Which non-Canon flash?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by mwmcbroom, Sep 16, 2009.

  1. Okay, I need to get an off-camera flash for my XS (1000D). I can't afford a 430 EX-II right now. The 580? Fuggeddaboudit. Got a kid I'm putting through college, and it's using up almost all my resources. I can probably fit an aftermarket in my budget though, which is maxed out at $150. I see that Sigma, Sunpak, and Vivitar make some flashes that look to be roughly equivalent to the 430 and that fit within my budget. I've never owned a Sigma or Sunpak, but I've owned a few Vivitars over the years, including the venerable old 285HV.
    Just wondering if any folks here might have an opinion on a flash that will come close to the 430 in performance and value?
  2. You should look into Metz flashes. If you're looking for off-camera flashes you could to pretty good with the 45 series flashes. Runs on 6 aa bats. You might want to do your research to see if the solution works for you. I have a few Metz series 45 flashes and they are built tough and produce consistent flash temps over many power ranges.. You can also modify the sync cable to accept the standard 1/8 inch plug for triggering..
  3. Michael, check the trigger voltage of that Vivitar. If it's less than 250V, you should be OK using it with auto mode, if not Wein sync safe might need to be used.
    If you want ETTL automation and budget is tight, maybe a used Canon 420EX. I just searched KEH and they have one for $144. This is a nice flash that you can use as slave later.
  4. If it is entirely for off-camera, you could use just about any flash that has manual controls; preferably one with a optical slave built in, if not, you can add one using either a hotshoe adapter or sync connector (whatever the flash has). I see a lot about Nikon SB-25's and 26's being pretty good. I myself use Vivitar 285's and 285hv's....mostly because they are cheap and have been solid for me.
  5. For totally off camera lighting, about the only thing you need it manual control and an interface that will work with whatever trigger you use (assuming that you don't use a cable to connect the flash to the hotshoe, which if you ask Canon they will tell you 6 volts is the most that the hotshoe is rated for). You should probaby know just how much voltage your flash has, as even some radio triggers can't handle things when they get too hot. http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html
    Before anyone gets too excited let me state that many people have used flashes with trigger voltages over 6 volts with no problems what so ever. I'm just stating what Canon will tell you if you email them. Also, I'd skip the Wein Safe Sync for high voltage use, it's close to $50 US and you could just take that much money and get a flash that works the way you want it too to begin with.
  6. Even though I am a Canon shooter I have been using Nikon SB28's for years and with great success. They can be fired with cheap radio triggers, unlike Canon Flashes, and they can also be triggered with optical slaves. They can be used off camera in either the manual or auto flash modes and they have a really cool built in Guide Number calculator (that is what I call it anyway). When in manual mode you enter an ISO and F number and it will give you a distance to set the flash based on the power you have entered. They have a max guide number of 164 feet where as the 430EX is only 141 feet. I bought mine 5 or 6 years ago for around $50-$60 but this strobist craze has jacked the price up to around $100. The Nikon SB26 is a great little flash as well and it has a built in optical slave.
    Personally I would steer away from the 420EX's and hold out till you can afford a 430EX. I used 3 420EX's as slaves for several years but replaced them with 430EX's as soon as they came out. They can only be used in ETTL mode as they have no manual features so unless you are going to have them attached to your hotshoe (directly or with an ETTL cord) or fired wirelessly by a master flash (a 550EX, 580EX, 580EXII or st-e2) they are totally worthless.
  7. Do you need E-TTL capability? Because getting that functionality on an off-camera flash is gonna cost you, 3rd party or not. The OC-E3 cord (or equivalent) is the cheapest but is really short and wireless E-TTL will be too expensive for you, period. On a budget, you are stuck with manual flash for off-camera use. Does your Vivitar 285HV still work? You could just use that if so: get a sync cord, optical slave or "eBay" radio trigger and you're good to go.
    The spiritual successor of the Vivitar 285HV is in many ways the Lumopro LP120 ($130). It is a manual flash designed with the Strobist community, which is all about using hotshoe flashes off-camera. (If you haven't seen the Strobist blog before, you should check it out.) Notably, the LP120 has a built-in optical slave and both miniphone and PC cord inputs. Combined with the hot shoe, that's 4 different sync options out of the box; not too shabby.
  8. I would get a used 430EX (Not the EX-II, but the older one). This is a great flash, a lot better than the 420EX. I actually own the 430EX.
    I just checked on Ebay found 3 different "completed listings" that sold for exactly $150. Of course, some went for $200. But, if you keep watch I'm guessing you'll find a 430EX for $150, just watch the "shipping" cost and feedback rating. Expect about $8-15 for shipping.
    That is definitely the way to go.
  9. Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback. Upon re-reading my request, I realize I should have worded it slightly differently, namely that I'm looking for TTL flash that can also be used off camera. I need to study up on all the different things that can be done with strobe lighting these days. I'll admit I'm quite a ways behind the curve.
    Back in the day, I would use my Metz 60 CT1 and Braun F900, bounced out of umbrellas or diffusers, with a small wink light or two for fill, hooked it all up with sync cables and slave triggers, and checked exposure with my Luna Pro F.
    It seems like nowadays the biggest problem is dealing with all the preflash business a camera does, so regular old slave triggers can't be used anymore. But then some flashes have built in slave capability, from what I understand. But if I don't mount this flash onto the camera, and use it off-camera instead (but not as a slave) then I won't have the pre-flash problem right? Geez it's so confusing!
  10. Couple questions:
    You want off camera flash, do you want it wireless, or with cables?
    Also, do you want to have TTL off-camera, or are you comfortable with setting the flash setting manually?
    You're going to have a difficult time keeping $150 budget, because the flash itself might cost half or all of it.
    There are optical slave triggers that are designed for "Digital" and will take the preflash into account. Wein Digital Hotshoe Slave, cost about $75, you can put a Flash with manual settings, and should be able to fire it, with the onboard flash from the Rebel. Also, you can find cheap (somewhat unreliable) radio units on ebay or something like a "Cactus V4". Of course, there is no TTL (ETTL), the flash has to be set manually.

