessories, click on shoe mount flashes. For ease, change it to view all on page. About halfway down the page are the sb-24s. They have them in bargain condition now. Keh rates very conservatively, so I don't buy anything in better than bargain and haven't been disappointed. Plus they have a 14-day return policy, so if you don't like it for whatever reason, send it back for a full refund.
     
  13. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #13
    Okay, so I think I am going to pickup a SB24 from Keh and the RF set wmmk recommended. Is it really a pain to use it manual? .. Very hard to use?

    Just any final opinions before I bite.
     
  14. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #14
    It isn't that hard. Just bracket until you get the hang of it.
     
  15. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #15
    The D70/D70s, D80 and D200 have "commander mode", where the pop-up can control an external flash wirelessly; but not the D50.

    Unfortunately the pop-up flash doesn't provide any of its own illumination in this configuration (unlike, say, the SB800 acting as commander) - it only drives the remote.
     
  16. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #16
    while on topic, what would be a good starter flash for a RebelXT and eventually (in the next eight months or so) 5D? I've got an old flash my dad gave me along with his old AE-1, and it works okay, it just doesn't rotate, and I've found it's limited to 1/320s. It does tilt, though.
     
  17. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

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    #17
    You are lucky :) sometimes using "old" electronic flash units on digital SLR's can damage the camera. :eek:

    FJ
     
  18. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #18
    I think the max sync on those cameras is 1/250th, maybe less for the XT. Unless you get a flash that can do high speed sync, that won't matter. Like I said earlier, you can try one of the older nikons if you don't mind using it in manual mode. SB-24, 25, 26, 28 would all be good. I have the 28. They can be had a lot cheaper than the Canons like the 430 or 550.
     
  19. wmmk macrumors 68020

    wmmk

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    #19
    Manual is not at all hard. FWIW, I'm a Vivitar guy, so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to help with the SB24, but I'll try. When/if you get it, take pictures of all the parts of the flash where you input settings, give them to me on iChat, and I'll try to figure out what I can. Hopefully, you'll get a user's guide with your flash, which would also be a big help. Have fun!
    The old (and new) Vivitars are total workhorses. They just did a new run of 285HVs that are safe to use on digital SLRs, but you'll want to be keeping your light off camera once you read strobist.blogspot.com. Anyways, I know people who have gotten 6-8 years of day to day use out of 285's and 283's. If you only shoot on weekends, you can probably get a decade and a half.
     
  20. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #20
    I wasn't aware it could damage my camera. How is this?
    Oh, and it does sync up at 1/320. At 1/400, the shutter shadow shows.
     
  21. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Weird. Canon says 1/200th on their site.
     
  22. wmmk macrumors 68020

    wmmk

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    #22
    the voltage on the hot shoes of most digital SLRs and recent film SLRs can only handle a certain amount of voltage. to avoid damage, use a Wein Safe Sync or just just get a new cheap flash.
     
  23. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #23
    1/200th about what?
     
  24. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    #24
    Max sync speed.
     
  25. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #25
    Given that you've stated your age elsewhere - I know you're not speaking from personal experience here. :D
     

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