Flash Options for Sigma DP1M, DP2M and DP3M
Looking for a compact flash solution for your Sigma DP Merrill series compact cameras? The Sigma EF-140 DG SA-STTL and the Metz 20 C-2 are my two choices for use on Sigma's DP Merrill cameras and are the only compact flashes that I would trust to put on my Sigma DP2M or any DP Merrill series compact camera.
Sigma EF-140 DG SA-STTL Flash
The most advanced flash is the Sigma EF-140 DG flash which features TTL which prior to the exposure, the camera tells the flash to fire a pre flash, then the camera measures the exposure and decides what flash level output is needed to provide the right amount of light. This happens at a fraction of a second before the photo captured. This type of flash system works very well. Just put the flash on the camera, turn it on, and set your camera to use the TTL flash as a fill flash or as a regular flash---It is simple, not much thinking involved, etc. It can be used manually as well. The Sigma EF-140 sells for around $89.00 ( USD).
|Sigma EF- 140 DG TTL Flash|
I have used Sigma flashes on my Canons and Sigma DSLRs for years and never had any issues with Sigma's TTL flash technology. It works. The EF 140 DG has a guide number of 14 ( iso100/m) and 16mm focal length illumination coverage. It was designed for the original DP1 which had a wide angle lens. Takes two AAA batteries and has a recycle time of about 5.5 to 6.5 seconds. It lacks any flash bounce feature. There were some complaints that Sigma didn't put a built in flash on the DP Merrill series. I disagree. I dislike built in camera flashes. I prefer to have full control over the flash without built in limitations. I want a compact unit that also enables me to bounce flash which is a desirable missing feature.
I notice that the EF-140 DG flash is no longer mentioned on any Sigma website but can still be purchased from internet retailers. I don't know the status of this product long term. Is it being refreshed with a new replacement or is being discontinued? The bottom line is that the EF 140 DG flash was designed for a wide angle camera, so it should work with the DP1M, DP2M and DP3M but lacks a bounce flash feature. No word on this from Sigma yet. I've put an information request in on the status of the EF 140 DG. If I get an update from Sigma--I'll share that with you.
The Metz 20 C-2
So if you want a compact flash with the bounce feature, would you brave using an old school Automatic flash? Enter the Metz 20 C-2 compact manual ( AUTO) flash. It retails around $49.00 USD.
|Metz 20 C-2 mounted on the hotshoe of a DP2M with Richard Franiec's custom camera grip attached.|
The Metz flash uses older "auto" flash technology with the sensor located on the front of the flash. It doesn't use advanced TTL ( through the lens) metering technology where the camera communicates with the flash. It has a guide number of 20 at iso 100/m 21 degree coverage ( 35mm focal length) You have two automatic apertures to choose from if you want to use the flash automatically--F 2.8 (green) and f5.6 (red) on the back switch.
Here is how it works. Attach it to your camera. Any camera that can trigger a flash with its hot shoe will work with this unit. Any camera that has an X socket can use a cable to attach to the flash's own sync socket as well. The Flash foot has a locking switch that attaches it firmly to the camera hot shoe.
|Notice the locking mechanism on the base of the flash foot. Much better than a tightning wheel in my opinion. This securely attaches the flash to the DP2M or any standard camera hot shoe.|
Set your camera on manual exposure. Set your camera at the base flash shutter speed at 1/125th of a second or 1/200th --whatever flash sync setting your camera uses (Remembering that this flash can be used on any camera). Set your camera ISO at 100. Put your aperture ( lens opening) at either f2.8 or f5.6. Remember if you select f2.8, then you need to put the switch on the back of the camera to f2.8 ( Green). If you use f5.6, then put the switch on the f5.6 setting(Red) The rest is simple. Point the camera and shoot. The sensor meters the light and the duration of the flash is set for proper exposure. Be careful not to block the sensor with a large lens hood. The flash does not get its information from the camera or communicate with the camera. It is assuming that you set the camera on its native flash sync, set the F stop at f2.8 or f5.6 and the iso at 100. There is a contact on the bottom of camera's hot shoe that triggers the flash. A synchronizing cable can be used with a camera's X socket ( if it has one) and Metz's own sync socket. The DP Merrill series cameras don't have an X socket. I wanted to include this information for those that might purchase this unit for other compact camera with standard flash mount or X sockets.
