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CAMERA

Let’s Check These Budget Flashguns (Part 3)

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9/23/2014 11:24:13 AM
We expect almost any gadget to be wireless nowadays, and that includes flashguns

New and recent cameras, including the 7D, 60D, 600D and 650D, enable you to use the pop-up flash as a wireless controller for flashguns that have a wireless slave mode. This means you can easily use the flashgun off-camera, to give a more three-dimensional, natural lighting effect. Check out our step-bystep guide below to see how to set up wireless slave operation.

Apart from the Sunpak PZ42X, all the flashguns in our test group can be used in wireless slave mode. This means you can trigger them direct from a compatible camera, or from another flashgun that features a wireless master mode (only the Nissin Di866 Mk II Pro and Sigma EF-610 DG Super in this group offer this). In most cases, you can choose one of four wireless channels, to avoid interference from other equipment or when shooting close to other photographers who are also using wireless flash.

Step-by-step How to go wireless for off-camera flash

Step-by-step How to go wireless for off-camera flash

Expert tip

Because of their small size and relatively close proximity to subjects, flashguns produce very hard lighting, which is the last thing you need for portraits. By angling the head at between 45 and 60 degrees and fitting a diffuser, such as a Sto- Fen Omni-Bounce, you can create softer and more flattering light. Diffusers cost around £20, with options to fit different flashgun makes and models.

Nissin Speedlite Di622 Mk II

Despite being the joint cheapest flashgun in the group, along with the Sunpak PZ42X, the Nissin Di622 Mk II boasts a surprisingly full set of features, along with a marginally higher maximum power rating than the more expensive Canon 430EX II. Plus points include a motorised zoom head with bounce and swivel functions, a wide-angle diffuser and reflector card, and wireless slave compatibility.

Nissin Speedlite Di622 Mk II

Nissin Speedlite Di622 Mk II

Dig a little deeper, though, and a few minus points come to light. In common with only the Sunpak in this group, recycling is anything but silent, producing a clearly audible whining noise. The zoom motor is also quite noisy. The wireless slave mode only works in channel 1, group A configuration and the flashgun lacks a high-speed sync mode. There’s also no info LCD, but at least you can apply flash exposure compensation via switches on the flashgun, albeit only within +/-1.5EV in 0.5EV increments. Alternatively, you can apply flash exposure compensation through the camera’s Flash Control menu.

Exposure accuracy isn’t too far off in E-TTL mode, with a tendency to underexpose by about one-third of a stop. The recycling time after a full-power flash is pretty nippy at 4.1 seconds.

Verdict

·         Price: $200

·         For: Useful power and plentiful features considering the low price

·         Against: Noisy in operation; lacks a high-speed sync mode; no info LCD panel

Nissin Speedlite Di866 Mk II Pro

Like its smaller sibling on test, the Di866 used to be a noisy beast, with a loud zoom motor and recycling circuitry, but the Mk II model is more refined. It really earns its ‘Pro’ moniker too, with advanced features including a quick-loading battery magazine, an external power input for use with a high-capacity battery pack, a USB port for applying firmware updates and a PC sync socket to enable triggering via a cable.

Nissin Speedlite Di866 Mk II Pro

Nissin Speedlite Di866 Mk II Pro

The Nissin boasts a stroboscopic multi-flash mode as well as high-speed sync and rear curtain modes. Everything is wonderfully easy to get at too, thanks to a colour LCD screen and four-way control buttons. There’s even an orientation sensor, so the display will be the right way up during both landscape and portrait orientation shooting. Full wireless master and slave functions are on hand and, uniquely in the group, there’s a secondary sub-flash module, useful for delivering direct fill-flash in bounce mode.

Exposure is consistent in E-TTL mode but proved very slightly underexposed at -0.2 EV in our tests. Recycling is quite pedestrian too, at 5.9 seconds. We can forgive it that, however, as the Gn rating of 60 makes it the most powerful flashgun in the group, along with the Sigma.

Verdict

·         Price: $350

·         For: A feast of advanced features that you’d only expect in a much more expensive flashgun

·         Against: Slight underexposure in E-TTL mode but at least it’s very consistent

 

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