G9 and Metz 20 C-2 external flash--my experience (pic heavy)

Started Feb 15, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Hyun Yu Contributing Member • Posts: 716
G9 and Metz 20 C-2 external flash--my experience (pic heavy)

I'm a happy new owner of the G9. I've been looking for an external flash for it, and today received my order containing the Metz Mecablitz 20 C-2 flash from B&H. I've got two Canon flashes for my DSLRs, the 420EX and 550EX (superceded by 430EX and 580EX II), but as many other G9 owners have noted, they tend to dwarf out the camera when attached and I for one wanted something smaller.

One obvious candidate was the 220EX. Fully E-TTL compatible, easy to use, small. The only downside is that it's got a fixed flash head--no tilt or swivel. I'm a big fan of bouncing light, and I wanted something that had at least a tilt head, if not swivel.

Cullmann from Germany makes a flash unit that's supposed to be E-TTL compatible and has a rotating reflector head, but B&H shows it to be discontinued and my e-mail to Cullmann has gone unanswered. So much for that.

Then I started reading about the Metz Mecablitz 20 C-2 flash. It's a basic automatic thyristor flash with two aperture settings (f/2.8 and f/5.6), as well as a manual mode. Having been using the 420EX and 550EX flashes mostly in E-TTL modes, I was at first a bit leery of this unknown (to me) technology. But then I started reading more about it and it seemed like a capable, for its price and specs, flash unit. How wrong can you go for $56... so I bought one. The following is my brief hands-on experience with the flash. Please keep in mind that I'm an amateur photographer (in the loosest sense of the word!) with more enthusiasm than knowledge and aptitude combined! I'm just reporting my experience with the flash as I've noted them.

Right, first off, here's the picture of the camera and the box contents. The flash stand does not come with the unit--it's from my Canon flashes--I just needed something to prop up the flash for the picture.

The back of the flash shows the ready light, proper exposure light, PC sync socket (the flash comes with the cable), on/off switch, and a chart showing the flashes proper range under different ISO and f-stop settings.

The unit uses two AA batteries. The manual (which is surprisingly easy to read) recommends alkaline, Ni-Cad, and NiMH, but not lithium.

Unlike my Canon flashes, there's no screw wheel to fasten the flash to the camera. Instead, there's a lock switch, which works very well. The flash has no wobble once the lock switch is engaged. Here's the OFF setting...

... and ON.

Here's the side profile of the camera. Very compact and nice.

The 20 C-2 unit has a rotating reflector unit, which rotates within the head unit.

The next two pictures show size comparison (not 100% accurate to scale, but close enough) show the G9 with the Mecablitz 20 C-2, then 420EX, and then 550EX flashes attached. The first one is with the flash gun poiting forward position, and the second one is with the head pointing up for bounce effect.

Now, some test pictures. With one exception, no pictures were post-processed, and each has a little histogram on the bottom right corner. All are with the 20 C-2 flash unit.

The first picture is with flash pointing straight ahead.

Then I tried bouncing the light off the white ceiling (all pictures from here on are bounced) on auto setting, at f/5.6, with the G9 ISO set to 100. It underexposed:

... mind you, it took 10 seconds of post-processing to improve the same picture a bit:

To me, a flash that can bounce light but underexpose is still better than a flash that can't bounce but exposes properly. You can always (well, usually) fix the image by post-processing it, but no amount of post-processing is going to give you that harsh direct flash shot the softer, more pleasant effect that bounced light gives.

Trying to improve the exposure, I left the flash setting at auto and f/5.6, but changed camera aperture to f/4.0. Better:

The final shot is the flash in manual mode, and the camera set to ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec. I don't know if this was a fluke, but I thought this was the best exposed shot of the lot!

So that's my initial hands-on experience with the flash. I'm pretty happy with the purchase, given how compact it is and that the bounced flash works well enough. For most of my casual family gatherings and everyday family shoots, this will be a great companion to my G9. I am looking forward to experimenting with it more and finding out what it can do.

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