Camera flashes
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Author:  Matt Wilcox [ Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Camera flashes

Hi guys, I think I may have asked this before, but I can't find the post if I did, so I apologise if this is repeating stuff.

I'd like to try some off-camera flash photography. Only the technical mumbo-jumbo with lighting seems to be even more dense than with camera's and lenses.

I'd like a solution that I can carry around and add to easily if needed: so dirty great lamps like we have at Photosoc are not what I have in mind. I'd also want them to fire without relying on my on-camera flash (which is what I've seen for cheap off-camera solutions). I'm sure I've seen some solution with a fancy brand-name, but as cool as they were they were damned expensive too.

From my brief look into things, the cannon side of lighting seems to be pretty expensive, and I've no real idea about all this TTL stuff - either what it does, or whether my camera supports it.

Basically, I'd like a flash that I can sit on the camera itself, but also take it off and have fire from wherever I put it. Preferably where I can later add another flash, control the brightness of each, and fire both at once. I've got a feeling though that the camera doesn't have a remote/radio trigger built in, and from there the tinternet seems to be a whirl of confusion about trigger types, latency, re-cycle times, and technical stuff that ends up with people being nerderific and debating the finer points of everything.

Author:  mattwaddy [ Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:17 pm ]
Post subject: 

Dude, should have asked me at the weekend about this!

As you have mentioned canon flashes are very expensive as are the new Nikon flashes.

You can use older flashes which will work on camera but only in a manual or auto method not using TTL which is what most new flashes support.

You will need some sort of triggering system; quite a few options on that front.

Optical - a little hotshoe that detects your onboard flash and triggers the flash it's attached too. Quite limited use, as bright daylight etc hinders this + range

E-TTL (Canon, not sure if the 350d Supports it) - Basically you can trigger an off camera flash using pre-flashes (IR) from the onboard or a master flash on camera (meaning you can manually adjust off camera flashes from the master (or use ttl which you don't want)

PC Cords - Fixed cables, basicallty you get a hotshot to PC cord adapter, prosuming the 350d doesn't have a PC jack. That can then connect via a PC cord to your flash/flahes and will trigger manually configured flashes. Fairly cheap, cables fairly easy to damage, limited range (due to length of cable)

Wireless Triggers - This is where you probably want to be, you can get a large range of these triggers from £20 a set (Rx+Tx) up to £200+ for a Transmitter/receiver from pocket wizard you would need two of these at least. The idea being you have one transmitter which sits on the camera hotshoe, a reciever attached to either the hotshoe or PC jack of the flash and then hey presto you can trigger wirelessly. A single transmitter can usually trigger any number of receivers on the same channel / frequency. The cheaper triggers me and Chris have are not as reliable as the Pockets and other makes, and have a more limited range.

Going back to flashes, you will need any flash that has manual control of powah, ideally in fine increments. I'm not sure what canon offers in the older range, but any Nikon SB-24,25,26,28,80 would be fine, but you would need to check on camera capabilities. Some have <12v>150v so you need to be a little weary. There are good offers on the vivitar 283 if I remember rightly, metz also do a few cheaper ones. It depends on your budget really. Strobist if a good place to find compatible flashes, but this has also driven up the cost on places like ebay. A good place to look would be your secondhand camera stores.

Hope that helped, feel free to quiz me more

After you have the flashes and triggers you may / probably will need accessories such as collapsible umbrellas and light stands / tripods, which can be bought on a budget and will give you a portable setup. I should have the finishing touches to my setup next month, so you are welcome to have a look at the kit, it's setup cost and weight etc. Chris is also in the same boat at the moment I think putting together his portable kit.

You may also need umbrella swivells / clamps etc depending on your needs or you could use the voice activated light stand approach :)

Links for wireless solutions


as mentioned strobist is your real friend here read the lighting 101+102 etc. I have a bunch of strobist DVD's and also Joe Mcnally if you want to watch and learn

Author:  Matt Wilcox [ Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:35 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the help dude, though I'm still confused on some of the stuff.

Why would I not want TTL? Am I right in thinking it's a system trying to do the "auto everything" mode?

You are right about the trigger method though, I'd prefer radio - optical seems too limited (environment & require on-camera flash), wires seem too fiddly (and I seem to have developed a habit of snagging expensive equipment on their cables recently - laptop, iPhone - both nearly killed by a wire-snag).

