when is it time to buy an external flash

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by hana, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. hana macrumors regular

    May 23, 2003
    Los Angeles
    for your SLR?

    I debate this for myself based on my usage:
    - XT Rebel
    - Most shots candid indoors
    - However I have to deal with high celings and also certain times when the "no flash" rule.

    If I did, what should I buy?

    Do I buy some sort of diffuser also?

    Any other flash type accessories?
  2. hodgjy macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2005
    I think the external flash is one of the most important accessories. It is essential for most indoor photography (when flash is allowed) and is important for outdoor work as well, specifically fill flash.

    At first, I thought I would never use an external flash. Now it's my most used accessory. Can't shoot without it.

    I have the Canon 430ex. Great flash. Get yourself some rechargeable batteries to go with it.
  3. sjl macrumors 6502


    Sep 15, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    I couldn't agree more. I got frustrated with the built-in flash on my 20D casting shadows to far too great an extent, so got myself a 580EX. I love it. Inside, with a relatively low white ceiling, the proportion of shots I take that are keepers is so much higher it's not funny.

    Either the 430 or 580 is good. I looked at them, and decided that the extra money for the 580EX was worthwhile, but that's your call to make, not mine. Rechargeable (NiMH) batteries are a must; the cycle time is far too slow on alkalines. Don't bother with the 220; it's just a more powerful version of the built in flash, and is a total waste of time. Edit: It doesn't even have wireless capabilities to drive a slave unit (I originally thought it did; I was wrong.)

    Diffusers are useful - I have one that I use whenever I can't bounce the flash off a ceiling. There's no other accessories I can think off offhand that will increase the utility of the flash so much.

    You may find this of interest (if long).
  4. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    As soon as possible. Fill flash for *outdoor* shots is way more important than most people think (and why nature photographers tend to put fresnel lenses on their flashes.) Also, many newer cameras will use the flash for infra-red assistance for autofocus.

    The best way to diffuse the light is with some sort of reflective material- index cards rubber-banded to the head and the head pointed straight up is an old-fashioned trick. There are some good instructions floating around on DP Review on building a bouncer out of the craft foam stuff you get at Wal-Mart. You have the advantage of being able to shape the stuff so you can produce a rounder shape to capture and reflect more light. Also, if you do it right, you can adjust the amount of "cup" for each shot. Otherwise, one of the standard "stick it on the front" diffusers will help. The larger the bounce or diffuser area, the softer the light, making for softened shadow/light transition areas.

    It also depends on if you mean "candid" as in unposed or "candid" as in "They don't know I'm taking pictures." The first shot can be either one, but after that some portion of the targets will (if they're camera shy) avoid you like the plague if you use flash.

    Get the flash off the lens axis with some sort of arm (which will also necessitate a cable) so you don't get red-eye and the catchlights are off center and up like light from the sun would be.

    If you drag the shutter and you diffuse the flash's light though, you'll improve the quality of your shots significantly.

    Control the light, control the outcome.
  5. jayb2000 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 18, 2003
    RI -> CA -> ME
  6. EstorilM macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2007
    To answer the topic.. when your lenses are big enough that they block the internal flash ;)

    It's a whole new world that's for sure, I think the manual on my SB-800 is bigger than my DSLR. :rolleyes: Using an external flash wirelessly is great though, you can point it wherever you want to fill in shadows and keep the internal flash for your primary subjects.
  7. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Mar 30, 2006
    Wenonah, NJ
    I don't believe this to be true. I'm having a hard time finding any type of hard numbers on recycle time, but the NiMH are only 1.2 V. This isn't to say that I don't use them, because I do. I think, or at least it feels like, they take a bit longer than straight AAs. But, the cost is right since they really don't need to be replaced for a long time.

    For a diffuser that will beat the pants off of anything else out there, go here: http://www.garyfong.com/

    And an external flash won't help any if you don't learn how to use it properly. I'd suggest going to get a flash bracket to get the flash away from the lens. I have a Stroboframe Pro-RL. One of the best accessories I have ever bought.

  8. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    The couple of people I've seen example shots from the bent foamy stuff beats the tupperware every time.
  9. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    I've had very good luck with NiMH AA batteries in a GN 50 flash. I've got a combination of 1.2 and 1.25 V AAs. Of course, nothing beats a high voltage power pack for recharge times but they often run more than some people's flash units.

    I've been using a Gary Fong diffuser in cloud colour and I'm pleased with the results. It's certainly a good upgrade for the price.

    I don't think it's ever too early to use an external flash but you have to choose carefully to make sure that the flash integrates with your camera system. Gone are the days of manual flash and slapping any model on your 35mm camera and getting good results.

    The built-in flash unit on most cameras is typically limited and lacks the ability to adjust for range. It can be good when you take the photos for which it was designed but then, how often do you take photos in controlled conditions?
  10. dllavaneras macrumors 68000


    Feb 12, 2005
    Caracas, Venezuela
    As soon as you can! You'll wonder how you shot without it
  11. e²Studios macrumors 68020


    Apr 12, 2005
  12. hana thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Gee, this generated a nice little discussion....thanks!

    Of course, this now means I will need to get a camera bag (instead of hiding it in a large tote with the rest of my stuff), but hopefully one that doesn't scream "camera bag".

    Compuwar - by "candid" I mean they ain't going stop whatever they are doing to pose for the picture. I just have to catch them when I can!

    The ceilings are often high, so some sort of diffusion mechanism would be good. One time I was shooting kids singing with another guy who had an external flash - he aimed that thing straight at the kids and we had a lot of little arms go up and eyes shut whenever he aimed that thing on them. :confused:

    The lens I use is a 28-135 is

    I will look at the other links everyone put in this thread...thanks again and keep on talking! :D

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