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Since the demise of jessops you probably won't be able to get this flashgun anymore
and that's a good thing, because it's terrible.
Light is light is light, of course, so the light produced by this is no better or worse than the light of any other flash-gun. But what is noticable, is the clunky controls and poor build quality.
it is a cheap product, a good deal, but a false economy. Although it doesn't feel like it will fall apart in your hands, there are certain elements of it that don't inspire a lifetime of hard use- the flip up flash defuser is one of these parts that feels weakest. The rest of the flash feels inferior to a canon 430ex. I've been using my 430ex's for years, so although you pay more they last longer and are better flashes, the jessops flash might last you a year, and that's only if you can live with it's massive failings as a flashgun.
The reason I got this product was that it supports TTL (automatic exposure), but it frequently underexposes (all canon flashes never get it right 100% of the time but it's about 85% right, this jessops gun is maybe 40% right) and when you flip up the head to bounce of a ceiling it gets even more confused and never gets it right without manual intervention. For a product with one function this is completely unacceptable, unless you happen to shoot things you can control, but for those once in a lifetime moments you will be frustrated by this gun.
Power is also an issue, even my 430ex struggles sometimes, but this being less powerful than that (guide number of 36 rather than 43) means that you're frequently running out of power- so don't expect to use this to flood a room with light.
For all those reasons I can't recomment the jessops gun, if you're on a budget then buy used, the canon flashes are so solid they there's almost no risk buying a used one.
DSLR cameras have a lot of things that make them superior to the typical point and shoot digital cameras on the market and one thing that they offer that truly improves how they can perform is the thing on top of them known as a hot shoe, this is where you can connect a flashgun so you no longer need to use the built in flash and can get far superior lighting when taking your photographs.
WHY DO YOU NEED A FLASH GUN?
No matter how good the camera or the photographer using it, if the light is poor then you will get poor images. On camera flashes or built in flashes as they are commonly known offer a solution to low light situations but in truth they are as good as useless, the reason for this is that the straight on light that they offer is harsh, it takes colour out the skin and casts really dark shadows which offers very poor final images.
So that's it then if you own a DSLR then all you need to do now is grab any flashgun and start taking better photos, right? Well no wrong.
Firstly you need one that fits and will work with the type of camera you own and although most hot shoes are the same the Sony one is different and requires a certain type of flashgun fitting, the Jessop's 360AFD is a flashgun made by Jessop`s which comes in a range of designs so there is one suited to all brands of DSLR camera and it costs way less than the Canon, Nikon and Sony speed lights so it is one many will choose, but should they?
Well in my opinion, having used one of these flashes on both a Sony and a Nikon DSLR is that they are definitely false economy. When buying a flashgun unless you want to have to set it to get the lighting right manually every time yourself then you need one with something called TTL, this allows the flash to set itself through what it reads through the lens to give you exactly the right light for the situation you are about to shoot.
Whilst the Jessop`s 360AFD does have this I found that on most occasions the images were underexposed on both the Sony and the Nikon when used in TTL mode whereas when you use the Sony brand flashgun on the Sony DSLR it got it right every time, so there is one point that should be considered when you choose Jessop`s over the brand named products.
The next problem I had with this flash that you rarely find with the brand named flashes is that when you use the tilt function to perhaps bounce light off a white ceiling to get a nice softer light, the TTL function had no idea that the head was tilted and it therefore got the exposure badly wrong but also if the tilt was used just slightly then the lack of a locking function meant that the head could easily fall back into original position especially if you add the weight of a diffuser to it.
The build quality of this flash wasn't too bad, it is certainly lighter than many of the brand name flashguns but some might find this a good thing as you do of course have to operate the camera with this stuck on top of it but for me light usually means flimsy and I was definitely put off by this but otherwise it seemed sturdy and not at all like it would fall apart with the slightest knock.
It has a built in pull out diffuser and white bounce card but these felt very flimsy indeed and I guess they would not last the life of the flashgun as with constant use I am almost certain they would come apart and I know of at least one person who had exactly that happen to them with the white bounce card on one of these flashes and unfortunately Jessop`s response was that because the flash was over six months old they felt this was normal wear and tear and that more care should have been used when opening and retracting the bounce card and they would not even offer a free repair.
The most important thing with a flashgun is the guide number (ie) how much power the flash has and this one has a guide number of 36m at ISO 100 which in layman's terms means that your flash will send light about 36 meters when the cameras ISO is set at 100 but more important is will this and the size of the head and the built in wide panel diffuser allow you to light a group of people perhaps at a wedding or the likes and the answer to that is not it won't well not really.
I found the exposure of a group of people to be ok up to about 7 people but when the group got to around ten then the people on the outer of the group were underexposed even although I was shooting them from less than ten meters away, so the long and the short of this particular point is that if you intend shooting weddings or groups of people then this flash will fail you.
Now I am not by any stretch of the imagination trying to say this is a useless flash and no one should consider it but I hope the review has pointed out to you that if you need it for certain things then it won't be anywhere near as good as the brand name speed lights to go with your DSLR.
This flash will be ok to those at a low level of experience and perhaps just moving up from their cameras built in flash but for those with previous flashgun experience or for those relying on a flash that will reliably set itself up through TTL so you get every shot just right then this is going to leave you wanting more.
You do of course have to take the price in to the account when reviewing anything and giving comparisons and at only £80 right now for one of these as opposed to say the Sony equivalent which costs over £240 then you have to say that perhaps it is unfair to compare the two but there are other options between the Sony and Nikon Speed guns and the very cheap Jessop's flash.
