If you already bought your ideal SLR camera, you practiced with it, you dared to leave behind the manual mode, and you made your first steps in portrait, you’ve probably passed from the “The flash fires on it’s own and does what it wants but it’s ok” phase to the “the flash fires on it’s own and does what it wants and I hate it” phase, or eventually to the “i just block it and forget it exists” phase. Well, I wrote this article because I’ve gone through those phases. Through all of them, but the truth is that not all flashes are created equal, built in flashes do their function the best they can but luckily there are other alternatives that will make you believe in them again.
Now if you’re already in the second chance phase, you have probably gone to the internet in search of the best brands, options, user comments, etc and you probably were overwhelmed by all that nomenclature and names worthy of physics nobel prizes (Can’t they really find simpler names?) and you have no idea where to start. Well, do not despair, we’ve all been through it. The trick is to simplify (like when we compose a photograph) and focus on knowing what you want, what acronyms have been devoted to name the thing you want, and not paying attention to what you don’t need.
Let’s look over some basic features with which you can choose a more than decent flash for amateur photography:
Knowing these basic features of external flashes you now have more than enough to begin delving into the world of flashes. What, still lost? Don’t worry, I’ll leave some flashes recommendations for amateurs (and some with semi professional features) that I hope will help you choose an external flash.
Flashes for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm… cameras
Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite:
It is a simple but very economical flash and it can help you explore the world of flash without risking a big budget. Its guide number is 38, vertical rotation angle (90º) and horizontal (270º), manual mode, able to work as a slave or master flash.
Yongnuo YN560 III:
A great choice at a higher price than the last but with many features and still very affordable, Among its features are the zoom head 24-105, the rotating head vertical angle of 7-90º, 0-270º horizontal, recycle time of 3s, only works in manual mode. It can work as master or slave flash.
Flashes for Nikon and Canon
Yongnuo YN-568 EX II TTL:
We went up a notch and add TTL (ETTL i-TTL), a guide number of 58, LCD screen, 24-105mm zoom, recycle time of less than 3s,. It has very good reviews and features worthy of a more expensive flash.
Metz 52 AF-1:
Guide number 52, touchscreen, high speed synchronization (HSS), vertical (90º) and a horizontal (300º) rotating head, 24-105mm zoom. A great flash, very powerful, with great features and good user reviews, but if you don’t really take advantage of it, it’s a shame to spend the EUR 215.00 it costs on Amazon. Only if you’re looking for a flash for the long term or if you are thinking of going nuts with lighting it’s worth to consider it.
Flashes Specifically for Canon SLR cameras
Canon’s Speedlite line has a few models, the simpler is the 270 EX II (Details on Amazon), followed by the 320 EX. The first one is too similar to the built-in flash in your camera from which you’re trying to escape, but a little more powerful. The second costs some 320 dollars but because of a price that high it seems it doesn’t get the best reviews (although Amazon users are delighted for example) So for that matter, if you get the budget, the most recommended is the following:
Canon Speedlite 430 EX III-RT Flash:
It is the one with the best quality price ratio. With a guide number of 141ft./43m, E-TTL-II metering (The most accurate), 24-105mm zoom head, AF assist beam, fast, quiet and with a head rotating 180 degrees (rotate 150° right and 180° left). It’s not cheap but this flash is worth every dollars.
ADVISE: Buy only if you really are going to get the most of it, because if you just use it superficially it would be a waste and not worth the investment. If you take a liking to it, it will serve you even when your level is advanced, so think of it as a long term investment.
Flashes Specifically for Nikon SLR cameras
Nikon amateur flashes start with the Nikon SB N-7, similar to the 270 EXII from Canon, flashes more powerful than the built-in on the camera although lacking some features.
Nikon SB 300: Very easy to use ideal starting point to enter the world of lighting. Guide number 18, AF assist, head can be tilted up to 120º. (More information and user reviews on Amazon)
Metz 50 AF-1: With a guide number of 50, 24-105mm zoom, 7-90º vertical rotation angle, left side turns 180º, and right side 120º, i-TTL metering (Nikon’s TTL). (More information and user reviews on Amazon)
Nikon SB 700: With this model we are entering the mid-range for amateurs eager to progress. Also its price is somewhat expensive. You pay for the brand, but it is a flash with excellent features, guide number 38, 24-120 zoom, recycle time of 2.5s approx, AF assist beam, LCD screen, etcetera. (More information and user reviews on Amazon)
When buying a flash it is important to think about what we will use it for, how often, where are we shooting, etcetera. Because it’s not the same using it on a sports stadium where you could need very low recycle times or open spaces, that using it on your living room. Similarly, if you anticipate that you may need it more frequently in the future (Are you thinking of becoming a professional photographer or it’s just a "simple" hobby? Or you don’t want to be a pro but you are ultra-enthusiast and can’t think about anything else than taking pictures?), few times the flash features go unused. In this case maybe it’s more valuable to have plenty of features instead of needing some features it doesn’t have in a few months. Of course, that is if your wallet allows it.
I hope I have shed some light on the difficult task of choosing a flash. If so, I’d love you to share this article for someone else to find out. Thank you and see you soon.
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