External Flash- Should I Buy?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by MBP13, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. MBP13 macrumors 6502

    MBP13

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    Mar 13, 2011
    #1
    Hi. I'm going to New York City during the week of Easter and I'm hoping to be able to take take some very nice shots of the city and other things on my trip. I'm scarred that when I try to take photos at night of the city, they're going to be too dark. Would an external flash make much of a difference in a big lighted city like NYC?

    Eventually, I'm going to want an external flash, but since I'm going to NYC, I'd like one sooner.

    Should I buy one if it will be useful at night when taking pics of NYC at night?
     
  2. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #2
    For cityscapes, a flash will be far less useful than a tripod. The flash could help illuminate people or details near to the camera, but in order to get a more expansive scene, you'll need to do longer exposures, which will require some kind of physical support for the camera.
     
  3. MBP13 thread starter macrumors 6502

    MBP13

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    #3
    I'm not really interested in the flash for cityscapes, but rather for interesting sites and things I see within the city (buildings, the Apple store :p, etc.)..
     
  4. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Phrasikleia is spot on.

    You won't need an external flash. Landmarks and other buildings will be too large and far away for it to be of any use. Interior points of interest (such as Grand Central Terminal) can be similarly expansive, precluding the use of a flash. It would be much better to bring a compact, lightweight tripod for night shots, using long shutter speeds (several seconds) to expose scenes properly.
     
  5. TheDrift- macrumors 6502a

    TheDrift-

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    #5
    Depends on what you want to shoot, if its building and city scapes a tripod, if its people a flash or you might be able to get away with a fast prime and a higher iso.

    Is there anyway that you borrow a flash/prime/tripod and maybe go out for a practice or two in a local town..ok it will never by New York but you should be able to find a brightly let area and try some things out?
     
  6. george-brooks macrumors 6502a

    george-brooks

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    #6
    You'd be better off spending your money on a nice fast prime. This one is great, cheaper than an external flash, and the faster aperture will be more useful in New York. Your D5000's internal flash is plenty sufficient for most situations. You're better off spending your money on other things, like a small tripod or fast glass.
     
  7. VI™ macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Using a flash to light buildings and monuments and sights would take a tripod and a fair bit of knowledge about ligthing and post processing anyways.

    The biggest thing you can learn is how to effectively set your white balance since the majority of what you're going to be shooting is going to be lit by non daylight balanced lights. If you're shooting with auto white balance (AWB), your photos will most likely have ungly orange and green tints to them that you would otherwise not get when shooting something lit by daylight or flash. AWB is only auto within a certain range and will not be able to cope with incandescent lights or flourescents that have a color temp that's extremely different than the standard 5400k-5600k daylight temp.

    To light a monument with a flash you'd need flashes that were powerful enough to light the entire thing without suffering from massive fall off of you're have to light sections individually in a single shot or in separate shots and then edit them in photo shop or some other image editing software. It's easier to learn how about flash photography when your subjects are smaller, like people.

    Here's a good site that illustrates what you can do when you get a hot shoe flash off the camera.
    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

    And the only reason I'd not recommend picking up a fast prime for what you're shooting is that shooting large structures at f/1.8 is going to give you a shallow DOF and won't be ideal for capturing detail in what you're doing. Most landscape photography is shot with a much more narrow aperture, so a tripod would benefit you more than anything for night time scenery in my opinion. No if you're shooting people and what not, a fast prime and a flash would work out well together.
     
  8. MattSepeta macrumors 65816

    MattSepeta

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    #8
    Nope

    Don't bother with a flash for NYC. You want a light tripod or a monopod at least. Also consider a wide fast prime, like a 24 f/1.8.
     
  9. MBP13 thread starter macrumors 6502

    MBP13

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    Mar 13, 2011
    #9
    That lens isn't compatible with my D5000 for some reason. It says AF not supported by the D5000. I'm assuming AF means auto focus?

    Thank you everyone for the suggestions! I'll certainly need to purchase a monopod.

    Also, I know this sounds like a totally stupid question, but when do you use a monopod (in what situations) besides at night?
     
  10. avro707 macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    With a D5000, you'll need to use AF-S lenses. Non AF-S lenses won't autofocus on the D3000, D5000, D40, D60 and similar cameras. They will on D80, D90, D300, D7000, etc.

    Lenses to consider:

    AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (FX format)
    AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (FX format)
    AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (DX format).

    Unfortunately, the 14-24 is quite a high end lens (very expensive). External flash won't be necessary, but a sturdy tripod and maybe a remote release will be necessary. Use available light and work with longer exposures to get interesting effects at night.
     
  11. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #11
    Well, I wouldn't worry about the white balance setting unless you're shooting JPEGs. It's best to shoot in raw format and then adjust the WB to taste in post.

    Forget the monopod. They are most useful for shooting sports and models, situations where you need to move around and recompose a lot, and (most importantly) situations that do not require exposures of multiple seconds. Most night photographs will require longer exposures, in which case a monopod will not be sufficient.

    Just get yourself a nice, light travel tripod and a shutter release cable. Then you can use whatever lens you want at whatever aperture you feel is necessary.
     
