Considering new flash for weddings

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by tod_o'driscoll, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. I shoot weddings in a journalistic/documentary style, using all film
    cameras (two Nikon F100s). I have been using the SB-28 flash
    (sometimes on a bracket, and sometimes off), but am considering
    purchasing another flash such as the new Quantum Q4D, or perhaps a
    Metz 54. I'm looking for something with more power, which would give
    me the option of using it for the portraits, as well as the candids
    (reception, etc.). I like the softer look of the Quantum. My only
    concern is that, although the new Q4D is lighter, it's still a lot
    bigger and heavier than my SB-28. Does anyone have the Q4D, and if
    so, how do you like it? Any opinions on the Metz 54 series?

    Thanks for your replies!
  2. There's no mention of the Q4T/X being sold yet on the Quantums site. Functionally, it’s no different than the Q2T. I saw the Q4T and it’s still quite a bit bigger and heavier than the SB28 and has to be used on a bracket. (I also use a F100 and have the SB28 and Quantum flashes.) The Quantums have a much nicer quality of light than the SB28 (broad, even coverage). The advantage of the Quantum over the Metz, for portrait work, is that the reflector can be removed and replaced with a softbox. By being able to remove the reflector the light from the bare bulb will reflect off the inside surfaces of the softbox and projected through the front diffusion panel. Fixed reflector flashes just project a light through the front panel.

    Tip for PJ style with the Quantum: The current, contemporary flash style is to use an Omni bounce on a shoe flash with a large lens aperture and slow shutter speed. This picks up lots of ambient light and provides a nice soft bounced flash light (provided you have surfaces for the light to bound off of). You can do get the same look with the Quantum by using the Quantum Wide Angle Diffuser (QF67A). This is a shallow, domed diffuser that projects the light pattern into a hemisphere. Just angle the head up about 45º - 60º (just like an Omni Bounce) and you get the same look, because it works the same way. (I did this at last night’s wedding shoot where the reception hall had high, white ceilings, and it looked great.). Exposure can be done either with Auto mode (works fine with the 10D I was using), or TTL if you have the TTL adapter. The only drawback is since light is going “all over the place”, and not just to the subject more power is needed, and batteries get drained faster.
  3. I use the Metz 40MZ1-i, which with its brother, the 40MZ3-i, preceeded the Metz 54. It is a great flash, but I don't see that you'd get anything beyond what your SB unit will give you. I use Canons and the Canon flashes don't have auto (thyristor) mode, so that is a nice alternative with Canon cameras, but I thought SB units have auto mode. Otherwise, the 54 has the same smallish flash reflector as SB units, so you won't get the same light quality from it as from the Quantum. If the 54 has more power than the SB28, then I wouldn't think it would be worth it unless it was a lot more. An alternative would be a Sunpak 120J, which gives you the larger reflector but not that much more power--guide number is about 150-- but the Sunpak is lighter than the Quantum and can take 4 AA NiMH cells as well as packs. The build quality and exposure flexibility is not as nice as the Quantum either but it is also much cheaper. If you light portraits with double lighting, it doesn't matter if the on-camera flash has the larger reflector since it is usually acting as fill. Also, with the Quantum you're immediately talking about carrying a pack, as well as suddenly looking much scarier with a big flash--something which I would think would be a hinderance to shooting in journalistic style.
  4. All we can do is relate subjective experiences. Worked with a Metz 54 and came to hate it. It is a very capable unit, but the controls are MUCH more difficult to use during a wedding (little wheel to adjust settings that has to be pushed in to scroll to different functions; tiny LCD window I was always squinting at, etc.) When I shot with a Nikon D1-X, the SB-28 series and it's digital replacement, were some of the easiest flashes to adjust while on the run. IMO, you won't gain that much by switching to the Metz and you'll lose the simplicity of the SBs Worked with a Quantum system for years. Came to hate that also. Also very capable, loved the bare bulb and quality of light. Hated carrying the tethered battery pack all the time, (the Quantum batteries are very good and hold their charge seemingly forever). With smaller cameras like the F-100, I found the Quantum units to unbalance the whole rig and be a real drag 6 hours into a wedding shoot... no matter which bracket I experimented with. Now I use Canon Cameras and have a pair of 550EXs with a ST-E2 transmitter that allows me to use both flashes at the same time while retaining ETTL at the camera. I believe Nikon now has something similar. For the times I need more power I just use 2 flashes. For my 645, I took to using the Sunpak 120J Bare Bulb with a TTL module for Contax. It is an ancient design with mostly analog controls, including a slider to control manual output down to 1/16th power. It can be used with a tethered battery pack, or just AA batteries in flash. I've had a non TTL unit for 10 years and it never has given me any trouble. I got the second TTL version about 6 months ago and it's identical. Less power than the Quantums, but more effective output than the SBs due to bare bulb and a bit better guide no.
  5. BTW, I don't use a flip flash bracket for the Contax 645 because I use the camera with a
    square Kodak ProBack digital sensor... so I do not have to turn the camera on it's side for
    any shots (like with a Hasselblad).
  6. A Norman 200b or 200c or 400b with its soft dome and soft box reflectors are the king of
    softness output. When you have real power on tap, you can bounce from multiple walls
    and the ceiling at the same time. This is true soft light.

