There are thousands of flashes out there and with the high cost of the top new ones, the question gets asked “are there cheaper old flashes?” Most flashes will either not work on the new digital DSLR’s or they will mess with your camera. However with the increasing amount of off-camera strobist photographers out there, many of us don’t bother with on camera flash that often. Off camera wireless radio systems make it possible to use these older flashes off camera without worrying about frying your camera. With the really low cost of these flashes it is now possible to use many of them all over as rim lights, gelling walls, cars, windows and whatever you can think of. There are three main things that I care about when looking for flashes:
1. Power- I am always seeking flashes with a ton of power. I find the more ideas I have for photos the more power I need to accomplish them. With the newer speedlights this usually comes with a high cost. It seems I never have enough. If you have too much power from your flash you can always dial it down in the flash or use ND gels.
2. Light fall pattern- Good flashes will have even coverage across the whole area lit and not have many light patterns or hot spots. Some flashes have uneven lines running in all different directions causing uneven light patterns. Zoom flashes are really bad for this and some are just junk. Hot spots are usually in the very center which will blow out the center while the rest will be darker although lit. On zoom flashes they will sometimes also pinch light on the top or sides. Also watch for color differences between flashes. This may or may not be something you care about.
3. Cycle Time- I don’t cover cycle time in the review because I was mostly interested in the power and light fall. I usually only care about cycle time if I’m on the job and would only bring my newer speedlights. But when out playing around I don’t care as much. Most of the older flashes were really slow cycling so you can expect to wait a bit.
Technique: I will be continually adding to this page as I test more flashes. All of the flashes were shot with the same settings in the camera and flashes.
The flashes were shot at 1/1 full power with no gels or add on wide of Fresnel panels unless stated otherwise. You can roll your mouse over each focal length for the flashes that zoom.
All of the flashes were organized on this page from what I could tell being the highest power output to the lowest running down. Most of the fixed focal flashes were usually locked around 28-35mm so when I compared them with the zoom flashes I compared mostly 35mm and or 28mm if I had to.
Photos were taken 7ft from my ceiling pointing at a central spot being the fire sprinkler. So far it has not gone off he he!
Photos taken with Canon 5D Mark ii at 100th/sec, 100iso, Auto WB, Tokina 16-28mm at f/22.
28mm | 35mm | 80mm