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Jessops and Canon can't
Member Name: MisterReview
Advantages: Relatively inexpensive
Disadvantages: Unreliable as an off camera flash (with Canon products at least)
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.
Summary: Good value flash gun for on camera work. Hit and miss for off-camera work.
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