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Buying Camera Flash

GUIDE NUMBER

Guide numbers are the standardized, numerical way of determining the power of a flash, with a higher guide number representing a more powerful flash. To be precise, the exposure constant for a flash unit is depicted by the guide number. The Guide Number (GN) needs to be higher which signifies that the flash is more powerful enough for the photographer’s purposes if the subject of photos will be more of interior architecture or any other situation where large spaces need to be illuminated. Otherwise, if the flash is meant to be mostly used for close portraits, then the photographer doesn’t need a large guide number.

flash-to-subject distance = guide number / f-stopFor example

SYNC SPEED

The Sync speed indicates the fastest shutter speed that can be selected on a camera when firing a flash simultaneously. When the limit of sync speed is reached, it shows actual shutters on the the photo which is because of the light burst being too quick for the camera. These days most cameras have sync speed at 1/200 or 1/250. Photographers can get faster speeds by selecting the Hi-Speed option on the flash/camera and use it at faster shutter speeds.

For example, if you buy one of the new fancy flashes from either Canon or Nikon, you can use what is called high-speed sync. This turns your flash into a machine gun, but with less destruction. It makes the flash fire several low-power extremely quick bursts of light. The multiple bursts will occur at planned times during the exposure so that the whole frame will be illuminated. With high speed flash sync, photographers can use shutter speeds of over (or faster than) 1/1000th of a second.

Recycling Rate

The recycling rate determines how much time you have to wait in between flash pops. 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.

One flash: TTL VS Manual

The question of whether one should use TTL vs manual flash output is one that many photographers will experience at one point or another in their careers. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

TTL

TTL means Through The Lens metering. When you focus your camera with that half push of the shutter, your camera is not only focusing, but its taking a reading (metering) of the scene and taking a measurement of how much ambient light is being returned Through The Lens to the sensor.

Also, TTL flash uses a series or infrared flash bursts before the flash actually fires. This flash information is returned back to the camera which then adjusts the flash power accordingly to set what it thinks is a well-balanced shot.

Please pay attention that TTL is faster when the lighting or subject distance changes frequently and TTL might work out better unless you can set up your lights ahead of time and anticipate someone coming into the frame, or get good at judging distance of moving subjects.

Manual

Manual flash means the user sets the power output himself in order to get the desired amount of flash recorded in the picture. The flash exposure is affected by the available power of the flash, the aperture, the ISO, and the distance of the flash to the subject.

Unlike TTL, Manual flash is better when your lighting doesn’t change and when you have full control of all the variables

TO choose a moving flash head or not to choose a moving flash head

The flash head must be able to SWIVEL left-to-right as well as TILT up-and-down because you can suddenly gain much greater control and a variety of options regarding how to direct the light falling on the subject. Light that is pointed at your subject is very harsh light, which producing deep shadows and having a quick light fall-off from your subject to the background. To render a similar scene with softer light, you can tilt and swivel your flash head to bounce your light off a nearby wall or the ceiling in order to broaden its directional quality. After bouncing the light, that surface is being converted into a much larger light source than your flash itself.

The strobes that do not have a moving flash head have the benefit of being more compact, but outside of that their usability is significantly less than that of a strobe featuring a flash head that can tilt, and even better, one that can rotate.

FLASH POWER

Camera flashes are basically just another source of light that is used to illuminate a scene. The flash power can be controlled easily based on its intensity and direction. Flash power is measured in half increments and are depicted as full power, half power, quarter power, etc. When buying a new camera flash, it is necessary to check out its power that will signify the amount of light the flash can emit at full power.

Wireless Flash Control

Most top-of-the-line flashes allow you to use the main flash (the one attached to the camera) to control other flash units remotely and wirelessly while maintaining the intelligent TTL exposure computation on each flash unit triggered. In theory, you can link up unlimited amount of flash units wirelessly and control each flash’s output from the “commanding/master” unit attached to your camera.