Help choosing a flash..

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Aperture, Aug 5, 2007.

  1. Aperture macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    PA
    #1
    Hi Everyone. I'm considering purchasing a flash and I'm having a bit of trouble deciding which to buy. First, I probably won't use it *too* often and don't want to spend over $100. This eliminates most iTTL flashes. (I have a D50) I noticed Adorama has a "moron" flash ;) that practically has no manual control but is iTTL. Is learning how to use a more manual flash that hard? Does it take long to figure out what settings to use? Does it bother you having to change the settings all the time? Anyhow, I was looking at this flash and the well loved Vivitar 285HV or the Nikon SB-24.

    Any help appreciated!
     
  2. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #2
    The SB-24 isn't fully compatible with the D50 (no iTTL), so I'd recommend you have a look at the SB-400. I've recently bought one: it's small (it fits into my crammed camera bag), it's powerful enough for what I want to do and it works perfectly with my D80.
     
  3. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #3
    The suggestion to get the db-400 is a great suggestion. While you believe you will not use it all that often you wouldn't beleive what having a decent flash will do for you. Flashes in most respects aren't just for lighting the faces of your subject in dark rooms. During perfectly sunny days a landscape photograph is always worthy of a little fill flash.
    You will find you can control some rather uneven lighting with a little fill.

    The best way to explain is to take a look at your photos and tell you just where a flash would come into play. There is a photo of Christ on the Cross where his face sits in a little too much shadow. With the use of a flash, probably from the angle you shot versus where the shadow sits you could even use it off-camera, either way, a little fill would have allowed you to keep some of the shadow for contrast and yet lit the face up just enough so you had some details up there.

    While the photo worked without a flash, with a flash you'd be amazed at what you can control.

    I also believe using a flash on manual (most of them work on auto as well) is just about control. If you want to invest some of your time into photography then learning to use a flash is just as important as it is to learn how to use your camera. Even second you invest is a good investment.
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #4
    Exactly! Photography is about light. Flash photography is about having control of the light. Good flash photography doesn't scream "flash used," it screams "Well-lit!"

    For the most part the phrase "I only shoot natural light" is a synonym for "I can't light well."

    There aren't a lot of pictures that can't stand some fill flash.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #5
    Not to many years ago EVERYONE used manual flash. Was it hard to learn? If you understand exopure and what an f-stop is manual flash is pretty easy.

    But it does slow you down. You have to estimate the distance and devide the
    distance into the "guide number" and then set the aperture. it's not point and click. I use ful manual flash when I shoot underwater because it is he only mode I can use and it does let my balance flash and natural light. I also us manual flash with any kind of studdio setup because my studio power pack stobe system is manual only, as are all(?) studio strobes. I think I spend FAR more time thining about how I want a shot to look and composing it and so on. Setting the camera and the flash power does not take long compared to a setup.

    That said you can use "automatic" strobes that are not iTTL. One of the older Nikon strobes I have is not TTL as it pre-dates that technology but it has a sensor on the strobe unit. Later Nikon moved the sensor inside the camera body and called it "TTL" but the old system with the sensor on the strobe still works. My old strobe is an SB16 and it still works well.

    A good strobe to buy is the Vivitar 285
    http://www.amazon.com/Vivitar-285HV-Auto-Professional-Flash/dp/B00004TVSP

    I have two of these (Hunt around you can find them for about $70.) These are very powerful and have a built-in mechanical calculator wheel that is backlit for use in the dark. There is a whole ecosystem of accessories for the 285. At one time it was the "standard" for wedding and event photographers.

    It's only fault is that the attachment foot breaks off. But this is by design. It's a cheap replaceable foot designed to break before some other part of the housing if the strobe is dropped. Think of it as a mechanical fuse.

    The 285 has been in continous production of at least 20 years and is the most stroe you can get for under $100. Get two of them and a pair of umbrellas and some light stands and you have a "poor man's studio".


    Anyhow, I was looking at this flash and the well loved Vivitar 285HV or the Nikon SB-24.

    Any help appreciated![/QUOTE]
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #6
    In the studio, doing the calculations has to happen about once, you can use a light meter, and the distances are pretty easy to measure with a string attached to your lightstand. If you're a fan of the CLS, you can do iTTL with CLS flashed on stands in the studio- but frankly that's just stretching a point- if you're using normal studio lighting, it's all manual, all the time.

    How much not having TTL slows things down depends a lot on what you shoot. Staticish events, it's not a big deal to get used to. Wildlife, it's a royal pain to deal with- matrix balanced fill with a little compensation lets you worry about the animals and other related things instead of the flash.

