Our Favorite Manual Flashes | Transcription

Now I can talk about these flashes forever. That’s why I have created a little bullet point list of pros and cons with each one. I am going to go through them that way I don’t sit here and get super verbose and just talk about gear because I do like talking about gear. All of these flashes, they are like my babies. I love them all. Actually you know what? They are not. I don’t love them all. Some of them are really, really annoying, and they all have their little quirks and so forth, but these are kind of the best that we got. I am going to talk about each one of them, and I’ll let you guys make a decision on which one you want.

I even have of my little redheaded stepchildren hidden away in here, not like an actual stepchild. Like a redheaded stepchild of flashes, hidden away in here. We will bring him out later on. Okay. Starting from the top. My favorite. Really I don’t have much bad to say about this guy except maybe one thing, which I’ll get to, but this is the LumoPro LP180. It is roughly around 200 bucks depending on if you get it on sale or not. Let’s talk about the pros. Number one is the excellent build quality. Of all of these manual flashes, this probably has the best build quality. It actually feels like something that was not constructed in a place where people are making 25 cents an hour.

It feels like it was legitly made and it is also in the price, because it is 200 bucks as opposed to all the other ones, but it has excellent build quality. Number two, it has a very simple and easy-to-use interface. It is a fantastic interface. It is all digital. It keeps things simple. I have a plus button to take my power up. I have a button to adjust my zoom. I have a test button. That’s it. It makes it so simple. It is just a manual flash and it doesn’t try to be anything more or anything less. Number three, I have got a freaking quarter twenty built right into the side of this thing. A quarter twenty screw thing. Quarter twenty is like the standard size of screws that are on like say stands or tripod plates and so forth.

I can mount this guy extremely easily just straight out of the box. Most of the other flashes don’t have that or you would need to put on this little shoe to get it to mount on the bottom, but with this guy, I can do it anywhere I want without this little shoe and I am totally good. It is metal too so it is not really going to break or anything. It is very secure. Number four, fantastic wireless range. What do I mean by that? I mean that when you attach a PocketWizard to this device, it has a really great wireless range. PocketWizards can have issues with certain types of flashes, because basically with distance and the radio transmission it doesn’t get a good signal to the flash.

With this unit, we got a good signal. We were testing several 100 feet away and we still got great consistent signals with this unit, which is a really important thing in a manual flash, because there’s not really any other way to trigger at least this system. Some of these have their own radio systems, which we will talk about. This guy doesn’t. You need a PocketWizard. You need something to be able to trigger it, and it is very compatible and it works very well. It also has two different sync ports by the way. I have a little piece of sync right here, and I also have the standard, this light microphone sync jack.  I have external power and USB for updates and so forth. It is an awesome little flash. It runs on AA’s too. It has good recycle time. That’s point number five.

We have an external power input, which I mentioned and it also has a metal horseshoe. Now generally most newer flashes should have metal horseshoes, but some of the older ones, they have plastic horse shoes and they break quite easily, which is pretty darn annoying because then they aren’t difficult to mount but if it did ever break, you still have your quarter twenty too. Cons. This guy is more expensive. That’s really the major con. My son you are just too expensive of a manual flash. It is 200 bucks, but for 200 bucks you are still half priced compared to say Mitros +, a full feature flash. Considering that overall it has the best just reliability, quality, ease of use and so forth, it is number one on my manual flash list.

The only other con that I had was that it required a third party radio system. LumoPro doesn’t have their own radio triggering system that you can get for this. You do need to get PocketWizards or RadioPoppers or something to be able to trigger this flash. Let’s go on to our Nikon. Now here, what is this guy? This is the SB80. Basically what I’ve listed here is number two is an SB24, SB28, SB80. Just any old Nikon Flash that has a PC sync port. This guy has a PC sync port here. These are great manual flashes and they have stood up well, incredibly well over time. Again Nikon makes fantastic components, fantastic equipment, and they really last for a long time.

What are the pros of this guy? They have a really good build quality. They are reliable. It has a simple interface at least a relatively simple interface. Still not as simple and intuitive as LumoPro but it is easy to use. It is just a standard manual flash pretty simple. Digital interface in the back. They have fantastic wireless range. Just like the LumoPro they don’t have any issues with PocketWizard systems and receiving that radio transmission from long distances. You get consistent fires each time. It also has a good recycle time, okay but the cons are these are relatively expensive depending on which unit you get and I am going to tell you who you can thank for that. David Hobby the strobist. Actually David Hobby is a fantastic … He is a photographic institution when it comes to strobe.

