Electronic flash helps provide a photographer greater control over the lighting of a subject. It can supply just the right amount of fill light to illuminate the foreground of a landscape, and it can bring out the details and color of a flower photographed with a macro lens. Regardless of the subject, a flash provides the ability to control and shape light to suit your vision of the scene. Whether it's a dedicated TTL flash, ring light or wireless slave, these small portable "suns" that we stuff in our camera bags can make a world of difference.
The following models boast features that are extremely beneficial to photographers. The guide number, which is the measurement of a flash's power output, are given at ISO 100 in feet at a moderate zoom position.
Canon Speedlite 580EX
(800) OK-CANON • www.usa.canon.com
The latest flash from Canon is designed for its advanced E-TTL II flash metering system available in the newest generation of Canon digital SLRs. With a guide number of 118 (35mm), the flash is optimized to work with both compacts and SLRs. It automatically compensates for the size of the image sensor and matches the focal length conversion of attached lenses. With the Canon EOS 20D and EOS-1D Mark II, the flash and camera communicate, allowing color-balance adjustment based on battery charge levels and flash duration. Weighing 22 ounces, the flash offers wide-angle coverage of up to 14mm. List Price: $479.
Konica Minolta Maxxum 5600HS
(877) IMAGING • www.konicaminolta.us
Designed to work with Konica Minolta's diverse line of film and digital cameras, the Maxxum 5600HS delivers power and high-end features for superior flash control. With a guide number of 124 (35mm), it works in conjunction with the camera's ADI (Advanced Distance Integration) flash metering system for using subject-distance data supplied with Konica Minolta's new lenses. Accurate flash exposures for off-center subjects are aided by biasing the exposure for the AF sensors used to detect subject focus.
Weighing in at 13 ounces, the flash also features wireless remote capability, a high-speed sync mode and a fully adjustable pan-and-tilt head for controlling the direction of flash output. List Price: $522.
Metz 54 MZ-4
(201) 818-9500 • www.bogenimaging.us
The full-featured Metz 54 MZ-4 is available for Canon, Minolta, Nikon and Pentax cameras. It's compatible with most cameras' TTL flash metering systems and includes its own non-TTL Automatic and Manual modes. It has a guide number of 131 (50mm) along with high-end features, including high-speed sync and a secondary flash that serves as fill with the main flash head positioned for bounce. It also sports a brightly lit LCD display. Weighing 22.4 ounces, the flash provides wide-angle coverage up to 20mm and can be used as a wireless slave with an optional accessory. List Price: $472.
Nikon Speedlight SB-800
(800) NIKON-UX • www.nikonusa.com
The Nikon SB-800 delivers accurate flash exposures as a result of its i-TTL flash technology. The advanced metering system combines distance information from D- and G-series AF-Nikkor lenses with a camera's Matrix metering to provide precise exposures, even in scenes with extreme ranges of tonalities. Weighing only 9.2 ounces, the flash boasts a guide number of 125 (35mm) and wide-angle coverage up to 17mm.
It features a sophisticated wireless system for controlling an unlimited number of SB-800 or SB-600 Speedlights, whose outputs can be adjusted without stepping away from the camera. List Price: $420.
Nissin Digislave Ver. 1.5
(800) 421-1141 • www.thkphoto.com
An ultra-compact slave flash weighing only 2.6 ounces, the Nissin Digislave version 1.5 works with virtually any digital camera. It accounts for the pre-flashes emitted by digital cameras and flashes and accurately syncs with the master flash. With a guide number of 39 (35mm), the flash can supplement your camera's built-in flash or be placed practically anywhere to be used as a fill light or to illuminate the background. Its affordable price makes it possible to own and use multiple slaves for creative lighting situations. List Price: $43.
(888) 553-4448 • www.olympusamerica.com
Designed to work fluidly with the Olympus 4/3-sensor digital camera line (EV-1 and EV-300), this versatile flash delivers a guide number of 118 (35mm) at a weight of 13.6 ounces. Along with its Automatic TTL, Automatic and Manual modes, the Olympus FL-50 includes a high-speed sync mode that allows for flash sync at shutter speeds as high as 1?4000 sec. Because it's designed specifically for digital capture, there's noticeably less fall-off in the corners of the image when compared to traditional flashes used on other cameras. List Price: $550.
(800) 877-0155 • www.pentaximaging.com
The Pentax AF-500FTZ flash works with the broad line of Pentax 35mm and medium-format cameras, along with Pentax's latest digital SLRs. With a guide number of 118 (35mm) and a weight of 13.6 ounces, the flash includes a trailing shutter sync so that the flash is triggered at the end of a long shutter speed rather than at the beginning. This creates a natural streaking effect behind the subject. The flash also has a multiple-burst mode for a stroboscopic effect and an autofocus spot beam to aid the camera in focusing in low-light conditions. It offers wide-angle coverage up to 24mm. List Price: $533.
(410) 374-3250 • www.phoenixcorp.com
Usable as either a primary or slave flash, the Phoenix D91-BZS is both versatile and affordable. With a guide number of 91 (50mm), the flash provides an adjustable zoom and a pan-and-tilt head. It's optimized to work as a slave flash with virtually any digital camera system, even compact models. The flash, which weighs just 8.7 ounces, includes wide-angle coverage up to 28mm, a convenient bracket and a table-top tripod, allowing you to position the slave-flash practically anywhere. List Price: $99.95.
Quantum Qflash T4d
(516) 222-6000 • www.qtm.com
The chameleon of flashes, the Quantum Qflash T4d's unique design provides the ability to totally transform the quality of light. Its interchangeable head system allows you to illuminate a subject using a parabolic reflector, a bare bulb or a wide-angle, diffused or telephoto reflector. With its standard head, it provides coverage up to 40mm; use its flat diffuser head and achieve coverage up to 28mm. The bare bulb provides full 360-degree coverage. Optimized for digital cameras, the flash offers a guide number of 114 (with its normal reflector) and weighs 23 ounces. The flash delivers accurate exposures through its own QTTL flash metering system and can calibrate the flash to a light meter for total control. List Price: $775.
Sigma EF-500 DG Super
(800) 896-6858 • www.sigma-photo.com
The Sigma EF-500 DG Super is available for Canon, Nikon and Pentax cameras, as well as Sigma's own digital SLRs. Weighing 11.8 ounces, the flash provides a guide number of 115 (35mm) and includes functions such as wireless TTL exposure control, high-speed synchronization, a slave feature and a modeling light. Providing wide-angle coverage up to 17mm, the flash is fully compatible with the new Canon E-TTL II and Nikon i-TTL flash metering systems for improved flash accuracy, even under extreme tonal ranges and lighting conditions. List Price: $289.
(973) 428-9800 • www.sunpak.com
The ultra-compact PZ-40X is filled with features. Available for Canon, Minolta and Nikon cameras, it has a guide number of 102 (50mm), five power settings up to 1?16 power for precise manual control and a full-info backlit LCD, all while weighing only 7.2 ounces. It offers wide-angle coverage up to 24mm (17mm with an optional adapter) and a built-in IR (infrared) AF assist beam to help the camera focus under low-light conditions. It's powered by just two AA-sized alkaline or NiMH batteries. List Price: $199.95