Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flash Anyone?

Sorry if the title fooled you, the only flash I am discussing is the kind that goes on your camera.  ;-)

If you follow this blog you probably know I am a natural light photographer. I will bump down my aperture, increase my exposure time, and bump up my ISO to avoid having to use the pop-up flash on my Canon T2i. When I shot film I had a fancy external bulky flash but it doesn't work on my digital SLR.  I have been avoiding buying a new flash because I didn't want to spend the money and I am also resistant to learning how to use one again. 

I finally decided it was time for me to invest in a small external flash
 that I could use inside when I took images of my family and as a fill-flash outside.  When I take photos inside on holidays I will bump up my ISO and then remove noise later rather than use the pop-up flash, but even doing this I don't usually get sharp images because someone is always moving.   Especially the kids; they are usually blurred and no editing can save those images.  When I resort to turning on every light in the house and also using my pop-up flash the images are still horrible.  They are focused, but everyone looks like a deer in the headlight and the backgrounds are so dark.

So I finally went for it and found this really affordable "idiot-proof" flash called the Canon Speedlite 270EX Flash.  (The Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash is the Nikon version and even cheaper!)  This flash is not only inexpensive but you simply put it on your camera, turn it on, and start taking photos. It is also really tiny so I can easily stick it in my pocket or my small camera case. Size matters to me; I am usually running after two little boys and I don't want a huge heavy camera and flash dragging me down.    And best of all it has a bounce feature so you can point the flash toward the ceiling and avoid that deer in the headlight issue.

And to tell you the truth, this little flash actually works pretty well! I have a few sample images below, SOOC RAWs from my camera (400 ISO), to show you what it can do.

This first image is taken without a flash. I wanted to shoot at a lower ISO to avoid noise, but you can see I didn't use a tripod and it is blurred. This is especially an issue with kids in low light as they are always moving.


Here is a photo with the pop-up flash on my camera, same settings. Not so nice.  Lots of blown highlights.  Kind of a deer in the headlights look, don't you think?  ;-)


Here is the sample with my new flash. I tilted the flash up so it was bouncing off the ceiling. I think this is such an improvement over the other two images. It is a bit yellow, but I can easily fix the white balance in LR or Photoshop. Remember, these images were RAWs with no adjustment at all.  I think the lighting looks pretty natural.


This flash does not replace the more expensive "pro" flashes like the Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash, but if you are short on money and need something better than your pop-up flash, you might want to check this out. I will post samples using it as a fill-flash outside in a future post.  And you can even use this flash on smaller Canon compact cameras. 

I think I am going to order the Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce for the Canon 270EX Flash to see if it can diffuse the flash a bit when I don't tilt it up. I will let you know if I think it is worth the investment.

21 comments:

  1. Oh wow! That did make a big difference. Do you know what the equivalent would be for a Nikon??

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  2. Thanks for sharing this! I have been thinking about looking into finding a flash that I can use other than the built in one. (haha, just reread that...do I sound like a procrastinator?) Anyway, I wasn't sure where to start but I will definitely look into this one. Thanks for the review!
    ~Rachel
    www.sweetteapics.com

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  3. Jenn, I just linked the Nikon version in my post and it is even cheaper and has great reviews.

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  4. I wish I'd seen this before I bought my Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash, I really like the difference.

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  5. Hey that works. I try not to use my camera flash and mostly succeed.

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  6. Molly, you have one of the best flashes out there. If I had the money I would have purchased that one.

    I have heard of photographers buying both the 580 and 270 so they have a powerful flash when they need it, but can travel light if they want to with the 270.

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  7. I am really glad you posted this as I have been toying with the idea of buying a speedlight for the very same reasons as you. What a difference in the examples you shared. I think I need another camera gadget! LOL!

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  8. thanks Rita! I have been procrastinating (mostly cause we just dont have the $) about buying an flash... this might just save me! thanks!

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  9. I have many of those same issues when I don't use the flash - my Christmas pics are really disappointing this year. Do you happen to know what the equivalent would be for an Olympus Evolt?

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  10. Wow you totally sold me on it. I will have to look in the camera store for the price here. Thanks.

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  11. great post! fyi i have the gary fong diffuser for my 580 and it has changed my flash life!

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  12. I love my stofens. I use them on the Canon Speedlight 580EX2. I use the amber and green stofens to help balance the ambient light and I LOVE THEM! Good luck and best wishes with your new toy!

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  13. Rita, I have the same flash and I have to say I am very happy with it. My budget was very tight when I was looking for an external flash and that's why I decided on this one. But for the money, I could not be happier.
    Just want to say that I visit your site everyday and just love it. Thanks!!!

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  14. HALLELUJAH! I could really use some pointers on flash. I love natural lighting but when I am doing my food posts it's usually when I am cooking dinner and the overhead light from our vent gives off a horrific jaundice glow. I can't wait to read this in the morning when I am not falling asleep.
    THANKS!

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  15. Thanks for this post. I've just started a project 365 and I've had to start to get to grips with my external flash. I live in the NW of England so January = dull, grey and very wet!

    I've got a Pentax K100d and use a basic Mecablitz flash, but without it I think my 365 would have failed around day 3.

    Ruthie x

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  16. Thank you for posting this, as I am about to buy myself an external flash on Monday. It does make a big difference, thanks! Can't wait to see what you think about the diffuser.

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  17. You've been reading my mind, huh? Thanks for sharing the comparison photos. I've been resisting, but all the problems you've described are plaguing me too. Maybe I'll go for it too. :)

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  18. I have the Nikon SB-600 speedlight and it is absolutely awesome. I'm not entirely sure how I got by without it. The diffuser is a great investment for it. Enjoy!!

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  19. I've been toying with the idea of an external flash too. I am afraid that it will slow down my camera. Do you think that it does? There are some Promaster versions out there that are less expensive than the Canon ones. I guess the only way to see is to drag myself to the local camera store and give them a try. :) Great post and I loved seeing the examples!

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  20. Ok - remember when you posted about looking at the T2i for purchase? I bought one after that post. And for Christmas I got the Speedlite. Any time I try to figure out the manual modes I feel so inadequate. For the mathematically challenged, how can we step out of auto?

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  21. I have this flash too and think that it is great. I also bought the 430. It does well too..Do you think there is that much difference between the 430 and the 580? I to, like to use natural and wanted something to be able to stop the blur...tell me what you think :) By the way, you are awesome and you've helped me so much. Dont stop what your doing!

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