Question re practical use of wireless (RC) flashes

Started Aug 20, 2014 | Discussions thread
Peter 1745 Senior Member • Posts: 1,278
Re: Here's what I'm looking for, can you suggest a flash?

biggles266 wrote:

OK, so there is a little bit of conflict over how well people report the 36R works outdoors, it seems like it can work, but it's a question how reliable in practice. Also it seem like if the flash is in any way obscured by a large softbox, then the whole 36R family of Olympus flashes seems to be out and I have to use a flash that supports a wireless solution, so the signal can travel through stuff. But I'm still not sure I understand that right.

I definitely want to get a flash, to learn all the situations a one flash (with softbox if necessary) can really improve my photography.

Here are the scenarios I want it to do, for my photography interests:

1. Off-camera Macro - to better light close up photos. In this situation I don't want to bother with manual flash, although it might not be too hard with practice, I would like to be able to simply hold the flash in one hand with a small softbox over it, and hold my E-P5 in the other hand, and get TTL, or automatic balanced lighting on the macro subjecvt. I don't want to have a cable joining them, so it needs remote control that works off the small macro subject. For these situations, and for #2 below as well, I want setup to be as simple as possible - see a good shot, turn the flash on, hold it high or low and take the shot. I don't particularly want to be fiddling with setting up wireless channels or making sure the communication is working between the camera and the flash, I just want it to work simply.

Check out Robin Wong's blog and his home made diffuser set up.

On his Oly 60mm macro review  he shows how he uses it and some great photos using it.

Note for very close work the control signals from the camera flash can cast some illumination onto the subject even if the camera flash is set to "off" on the camera's flash control panel. I correct this by shading the cameras flash with my hand.

2. To balance portraits backlit by the sun - particularly very late afternoon, with the sun just over the subjects shoulder so still being very powerful in the image, but the flash providing some fill flash so the front of the subject is not lost in the low contrast light wrapping around them from the sun. Since I can't expect TTL to know how much fill flash I want, I am happy to use manual settings on the flash in this case, but I still want it to trigger wirelessly and reliably. If it doesn't trigger reliably I may miss a good shot. I may hold it in one hand or use a lightstand.

If you turn the flash body so that the photocell that sees the control flashes is pointing towards the camera and shade the sensor from direct sunlight you should get reliable remote control.

You can manually set the FL36Rs power output using the camera's flash control panel

3. Interior rooms - I want to be able to have the flash on the camera and bounce it off the ceiling and be confident it will meter correctly to expose the room well. Not for professional interiors, but of empty rooms or of people in the room. I already have experience with this using Canon and a Canon flash on camera (now sold), so I know it isn't the most creative use of light, but it works well. Good for taking photos of interesting rooms or of quick shots of some event happening in the room. So no wireless needed (although it would be a bonus to be able to hide the flash somewhere to light the room more flexibly), but very reliable TTL needed.

You will have no problems controlling the flash remotely. In small and medium rooms you don't need to have direct line of site. Reflections from the ceiling and walls will usually be sufficient.

4. For studio portraits with the flash on a lightstand but behind a large softbox. I don't have a studio but would like to slowly be able to work towards some simple one light studio portraits to learn them. The flash can be on manual since I can experiment with the light, but the flash has to trigger from behind the softbox, so I don't think the flash would have line of sight to the subject, perhaps it could to the camera. For studio I am willing to fiddle with wireless settings if wireless is needed for the flash to work behind the softbox.

The optical flash control may or may not work if the flash is hidden in a soft box. It depends on the type and position of the soft box.

You can either use a cheap flash cord ("Canon fit" ones work on Olympus systems and are usually cheaper than "Oly fit" versions), or use radio (RF) control.

There are plenty of cheap RF triggers available but all require you to set the flash level on the flash itself which can be inconvenient if it's tucked away in the soft box.

I use an Aokatec AK-TTL device in such situations. It converts the optical control to RF There is a transmitter unit (Tx) which you attach to the control flash unit/camera and a receiver unit (Rx) which you attach to the remote flash. The Tx sees the optical control signals, converts them to RF signal which the Rx unit receives and converts back to an optical signal which is used to control the flash.

I recently posted some info about it here. I got mine direct from their website in Taiwan and received it about 10 days after ordering.

Lastly I'd ideally like it to be small, to suit a m43 kit. But if the only suiting flash is a mid-size one, then that's OK. I don't mind giving up recycle time, a fast recycle time is of course ideal but I don't mind compromising on that.

Budget is unfortunately low - only about $120 due to circumstances. I don't mind buying used from reliable sellers though.

For you experienced flash experts out there - please suggest a flash system you think is the best solution for these goals, if there is one!

Metz make reliable flashes in version for all the major camera systems. In Europe they are cheaper than the manufacture's own flash units but I understand they are more expensive in the USA. I don't know what they cost down under. Metz 44 and above are compatible with Oly remote control.

Nissin have a couple of flashes that are compatible with the Oly system, the Nissin i40 and Di466.

When buying 3rd party flashes make sure you get the versions that are specific to Olympus/m43.

If you are happy using manual flash control on the flash body then any flash unit coupled with a cheap radio trigger will do the job. However I find it much easier to use the camera's flash control panel and so use a Metz 50 (now replaced by the 52) and an Oly FL600R

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'Keep taking the photos'

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