The PentaxAF-540 FGZ has a zoom head that accommodates lenses as they zoom from 24mm to 85mm and works with every Pentax camera (even the older 120 roll-film cameras). Special features available to Pentax D-SLR users include P-TTL preflash evaluative metering, HSS focal-plane high-speed flash sync, wireless TTL capability with ratio lighting control (and four transmission channels), AF assist lamp and more. The AF-540 is a power-miser, too, and delivers up to 250 flashes from four rechargeable 2500 mAh batteries (not included).
The Sony HVL-F58AM features a GN of 58 and a host of pro features. At the core of its competencies lies ADI, Advanced Distance Integration, which allows the unit to work efficiently with lenses with distance encoders built in. The TTL information is combined automatically with other data, including the distance to the subject, the ambient light and the pre-flash reflectivity of the subject. It also provides auto white balance info exchange, high-speed sync (up to 1⁄4000 sec.), wireless control of up to three groups of flashes and enhanced recycle performance.
Don’t Splash The Flash Although certain flash units are marketed as being “weather-resistant,” use extra caution when using any EFU in the rain. All flashes contain high-voltage storage capacitors that can inflict great bodily harm if discharged into a human subject. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the flash operates on four small penlight batteries —it can pack a wallop if it short-circuits!
Available in models to fit all popular D-SLR cameras, the Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 TTL shoe-mount flash is perhaps the only one of its kind that has a USB port that allows for future firmware updates via the Internet. Boasting a GN of 42 (based on use with a 50mm lens), this popular Metz unit offers high-speed sync and wireless TTL operation (depending on camera model). Specially designed reflectors help boost output and are said to reduce red-eye effect. The bounce head automatically zooms along with lenses from 24mm to 105mm and comes with a wide-angle diffuser that expands coverage to match 18mm lenses.
Remote Flash Triggers Nature photographers have specialized needs where flash photography is concerned. Because photographing wildlife often requires some stealthy maneuvers, having the ability to fire an EFU remotely from a distance is often a significant advantage. Remote flash triggers, such as the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and Tamrac MicroSync Digital, include one component that communicates with your camera while sitting in the hot-shoe and a second piece that attaches to the flash. Using radio frequency, they allow flash activation at distances of up to 1,600 feet. Some models can be used as remote camera triggers, as well.
Tamrac MicroSync Digital
For the ultimate experience in electronic flash performance, look to the Quantum Qflash TRIO QF8C with its parabolic reflector (that can be removed for bare-bulb lighting), with a GN of 34 and built-in RF capabilities for wireless TTL, sync and shutter control. Its boasts a USB port for firmware updates, a dedicated high-output battery system and an ultrafast recycle time of 1 to 1.5 seconds. The QF8C can be used as a shoe-mounted on-camera flash, as a master controller of off-camera units or as a standalone with the use of an optional Pilot or FreeXwire module—all of which means it delivers incredibly robust versatility. Of course, it provides full directional tilt and swivel orientation options and adjustable output settings down to 1/32 power in 1/3-stop increments.
Despite its budget price, the Sunpak PZ42X TTL is a good match for compatible Canon and Nikon cameras. It offers a GN of 42, variable power output settings, full zoom, bounce and swivel mobility and light weight (9 ounces empty). The AF assist lamp has a 16-foot range, plus an automatic shutdown mode saves batteries by turning the flash off after several minutes of inactivity.