He is the guy that came up with the strobist blog, but when David Hobby started talking about these as being great flashes, the prices on them actually went up quite a bit. The used market went from 50, 75 dollars apiece up to 100, 150, 200 dollars apiece. At that price, you are better off with a new LumoPro, but if you can still get these for a decent price, they are fantastic manual flashes. The only thing is that obviously they are discontinued, so the quantity and the availability of them is running slim. Also if it breaks, you are kind of out of luck in that point.

That was con number two, as there is no really warranty because you are buying them used. Number three is it does also require a third party radio triggering system similar to LumoPro. It doesn’t have any type of built-in radio transmission system. A lot of these … This one does not have. I think this one has a metal, yeah, but a lot of them will have plastic horseshoes, which kind of gets annoying. All right this one has a metal although. That would be number two on my list though. Let’s go on to number three. I had such crazy high hopes for the Neewer TT850. It is still a really good manual flash. I am going to tell you why it is good and why it let me down in some ways.

Number one is it is simple to use. It has a very simple interface. Again my favorite interface is still the LumoPro but this is decent. We have really big digital numbers here, and it is worth showing to you guys because it reminds me of phones for senior citizens that have a giant two inch large buttons. It is very easy to see. If you don’t have good eyesight, don’t worry. You can see it just fine. As a simple interface, it has great third party wireless range. Now compared to the LumoPro and the Nikon, with PocketWizards it didn’t have quite as good a consistency at 200-300 feet, but it still was really good and still totally usable. We also have sync ports on here. This has let’s see … This has a mini phone jack. You will need an adapter to get basically your microphone to be able to fit the little mini phone jack, but it does have a sync port, which is my number one thing.

All of these flashes have to have some sort of sync port. Otherwise, you can’t trigger them wirelessly if you need to with a radio triggering system, which is all about lighting two one, lighting three one, but we want to tell you now so you know which flashes to get. Okay let’s go on. Fantastic recycle times. In fact, check this guy out. This guy has its own little battery system, while all these other flashes basically AA’s, this guy comes with a lithium ion battery. Not to mention, it comes with a lithium ion battery and it is a 105 bucks, so that’s pretty good. They boast a full power recycle time of around 1.5 to 2 seconds. That’s crazy. Considering that on any of these other flashes, we are looking at four, five, six seconds for the recycle time; even more when it comes to the case of our red-headed stepchild that is tucked away in here.

That is an incredibly quick recycle time. There is a downside to that. I am going to get to it in just a second. There’s also a factory wireless system available. We can have a little wireless system that we can attach to this, and it is very inexpensive. I think it is 30 bucks and you can get the little receiver piece and an actual controller. It is so incredibly inexpensive. What are the cons of the Newer? For 100 bucks with all of these features, you could probably guess the quality is not going to be quite there. In fact the wireless system, it is very clunky.

It is almost like it is so cheap you are not sure if you can really rely on it. It does work okay, but when you get one in your hands you will know exactly what I am talking about. The interface, the UI, the controls on it, it is all manual controls and it just feels kind of clunky and you are kind of worried that it could die at any point in time if you drop it. The quality on these is not that great. The major, major issue that I have with this, let’s talk about this battery. There are no AA slots for this; meaning that if this batter dies and they say that this battery can do up to 600 shots by the way, 600 full powered shots. Something like that. Something ridiculous, but if it dies you are out of luck.

You need to have extra batteries like this on hand. Bad point number two. Their batteries are very inconsistent in terms of quality control. They’ve released an entire batch of these batteries that only get about three, four, five shots before they die or maybe you will get a few more, but they die very quickly. You really didn’t know which batteries are which, so you just have to buy a lots of batteries. I have 10 batteries because as I find out which ones are kind of duds, I have to throw them away. If I am taking these out on shoots, I can’t have that happen on a shoot. That makes it very impractical because now you are taking lots of extra batteries. You are buying lots of extra batteries and you have to warranty them all.

Lastly, the whole recycle time thing. It boots this crazy fast recycle time of 1.5 seconds. What they don’t tell you is that if you flash at full power, around 12 to 15 times, it will overheat. Once it overheats, it slows down the recycle time tremendously. You get back down to a normal recycle time of these guys. Often times it can just basically stop. You have to turn it off. You have to take the battery out. You have to put it back in to get it to go again. They heat up very, very quickly especially if you are firing at full power and you are firing repeatedly every few seconds. Don’t let all those things … All these features are fantastic on paper, but it just doesn’t quite deliver them in a professional manner that I would expect if I am going to use this on professional shoots.

