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Flash – The Comprehensive Camera Flash Buying Guide

In this article, I’m going to share with you some buying tips and guide you on how to select your first external flash gun for your photography lighting needs. The article applies to both OEM and 3rd-party Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, or other flash brands.

I’m going to provide some tips and advice when you’re shopping for that first camera flash for your DSLR. Here are some of the common key terms you’ll encounter when reading a flashgun’s specification sheet. The items listed are the specs you should put more consideration to when comparing products:

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Why Should I Get an External Flash and Which Flash Should I Buy?

Just to recap from an older article. An external flash gun is a very powerful piece of equipment that opens up a lot of photographic opportunities and improves your resulting photos particularly when available ambient light is unfavorable. By having the option of adding your own light, you can control exposure, contrast, motion, lighting pattern, and ISO noise control as well.

Price

Before we discuss features, I’d assume that you’ve already set a BUDGET for your purchase. As always, the topic of ‘what to buy’ is rarely helpful until you’ve set a reasonable budget to begin with. There simply won’t be many flashes with high-tech controls for under $100, for example. Be logical and reasonable with your budget.

There are many factors that dictate the price of the flash, much of it will be listed in later bullet points, but in general, the more powerful, feature-rich, and reliable the unit, the more costly it will be.

OEM flashes (from the same camera manufacturer as your camera’s brand) will often have a higher price tag than 3rd-party units like Sigma, Metz, Nissin, Sunpak, etc. because of the same adage that the OEM manufacturers spent considerable time engineering their technology, while the 3rd-party companies attempt to reverse engineer the OEM’s blueprints.

That doesn’t mean that 3rd party flashes are inferior to OEM flashes, but expect a higher rate of incompatibility and lower resale value compared to OEM equipment.

There are many 3rd-party flashes that offer features that are NOT available on OEM flashes as well, such cases would put the 3rd-party flashes at better value than OEM offerings.

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