Help with flashguns

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Grasher, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. Grasher macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    #1
    I'm thinking of buying a flashgun for my Sony A200 and need some advice. I don't tend to shoot indoors with the pop-up flash much because of the harsh light that it throws. Usually I prefer to either go outdoors or use available light from the window. My reason for getting a flashgun is to be able to use bounced flash which I think will fix this. Is this correct? My main subject is going to be family photos (baby photos) so I want to get the best quality of light that I can.

    As I probably won't use it that much I don't want to spend a huge amount of money on it - I've seen a couple on B&H for about $100. For this money am I getting something decent? I'm using a 1.8 50mm prime so I don't need much extra light. What I don't want to do though, is spend $100 now then have to spend another $500 in a few years.

    The other thing I'm wondering is whether I can use these off camera for more flexibility. Is it as simple as buying a cable which would work on any flashgun or do I have to buy a flashgun which specifically states compatibility with a cable?

    All advice appreciated!
     
  2. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #3
    I bought the cheap (~$350) Canon 430EXII and have regretted since the second day not buying the 580EXII (at ~$500).

    I don't know about Sony, but I suspect it will be similar to Canon which I know. For on camera flash, you can let the camera talk to the flash and figure this out (Canon calls this ETTL), you can also get a ~3' cord (~$100) to allow the camera to talk to the flash while slightly off camera. If you want the flash further away, you can use a sync cord (~$10) (my flash doesn't allow this) but then you will have to manually set the flash, the camera can't talk to it anymore, just tell it when to fire. If you have multiple Canon flashes, they can control each other wirelessly (580 can control 430, but not the other way around).

    The cheapest way to get light is to buy manual flashes and set the exposure yourself. They will be in the ~$100 range, but make sure you get ones designed for modern cameras. Old flashes had sync voltages up to 200V or so, that will fry the flash circuitry in your camera. You need a sync voltage of 6V or so. Strobist has a lot of info on this. Look for flashes like the 285HV (HV is important, plain 285 will kill your camera). This will work on camera or off camera and meet your budget and learning to control flash manually is a good idea.

    Buy used, you will save a fortune and flashes are pretty resilient. If it works when you get it, it should keep working.
     
  3. Kebabselector macrumors 68030

    Kebabselector

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    #4
    What's so wrong with the 430ex?
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #5
    While you can get better results with off-camera flash, the first thing you should do is find the flash compensation setting for your camera and dial in some negative compensation to bring the power level down, or look for a fill flash setting if Sony provides one. If you're not going to use it much, you'll get better results with a Sony flash that will do TTL than with a cheaper manual unit that you have to learn to set for yourself. You'll probably still want to figure out how to dial in negative flash compensation on a TTL unit.
     
  5. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    Apr 7, 2008
    Location:
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    #6
    In a word: Power.

    With flashes, more power = better. You can always lower the light output of a higher powered flash unit, but you can't crank a low powered flash beyond it's max. Well, not without resorting to Tim the Toolman tactics.:p Also, more powerful flash units usually cycles faster than low powered ones. Oh, and the 580 can be uses as a slave or a master. The 430 can only be a slave.

    Anyhow, I've always preferred the hammerhead flashes (aka potato mashers) to hot shoe flashes, mainly because they're more powerful and usually recycles faster. I've got both types. I get better results with the hammerhead, probably due to being more proficient with them than hot shoes.;)
     
  6. NightGeometry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    #7
    The HVL-F42 is a brilliant flash for the Sony's. Not their cheapest, but you get full manual control, as well as off camera usage.

    I think you can normally pick it up fairly cheap on Amazon, really worth looking at.

    (I use that flash with an A700, used to use it with an A200)
     
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #8
    If you can and and are willing to use manual exposure then you can use any low cost flash. For example I have several Vivitar 285 units. These sell for well under $100 and put out as much light as anything Nikon or Canon makes. The 285 was for many years the "standard" flash used by almost all wedding and event photographers.

    But you have to understand exposure, f-stops and so on to be able to use it. Today most people don't want to bother learning all that. If that is the case then you almost are forced to buy the camera manufacturer's flash. You will pay a lot for the automation but it works well even if you don't know what a "guide number" is. I would not recopmmend a third party flash to some one who is looking for fully automatic operation. Some day you will upgrade the body and you want the flash to continue to work, better chance of that if you stick with the same brand.

    About the need for power. You'd be surprised how much you need. Don't skimp. Bouncing off a wall 20 feet in back of the camera eats up flash power, even a ceiling bounce does that. And then outdoors you want to use fill in flash so the shadows are less harsh in bright sunlight. To do that your flash needs to be about 1/2 as bright as direct sunlight at the flash to subject distance.

    For years I used a cheap Vivitar with a simple wired sync cord and got good results and was able to do off camera, bounce and direct fill in flash.

    What to buy? I think two options (1) a flash that uses 4 AA batteries made by Sony for the model camera body you own or (2) a really big and "dumb" manual flash. But don't buy a small automatic unit from a third party. It will not do much more then the built-in flash. Go for the mega-expensive automatic unit or the cheap but powerful manual unit. If you go with #2 look for used flashes no need to spend much for one of those

    If you ever get into studio type work where the flashes are on stands then you want option #2.
     
