10 Things to Know Before Buying a Camera Flash

Choosing the right flash can be a daunting experience, especially if you are new to the world of flash photography. With so many options, brands, and fancy terminology it’s easy to get confused. Thankfully, this is a new video clip highlighting 10 bits of insight that will not only have you laughing, but will also help you find the perfect flash. Have a look:

1. TTL? A-TTL? E-TTL? What Does That Even Mean?! – TTL stands for Through The Lens, what that means is that the camera communicates and controls the flash settings automatically. It uses a pre-flash to measure and determine certain variables which will decide how much power the actual flash will throw off–and this all happens in real time!

2. How Important Is It To Have Manual Mode? – Well, that depends on you, the shooter! For ultimate control and to get the most out your flash unit, by all means you will want manual mode. This will also allow you to use any brand flash with any brand of camera with a standard hotshoe.

3. Recycle Time – Being able to rapidly fire your flash will be very helpful especially if you are a fast shooter or are trying to capture action sequences. Nickel–metal hydride batteries (which are rechargeable) often give a better recycle time, plus they are environmentally friendly!

4. Understanding Guide Numbers – The guide number can help you calculate the range of a specific flash by dividing the guide number by the f/stop you plan on using.

flash-to-subject distance = guide number / f-stopFor example, the Nikon SB-910 used in the video has a guide number of 34 meters. So, shooting at f4, you could use the following equation to figure out that the SB 910 has a range of 8.5 meters.

8.5 meters = 34 meters / f4

speedlight photography

5. Flexibility is Essential – One of the downfalls of your cameras built-on flash is the inability to direct it in any direction other than where the camera is pointed. This makes it difficult to bounce it, much less control it. If the head of your flash unit doesn’t allow for tilting or turning, it somewhat defeats the purpose!

6. Going Wireless – There are three options available to get you strobing wirelessly. One is to buy a flash with an optical trigger to use with almost any brand of camera which supports optical triggers, but you will sacrifice the TTL ability. Alternatively, you can buy a flash unit compatible with your camera to preserve TTL capabilities. Lastly, you could use Pocket Wizards to mix and match your flashes with different cameras and maintain TTL.

7. Longevity – Flashes, like any light bulb, will not keep flashing forever. They will eventually burn out which is why it’s important to research how long a specific model will last before it’s time to replace it.

8. Temperature Control – Flash units have the tendency to get hot when they are in heavy use. On some units this means they may shut down completely or start operating at a lesser power. Know what to expect if you will be putting your speedlight through rigorous shooting sessions.

The Nikon SB-910 With Zoom Turned On.

9. Functions And Features – Not all flash units are created equally. Some have advanced features such as zoom, multi-flash for rapid burst shooting, and modeling lights for previewing the light. Evaluate your photography style and needs to prevent overpaying for features you will likely never use.

10. In The End, You Get What You Pay For – In general, the higher end flashes will feature a higher durability and resilience to wear and tear.

As Kai mentions in the video, there are other factors that can and should go into purchasing the right flash for your needs. Be sure to ask friends and fellow photographers for their recommendations, too!

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2 responses to “10 Things to Know Before Buying a Camera Flash”

  1. Ameet S Pawar says:

    Great article Tiffany sir, would like to know about the guide number. And even more the E-TTL & different canon flashes.

  2. Betty Wada says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. It can clear my all doubts regarding camera flash. After reading your article, I can easily choose a flash for my camera without any doubt.

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