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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gadget Bag: In A Flash!

Electronic flash units will add dimension to your photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

gadget bagOlympus FL-36R

gadget bagOlympus FL-50R

Larger-output EFUs allow you to shoot at longer distances and smaller apertures. They generally recycle faster, too, keeping you ready for the next shot instead of waiting for the capacitor to recover. Compact flash units are easier to carry and provide greater stability and handling ease when they’re sitting in the hot-shoe. Some use two (instead of four) AA batteries, which translates into lighter carry weight. And bounce capability means that the flash tube can be aimed at a reflective surface while the camera and lens are facing the subject, producing a soft, even lighting effect with no harsh shadows.

On high-end units, angle of coverage—and the ability to spread the flash over a wide area—is sometimes adjusted by zooming the flash head. The advantage here is that you get maximum power at a given zoom lens setting and smooth, even lighting even when you’re in the wide-angle position. Some small units include a translucent diffusing lens that snaps in place over the flash tube to broaden the dispersal of the light.

gadget bag
Nikon Speedlight SB-400
gadget bag
Nikon Speedlight SB-900
A Sampling Of Flashes
Canon currently offers five EFUs. Its top-of-the-line model, the Speedlite 580EX II, has a GN of 58 (GN 190 in feet at 105mm) and can rotate a full 180° in either direction for maximum bounce versatility. It features dust- and water-resistance and a metal foot. The AF assist beam is compatible with all AiAF points on every EOS SLR, and white balance information is transmitted to the EOS camera’s processor to assure accurate colors. Canon also has a new flash, the über-compact Speedlite 270EX. Despite its squat stature, it provides bounce functionality and two-step Coverage Angle Selection (28mm and 50mm). Powered by two AA batteries, it recycles quietly and quickly (0.1 to 3.9 seconds). GN is 22 (at the 28mm coverage setting) and 27 (at 50mm). Effective range is greater than 13 feet. This combination of features makes it the ideal traveling companion for Canon’s popular G-series compact digital cameras as well as Canon D-SLRs.

Nikon has long offered a very complete Speedlight system. The SB-900 (GN of 56 at 200mm) provides zoom coverage from 17-200mm in the FX format and 12-200mm coverage in the DX format. It also offers three light dispersion patterns: Standard, Center-weighted (for portraits) and Even (for groups or interiors). Built for hot-shoe use, the SB-900 works equally as well in wireless applications as the trigger unit or as a wireless remote light source. You can wirelessly control an unlimited number of compatible Speedlights using the SB-900 in Wireless Commander Mode. For a smaller unit, Nikon makes the SB-400, which covers as wide as 18mm on a Nikon FX-format (full-frame) camera. It uses Nikon’s iTTL technology, takes two AA batteries, and the head can be adjusted to bounce up to 90º. The GN is 15 at 18mm.

From Olympus comes a pair of similar shoe-mounted flash units, the FL-50R and FL-36R. The FL-50R has a GN of 50 at 42mm (85mm in 35mm terms) and a GN of 28 at a 12mm focal length. Using the same standards, the FL-36R has a GN of 36 at the 42mm zoom setting. Both units have heads that bounce and swivel, and both deliver TTL exposure control with Olympus cameras. The FL-50R uses four AA cells; the FL-36R uses two.


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