Big Flash Photography with Low Cost

Are you frustrated that the flash on your Digital SLR camera, although convenient, is not very bright for long distances? Have you priced more powerful flashes made for your camera? Are you over the sticker shock yet?

Many flashes made for film cameras will work fine on Digital SLR cameras with the proper operation by the user. These flashes can be bought used for one half to one third the price of a new flash.

One very important precaution however is that an older flash should not be mounted on the camera and tried unless the voltage at the firing pin has been checked and found to be safe, usually 10 volts or less. If you do not know how to check your flash Marshall's Camera will be happy to do this for you at no charge. It only takes a few minutes to check.

The following is a series of pictures taken here at Marshall's Camera to show the use of such a flash. The camera used is a Nikon D3000. The lens used is the Nikon 18-55mm lens that comes normally with the kit. The lens is set at 55mm for most of the shots. The first five shots were taken with the on-camera flash. The camera automatically set the shutter speed to 1/60 and the lens opening to 5.6 which is the largest opening for this lens when it is set to 55mm focal length. The ISO setting was changed with each shot starting with 100 and then set to 200, 400, 800, and 1600 on the fifth shot. The far wall is about 40 feet away.

As you can see I set this up to illustrate the weakness of the on-camera flash. It works well if you remember the limitations.

The next four shots were taken with the Canon brand model 199A flash mounted on the camera. This flash was the biggest flash Canon made to put on the top of the "A" series cameras such as the A-1, AE-1, and AE-1 Program. Since the AE-1 came out in 1976 this flash could be over 30 years old. However it works well and, as you see, put out a lot of light for $99 which is our price here at Marshall's Camera.

For these four shots the camera was set to the manual exposure mode (M on the top dial). The shutter speed was set to 1/60 and the lens aperture was set to 5.6 for the first three pictures. Again the ISO was set to 100, then 200, and then 400 on the third shot. On the fourth shot the ISO was set to 800 and the aperture was set to 8.0 as that was indicated on the flash automation setting.

The 199A flash, unlike more modern flashes, has an external light sensor so that the automatic adjustment of the flash brightness is governed solely by the flash itself without any reference to the camera. All Digital SLR flashes use the light sensor that is built inside the camera body so that all flash operation is automatically based on input from the sensor.

The next few shots were made to show that the 199A flash works well in close mode, wide angle mode, and bounce (pointing straight up), mode. Bounce mode is guaranteed to totally eliminate any red eye.

If you think this is a low-cost solution for your lighting problems come by and we will be happy to show you how to set it up on your camera.

If you think that this demonstration can be improved Marshall's Camera is always open to constructive criticism.