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Compatibility: Metz 50 MZ-5 and Nikon D3

Rich Evans , Oct 11, 2009; 10:10 p.m.

All of our work over the past 3 years has been with D2/3 and D200/300 using SB800s. This last week found me rumaging through some of my old equipment and I ran across my old Metz 50 MZ-5 along with all the goodies - batteries, chargers, and SCA3402 - from when I was still shooting film with my F5s. This was an awesome flash - great results before iTTL.

Question is: can this still be used with today's D3/D300 with an appropriate adapter or do I need to remove it from my stash of old stuff and make some lucky ebay buyer a new owner...

Thanks,

--Rich

Responses

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Oct 11, 2009; 10:19 p.m.

No, if you want to use iTTL. Yes, if you want to use auto thyristor. If the latter, and you use it in the 'dumb' way--no communication between flash and camera--all you need do is plug the sync cord into the camera. You'll need to set the ISO and f stop on the flash.

If you want communication and focus assist (not sure about auto zoom), you'll need the appropriate SCA adapter. You'll find that info on the Metz site.

Rich Evans , Oct 12, 2009; 06:29 a.m.

Thanks Nadine - that's what I was afraid of. And as an FYI for anyone else interested, I couldn't find a compatible SCA adapter for use with the 50 and the D3. For some reason, the 3402 is not recommended for use with iTTL and the 50 :-(

--Rich

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Oct 12, 2009; 01:29 p.m.

I think the 3402 will probably work, just for the communication end and focus assist. On my 45 and 60, and my Canon cameras, the Canon module--3102-- will work for the communication and focus assist, but not in implementing ETTL. The standard module, which is recommended will not give you communication or focus assist. I also think older versions of the 3402 module will work for communication and focus assist.

Joseph Wisniewski , Oct 13, 2009; 12:53 a.m.

Rich and Nadine, the reason that the older Metz flashes won't work with iTTL or ETTL, no matter what module you use, is that the flash itself is not fast enough.

  • When Nikon and Canon had plain old TTL, the Metz heads could keep up.
  • When Nikon and Canon added a single, short preflash, with the right electronics in the adapter module, the Metz could signal the head to make a preflash and then a main flash.
  • Then Nikon introduced D-TTL, which had a sequence of 18 tiny preflashes, in a sequence of 4, 5, 5, 4, to allow a DSP to extract a more accurate flash estimation, even in bright sunlight, Metz flashes couldn't produce that high speed pulse sequence. So, after about a year of stalling and saying "new adapters would be out in a couple of weeks" (yes, I was there for that, it was messy) Metz admitted that adapters couldn't fix the problem and brought out a new line of flashes capable of producing shorter pulses.
  • Then Nikon came out with iTTL, which used more complex sequences of even shorter flashes (over 60 flashes, and the coding served simultaneously to provide modulation for DSP purposes and to send messages) the Metz flashes again proved unable to deal with the short pulses and had to bring out an entire new line of flashes, again. This got them compatability with Canon ETTL II, Pentax PTTL, etc.

Rich Evans , Oct 13, 2009; 06:07 a.m.

Thanks Joseph - that explains alot. When I first got into digital with the Nikon/Kodak DCS620 I was told that Metz was working on new adapters, alas they never came and I needed to switch away from the trusty albeit bulky 50. I have however been very happy with my SB800s and Quantum battery packs.

I played a bit last night with the 50/3401 in AA mode and actually got some very good results on my D300, so I think all is not lost. I'll drag it out to my next event and run with it for a bit just to see how it performs in comparison to the D3 with the SB800.

--Rich

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Oct 13, 2009; 03:49 p.m.

I can tell you that Metz auto thyristor, as you will remember, is excellent. I prefer it over Canon ETTL. However, what you will run into, if you, like many now, are using high ISO, is that you can't ramp the flash down enough (in auto thyristor). Plus, if you use second curtain sync, high speed sync, or the wireless system, you will be out of luck. I actually don't use much of the latter, so I don't really care about that. The ability to ramp down--that is annoying at times. However, if you need to bounce your flash in a large, dark hall, you will be in heaven.

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