Photo Tip Of The Day

Today’s Photo Tip (#185)

External flash units scare quite a number of people when it comes time to consider the purchase of such an item. The reason for most people’s concern is that very few people understand what on camera flashes are about. In the next few paragraphs I’ll describe flashes for Nikon & Canon most of the information will be applicable to other brands, you’ll just have to check the manufacturer’s website for more information.

Nikon’s entry level flash is called the SB-400 while Canon’s is the Speedlite 270EX. Both these flashes fit into the respective camera’s hotshoe. All the user needs to do is install batteries and turn the unit on. The camera will control the output of the flash. Both these flash units sport a bounce head. This allows the light from the flash to be directed towards a white ceiling to soften the light. This is OK until you turn the camera to vertical or portrait orientation. The flash can’t bounce off the ceiling only a wall or similar reflective surface.

Canon’s 430EX II and the Nikon SB-600 (Soon to be SB-700) have both bounce and swivel to help those who like to shoot vertically. Both these flash guns are approximately 3.5 x the power of their smaller cousins. In both cases these flash units use 4 AA batteries for more power. Along with this higher power output comes more functions. Power ratio or manual control over the output is one of the many extras these flashes have. Another major function is the ability to be wirelessly controlled by another flash or a flash commander unit. This opens up all sort of lighting possibilities when you start taking advantage of this function. These two units are possibly the best choice for most people wanting to get into creative lighting or just want a more powerful flash than the built in flash.

The last two flashes I’ll mention are the Nikon SB-900 and the Canon 580EX II, these two flashes represent the absolute latest and greatest in Speedlite technology. To date these units are the most powerful in their class from their respective manufacturers. Power ratio, stroboscopic, and modeling lamps as well as being a remote commander for multiple flash set ups, external battery packs are the extras that these units are capable of. If you are after a powerful flash these are the babies for you. Add a couple of these together and you have the makings of a potable studio.

Each of the 3 models from the 2 manufactures offers something for everyone. Depending on the flash output you need as to which one you should get. See your local camera store for the price of the one you think suits you best.

Happy Shooting

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