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Which non-Canon flash?

Michael McBroom , Sep 16, 2009; 12:08 p.m.

Okay, I need to get an off-camera flash for my XS (1000D). I can't afford a 430 EX-II right now. The 580? Fuggeddaboudit. Got a kid I'm putting through college, and it's using up almost all my resources. I can probably fit an aftermarket in my budget though, which is maxed out at $150. I see that Sigma, Sunpak, and Vivitar make some flashes that look to be roughly equivalent to the 430 and that fit within my budget. I've never owned a Sigma or Sunpak, but I've owned a few Vivitars over the years, including the venerable old 285HV.
Just wondering if any folks here might have an opinion on a flash that will come close to the 430 in performance and value?


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Alonzo E , Sep 16, 2009; 01:23 p.m.

You should look into Metz flashes. If you're looking for off-camera flashes you could to pretty good with the 45 series flashes. Runs on 6 aa bats. You might want to do your research to see if the solution works for you. I have a few Metz series 45 flashes and they are built tough and produce consistent flash temps over many power ranges.. You can also modify the sync cable to accept the standard 1/8 inch plug for triggering..

Arief Novisto , Sep 16, 2009; 01:33 p.m.

Michael, check the trigger voltage of that Vivitar. If it's less than 250V, you should be OK using it with auto mode, if not Wein sync safe might need to be used.

If you want ETTL automation and budget is tight, maybe a used Canon 420EX. I just searched KEH and they have one for $144. This is a nice flash that you can use as slave later.

Nathan Meador , Sep 16, 2009; 03:11 p.m.

If it is entirely for off-camera, you could use just about any flash that has manual controls; preferably one with a optical slave built in, if not, you can add one using either a hotshoe adapter or sync connector (whatever the flash has). I see a lot about Nikon SB-25's and 26's being pretty good. I myself use Vivitar 285's and 285hv's....mostly because they are cheap and have been solid for me.

Dan Ferrel , Sep 16, 2009; 03:50 p.m.

For totally off camera lighting, about the only thing you need it manual control and an interface that will work with whatever trigger you use (assuming that you don't use a cable to connect the flash to the hotshoe, which if you ask Canon they will tell you 6 volts is the most that the hotshoe is rated for). You should probaby know just how much voltage your flash has, as even some radio triggers can't handle things when they get too hot. http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html

Before anyone gets too excited let me state that many people have used flashes with trigger voltages over 6 volts with no problems what so ever. I'm just stating what Canon will tell you if you email them. Also, I'd skip the Wein Safe Sync for high voltage use, it's close to $50 US and you could just take that much money and get a flash that works the way you want it too to begin with.

R Smith , Sep 16, 2009; 05:10 p.m.

Even though I am a Canon shooter I have been using Nikon SB28's for years and with great success. They can be fired with cheap radio triggers, unlike Canon Flashes, and they can also be triggered with optical slaves. They can be used off camera in either the manual or auto flash modes and they have a really cool built in Guide Number calculator (that is what I call it anyway). When in manual mode you enter an ISO and F number and it will give you a distance to set the flash based on the power you have entered. They have a max guide number of 164 feet where as the 430EX is only 141 feet. I bought mine 5 or 6 years ago for around $50-$60 but this strobist craze has jacked the price up to around $100. The Nikon SB26 is a great little flash as well and it has a built in optical slave.
Personally I would steer away from the 420EX's and hold out till you can afford a 430EX. I used 3 420EX's as slaves for several years but replaced them with 430EX's as soon as they came out. They can only be used in ETTL mode as they have no manual features so unless you are going to have them attached to your hotshoe (directly or with an ETTL cord) or fired wirelessly by a master flash (a 550EX, 580EX, 580EXII or st-e2) they are totally worthless.

Jeffrey Synn , Sep 16, 2009; 05:28 p.m.

Do you need E-TTL capability? Because getting that functionality on an off-camera flash is gonna cost you, 3rd party or not. The OC-E3 cord (or equivalent) is the cheapest but is really short and wireless E-TTL will be too expensive for you, period. On a budget, you are stuck with manual flash for off-camera use. Does your Vivitar 285HV still work? You could just use that if so: get a sync cord, optical slave or "eBay" radio trigger and you're good to go.

The spiritual successor of the Vivitar 285HV is in many ways the Lumopro LP120 ($130). It is a manual flash designed with the Strobist community, which is all about using hotshoe flashes off-camera. (If you haven't seen the Strobist blog before, you should check it out.) Notably, the LP120 has a built-in optical slave and both miniphone and PC cord inputs. Combined with the hot shoe, that's 4 different sync options out of the box; not too shabby.

A. N.K. , Sep 16, 2009; 08:49 p.m.

I would get a used 430EX (Not the EX-II, but the older one). This is a great flash, a lot better than the 420EX. I actually own the 430EX.

I just checked on Ebay found 3 different "completed listings" that sold for exactly $150. Of course, some went for $200. But, if you keep watch I'm guessing you'll find a 430EX for $150, just watch the "shipping" cost and feedback rating. Expect about $8-15 for shipping.

That is definitely the way to go.

Michael McBroom , Sep 16, 2009; 10:06 p.m.

Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback. Upon re-reading my request, I realize I should have worded it slightly differently, namely that I'm looking for TTL flash that can also be used off camera. I need to study up on all the different things that can be done with strobe lighting these days. I'll admit I'm quite a ways behind the curve.
Back in the day, I would use my Metz 60 CT1 and Braun F900, bounced out of umbrellas or diffusers, with a small wink light or two for fill, hooked it all up with sync cables and slave triggers, and checked exposure with my Luna Pro F.
It seems like nowadays the biggest problem is dealing with all the preflash business a camera does, so regular old slave triggers can't be used anymore. But then some flashes have built in slave capability, from what I understand. But if I don't mount this flash onto the camera, and use it off-camera instead (but not as a slave) then I won't have the pre-flash problem right? Geez it's so confusing!

A. N.K. , Sep 16, 2009; 10:36 p.m.

Couple questions:
You want off camera flash, do you want it wireless, or with cables?
Also, do you want to have TTL off-camera, or are you comfortable with setting the flash setting manually?

You're going to have a difficult time keeping $150 budget, because the flash itself might cost half or all of it.

There are optical slave triggers that are designed for "Digital" and will take the preflash into account. Wein Digital Hotshoe Slave, cost about $75, you can put a Flash with manual settings, and should be able to fire it, with the onboard flash from the Rebel. Also, you can find cheap (somewhat unreliable) radio units on ebay or something like a "Cactus V4". Of course, there is no TTL (ETTL), the flash has to be set manually.

(cheap/unreliable ebay stuff)

(Cactus V4, a little more well know, same basic principal)

I don't like to mess with cables, so I can't suggest anything, someone else maybe able to give you advice with that.
There are also things like "Radio Poppers" and "Pocket Wizards", but both are beyond your budget, but the recent versions let you use E-TTL. Most of your money will probably be spent on a decent manual flash (the Vivitar 285 or something) and then adding some wireless system (either the optical digital slave, or the cheap radio transmitters).

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