Updated: Mar 21, 2018
Photo by Tom Wang
Choosing the right flash can be a daunting experience, especially if you are new to the world of flash photography. Speedlight allows you to achieve more balanced exposures in daylight conditions, permits freezing of fast-moving subjects and can also be used to control or trigger other flash light sources. But for beginners, with so many options, brands, and fancy terminology it’s easy to get confused. Here, Ocean Camera Gadgets helps you find the perfect flash. Have a look:
1. TTL? A-TTL? E-TTL? What Does That Even Mean?! – TTL stands for Through The Lens, what that means is that the camera communicates and controls the flash settings automatically. It uses a pre-flash to measure and determine certain variables which will decide how much power the actual flash will throw off–and this all happens in real time! TTL is particularly useful when working in situations where distances and lighting can change from shot to shot. Therefore, for beginners, it is better to start with a flash with TTL function.
2. How Important Is It To Have Manual Mode? – Well, that depends on you, the shooter! For ultimate control and to get the most out your flash unit, by all means you will want manual mode. This will also allow you to use any brand flash with any brand of camera with a standard hotshoe. All Yongnuo and Godox flash has Manual mode.
Manual mode allows full control over speedlight use and consistent power from shot to shot. You can choose the percentage of power — from full power (1/1) down, in one-stop settings through 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64 (and 1/128 on some high-powered units). Again, power can also be adjusted further in 1/3 increments. When shooting in manual, remember that all speedlights and cameras have a fixed top-flash sync speed (usually between 1/125th and 1/320th sec), and if you try to shoot faster than this, you’ll end up with clipping (a black section across your photo).
Manual mode also allows you to choose between first and second curtain sync. By default, the flash fires on first curtain sync (where the shutter in your camera opens first). Second curtain sync is really useful for shooting subjects in motion, though, as the flash fires just before your camera’s shutter closes. Because second curtain sync is really only visible at speeds of 1/30th sec and below, you’ll need to use a tripod.
Therefore, for seasoned photographers, Manual model can give them more imagination and flexibility.
3. Recycle Time – Being able to rapidly fire your flash will be very helpful especially if you are a fast shooter or are trying to capture action sequences. Eneloop pro battery with 2h quick charger (which are rechargeable) often give a better recycle time, plus they are environmentally friendly! NEVER use cheap AA battery for your flash.
New model such as Godox V860II speedlight has Li-on battery which give even faster recycle time (1-2s) and more cycles.
4. Understanding Guide Numbers – The guide number can help you calculate the range of a specific flash by dividing the guide number (GN) by the f/stop you plan on using.
flash-to-subject distance = guide number / f-stop For example, the Yongnuo YN968 EX-RT has a guide number of 60 meters. So, shooting at f4, you could use the following equation to figure out that the YN968 has a range of 12.5 meters. Higher GN means more powerful.
5. Flexibility is Essential – One of the downfalls of your cameras built-on flash is the inability to direct it in any direction other than where the camera is pointed. This makes it difficult to bounce it, much less control it. If the head of your flash unit doesn’t allow for tilting or turning, it somewhat defeats the purpose! Most of the Yongnuo and Godox flash supports tilting and turning.
6. Going Wireless – There are three options available to get you strobing wirelessly. One is to buy a flash with an optical trigger to use with almost any brand of camera which supports optical triggers, but you will sacrifice the TTL ability. Alternatively, you can buy a flash unit compatible with your camera to preserve TTL capabilities. Most of Yongnuo and Godox flash has build-in transmitter such as YN600 EX-RT II, Godox 685, and Godox V860II. Lastly, you could use Godox X1T trigger to mix and match your flashes with different cameras and maintain TTL.
7. Softening the light – Flash light is, by nature, pretty harsh, so it needs softening down. It’s worth investing in a few accessories to help achieve this. One of the most useful is a diffuser — a small white box that slots onto the front of the flashgun and helps diffuse the light. If you have a slightly bigger budget, you can also invest in a mini softbox, such as the Godox SB1520.
8. Temperature Control – Flash units have the tendency to get hot when they are in heavy use. On some units this means they may shut down completely or start operating at a lesser power. Know what to expect if you will be putting your speedlight through rigorous shooting sessions.
9. Functions And Features – Not all flash units are created equally. Some have advanced features such as zoom, multi-flash for rapid burst shooting, and modeling lights for previewing the light. Evaluate your photography style and needs to prevent overpaying for features you will likely never use.
10. In The End, You Get What You Pay For – In general, the higher end flashes will feature a higher durability and resilience to wear and tear.