    Digital though provides something that makes it even easier than what Chris points out was "what everyone had to learn." It's like shooting Polaroids except the finished product is going to *match* and it doesn't cost you per-shot. So there's no reason to fear manual flash, or the learning curve.
     
  7. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    PA
    #7
    Wait, so are you saying the SB16 is able to meter automatically due to the TTL sensor being on the outside? Would that be a good choice? I wouldn't mind setting the variables, etc but I would much prefer an auto metering flash.

    Thank you everyone for your replies so far!
     
  8. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #8
    The SB-400 cost me a little over $100.
    If you can buy a fully compatible flash for the same price as a flash that requires you to set everything manually, why would you go for the less featured flash?

    Although it doesn't look like a good buy on paper, in reality, it is. I could have afforded the larger SB-600 (or a third-party flash), but the size is just right. I have never had a `real' flash, so I'll have to learn a few things now …*
     
  9. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #9
    Speaking of the Vivitar 285

    I'd have to agree that this is a fairly remarkable flash and is great to use with the SB-800 (or even 400 & 600). If you want to spend under $100 I'd pick up the 285 before I'd pick up a Nissin. Sounds like it should be a cup of noodles and not a flash. ;)
     
  10. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    Mar 30, 2006
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    Wenonah, NJ
    #10
    The "less featured" flash you talk of has quite a bit more features. Being able to move the flash head around and bounce is a huge feature as opposed to being stuck shooting dead on. That thing looks like a more powerful on-camera flash.

    I'd go for the new vivitar or the sb-24. I don't think you can make a wrong decision. I bought the sb-28 for use with my canon camera. I love being able to use it with a sync cord to get it off the camera.

    Check keh.com for used sb-24s. they can be had very cheaply in bargain condition which is what my 28 is. It works flawlessly.
     
  11. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    Sendai, Japan
    #11
    You can bounce with the SB-400, too: 60, 75 and 90 degrees. It cannot swivel the head, though. I think the former is a lot more important than the latter in most applications.

    Remember, the OP is looking for a reliable entry-level flash, and the SB-400 exactly fits the bill here.
     
  12. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #12
    I just talked to my local Ritz Camera and they (surprise!) recommended the SB-400 or a Sunpak QF30.

    They have the SB-400 for $130 but if I do go for it I'm going to have them price match it to B&H's price of $109 to save a few bucks.

    Of those two flashes, which do you recommend? I know you all said the SB-400 but I just wanted to throw the other out there before I make my purchase. Both flashes support Nikon's iTTL.

    Thank you so much everyone!
     
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #13
    Both are small and not so powerful with only two AA batteries inside. If this is what you want - a simple "point and click" flash then get the Nikon unit. For $109 you can't go to wrong. Actually the "bounce the light off the ceiling" feature alone will make your pictures much, much beter. There is no manual control on the SB400 but you can fake it by using the flash compensation built into the D50 body.

    If you can use a manual flash still think the Vivitar 283 or 285 is the most flash for the money but they are not iTTL and are more suitable for budget minded pros then for casual shooters.

    One more thing to think about: what happens when you turn your camera sideways for a vertical shot? Can you still bounce the light off the ceiling? It's going to be very frustrating if you can't do this.
     
  14. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #14
    I think I'd like to start off with a simple flash like the SB-400. If I ever want to expand, I could always hook up the SB-400 & a Vivitar to a radio trigger. There is a "hack" (if you will) at the Ken Rockwell site as to how you can bounce it in a vertical position.

    Thanks
     
  15. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    #15
    Okay so I just got back from the camera store. They were out of the SB-400 but suggested getting the flash I linked to 2 posts above. I set it all up and it is awesome so far. I guess I'll report back here in time and tell you all how I like it!

    Thanks Again!

    Edit: Here is my new thread.
     
  16. jlcharles macrumors 6502

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    Wenonah, NJ
    #16
    I still stand behind the older sb flashes or the vivitar. You're going to get a much better flash for the money and with digital, you can chimp your shots and figure out the settings pretty easily.
     
  17. Aperture thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aperture

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    Mar 19, 2006
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    #17
    Hi Everyone.

    Well, I wanted to post an update. After using the Sunpak for a few days I was starting to feel the recycle time was a bit slow. Because of this and lack of adjusting the flash intensity, I decided to exchange it for the now in stock SB-400. I've been trying this out for a few hours and I like it much better. I appreciate it's size & rock solid construction. I just made a pretty neat bounce card ("A Better Bounce Card" on YouTube) and the overall setup is achieving great images. I'll try to get some examples up one of these days.

    Thanks Again
     

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