Tips for faster cycling (Speedlight SB-600)

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
Ed Shapiro
Ed Shapiro Contributing Member • Posts: 588
Re: Tips for faster cycling (Speedlight SB-600)

Speedlights, are small compact. one piece, camera-mounted electronic flas units are great little lighting accessories but there are certain limitations, compromises, and caveats in their usage.
Most of them have a basic maximum power input to the flash tube of about 80 watt.seconds (w.s). If you comprehend how they work, it is easier to understand what governs exposure and recycling time.

The batteries in most of the popular units will provide 6-volts of direct current. Simply stated, this primary voltage is stepped up via a voltage-multiplier circuit to approximately 300- volts DC in most of these units. This energy is stored in the main CAPACITOR. When the unit is triggered, the current is released into the flash tube via a pulse or trigger coil and a smaller capacitor in the trigger circuit and thereby ionizes the gas in the tube and thus the flash of light.

At full powe, the entire 80 w.s is applied to the tube. If the unt is manually automatically adjusted Bbu means of a TTL or thyristor circuit) some of the energy is squelched or heald back thereby reducing the light output, decreasing the flash duration, and decreasing the recycling time. The recycling time is based on how long it takes for the capacity to refill after beig discharged. Therein arises the compromises. If you need to seriously reduce the recycling time you will need to increase the ISO setting, use a wider aperture, both of which may be disadvantageous to your shot- you may need more light to enable proper exposure, more depth of field, and less noise. It's a matter of you can't have your cake and eat it too! At its lowest setting, a Speedlight may produce as little as 10 watt.secomds, just a wink of light, only sufficient for fill in at wide apertures.

So, adding an external battery pack will give you more ampere-hours and perhaps more consistent recycling times as the batteries begin to deplete or discharge but will not produce more power. Power booster has to be phased in at the high voltage stand not the primary voltage stage- some more sophisticated Speedlights have a special port for external power boosters. The power booster may not decrease recycling times.

One alternative is to add a second off-camer light that can be placed closer to the subject or add additional bounce lighting to increase effective light output. This will also provide better modelling and bounce technique opportunities such as umbrella usage. If you bounce the light from a silver type of umbrella you will get more efficiency than from a distant white wall or ceiling bounce method.

The other alternatives are a matter of money. If you do lots of this kinda work and use the various bounce, indirect, or other light-modification techniques you may wantful to invest in a more powerful and versatile on-camer unt or a monolight. These units pack power inputs from 100 to 1,000 w.s and may have features that enable high-speed synchronization and rapid recycling times.

For candid shootg, my favourites are on-camer strobes with external shoulder carried powe packs, user-replaceable flash tubes, interchangeable reflectors, and enablement of bare bulb operation. There are a few modes marked by Godox and Flashpoint that are not outrageously expensive and offer all kinds of versatility.

By the way, watt. seconds are not light values. They are electrical values based on voltage and capacitance. Experienced electronic flash users, however, will recognize watt-seconds as a general or practical measure of what can be expected from any given unit or system. The real reason light output and efficiency based on watt/seconds and reflector design and efficiency is ECPS or BCPS, those are Effective Camdel Power Seconds or Beam Candle PowerSeconds. Those are not usually specified with spotlights. These specifications are the basis of how to guide numbers are assigned. I suppose thathe their rates fell out of favour because most folks are using TTL and Auto exposure modes with flash.

Ed Shapiro- Commercial and Portrait Photographer. Ottawa, Ontario Canada

On camera lamphead wit powerful external pack

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