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Should I Buy an External Flash or Get a Fast Lens?

Practical Samples

Here are some examples of a flash’s advantage.

Camera: Canon EOS10D
Flash: Sunpak PowerZoom 4000AF (not ETTL compatible – manual only).
Trigger: Optical hotshoe trigger.
Settings: 1/200 @ F/10 ISO 200. Flash set at 1/16 power @ 28mm

Note that all the photos below are shot with the shutter/aperture/ISO settings above except for the ambient shot (set # 3)

Set 1: Off cam

Set 2: No flash

Set 3: Ambient Only 1/6 second, f/5.6 ISO 200

Excessive blur and much less DOF.

Set 4: Same as Set 1 with a reflector opposite the flash.

As you can clearly see, the ability to use a small aperture gave me great DOF. By setting my cam’s shutter speed to its maximum sync speed (1/200), I was able to take a much sharper shot with low noise as well.

Creative Lighting

Here’s another set taken this evening with an almost completely dark room… Also to illustrate another benefit of a flash gun – DIRECTIONAL LIGHTING. Unlike available light (indoors) or pop-up flash, the shadows are very clear and defined, which gives a more 3-D feel to your photos.

1/200 f/9 ISO 100

Bye bye frontal lighting…

Sunpak PZ4000 AF @ 1/16 power as optical slave fired through a scrim (hand held). + EOS10D + 50mm 1.8.

Most are shot with 1/125 @ f/5.6 or 6.3, ISO 100


As you can see, it’s almost “softbox” like quality lighting with a cheap flash and a scrim. You can’t get that with your large aperture lens if you don’t have directional light in the first place.

Finally, let’s take a look at how to make your flash photos more balanced and natural with a “drag” technique on the next page.

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