Flash on a variety of film cameras

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by mesh, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. mesh

    mesh Member

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    I think like a lot of APUGers, I've got a growing selection of cameras... and I've recently started to use a fair bit of flash. I am intrigued by how people approach flash with different camera systems.

    I use Hasselblad 500cms, Contax G and then some old RF's and SLRs of various vintages. I've been using a Metz 45 CT-3 with a bunch of homemade diffusers. For metering I use a Sekonic Studio Deluxe III so no flash metering at all. I've been exclusively guesstimating exposure using the scale on the Metz and understanding (somewhat) the difference any modifiers make.

    On the whole, things tend to go OK but ideally I'd like a flash with a little more control and flexibility. I guess I will have to buy a flash meter (thinking a 308s) and a cheapish standard hot shoe flash with variable manual output and a PC connection (I really only shoot with flash off camera). Obviously TTL isn't worth it and frankly I don't want to use TTL for some cameras (like the G2 that support it) and manual for others - better manual all the way I'd think. Down the track I'd also like the option to use multiple flash and wireless. Can't really afford a Quantum so are there any other recommendations?

    Sorry for the long-winded question, but I am sure you know where I am coming from... I'm guessing lots of people have arrived at a similar problem at some point. Thanks.
     
  2. Daniel Lancaster

    Daniel Lancaster Member

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    I usually rock up with my RB67 with a Vivitar285 mounted. Take an ambient reading. Evaluate the room size and calculate the most probable/likely/comfortable distance to subject (and stick to it). Divide my guide number by my preferred distance. Then select my film and preferred EI to keep me within 3 stops of my ambient (if thats where I want to be - a choice that often gets taken away from you). I usually throw my polaroid back in my NatGeo sachel too so that if my ambient is tricky or shifting around on me (and I have a particular ratio in mind) then I will fire off a few polaroids early in the night to identify a range (of distances to subject) in particular zones of the room and off I go.

    Lately I have been getting right into 'rear curtain' sync on my RB67 for corporate/social scene/after party crowds. Leaving some space for 'happy mistakes' is always fun too. I usually spend the first half of my shooting time in a tight controlled methodology and then 'let it all hang out' for the second half of my time shooting.

    If ever you get asked 'are you a real photographer?' just show them your film camera and ask them 'what do you think?'. :tongue:
     
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  3. mesh

    mesh Member

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    Thanks very much Daniel - so you've never seen the need for a flash meter? I must say there are lots of times that using a meter would be pretty impractical and simply doing the math in your head seems a much better way. Would you mind elaborating on your method to maintain enough ambient light and calculating fill please? Do you have a preferred 'amount' of flash - say 30% of overall exposure? Good to know the 285 supports rear curtain.
     
  4. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    The Metz 45CT3 has photosensor Auto mode, and it can support TTL film flash automation with the suitable modules for each brand of camera that supports TTL. Is there some reason why you avoid the use of these modes?
     
  5. Daniel Lancaster

    Daniel Lancaster Member

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    It doesnt support rear curtain (on the RB). But I am just good enough to boss it around and MAKE it go rear curtain lol. :D :tongue:

    As for your question of ratios I am sure there are far greater apug intellectual luminaries that could guide you on that but if you gave me a specific example of a particular environment you wished to shoot then I could walk you through how I might attack it with my RB.

    I would imagine that kind of discussion would be very much dependent upon our relative personal aesthetics (i.e I would be hesitant to suggest particular 'percentages' as being decidedly more accurate than any others).

    (Edit: No I have never found the need to ever touch a incident meter in the context of the events I mentioned in my previous post.)
     
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  6. mesh

    mesh Member

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    Good point, but there are quite a few cameras I use that simply don't support the modules (some 1940's folders for example). My 'main' camera however is a 500cm and it obviously doesn't support TTL. Maybe I should try and find a 503cx however and at least run TTL for that and the Contax? I just figured it was all getting too hard and probably easier to be manual all the time.
     
  7. mesh

    mesh Member

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    Thanks Daniel... Say you ambient metered a person @ 125th, f8 but their face were in shadow. How would you approach flash without a meter?

    I've been fluky and just running the flash at the correct distance for that f-stop, and then reducing camera exposure by a stop. Very unscientific and only working because of the latitude of film ;-) Calculating the 'two' exposures and properly averaging is doing my head in! Of course hen the flash is the primary light source it's easy.
     
  8. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    That's my combination too. I have only really used it outside for fill flash though and just a few inside shots with it as the main light.