    (cheap/unreliable ebay stuff)
    (Cactus V4, a little more well know, same basic principal)

    I don't like to mess with cables, so I can't suggest anything, someone else maybe able to give you advice with that.
    There are also things like "Radio Poppers" and "Pocket Wizards", but both are beyond your budget, but the recent versions let you use E-TTL. Most of your money will probably be spent on a decent manual flash (the Vivitar 285 or something) and then adding some wireless system (either the optical digital slave, or the cheap radio transmitters).
  11. Ah, well in that case a used 430EX should serve adequately as it is the lowest model that supports manual control. (I cannot speak for 3rd party TTL flashes.)
    As long as you avoid using ETTL mode you will avoid the preflash. Unfortunately, pop-up flashes are ETTL-only so they cannot serve as your "master". So you could get a cheap non-TTL flash that is digital body-safe (i.e. does not have a high trigger voltage) and attach that to your hotshoe. Your old optical slaves should then work as they always have.
    If you'd like to use PC sync cords instead, then keep in mind the only Canon flash that takes it natively is the 580EX II so you'll need an adapter for the flash. MPEX has a "universal translator" (~$19) for this purpose.
  12. Yongnuo YN 460 (this is not TTL):
    Ex-factory prices are said to be sub $40!

    This is the spec:
    GN: 33m/110 feet (ISO 100) (about 10% more power than the SB600)
    Tilt adjust: horizontal to vertical (90 deg)
    Swivel: up to 270 deg
    Power Source: 4 X AA size batteries (1.2v or 1.5 volt Alkaline, hybrid or NiMH)
    Battery Life: up to 100 flashes full power, up to 1500 times at 1/64 using best quality alkaline batteries
    Full Power Recycle Time: 5 sec (with fresh best quality alkaline batteries, not sustainable for too long due to heat build up)
    Color Temperature of bulb: 5600K
    Flash Duration: Full Power 1/800s, 1/64 power 1/20000s
    Flash adjustment: 7 manual power levels: 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64
    Power Saving: Stand by mode after 30mins of non-use in manual mode, 60 mins to power off when using the S1 optic mode.
    Dimensions: 72X135X85mm (approx the same size as the SB600, both measured in flash angled forward mode, of course!)
    Weight: 250g (without batteries)
    Manual mode
    Slave mode S1: Normal optical slave
    Slave mode S2: Pre-flash cancel slave
    Test/Pilot button
    Triggered by hot shoe
    No sync cord input :(
    Slot above flash head for bounce cards (supplied with diffuser board and bounce card)
    Supplied with stand and bag.
  13. Thanks again for the responses. I can see I have quite a bit to think about and work through.
    I think that, given my immediate budget restraints, I should look for a used 430EX (maybe a -II?), or give one of the Vivitars or such a try. Start off with one of those, and get used to using it instead of the pop-up flash on-camera. Then add to my kit as I can afford it.
    I don't really need off-camera TTL. It would be nice, but it's not really necessary. And I know it can get pricey in a hurry. Exposure wise, I've always done well in the past using my Luna Pro F shooting slides, so doing it with digital shouldn't be difficult. But I just really don't care for the look of flash photos when the flash is mounted to the camera. So soon after I get a better flash, I'll be looking for a way to use it off camera. I've just taken a look at the reviews on the OC-E3 off-camera cord, and there are many complaints about its fragility. Apparently the piece that the flash fits to has been rather severely under-engineered. So, this gives me pause. I'd be pretty steamed if I spent $70 on a cord, and have it fail on me not long after I bought it.
