420ex & umbrellas

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jmublueduck (aim), Jan 21, 2003.

  1. I have a D60 w/ a 420ex. In attempt to find the cheapest way to use the
    speedlite reasonably for soft lighting for portraits, is it powerful enough to be
    used with an umbrella? Obviously it's no substitute for a monolite, but I'm
    working with what I have for the time being.

    What's the max umbrella size that would work well? what about minimum
    aperture? silver/white lining? does the off-camera shoe cord (retaining e-ttl)
    reach far enough to be used effectively?

    If not, I'm not buying the ST-E2. $200 for a wireless trigger for a "weak"
    speedlite isn't quite worth it for me, ya know? oh... I do have a white 42"
    reflector as well.

    thanks :)
  2. I use multiple 550Ex Speedlites in umbrellas up to 42 inches, triggered by the ST-E2 and they seem to have power to spare. Since the 420EX is only slightly less powerful, I am sure they would work well, although I think 36 inch umbrellas would be about right.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the OCSC2 would work well and I am sure that arrangement would be in danger of crashing down with any inadvertent pull of the camera. I think you need to bite the bullet and get the ST-E2. You can also use it independent of the speedlite for its ablities as a focus assist light with your D60.
  3. I have the short E-ttl cord and have used it to connect to an umbrella equipped E-ttl flash that was very close to the camera. I found it a pain. I now have 2 550's and the st-e2 and the freedom it provides was well worth the cost. I'm sure the 420 would serve you well with the st-e2 so I have to second the motion to spring the extra money. Believe me, you will use it for more than a portrait shot. It opened up a multitude of flash shooting that I could have never done without the st-e2 so you should not dismiss it as not capable with the 420. As I only do the occasional portrait, the setup I use is more than enough. I have also used this setup at a wedding and had no underexposing problems. I use 400 iso and usually don't exceed f8 –9.5. Keep the umbrellas reasonably close (under 8 feet) and I sure you will get good results. I also have used this stuff with softboxes and there again it works well.
  4. What's the max umbrella size that would work well?
    I have a 420EX that I use in a W-ETTL multi-flash setup with my Elan 7E.
    If you set the 420EX to SLAVE mode, the head automatically zooms to the widest setting, 24mm FOV coverage. Shot into my 42" white umbrella from its normal mounting distance produces a hotspot in the middle! Therefore, I suggest using a 30" umbrella instead. Or use a slave with a diffusor to fill the entire 42" umbrella. Or move the 420EX further back from the umbrella.
    Not enough power? Move the light closer to the subject - E-TTL metering is *VERY* effective in preventing blown highlights. Or choose higher ISO on the D60 (and rescue with noise reduction software in post-processing). Or add a second or third slave.
  5. I use a 550EX with a 42" umbrella & it works fine out to about 8' with ISO film & f/5.6-8. With the 420EX you would just have to keep it a bit closer or use a faster aperture.

    Another thought about the OCSC2 is to try using 2 of them. I know Canon doesn't recommend this, but most people find it still works very well. I've done this with the umbrella setup & it's a lot better than trying to do it with one cord, but it still pulls on the flash some.
  6. I shoot lots of portraits and use the following equipment: EOS 3, two 550s, one 420, two 42" white umbrellas. I have no st-e2, so I use a 550 as a transmitter (usually set not to flash) and a 550 as a main and 420 as fill/secondary. 160 or 100 ISO, f 5.6 - f 8. Umbrellas used as diffusers (vice reflectors) at 8 to 10 feet. This works very well. I have also had excellent results using a powershot G2 instead of EOS 3. The 420 puts out enough power to use as a main in most situations for me, but I am using two Speedlites. If you have the $$, the st-e2 and additional 420 would work well for you if you're just shooting portraits and can keep everything close, but a 550 would offer more power and versatility. I've heard of people stretching that cord out to five feet or so, but I wouldn't try it (it probably wouldn't stretch back, and like another poster said it would be a real pain to work with). If your budget is really tight, try adding a reflector or two to your kit. Good luck.
  7. Umbrellas mentioned above are 42".
  8. thanks for the input everyone... sounds like this option would work well. I
    guess it's a big toss-up in my mind right now; I already have $$ invested in
    one speedlite, adding another & a ST-E2 wouldn't be a bad idea....... but some
    strobes (e.g alienbees) are fairly inexpensive in comparison...

    I could get an 800 watt monolight + an umbrella + stand for under $400.
    But.... the speedlites are much easier to deal with b/c of a lack of wires &
    portability... so it's a consideration.

    another question: could I use a monolight & speedlite together? say using
    my 420ex for a backlight & a monolight for the main? would this work, or
    would the speedlite technology not mesh well in a setup like this? It'd be
    about the same price to add an ST-E2 for the 420ex & a decent monolight (w/
    more power, obviously), instead of a ST-E2 & a 550ex, e.g.

    thanks again for the tips... do any of you have examples of shots done w/ a
    speedlite setup??
  9. I am also considering trying the speedlites off camera with umbrella setup, so I have many of the same questions. Also, if you use multiple speedlites (maintaining e-ttl) is the camera still able to meter reasonably well or would you have to use a flash meter?
  10. Have you think of the Sigma EF500 Super? At about the same price as ST-E2, it is a lot more than just a wireless trigger.
  11. You seem hung up on the mono-light thing. Have you run out of power yet? Are you doing large group shots? Do you need to stop down past f8? Are you needing lots of power for elaborate lighting situations? If you were using medium format and need to stop the longer lenses down to f11-16 then you will need the extra power. You realize you lose all automated features of E-ttl, (rendering the 420 useless), when you move to the bigger lighting systems. My advice to you would be to continue with the smaller flash till you really find a need for more power. You will then have two useable systems for the different situations that may arise. You would really want 550’s to mix and match with mono-lights due to their manual ability.

    Lisa, E-ttl takes away the need of a flash meter. You only need the flash meter if you are going to stay in manual settings (and with film). The fact that the 420’s are not manually adjustable also comes into play.
  12. almost everything you're planning you can get away with, except the cord, mine is about 1 foot when coiled, and it DOESN'T like to uncoil very far. You can chain several of them together, but what a pain. The umbrella actually will work, but with the cord setup you only get one umbrella, and one light. ST-e2 will control multiple speedlights seemlessly, even with control over lighting ratios, so don't think of it as a controller for "1" speedlight, it could be gangs of them!! think of multple stands, multiple lights, untethered and auto controlled, pretty awesome. As for the other stuff, size of the modified light source is mostly going to depend on how good the makeup is, a smaller light source will bring out fine lines. We have successfully put 2 lights into each umbrella and used 160 speed portrait film. The difference between silver or white is mostly preference, after testing the results were more subtle than I thought they would be. We actually ended up settling on stacking two 32" inch umbrella's (one over the other on two stands) so that the white hit the face and the silver hit the body area. Using this and the reflector, the only thing you would be lacking would be a modeling light. Here's another tip, the background doesn't have to be square to the lens, if you bring one side closer (we like the side opposite the umbrella set-up), you can give the appearance of another light on the background, that will help seperate the hair shape from the background.
  13. thanks for the note paul; i'm not really hung up on the idea of a monolight, but admittedly it is much more versatile than a flashgun. true, e-ttl is gone, but i'm focused more on the end result of a photo than the simplicity of getting there. it's not that difficult to find a correct exposure manually ;) but don't get me wrong, i know that e-ttl is a marvel in itself... thanks!
    larry: sounds like you've got a good system going... a bit untraditional, but creative nonetheless. thanks for your input!

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