    For fill flash, I find the 285's auto sensor works fine with the ISO dial set for two stops faster speed than I am using.

    How do you do rear curtain sync on a camera with leaf shutter lenses?


    Steve.
     
  9. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Your flash has a meter built into it. The thyristor reads the light reflected off the subject (closest object) and cuts out the flash pulse when enough light has reached the camera. With the correct ISO and aperture dialed into the flash unit, of course. So TTL doesn't enter into it.

    Flash meters are used when the flash (or strobes) aren't located on the camera: when the flash-to-subject distance bears no relation to the camera-to-subject distance. With a camera-mounted flash unit, an extra metering unit would be redundant, and you'd still have to work out the ambient portion.

    Fill flash is done according to taste as others suggested, but the flash unit should have your aperture and film speed correctly dialed in as a start. If you wish to take the fill down a notch, just up the ISO on the flash unit by a third of a stop. For example, if the flash unit has 100 iso dialed in, then set it to 125 iso -- on the flash unit only. This tricks the thyristor on the flash unit into thinking it doesn't need as much light on the subject. If you take the fill down much further, you'll wonder where the fill went. Beyond the fill portion, you use the shutter speed to adjust the exposure of the ambient portion of the lighting.

    An alternate to this scheme is to set the ISO and aperture on the flash unit as before, set you lens aperture to the same, but lengthen
    the shutter speed to give you more ambient exposure. Your dialed in fill won't be affected.

    I hope that helps.
     
  10. mesh

    mesh Member

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    Thanks David - that's a great explanation. Thanks to everyone else too - much appreciated.
     
  11. Daniel Lancaster

    Daniel Lancaster Member

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    Good heavens! Are we shooting at midday? Sounds like horrific falloff indeed. I would probably throw a tantrum, yell at everybody about how I just refuse to work 'candidly' in such light and storm off. :mad: :surprised: :wink:

    After sulking back 5 minutes later I would probably key up ambient at f/5.6 250th rather than f/8 125th (because I like to live on the dof edge and because I tend to be a bit 'loose' in handling the RB so as long as I carry the eyes I like going to 250th - of course this is dependent upon the event and/or client expectations etc etc etc).

    Now I whip out the Vivitar set ISO to box (or whatever EI floats my boat). Next I decide on my ideal distance to subject (maybe I can get close maybe I cant, maybe I want to get close maybe I dont). I then use the Vivitar scale (built in) to set my flash strength to match the aperture one stop wider than my ambient and in line with my preferred distance from my subject (i.e I am standing further away from my subject and only looking to 'kiss' some light into the scene as lets face it the flash is coming very close to 'on axis'.). If I run out of plausible options shifting power I will fiddle around with my EI to get me closer to the distance to subject range I want to play in. (Edit: Reading this back I am not convinced I have explained this well at all...)

    From here I can just shuffle forward and back from my subject to dial in the degree of fill. I might just spend five minutes with my polaroid back and go 'bang,bang,bang' to nail down a safety zone of distance to subject that can render acceptable fill (whatever you define that to be on a personal level).

    As you can probably tell by now I subscribe more to the 'Use the Jedi Force Luke' method rather than the 'Lets try and pretend we are back in the Studio' method. If your head is 'vexed' mathematically then you are not likely to be in the best head space for creative freedom.

    I think David White's post is excellent.
     
  12. Daniel Lancaster

    Daniel Lancaster Member

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    I find the RB's leaf shutter to be very loud. This is useful. I operate the Vivitar285 on the RB67 Deluxe Flash Trigger. This allows me to use my index finger to trigger the shutter and quickly move my index finger up and around the base of the Vivitar flash (which is mounted directly above the shutter trigger button). At the base of the Vivitar is a small button to manually trigger the flash.

    So essentially I disconnect the flash and learn to listen to my leaf shutter on the RB. Personally I find it very simple to drag the shutter through for a second of so and then pop my disco light as the leaf closes.

    Its not scientific but it is rear curtain. :smile:
     
  13. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I would consider looking up the Metz Mecamat remote flash sensor, particularly if you have a yen to introduce more than one flash to light the scene. When there is more than one flash source life is much simpler if they are all set to manual.

    Yes they are rare. I am pretty sure they work on a 45, since it uses the same camera interface socket as the 60 series. I recently bought one for my trustly old 60CT1. It lets me use modifiers that otherwise cover the auto sensor eye on the flash handle. It also gives me a ton of predicitable manual controlled dial down of flash outputs.
     
