Speedlight

I visited a camera store a few days ago and while waiting for my order, I checked out some items and of course their prices. Something you shouldn’t be doing if you don’t want your “I need this” syndrome to come out and start giving you the best excuse to buy the item.

I was surprised to see the Canon 600EX RT reaching the 30k mark. If you’re new to photography, this would be absurd. Flash investment is the same if not more expensive than entry level DSLR. How come there are those expensive flash or Speedlight and there are those that’s even less than 5k investment.

Unfortunately, not all flash are created equal. Some are actually dumb flash and there are the intelligent ones. You can buy a flash as low as P2,500 and create photos just like the expensive ones. You wonder if there’s something special in the properties of light used in the more expensive class over the cheap ones.

The image shows the difference between ambient lighting and fill in flash. Left photo is shot with ambient lighting. Right photo filled-in ?with dumb strobe and light modified using umbrella. Both photos shot with the same camera settings. f/2.8, 1/80, ISO500.

The image shows the difference between ambient lighting and fill in flash. Left photo is shot with ambient lighting. Right photo filled-in ?with dumb strobe and light modified using umbrella. Both photos shot with the same camera settings. f/2.8, 1/80, ISO500.

In the case of light, all is created equal. So what’s the difference between expensive and cheap ones? The difference is intelligence. Those intelligent flash can decide how much light is needed based on the distance of the subject. It knows how much light is needed based on your aperture opening. It has a metering system that talks to your camera and verify the required light. All these happens, in a thousand of a second.

The intelligent speedlight can also decide to narrow the light so it can travel farther distance if needed. Can you also do all the automations with your dumb flash? Yes, of course. But you’ll be doing it using your intelligence. Definitely not as fast. When you’re shooting events, everything happens in fractions of a second. Even you’re shooting mode in your camera should be semi automatic to help you make the shot without a lot of other settings to be minded.

These intelligent flash may be working on its own similar to auto mode, but the controls you can set on how the flash should react to different lighting condition can simulate the way you want the shot to come out. With intelligent flash, you can also increase your flash sync speed. This will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speed than the flash sync limitation.

However, no matter how intelligent the flash is, it cannot break the laws of light. A small light source such as a speedlight will always be hard edged light. The only way to soften it is to add modifiers to the light which cannot be covered by its automation.

Unless you’re shooting a lot of events or any other project that requires quick shooting, then you need an intelligent flash, otherwise, your dumb flash can emulate all the capabilities of your expensive flash thanks to you, but it’s going to be really slow.

Keep on shooting everyone!

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