Pocket Wizard! That was the brand I was on about.

Thanks for the help again Matt, indeed should have asked at the weekend. Be cool to see your set up next time I'm over.

Author:  mattwaddy [ Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:06 pm ]
Post subject: 

TTL is fine for the quick picture, as you say it is a fully automatic solution for calculating exposure and flash strength using through the lens technology. If you want that option you are going to need to pay quite a lot more for a flash compatible with your camera (unless you look at third party products) if you want to have 'control' of the ambient and manual flash control you don't need that, but it would be a nightmare if you want really quick photo opps with the flash. It certainly does have it's benefits and I certainly use it in conjunction with Nikons CLS system.

Depends on your exact needs really.

The cheaper ebay triggers are ok, I have a few issues with them, but if it's not mission critical you get 100% success, they are worth their weight in gold. And a mucher cheaper solution. Radio Poppers and elichromes are an intermediate solution but there are loads out there.

Author:  MWF [ Tue Feb 10, 2009 1:22 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sounds like all you need is a flash, cheap radio triggers and a tripod adapter.

The flash will dictate how flexible it all is, a powerful flash with swivel head and TTL metering would be best.

Author:  combatsquirrel [ Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

Saying that the radio method failed for me in bright sunlight last time I used 2 flashes, I found the auto trigger from the on camera flash to be much more reliable. Jimys camera supports E-TTL2 from canon and I fully recommend it, its a very good system, especially when paired with a 580EX2 level of flash, the newer the flash, the better it seems to work. Ill natter to you next time I see you, id follow waddys advice and all the bits where he seems to understandably not know about canons stuff I seem to know the answers 2, flash technique though am rubbish at, haha.

Unfortunately again jimy, you decided you want something at the worst possible time :cry: , flash prices have sky rocketed, most of what the good flashes are have almost doubled in price, if only you decided this 3 months ago :cry: , be years until they go down again, 2nd hand market if your lucky is best bet.

Id start with a 420/430ex or 580ex mk1 or 2 and build around that....borrow the clubs 420ex to have a play with for free.

Author:  MWF [ Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

I've never had radio fail even with the cheap poppers and I've used them a lot.

Author:  mattwaddy [ Wed Feb 11, 2009 5:36 pm ]
Post subject: 

I would agree with Chris on this my radio triggers have never let me down just the odd random miss fire, compared to the ettl / cls which is very hit and miss in bright sunlight, and when you want to position the flash inside the shot but out of sight you can have line of sight issues. The Ettl setup will be fine for playing with and I would have a play with a flash from photosoc if you can. It really does depend on what you will be shooting / distances etc. Hope we have helped......

Author:  MWF [ Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

I used optical triggering a lot with the SB800 and D70s/D80 and found it very hit and miss. The D70s eventually killed its on-board flash.

Author:  mattwaddy [ Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

I found it great with the SB-600 at close range, macro etc, but when I extended that above 6ft or so, then things were not as reliable. I know ettl followed CLS as Nikon had the solution first, from what I hear the Canon system has the same flaws, guess it's nearly identical in technology

Author:  MWF [ Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:27 am ]
Post subject: 

I think it's cool that the option to use a remote TTL metered flash straight out the box is there, and it's backwards compatible with older Nikon cameras. I also found the SB800 a lot more reliable than the Lomo optical slave I tried.

I'm not too familiar with the Canon stuff but it seems they were really caught napping in this area.

Author:  Matt Wilcox [ Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Cheers for all this guys :)

I'll have another re-read and a nosey around strobist. Man I've been busy this week.

Sounds like all you need is a flash, cheap radio triggers and a tripod adapter.

Now that's the level of advice I was after :) Now to decide what flash to get.

Author:  MWF [ Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:18 pm ]
Post subject: 

Warehouse express have the 430ex in at £199.00 at the moment.

http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product ... ku=1027434

This is the style of popper to go for.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/4CH-Wireless-Radi ... 05832008QQ

Author:  Matt Wilcox [ Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:18 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Chris :)

Joel at work is bringing his flash in tomorrow, 450ex I think. And his manfroto tripod.

I've too much stuff to buy at the moment, I think I may end up postponing the flash. Gotta get a new bike, and I'm decorating the spare room. *sigh* Need more dollar.

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