Handheld off camera flash

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Maël, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. Maël

    Maël Member

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    Hi,

    I saw a video on youtube of a photographer using a handheld off camera flash on the street.
    I was wondering about the possibilities. Certainly for night stuff.
    But I must say first, I don't know a lot about flash. I've only used the in camera flashes of camera's up until now. And well since it's very ugly most of the time I tend to use it very seldom.
    Since I don't know a lot about flash, I don't know how it can be done. And how much it would cost.
    So what I am asking is for a kit that is compact and light without costing too much and to be universal (so not proprietary for one camera)

    The camera's I'd use it with are also very compact camera's.
    Those small Rangefinders like Olympus XA (although not possible I think?) Olympus 35RD, Canon ql17 gIII, Yashica GX, etc.

    Thanks ahead,
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    There are a variety of Nikon speed lights and I'm sure other brands that have adjustable settings and sensors that allow very nice control of the flash. These can typically be used with most cameras that have a normal hot shoe or pc plug with an cord. The cords are availble off eBay and other places.

    The "ugly" look is typically just poor use of the tools or older flash units without the built in sensor and auto control.

    The ugly stuff comes IMO mostly in two ways, 1- when too much flash is used so that there is to big a difference in luminance between subject and background and 2- when the shot printed too light.

    It takes some practice but but done well it can make big improvements in many shots.

    Get the book by Joe McNally "Hot Shoe Diaries".
     
  3. Cybertrash

    Cybertrash Member

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    I think a lot of the 'ugliness' stems from the fact that the flash on a camera is a) very small and thus gives you very hard, contrasty light and b) the flash (usually) is on-axis with the lens, moving the flash off camera gives you directional light and more depth to your photo.
     
  4. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    On all your cameras except the XA you can attach an adapter to the hot shoe and attach a sync cord to that. I haven't figure out how best to use external flash on the XA yet. Flash is the weak point of the XA which is otherwise a very nice camera.
     
  5. Maël

    Maël Member

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    Waow.

    I love these forums!

    On the ugly side of flash. It is probably indeed because of the in-camera flash which I mentioned. Which is on the same axis as the camera. Plus it most of the time overpowers indeed.
    I must say I'm not a fan either of the "perfect" looking flash photo's, like you see often with wedding photographs.

    I was really impressed by the photographer I saw in the video. That's why I want to start flashing too :smile:.
    So if I understand well what I need:

    An unexpensive flash ( will any flash do? or? Maybe someone can suggest a couple to look for?)

    Hotshoe trigger and receiver ( Any suggestions?)

    A synchcord (unless, wireless system)

    A camera with hot shoe.
     
  6. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    Back in the day, i was often very impressed by the workhorse Vivitar 285 (the 283's have a much higher synch voltage - and the brand-new 285's are 285's in name only...).

    There's some computing and wheel-turning (it's not TTL) but is a pretty effective auto flash once you get second-nature with it. I did some really cool industrial work with that unit and slow shutter speeds.

    I've done the "event" thing maybe 5 times in 15 years, usually for existing clients and last-minute. if I were doing that full time, I'm sure by now I'd have rigged up a "softbox hat" or some kind of china ball hanging over my head on a stick!

    But seriously, I've once or twice seen guys with an assistant off to the side, holding and aiming a flash & following them around.
     
  7. Francis in VT

    Francis in VT Member

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    My favorite brand flash is Sunpak. They sell 'potato masher' flashes but they are expensive. Instead I would go for one of their shoe flashes, which are packed w/ features like power ratio and bounce card. The one thing they don't have is the sensor on the camera. Of the cameras you have aside from the XA which is a beautiful outfit for what it was designed for. None of your cameras will do TTL but this is the next best thing. I would go for a Vivitar 283 of 285.
    Each of these flashes have a cable accessory that will allow you to separate the sensor from the flash and mount the sensor on the hot shoe of the camera.

    Francis in VT
     
  8. SafetyBob

    SafetyBob Member

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    My favorite potato mashers are the wonderful old Canon 577G (with battery pack of course) or the lighter 533G which does not have and external battery. My Metz collection is only the 60CT-1 with it's wonderful battery pack (which you can still get new dry cells for). If you want lighter with Metz the 45 model has batteries in the handle.........when I go "out" with the battery pack, oh yes, I get looks, then stares, then usually someone comes up and asks if it is an attached hard drive or computer........

    These are good old, solid, world class old school flashes that will not cost you an arm and a leg but are getting harder to find. The big Sunpac would also be wonderful, they too are getting hard to find but not impossible. The big auction site will have the Metz flashes, as I recall, B&H will have the replacement dry cell battery.

