Choosing A Detachable Camera Flash For Your SLR

Choosing A Detachable Camera Flash For Your SLR

When you get into photography, you necessarily think of equipping yourself with a good camera and good lenses... but you must not neglect the accessories that will make a difference in your practice. 

The camera Flash is an essential element for successful photos in light conditions that are not always obvious. Choosing a good camera flash has become quite difficult given the number of parameters to take into account: what kind of camera flash? what power? what criteria?

Don't worry, this article is here to guide you!

Why you should buy a Detachable camera Flash

The importance of light

In photography, the decisive element in the success of your photos remains the light, it is by obtaining the best quality of light possible that you will put all the chances on your side to succeed in your shots.

Mastering the light is not always an easy exercise, in many situations using the sun at the right times will be enough to make your images successful, but sometimes you are forced to use artificial light and that is where a Detachable camera Flash will comes to save your life.

Disadvantages of the built-in camera flash

Most amateur photographers, when they start, think that the flash built into their camera is an asset, and unfortunately, I strongly advise against its use (unless you have no choice). Built-in camera flashes have many flaws:

  • Their power is too low
  • The impossibility of rotating them to diffuse the light is a determining factor
  • The difficulty of precisely adjusting the intensity of the flash

The built-in flash should only be an “emergency” solution, you should really favor an “external” flash. And if you're not convinced don't forget that some pro cameras don't even have a built-in flash.

The different types of camera flashes

There are 3 main categories of camera flashes for different practices, it is important to know them to know which type of equipment to turn to according to your needs.

Cobra flashes

Contrary to what one might think, cobra flashes are not dangerous reptiles. They are the most widespread external flashes, they are so called because of their shape which recalls that of the famous snake.

These flashes have many qualities that make them the most popular in the world of photography:

  • They are small and easily transportable(in a bag, for example).
  • They have very good power, we can find models allowing us to illuminate over a very long distance.
  • They work on batteries and/or batteries, and suddenly are really versatile.
  • Their “cobra” shape allows them to be rotated to direct the light where you want it, it's an undeniable asset in all situations!
  • They have an excellent quality/price ratio, there are models ranging from 30 to 400$ but by choosing correctly you can get by with an excellent copy for a hundred USD.

studio camera flashes

Studio flashes, as their name suggests, are above all reserved for " fixed " use.

  • They are generally much more powerful than cobra flashes
  • Studio camera flashes are battery operated, so less expensive in batteries 
  • Are often supplied with a foot/supportso the position of the light is much easier to modify, no need to equip yourself with accessories
  • Due to their power and their construction, they have a much shorter time between each flash, so you can strafe without embarrassment!

Ring Camera flashes

There is a 3rd type of flash, these are the “Ring flashes” or annular flashes. Particularly suitable for macro photography, you can consider acquiring one if you are a fan of this practice.

They have the particularity of producing images without shadows (or at least reducing them to a minimum) and bringing out the maximum textures and colors.

They are sometimes used in fashion or portrait photography to obtain a rendering with very “hard” light. Be careful, contrary to what one might believe if you are photographing a boxing match, “Ring flashes” are not at all suitable… 

The 4 essential parameters of a Detachable camera Flash

To choose precisely the model of the Detachable camera Flash that you need, you will have to pay attention to 4 important criteria:

Powerful

The power of a flash is given by a number the Guide Number.

In general, this figure is given for a fixed ISO number: of 100 and a “diffusion” distance, 35mm, 105mm, etc.…

Depending on what you're using it for,  this number should be large enough to illuminate a subject over a long distance. Remember that the more powerful a flash, the more energy it will consume and therefore batteries, and unlike the little Duracell pink rabbit, your Flash may quickly fall down.

Recycling time

The recycling time of a flash is the time between two flashes. Here too, depending on the use you intend to make of your flash, this is an important parameter to take into account, it will also vary according to the power of the flash used.

  • If you are shooting moving subjects and need to shoot in bursts, choose a short recycle time
  • Conversely, if you mainly do “posed” portraits and you have time to prepare the subject of your photo, then the recycling time does not matter.

TTL operation mode

A cobra flash can work in 2 different ways:

  • In manual mode, it's up to you to adjust the power of your flash dependingon the mood of your scene. It's quite "drunk" if you're a beginner, the advantage of manual mode is that you have total control of the light, the disadvantage is the loss of time... and we all know it is money!! 
  • In TTL mode, the camera and the flash communicate to automatically determine the appropriate flash powerfor your scene. This mode is very practical when you are a beginner, anyway most recent flashes are TTL compatible!

Sync Speed

The flash synchronization speed is the “limit” speed beyond which your flash will no longer fire. In general, it is around 1/250s, beyond the trigger is too fast for your flash to follow.

Depending on the types of photos you take, it may be interesting to have a high speed (sports photos for example), but be aware that there are certain high-speed synchronization flashes that allow you to greatly exceed this limit.

The accessories

After having chosen your flash according to the previous criteria, it is very useful to equip yourself with certain accessories which will bring real added value to your images, and yes you still have to take out your wallet... photography is a passion that ends up costing expensive.

Diffusers

These are in my opinion the most useful accessories, indeed the raw light that is emitted by the flash is often too “hard” and it gives an average aspect to your images. To soften it and have a better rendering, it is absolutely necessary to “diffuse” and “shape” this light, so as to propagate it well on its subject.

There are different types of diffusers for cobra and studio flashes:

  • Simple plastic tips
  • Umbrellas
  • lightboxes
  • “Snoot”: tubes allowing on the contrary to focus the light in 1 point
  • Grids

This list is not exhaustive, light scattering is a complex subject that can be covered in a future article.

Gelatins

You can stick colored gelatin on the surface of your flashes, to color your scene very simply. Gelatins can be attached in several ways (scratch, tape, etc.) it is a very practical way to create really inexpensive creative lighting!

Batteries & Chargers

Finally, if you plan to use your cobra flashes regularly, you will need to invest in good rechargeable batteries (it's more economical) along with their charger.

Personally, I use the Sanyo Eneloop whose reputation is well established and which is very practical because they hardly discharge when not in use!

Don't forget to take your budget into account when choosing your future flash.  Hope this article will help you equip yourself well and I am counting on you to tell me in the comments what flash you are going to offer yourself in the coming weeks.

 

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