  14. cdowell

    cdowell Member

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    I, too, think David White's post is excellent. I took a class dedicated to flash and soon gave up my super-computerized Nikon flash for a semi-computerized cheap flash that didn't try to talk to my camera. It was more workable for me in my preferred manual modes. Any camera with a x-sync and I'm ready to go.

    Of course, once I bit the bullet and bought a flash meter, that changed everything, too. And for the better. It was really expensive for me at the time, but I can't imagine living without it. Particularly since it allowed me to move easily to off-camera flash.
     
  15. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Sounds like you could use B if you wanted, with a little practice. Great technique.
     
  16. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    I dislike automated flash functions and prefer not to use them - my up to date Nikon digi kit (sorry, I said it) is extremely inconsistent and unreliable on auto - even shooting digi, I prefer to do it the old fashioned way and set the gun to manual.

    With a 'blad or Mamiya, I like an older style Metz with simple manual settings (M, M/4, M/4), as you suggest, coupled with a decent bracket. I've worked with Vivitar 283's and they're nice reliable units, great for 35mm, but they feel a bit flimsy when attached to a heavy MF camera ; unlike with a Metz, where you've got a nice sturdy combination that can tolerate being picked up by the flash unit alone.

    With experience you can learn to guesstimate manual flash settings or, if you prefer, use the flash's own metering, which, in my opinion, is more consistent than TTL. However, if you really want to be in control, replace your current ambient meter with a Sekonic 308, which is a really nice little meter. This will allow you to take separate ambient and flash readings and put you right in the driving seat.

    Regards
    Jerry
     
  17. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    Photography is painting with light. I work at finding/making controlled light. If I make pictures outdoors during mid-day I look for cover! Under a tree, in a garage, an entry, anywhere I find I can use light to make beautiful pictures of people. You create the illusion of three dimensions in the two we have to work with in photography by sculpting light and shadows.

    I use off-camera flash for about 95% of my photography.

    My coach and mentor was a gentleman named Monte Zucker. Clay Blackmore actually worked for Monte for a number of years. Maybe check out his work using Google search.

    Here is a sample of videos by Clay:

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=clay+blackmore&search_type=&aq=f

    Play this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGUJoMgZO84
     
  18. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I use a method like David's also using Vivitar 283 units.
    Ttl is fine if you're not mixing/matching flash units but if you do use ttl you would need to use the same brand or compatible flash units.
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Be careful about this part of this otherwise excellent advice.

    For most auto flashes, adjusting the ISO on a slider or dial has no effect on the flash itself. All it does is tell the photographer to use a different aperture in order to obtain well exposed photos. So, for example, if you have a flash that recommends f/5.6 for correct exposure using one of it's auto ranges, you can leave the flash set that way, but set f/8.0 on your camera, and benefit from a one stop reduction in fill.

    There are some flashes that set the aperture on your camera. If you have one of those, then David's description may apply. As I've never worked with one of those flash and camera combinations, I don't know.

    Matt
     
  20. Daniel Lancaster

    Daniel Lancaster Member

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    Correct. You can use your left index finger to open the shutter and trigger flash and your right hand thumb taking up the tension on the cocking lever to close down the bulb exposure. After a bit of practice you can nail it. :smile:
     
  21. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Your flash has a meter built into it. The photosensor reads the light reflected off the subject (closest object) and the thyristor cuts out the flash pulse when enough light has reached the camera and diverts the excess charge back to the power capacitor to recycle the unused energy and shorten recycle time. With the correct ISO and aperture dialed into the flash unit, of course. So TTL doesn't enter into it.
     
  22. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I have a few flash units. Minolta Auto 320x, Sunpak PZ5000AF, Nikon SB-15, Nikon SB-16A and my main flash the Metz 60-CT4. I have quite a number of cameras, although I have no medium format camera, and they are mostly 35mm with ages of 40 year old to a few year old. Minolta SRT-101, Minolta XD-11, Olympus OM-2, Olympus XA, Petri 7s, Nikon FM, Nikon F3HP, Nikon F5, Nikon Coolpix 5000, 2 Nikonos V and a Polaroid Model 150 which I shoot 4x5 sheet film in.
    My Metz 60-CT4 is usable on all of my cameras except the 2 Nikonos which I don't have a sync cord adapter and the Olympus XA. I have TTL with the Nikon F5 and the F3 and I can use the non TTL Auto mode on all others. When I have time I would use the flash on manual and use either the Minolta Flashmeter III or Flashmeter VI. The Metz has variable power manual mode from full power to 1/256 power in 1/3 stop steps so I can pretty much dial in the power I need.
     
  23. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Thanks for making this correct, wiltw.