    With power like you have never enjoyed before, be prepared to go out and touch somebody a long way out. And yes, I had the 285 and the older 283 with the 3 foot cable......good with an assistant to step to your side, but solo wasn't alot of fun holding and working a MF camera....

    Bob E.
     
  9. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Being on the same axis is not by itself a problem. Many studio setups use strobes on the camera axis. There are even shoot through lights likes ring lights or a moon unit.

    Size can be a real issue but if all you want to add is a gentle flick of light on a subjects face just to help reduce the shadows a bit it can work just fine right on the hot shoe. There are lots of ways to increase the size too.

    A great inexpensive camera for this is a Nikon N90s, up from that an F100 or F5.

    A great strobe for these cameras is an SB90dx has the tilt and swivel head too. That's not the only good choice though.

    F/2.8 or faster lens will also help, gives you more choices.
     
  10. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  11. henry finley

    henry finley Member

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    Ditto on the Sunpak. I have 2 611's made in 1976. I fabricated a knob to fit and attach to the unit's power wheel, which was a bad 2-fingernail design. With that, you no longer think so much in terms of flash, but available light that can be harnessed with shutter speed and power setting. And you just reach up and turn that knob, made out a 120 plastic film reel. With that, you can get by and get a nce shot without all that off-camera juggling, or bounce, which never works out well. I decided on this as my only people-shooting method, on the justification that I am only one man with 2 arms, and either arm doesn't do things independently very well. Either the camera gets tilted or the flash points a little off, and you've got a big nothing.
     
  12. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    flash.jpg

    Something like this?
    I just found out by taking my cameras out that both the Olympus 35RC (I think the RD is the same) and the Canonet QL17 GIII have the PC connector on its side. So no hot shoe adapter is not necessary.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2013
  13. Maël

    Maël Member

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    I'm more into the small compact rangefinders
    Or small compact zone focused camera's.

    I really want to pack light and compact.
     
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  15. Maël

    Maël Member

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    What is the Metz brick at the side? That seems not compact friendly :D

    Something like that, but what I'd try is the flash in one hand and camera in the other. Atleast that's what I saw and seemed very cool :D
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    That's a reasonable choices as long as the camera you choose has a hot shoe or pc plug you can use a light like the SB90dx or its cousins in A mode with nice results.

    The reason for suggesting the cameras I did was simply that the electronics in the camera can refine flash control even further by adding the camera's TTL metering and fancy electric brain to the equation.
     
  17. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Oh that's the power pack that supply both low and high voltage to the flash head. It's definitely not compact friendly. I was kinda did it for fun. As you said the flash is generally ugly and to make it less ugly it needs to be big
     
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The flash pictured is a 60 series Metz flash.

    Although the battery pack is large and heavy, it allows Metz to move a lot of the heavy stuff out of the flash head, which as a result is large and fairly light - light enough to handle quite easily, while putting out lots of light.

    I used to use one while shooting weddings - powerful, fast, flexible and capable of doing an entire wedding on a single charge.

    The bounce card pictured will work on the Metz 45 series flashes as well. They are fairly powerful as well, and don't require a separate power pack, but are heavier in the head.
     
  19. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Read strobist.com and go through the Lighting 101 section.
     
  20. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Okay the big Metz is a bit oversized so I think this outfit would be more compact friendly. I can use it as on hot shoe flash. Remove the sensor attach it to the cable and mount the sensor on the hot shoe and I have a hand held flash unit and still having the sensor on camera.
     
  21. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    To use the XA with off camera flash use an optical slave & PC cord.
    Small auto flash for the remote, PC cord with optical slave plugged in to the sync end(really?) and tape the slave to the flash for the XA.
    Make sure to cover the entire of the flash tube with an opaque tape so you don't have any light leakage. A11 would work fine.
    Want softer light? put a layer of lens tissue or two over the remote flash.
     
  22. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Shooting street with flash is like fishing with hand grenades :smile:
     
  23. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I could modify an A11 (I have bad A11) and pull all the guts out put a PC connector on it. Still with the XA to lock the shutter speed at 1/30 you have to move the aperture setting to flash which is fixed at f/3.5. Setting the aperture any where I want the flash still fires but the shutter speed will automatically goes slow when use flash in a dark place.
     
  24. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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  25. Maël

    Maël Member

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    Hi all!

    I finally bought a flash and also a new Voigtlander Bessa R
    The flash I bought is a nikon sb-22.

    What kind of connector/cord do I need? Because I recently went in a shop and they were trying to sell me a very expensive cord :/

    Thanks ahead!
     
  26. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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