The newest firmware update of the DP Merrill compacts allows flash sync speeds at 1/125th sec. I've tested flash sync speeds at 1/125 and 1/200th sec. Both speeds work with the DP2M. The flash also offers full manual control using the chart on the back of the flash.
For novices, these new terms may be confusing --ISO, F-stop, shutter speed etc.
So here is a quick primer:
ISO--this is the setting that makes the sensor more or less sensitive to light. This term is a carry over from the days of using film. You would buy Iso 100 film for shooting during the day and iso 400 or higher for shooting indoors or low light.
F-stop- This is simply the size of the opening of the camera lens aperture. This is controlled by little blades that you will see change the size of the iris in the lens by letting in more light or less. The smaller the number--the more light enters the lens( Example-f2.8). The larger the number , the smaller the iris which means less light reaches the sensor( Example -F5.6)
Shutter speed--This is the speed that the shutter opens and closes. Most flash sync settings are 1/125th of a second to 1/200th of a second.
The Metz 20 C-2 has a LED on the right backside of the unit that briefly flashes red to confirm the correct exposure.
Using the Metz flash is very simple but using the light bouncing feature can produce underexposure if not used in the right situation. You will get underexposed photos if you don't have anything overhead to bounce the light off of. In a house with an 8 foot high white ceiling--there should be no problem shooting with the bounce flash option, but you may have to increase your ISO setting from 100 to 125 or 200 respectively--or change your shutter speed from 1/200th to 1/125th as well.
|The pop up bounce flash feature demonstrated on the DP2M. It tilts 30, 45, 60, or 90 degrees!|
You can always use the chart on the back of the flash and shoot manually. Pick the ISO you want to use, the distance away from the subject and the chart will tell you what the F stop should be used. Expect to fiddle with the controls and experiment if you are going to be bouncing the flash. It can be tilted to 30- 45- 60 or 90 degrees. The flash duration is between 1/1200 to 1/25000 of a second with a color temperature of 5500K. It is designed to be used at iso 25 to 400. The written manual has formulas that you can used for more advanced features like fill lighting etc. Note: Read the manual.
The nice thing about the Metz is it's simplicity with its two Auto flash Fstop settings of F2.8 and F5.6. The addition of having the ability to bounce the light and the low cost for this pocketable flash make it a good option for use with your DP Merrill compact series cameras or any camera for that matter. If you need through the lens TTL flash, the only unit available is the Sigma EF-140 DG with a slightly higher price tag minus the bounce feature. You can still put a full size Sigma EF 610 Standard or DG super Flash on a DP Merrill series compact camera. Some of the other manufacturers make smaller TTL flashes for their respective brands, so you might have a compact solution if you are using another brand.
Do I recommend the Sigma EF-140 DG over the Metz 20 C-2 ? No--that depends on your needs. If you don't need to bounce flash and want a small pocketable TTL unit, then the Sigma EF-140 DG will suit your needs. If you need to bounce flash, the Metz 20 C-2 is a better choice. The downside with the Metz flash is that it can take up to 8 seconds to recycle the flash depending on what battery type you use and there is a stern warning against ever using Lithium AA batteries with this flash. Metz states that the flash must be turned on for 10 minutes ever 3 months to prevent the capacitor from degrading.
I should mention there are more powerful manual flashes available from Metz and Vivitar. Both cost around $89 USD if you want to go the auto sensor on the flash route instead of the Sigma TTL options. Full size flashes look mammoth on DP Merrill cameras (DP1M, DP2M , DP3M). Pick what will work best for you. The Sigma EF-140 DG is the simpler more sophisticated solution while the Metz requires more user input but offers the tilt reflector. Of course, you could own both.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.