  12. MBP13 thread starter macrumors 6502

    MBP13

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    #12
    I'd love to bring a tripod along to NYC, but I don't think I'll be able to take it out and use it since in enough time because I'm going to be touring the city with my high school band. If I went to NYC alone, then I'd definitely bring a tripod. :p
     
  13. tmagman macrumors 6502

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    #13
    definitely a tripod. I traveled last time without one, and regretted it. A great 'NYC' tripod would be something like a gorillapod- nice and small, and great for setting on ledges or wrapping around a railing, i.e. at the top of the observation deck at the Rockefeller center (best observation deck in the city by the way). Full size tripods are too bulky and prohibited at some attractions like that.
     
  14. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #14
    Outside shots in general won't be helped with an external flash. They don't have the reach that you'll need
     
  15. fireman32 macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    I used that 50mm 1.8 on my D60 and just focused manually. Its a great lens and highly recommend it
     
  16. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #16
    OK, then I would second tmagman's recommendation of a gorillapod. It's the next best thing for photographing architecture at night.
     
  17. george-brooks macrumors 6502a

    george-brooks

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    #17
    There is another 1.8 "G" version which is slightly more expensive but should work with the D5000
     
  18. TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

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    NSW, Australia.
    #18
    As mentioned by Phrasikleia and tmagman's, physical support is key.

    It will do more for your shots than any fast lens will be able to.


    For city shots you are going to want a deep depth of field (f/8-f/11) and low noise (low ISO).

    A kit lens, on a tripod at base ISO will give you far better results than even the most expensive fast primes, shot wide open with a high ISO.
     
  19. VI™ macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Why spend the extra time in post when you can get it right in camera? If you're shooting in a lot of different environments where the color temperature is chaning, you can press a button, scroll, and you should have your new WB set rather than having to mess with it in post, especially if the photographer is using AWB which is not really automatic.

    This should be every photographer's mantra, "Get it right in camera first". This will save a lot of time in the long run and help with photos that you think you can fix in post that end up being unsavable.
     
  20. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #20
    Sure, but trying to get WB "right" on a little 3-inch camera screen can be an exercise in futility, especially since white balance is one of those creative aspects of a photograph that is best set in post, assuming you're shooting in raw format. (I personally shoot using UniWB, which makes my pictures all green straight out of the camera, so I have to adjust WB in post regardless.)

    The OP is taking his first steps into night photography, and you advised that white balance is "the biggest thing you can learn." I just disagree. For challenging lighting situations, getting the exposure right ought to be the priority, and shooting in raw format is highly advisable if for no other reason than it will allow total freedom to set your white balance to taste when you can actually see the colors on a real monitor.

    I'm a staunch advocate of making the right decisions at the moment of capture. I'm not disagreeing with that philosophy but with the idea that white balance needs to be one of those decisions. It doesn't.
     
  21. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #21
    Night photography is difficult to say the least. Nature is working against you and all you can rely on is the futile attempts of mere mortals to illuminate the dark...:D Some of the people who shoot star trails and Lunar shots have it down pretty well, but for most of us it doesn't come easy. If you like the effects of night photography, keep shooting and it will come to you.

    Dale
     
  22. LumbermanSVO macrumors 65816

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    #22
    I haven't pointed my camera up at night very much just because the results have never really turned out well. It also doesn't interest me that much. Nighttime landscapes though...

    Getting focus at night is a challenge, but if you have some patience it isn't too horrible. I use live view in x5 and x10 mode to get it right and a DOF app on my phone to make sure everything I want to be in focus is in focus. Making several frames ranging from way underexposed to way over exposed, then looking at them on the computer really helped me get an idea of what looks right to me.
     
  23. mackmgg macrumors 65816

    mackmgg

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    #23
    Since nobody mentioned it yet, why not just go without one and see if you need it? NYC doesn't have a shortage of camera stores, and if you find you do need a flash, walk down to B&H (which is an experience in itself) and buy yourself one. Plus it's probably cheaper there than if you were to buy it elsewhere and bring it.
     
  24. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Given that many points of interest in the city are well-illuminated at night, relying on Vibration Reduction (VR) and pushing up the ISO slightly can be a good fallback. Even though there is no shortage of poles, railings, and scaffoldings for mounting a Gorillapod, they aren't always in the most convenient spot for taking a photo. (On that note, I wouldn't rule out a monopod, though a tripod would be ideal.) I was curious about just how much ambient lighting could minimize shutter speed, so I took some snapshots yesterday without a tri/mono/etcpod and using a non-VR/IS lens, while trying to keep ISO as low as possible (100% crop inserts).

    [​IMG]
    f/4.0, 1/10 s, ISO 100, stabilization: pole

    [​IMG]
    f/4.0, 1/3 s, ISO 200, stabilization: railing

    [​IMG]
    f/4.0, 1/15 s, ISO 200, stabilization: chair

    DPReview's tests of the 18-55mm kit lens show that its VR is capable of managing shutter speeds down to 1/3 s - provided good shooting technique is used - allowing for reasonably low ISOs in lighting conditions like the above. Pushing the ISO higher to 400-1600 would make handheld shooting even less of a worry.

    B&H and Adorama (and other stores that observe Passover) will be closed from April 7-13 (on the 6th, B&H will be closed and Adorama will have shortened hours), which may be an issue for the OP, depending on what "the week of Easter" (which on the 8th) means. Otherwise, good suggestion.
     
  25. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #25
    That's generally what I try to do. Perhaps its my lack of skill but with the flash outdoors in the evening. The foreground objects are over-blown and the background is not as illuminated as I wanted them too.
     

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