That and we already mentioned the wireless system is a bit clunky and a bit cheap and overall this is a bit lower build quality, but with all that said, it’s still number three on my list. Why is it still number three? Of all the flashes out there, why do I say this is number three? Because even with all of its downsides for a 100 bucks, it makes for a pretty fantastic manual flash. It gives you some sort of radio triggering system that you can use, that you can play with, that you can practice with. It gives you a very inexpensive flash and you can get batteries for it and the batteries are only like 20-30 bucks as well. It is a very inexpensive system with a lot of features available to you to get started with.

As a starter flash, if you are using this on your shoots that’s great, but here’s the thing. If you are using it for professional shoots, that’s fine. The quality of the light is fine. There is really not any issues with that. The guide number and the power output and everything that’s totally fine, but if you are using it on a professional shoot, here is what I had to do. I had to have always about … I would usually take four to five flashes on a shoot, where I would only need two to three. I would take to 10 to 12 batteries and I would have extra transceivers and I would have extra everything because as I was testing these on my shoots, I just didn’t have the confidence that everything would worked out just fine if I only had one spare.

I needed to have constantly additional batteries and additional wireless systems because everything is a little bit more flimsy. It is fantastic to start out on. It is fantastic to learn with and to get used to shooting everything. When you are taking it on professional shoots, you are going to find that you are taking a lot of extra gear just to make sure that when one of them does fail or when a battery goes out or whatever it goes wrong, you have a spare. That gets a little bit cumbersome, a little bit annoying. For professionals, I really wouldn’t recommend it, but starting out, not bad. All right. Let’s go on to this guy. This is number four. This is Yongnuo YN-560 III; another Chinese made flash.

Same thing with the Newer, these are Chinese made flashes, and again quality you can kind of tell is just not that great on these. They are very light. They are very plasticky. Not really awesome as far as quality, but this guy is even cheaper than Newer at 75 bucks, uses AA’s, but guess what this has? This has a wireless system built into this flash. Now it is still a manual flash, I don’t have any full function controls. I don’t have autofocus assists. I don’t have all these types of different controls that a full feature flash would have, but I do have a built-in wireless radio system. That’s kind of cool especially for 75 bucks. The radio system again if you want to get the controller, it is very inexpensive.

You can get a bunch of these heads and it is great. It works well, but let’s go over the pro and the cons. Number one, built-in wireless system. Number two, wireless control of power. That’s pretty awesome. This guy also had wireless control of power, but not wireless control of zoom on the Newer. Okay very inexpensive, 75 bucks. It has an external power output and it also has a PC sync port for third party radio systems. What else? I am going to move this guy just I can see. It also has a metal horseshoe on the bottom. The horse shoe is a little bit more durable. That’s a bit as far as the pros go. The cons. Cheap build quality.

Another thing. We had poor third party wireless, basically consistency. When we were using PocketWizards with this to trigger, it was the most inconsistent of all the flashes in triggering. We ran the tests multiple times once again. Once we got to around a 30-40-50 foot range, we would get very seldom triggers. It would be too inconsistent to use. Now with their own wireless system, it worked much better; up to say a couple of 100 feet there was really no problem, but with third party stuff, it was having issues. We even turned off the internal wireless system. We turned it back on. We tried several different things and this was the worst as far as that.

Don’t get this system thinking that you can eventually use it with a PocketWizard or something else in the future, because you might have issues with it, but if you are using it with just its own wireless system, the Yongnuo system, and you are doing it for practice then again it is a decent tool. The menu system is other con that I really didn’t like about this. It is very clunky. You can tell there’s not a lot of thought put into the way that this menu is put together, and especially with wireless and all this different power and control functionality built in, it is just not well enough designed to make it simple to use. It is going to be kind of annoying working through the menu system, but it is again 75 bucks. That’s really the whole thing.

You are like but it is 75 bucks. Yeah it is 75 bucks. You can get three or four of these with the wireless system and have a full off-camera setup for under 400 bucks easily. That means that if something breaks, it is really cheap and inexpensive to fix. Once again fantastic for learning, fantastic for taking on shoots. If you are shooting professionally, I would have extras. I wouldn’t rely on it on range. If you need more than say 100 feet to work reliably, probably don’t rely on this type of a flash unit. All right. Last the Vivitar 285HV, which I’ve hidden away because I am sorry you are just too ugly to look at son. This is the redheaded stepchild of flashes.