  8. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    #9
    There's nothing really 'wrong' with it, it is just missing so many things that are convenient/sometimes necessary. It doesn't accept a sync cord which means to use it far off camera you either need a 580 (or ST-E2) on camera or a peanut (which is not 100% reliable in the sunlight). If you use a light modifier (like a Gary Fong or Stofen), the 430 is working really hard, the 580 has an easier time. 580 recycle time is faster. 580 can also take an external battery pack. Hotshoe on 430 is plastic, 580 is metal. I haven't broken the 430 yet, but stroboframes keep destroying the plastic hotshoe on my off-camera cord so I suspect it will only be a matter of time before the hotshoe breaks on the 430. 580 can also do other interesting things like stroboscopic flashes which can be used for interesting effects.

    So, the 430 isn't bad, but you gain a lot moving up to the 580.
     
  9. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #10
    Welcome to the world of flash photography. It's one hell of a bumpy ride, but the destination is worth it.

    First, go and read Lighting 101 at strobist.blogspot.com. This is catered to people who do manual off-camera flash (and specifically using the Nikon system), but is equally suited to people who do automatic flash work with any brand.

    The main thing you need to do is get the flash off the camera.

    The simplest way to do this is to get an off-camera cable (the Sony equivalent to Canon's OC-E3), and hold the flash in your hand while you shoot. Beyond this, you can go off-camera via a wired or wireless connection. For Canon's system, you can buy off-camera cables that are up to 25' long and still allow fully automatic control. If you don't mind manual flash, you can buy a hotshoe-to-PC adapter and get a PC sync cord to go between the camera hotshoe and the flash.

    If you want to go wireless, there are a plethora of options, but most of them will be manual-only, so you have to be comfortable with that. The industry standards are PocketWizards, which are not cheapr, but are 100% reliable. You can be cheapo wireless controllers on eBay, and they work for the most part, but dont have the range or reliability of PocketWizards.

    PocketWizard does make a new automatic flash-compatible system called the MiniTT, but I'm not sure if they have a Sony version.

    The other wireless option, of course, is to buy two flashgun and use Sony's proprietary system to control the off-camera flash.

    My advise would be this: get one flashgun and one off-camera cable, and learn to use automatic bounced flash. That will be a good introduction to flash photography. Once you think you've got the hang of that, get another flashgun and begin to experiment with it, but don't do this until you're absolutely ok with using a single flash with off-camera cable.
     
  10. NightGeometry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    #11
    For fairly simple usage the flash will work off camera wirelessly without needing a third party solution. If you want to do clever ration control, then yeah, you need an expensive unit on camera, but for 'normal' use, just control from the camera will do the job.
     
  11. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #12
    Didn't know Sony bodies had this ability. If so, then yes, do this.
     
  12. Grasher thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    #13
    Thanks for all the advice. I'm happy to change exposure settings and understand the technical side reasonably well so maybe manual is an option. That said, the flash that I was looking at was a Bower SFD926S which, according to B&H's website, works with Sony's metering system. What am I missing here?

    I'm going to have a look at the links later today.
     
  13. Kebabselector macrumors 68030

    Kebabselector

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    #14
    But for most use it's fine. My old 380ex was decent (just lacked the swivel). I know the differences between the 2 units, but for a single 1 flash shot it's fine.

    True, but again most don't need the 580. Indeed most could be server equally well with the new 270ex (which has even less features than the 430 - it's more like a smaller 380ex).
     
  14. NightGeometry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    #15
    Not sure if you know about the site, but Dyxum is dedicated to Sony and old KM gear. May be worth doing a search on there to see if there is anything about that flash.

    I did a quick search of the forums and didn't find anything - may be worth asking the question in their forums...

    Either way - let us know how it goes :)
     
  15. Grasher thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    #16
    I found the vivitar 283 dedicated Sony units on B&H, and the power that they put out looks similar to the 285. Would these be a good option?

    Again, excuse my stupidity but could I use this as an off camera flash? As my camera has wireless could I get something to attach to the flash to enable it to work wirelessly, or would i be better off buying a sync cable.

    I'm a little wary of buying a Sony branded flash as I'd assume they'll charge a premium for the brand.

    Strobist 101 was pretty helpful, although I found their description of lighting techniques better than their technical side.
     
  16. NightGeometry macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2004
    #17
    No idea if the A200 would fire that flash wirelessly, I suspect not, to be honest. Again, try asking on Dyxum.

    The Sony flash undoubtedly is at a premium, but it will 'just work', which i assume we all like here. Well, I know I do.

    The A200 doesn't have a PC Sync port, from memory. You can get a Minolta to ISO hotshoe adapter from numerous HK sellers on ebay. I think the one I got has a sync cable out, so that would work. Mine was about £5, I also got a very cheap radio trigger at the same time for using a 'normal' iso hotshoe flash - that was about £10 (but it is nowhere near as reliable as a proper radio trigger).
     

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