    For more features of the 200b, search for "Norman 200b"
  7. Question for Marc:

    I have the Sunpak 120J non-TTL version. Two things always bothered me about it. First is that in auto mode, you only get 3 f-stops to work with. With TTL that is not a problem. Second is that in manual, at it's lowest power setting, it is still sometimes too powerful for use with wider apertures. Your dome reflector helps with that, of course, but do you find that you can use wider apertures at closer distances--for instance, f2.8 at 5 feet in TTL and get good exposures?
  8. Nadine - What speed film? There's a finite lower limit on the amount of light that a flash puts out, so for a given distance the largest aperture is determined by the film speed.
  9. What Bruce said.

    I'm now using a digital back which allows me to range from ISO 100 to 400 from one
    photo to the next. I also have a ND filter on me when shooting outside which cuts the
    exposure by 3 stops. Or use a Polarizer. No effect except to allow use of a more open

    Also remember that you can trick any flash by setting it on one of the auto modes and
    increasing the ISO (up to 1000 on the 120J). If you normally would be setting ISO 400 and
    instead set it to 800 you loose a stop.

    But I don't bother with this any longer. With HSS-TTL on modern SLR system flashes, I
    shoot fill-flash even close up at f/1.2 outdoors.
  10. Sorry, forgot that part. Say for ASA 400. I know you can use an ND, but I want to know if it can actually "go down that low" or do you run into a closest distance barrier. I liked using the 120J on manual with my medium format but at 1/16th power, you can shoot with f8 at 7 feet (ASA 400) but nothing wider/closer than that unless you modify the light, which I did, by using a bounce card in "clamshell" position. As far as tricking the flash in auto--setting the flash for a higher ASA just pushes the widest auto aperture from f11 to f16, and even if it gives you one more stop to play with (tricking it), its not much. I have an "older" unit--the film speed only goes up to 1000, and on the newer units the widest auto aperture is f5.6 for ASA400 (I think) so a new one would help a little, I guess. Just wondered if with TTL, you still ran into the closest distance problem.
  11. Thanks everyone for your input. It definitely is helpful. I'm not exactly sure which brand I'll buy, but this has been a great help in my decision making process.

  12. Nadine - Auto or TTL shouldn't be any different in terms of the least amount of light that the flash can put out, because it is an inherent aspect of the flash design. Since the reflector is the same as the Quantum, you can get The Quantum QF64 diffuser kit. It has two textured diffuser panels and a ring that snaps onto the front of the flash to hold the in place. Each diffuser disk cuts the light by .7 stops, and it also softens the light.
  13. Bruce:

    Thanks for the suggestion. I actually made a flash "cutter" styled along the lines of the Norman Curtis Flash Valve and it works well. The problem with this and possibly the disks (although I will definitely check it out) is the speed with which you can implement the changes (having to pull something out and fiddle with "stuff"). The bounce card I use (FlipIt bounce card) just flips into position, taking very little time. I used to use manual to photograph portraits at weddings and go from full length to half length to groups one after the other, switching the power as I went, sometimes using an off camera flash too. I'm not too concerned about using it in manual--just wondered if the minimum flash output was the same even with TTL. I also have the Norman dome reflector, which I could use to cut the power too.
  14. Flash output is often a confused issue.

    Varying light levels of any specific flash unit are controlled by duration not amount. The
    amount is always the same with any given flash... if you take a flash meter reading at 5
    feet it'll read the same with that unit set to full flash as it will set to 1/16th power. Think
    of it in terms like shutter speed (duration the light striking the film) rather than as
    aperture (amount of light striking the film).

    I know, it's hard to believe. I was amazed myself upon discovering this.

    Any flash can only go down to a certain speed of duration. 1/16th power with the 120J is a
    very short duration of output... which can actually freeze a drop of milk splashing on a
    surface for example.

    So Nadine, in order to use wider apertures closer up with 400 ISO film, you simply need a
    weaker flash. One who's overall output is much less than the 120J's fixed amount of light
    output (which you can judge by comparing Guide Numbers). Or as discussed, use NDs or
    diffusers to reduce the over-all output of light (amount rather than duration)
  15. I'm going to answer my own question based on Bruce's statement that the output/shortest flash duration is an inherent part of the flash's design, whether for auto or TTL, for the folks perhaps interested. Sorry to hijack your post, Tod, but this is an aspect of flash purchase that is important to today's journalistic photographer since the trend is to use wide open apertures and faster ASA settings. I checked the 120J's specs, and oddly enough the lowest manual power setting does not produce the shortest duration flash it is capable of. Based on the data for auto (thyristor) flash, the direct answer to my question is, at ASA 400, I can use f2.8 at 5 feet (or whatever equivalent setting) in TTL, but that is the limit. The shortest flash duration is 1/8000th second. If I put a dome reflector on or modified the head with diffusers, I could change that, but that would also cut down on the maximum distance possible. I wouldn't be able to use the setting with auto flash, because the available apertures are set. The widest f stop I can use on auto (if I had the newer model) is f5.6 with 400 ASA. Setting the ASA on the flash to a higher speed doesn't help (in this case) because the available aperture is bumped up one (smaller) so you're back to where you were.
  16. Interesting that the 120J allows a shorter duration in TTL than when set to manual. I guess
    that's possible because the manual slider only goes down to a fixed number (1/16th
    power). Evidently that isn't the shortest the duration the flash can produce...and TTL
    allows a little less.

    Thanks for researching that Nadine. So that means I should be able to use my 645 with a
    140/2.8 wide open at 5 feet if the 120J is set to TTL. Yeah!

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