It is the … I don’t know Hunchback of Notre Dame of flashes, but here’s the thing. It made my list as number five because it still works pretty well. They did a rerelease of this. This is a flash that was designed 20-25 years ago. It was designed a long time ago. Then they did a rerelease because this was known as just a workhorse manual flash. You can beat the crap out of him. They were incredible build quality. They just stood up to everything. Now the new release, isn’t as good of quality. They also didn’t address certain things that we are going to talk about, but it still works well and it is still a 100 bucks.

It is not really bad. Let me go over the pros here. It is incredibly simple. Of all the flashes, it is the most stupidly simple, but it is also very clunky. I think we showed this earlier. This is the zoom functionality. That’s some [cog 00:17:42] right there. That kind of sucks. This is the control of power. You have a nice little dial and it only goes by the way from full power to 1/16th power whereas all the other flashes here anything that has digital controls will let you go down a 1/64th 1/128th power. This only goes down to 1/16th which means that if you need less power than 1/16th you have to use ND gels to cut the power down, which is annoying because that’s something else you got to get.

That’s kind of annoying but it is simple to use. It has fantastic wireless range. Of all of these flashes, this, the LumoPro, the Nikon, they have flawless wireless range. That’s what makes it so awesome. Paired with a PocketWizard, you have no issues with consistency. Lastly, my pro number three is that it just works. It is not like Michael Jordon where I gets the job done and it does in a very beautiful fashion. This is more like the seven foot one guy that just kind of stands by the hoop and just puts the basket in in a really awkward way, but hey he is so tall that he gets it in. That’s this guy. All right. Now, the cons. Your clunky old school interface. It has got a terrible one over one, full power recycle time.

Absolutely terrible. This is one of the things that they never adjusted with it. Given that it is such a bad recycle time, you are never going to run any issues of overheating even if it is 150 degrees outside, but it is a very slow recycle time when you are running full power. Okay what else? It looks like a tank and like all the other descriptions that we talked about. The modifiers don’t easily fit this head. If you look at the comparison of these heads together, this head fits inside of this freaking thing. This guy could swallow what’s that? A TT850? This is the same size as a 580EX 600RT. This guy can swallow. That  means that things like a MagMod really aren’t going to fit over this. You have to get kind of a bigger modifier.

Get the modifiers that absolutely fit over the head. It has a plastic horseshoe which is kind of crappy. It requires a third party radio system, but it does have really good compatibility with that radio system. It requires a special cable for your radio trigger. I don’t know even know what this is. It is like this dagger pin system. What the heck is this? This is a cable that you got to buy separate. It is so sharp that you can actually stab yourself with it. It fits on to this side and it adapts it to a regular mini phone cable that you can plug it in your PocketWizard. What the heck? I got to get another cable just for this little thing. I think I actually mentioned plastic horseshoe twice. I really was dissatisfied with the plastic horseshoe, so I felt like it deserved being mentioned twice, but that’s it.

It works in a pinch, but again I put it at the very bottom list because I’ve used it for a  long time and it still works. I feel like it needs to be mentioned. I am kind of like I don’t mention guy, but if I have my choice let me stick with the LumoPro or an old Nikon. Those are the two I’d really recommend. If you want to start playing with wireless systems, if you want to start playing with manual flash that have more features and you want to save a bit of money and get something that will work for right now, both the Newer and the Yongnuo are good options. They both have features that are really nice to have in a manual flash especially for the price. The Vivitar, hey if you’ve got 24 of them lying around somewhere like I do then why not? It works.

CHAPTER GETTING OVER THE FEAR, HYPE, & MYTHS

CHAPTER 2: THE BASICS OF FLASH

CHAPTER 3 UNDERSTANDING LIGHT

CHAPTER 4: ON-CAMERA FLASH GEAR BASICS

Chapter 5: DIRECT FLASH DONE RIGHT

Chapter 6: STUDIO LIGHT? JUST BOUNCE IT!

Chapter 7: MORE LIGHTS, REFINEMENT, & CREATIVITY

Chapter 8: CASE STUDIES

Chapter 9: BONUS CHAPTERS

Total Course Run Time: 8H 17M 4S