Things like the Sunpak PF30X for instance at only £90 is smaller, lighter and simply better than the Jessop`s and for only a few pounds more again at £120 you get the Sigma EF 530 DG which is better than both the Jessop`s and the Sunpak offering.
*Guide number 36m/ISO 100
*Bounce and swivel adjustment
*Built in diffuser and reflector
*Backlit LCD display
*Autofocus assist light
*Auto/manual Powerzoom settings
*24/28/35/50/70/85mm Head Settings
*5 Level power ratio : 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16
*Trigger Voltage : 6V
*Requires 4 x AA batteries
TO SUM UP.
In summary I would say that this has the required things that one would look for in a good flashgun such as a bounce and tilt function, TTL functions and a reasonably quick charge recycle time of about 3 seconds at full power but sadly the TTL functions are not perfect and neither is the tilt head so this has to be marked down for this.
I guess the long and the short of it is if you want perfection then get the Sony flashgun to go with Sony DSLR`s and the Nikon to go with Nikon and so on and so forth but if you cannot afford perfection then choose carefully between the other third party options and you will usually find that if you pay a bit more then you get a bit better flash and be sure to shop around when you do choose the one you want as many camera stores often have good offers on flashguns such as recently Warehouse express online had the Metz 48 AF-1 ( a very good flashgun) on offer at only £125.99, sadly it is back up to full price now but these offers are out there so shop carefully.
**Please note that the Dooyoo quick rating guide below is not actually applicable for this product so I have just given everything the three stars that the product warrants overall.**
Thanks for reading.
I really do love this flashgun, because it saves spending a couple of hundred or more on proper Speedlites. This costs less than hundred quid, and if you are lucky Jessop's put this on offer now and again, for as little as about 80 quid, as I last recalled.
In theory it is simple to operate. In practice I found it difficult.
The main reason I bought this is that I wanted something that I could use off-camera, so that I had better control over the lighting, i.e. no harsh, sharp front-on shadows.
Before you get excited though, this flashgun won't 'talk' to your camera off-flash, it is simply triggered by the light of the on-board flash - at least that is the theory!
Also the fact that you need the on-board flash to trigger the Jessop's one leaves you back at square one regarding that harsh shadow you were avoiding - there are solutions to that though.
But let's concentrate on the operation of the flash.
I could not fathom for the life of me how this worked!
If you want to use it as an on board flash, via your camera's hot-shoe, great. It has TTL capability and when attached to to your hot shoe should talk to your camera, if it also has TTL mode. If your lens has a zoom capability, providing your camera talks to the lens and flash, the flashes zoom control will move in and out in sympathy with the lens - you zoom, so does the flash - in theory. This wasn't utterly reliable, though could be worked around by half pressing the shutter button to 'wake' it up. You can also adjust the flashes zoom control manually when off camera to adjust the spread and distance of the light output. I don't use this often, but I am guessing it will eat into your 4 AA batteries.
I bought this to use off camera, and the bulk of the review will be mindful of that.
The instructions are very scant. They don't explain ways in which you can use it off camera. They don't explain the zoom settings the flash has - I understand this is a nice facility to have, but not much point for the beginner, if the instructions don't explain it.
The rear of the camera has a screen, which I now understand to be a guide to the distances the flash will work to with certain apertures and ISO settings, as well as telling you the state of the flash's settings.
I didn't understand this until I had read around some websites on flash photography, but that just got even more confusing.
It then occurred to me that perhaps the screen wasn't working properly. I took it back to Jessops, who then confirmed this for me!
They changed it.
I still can't get this to work reliably - bearing in mind I am trying to get this to work off camera.
Perhaps it is 'pilot error', but I have read through the limited instructions for the flash and also the instructions for the camera I am mainly using this with (Canon EOS 450D), to try and marry them up.
Generally what happens is the flash will fire, but it is clear it has not fired at the same time as the shutter has opened.
I have played around with the menus in the camera, sometimes it works, as long as I don't have the flash on full power (yes you can set the power output 1/1, 1/2,1/4, 1/8, 1/16).
But, I did have a play with the camera's Flash Exposure lock, which gave me a little success regarding the 1/1 power output.
I am going to hold my hands up here and say I don't fully understand how off-camera flash, triggered simply by the light of the on-camera flash, works. I though it would be as simple as dialling in your settinings to the flashgun and letting the on board flash do the triggering, but it seems not.
I am not giving this a low mark though. When it does trigger I get good results. In the main I think the camera is only meant to be used as an on board (where it works delightfully, though I was told it would be a breeze to use off-board by Jessop's staff). The instructions for using off board are very simple and clearly stated "when the sensor detects an external flash fire, the flashgun will synchronise and fire". Apart from saying you will need to experiment to get the correct lighting ratio, there is not much else.
I am guessing the product itself is good, and with clearer guidance I could get a more reliable use of the thing.
Providing you have a clearer understanding of using off camera flash than I seem to, perhaps a good thorough knowledge of how your particular camera will work with particular off camera flash units, then you will find this an excellent product. I hope I am saving face by saying that I have read some websites which have suggested off camera flash can be a nightmare, if you are not using dedicated flashes, especially it would seem in the case of Canon, whose cameras are really geared up for Canon Speedlites and nothing else. Also with Canon, not all of their expensive Speedlites will work with all of their relatively expensive (i.e. mid range) SLR cameras.
Despite sounding dissatisfied with the Jessops flash I am reluctant to mark this product low - when my camera triggers it 'properly' I get good results. It is also relatively cheap.