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Guide To Buying the Best External Flash 2019 For Your Nikon/Canon DSLR camera

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.

Flash features

Let’s look over some basic features with which you can choose a more than decent flash for amateur photography:

  • Guide number: Or the flash power. The higher the number, the stronger the flash. If you want to calculate how many meters is capable of reaching, you must divide the guide number (GN) by the aperture you’re using. For example a flash with a 40GN power with an aperture of f/8, will allow a range of approximately 5 meters; 40/8=5.
  • Automatic (TTL) or manual: It would be interesting if you were to look for a flash with both options. Perhaps the automatic mode is more than good at first, but maybe in a while you’ll start missing being able to intervene a little in there to unleash your creativity.
  • Connection type: Initially a hot shoe flash (on top of your camera) will be more than enough, although many of them also have the ability to connect by cable.
  • Recycle time: Or time required for the flash to recharge and re-shoot.
  • Rotation angle: If you’ve taken your first steps in lighting or at least you are interested in it, you’ve probably read more than once about the benefits of bouncing off the light that comes from the flash so that it gets more diffuse and pleasant. This can’t be done with your built-in flash and it is one of the most interesting positive features of external flashes. Some only move vertically and others also move to the sides.
  • Zoom: Is the ability to adapt to the scope of the different lenses that you may be using. If the flash zoom range is within your lenses range you’ll have good shots. Typically, these focus on a range of around 24-105mm lenses for full frame cameras. (Which would be about 16-70mm for cameras with a multiplication factor of 1.5x)
  • 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.

    >>More information and user reviews on Amazon<<

    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.

    >>More information and user reviews on Amazon<<

    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.

    >>More information and user reviews on Amazon<<

    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.

    More information on Amazon: For Canon | For Nikon

    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.

    >>More information and user reviews on Amazon<<

    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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    1. I have an older Canon Speedlite 430EZ. I recently bought a Nikon D5600. I’m new to the DSLR area, but was really into 35mm SLR’s about 25 or so years ago. Question: can I use the Canon flash with my Nikon? I put it on and took some pics with it, and it worked great. I THEN went online and read about how some older flashes can damage the circuitry in newer DLSR’s. I hope I didn’t mess the camera up.

      I also have a Minolta Auto200X (which I also tried with the camera – before reading that I probably shouldn’t – and it worked great, too). Could I safely use that with my camera?

      I appreciate any information you can provide – I have tried to find an answer to this specific question and can’t – I am hoping you can help. Thanks!

      • I would not mount the old flash directly to the camera. The older flashes used greater power. You can purchase a device to go between the flash and camera. I have used older flashes in manual mode off camera setup with Yongnu RF-603 NII flash triggers and haven’t had a problem. You can also mount the flash on camera with the trigger in between. I don’t believe any TTL function will work, but you can shoot in manual mode.

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