    Old flashes, like the Vivitar 285, had a thyristor built into the front of the unit, which would sense correct exposure and shut off the flash accordingly. So, if I'm using, let's say, a 430EX off the camera, I'm wondering, will I have to use the OC-T3 for any flash automation? That is, does the flash have any on-board metering capability? I've got hot shoe adapters and PC-sync cords, and seems to me I could cobble up a way to use the flash off camera. Probably won't be as fragile as the OC-E3 either. Course as far as the camera will know, it will be manual flash, but if the flash itself has metering capabilities (like the old 285), that might be sufficient.
    Heck, maybe I oughta just get a new 285 and be done with it, eh?
  14. The durability issues of the OC-E3 concerned me too. I've just been putting off buying it until I really need it. The cord is pretty short, so it seems that it's not intended for "real" off-camera work and more for flash brackets. That said, there are cheaper knockoffs on eBay so you could just use those and try them first... (I'm considering that.)
    Since most people shoot digital now, I think that a good number of Strobists just use trial and error with full manual control on all their off-camera flashes. They just use the LCD preview and histogram to judge their exposure. Somewhat tedious, but cheap. If all the flashes are the same make and model, setting up ratios becomes rather simple with this approach. I'm pretty sure that doing this often will train your brain to be a "close-enough" flash meter, which is a pretty nice side effect.
    I have not used a flash's on-board meter, but I feel it is worth saying that Canon added that capability back in with the 580EX II (580EX II manual, page 30), so perhaps that feature is seeing a resurgence. I am pretty sure the 430EX (and every other recent model besides the 580EX II) do not have this external metering. Old is new again, I suppose?
  15. It would seem so.
    Yes, digital makes things convenient. Back in the day, to duplicate what a simple review on the LCD accomplishes, required a Polaroid camera or a Polaroid back to insure that exposure was accurate, the shadows were falling the right way, etc.
    I have a Canon 420EZ flash that I've owned for almost 20 years. It has been a faithful companion for snapshots with an old 35mm EOS Rebel, and then after the Rebel died, an Elan IIe. When I bought the XS, I mistakenly assumed that the 420EZ would be a capable flash with the new camera. Turns out, it could only be used in manual mode. Well, no problem, said I, 'cuz I can do exposure previews to get the flash setting where I want it.
    But then, just a few months after getting the XS, the 420EZ finally gave up the ghost. I suspect the capacitor finally gave out. It had been sounding rather whimpy for years when recycling. Dang. That old 420 is (was) actually a nice flash. If I could locate a capacitor for it, I'd try to repair it.
  16. What about Nissin Digital Speedlite Di622? I own one of those and I'm happy with it. Beside of this, Nissin manufacture flash light from over 40 years.
  17. I have the Yongnuo YN460 flash - great flash (non-TTL) and it's only $45 !
    - adjustable power level
    - two optical slave modes
    - tilt / swivel

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