New Shoe Mount Flash Units

New Shoe Mount Flash

As conventional and digital SLR cameras become more and more sophisticated, dedicated flash units must be upgraded in order to remain compatible. Since the camera manufacturers already offer high tech flash units for their systems, we did not see any new models from such companies at photokina. However, three independent brand manufacturers announced new flash units dedicated to certain SLR camera models. Some of these units are compatible with digital cameras, too, while others are intended primarily for film-based models. For full specifics on each flash unit, review the specifications on the manufacturer's web site.

Sigma DG Series
Intended for maximum compatibility with digital SLR cameras, Sigma's new DG series is also suitable for use with conventional autofocus cameras. The two new DG models include the EF-500 DG Super and EF-500 DG ST. Both offer TTL flash with most digital SLR cameras made by Sigma, Canon, and Nikon and with Minolta's DiMAGE 5 and 7 series. Simply buy the model that's intended for the brand of camera that you own. (List price: $399.)

The EF-500 DG Super is the most sophisticated Sigma flash unit ever produced, and it's absolutely loaded with capabilities. With a Guide Number of 165 (in feet, at ISO 100 at 105mm setting) this is a high-powered unit with bounce/tilt and downward tilt capability. Its auto zoom head provides the correct angle of coverage for lenses ranging from 28-105mm (and longer) while a built-in wide panel can be used for lenses as short as 17mm. For low-light autofocus, this unit incorporates a near infrared focus assist beam projector. Yes, it's large but not excessively heavy at 11.8 oz.

The actual capabilities depend on the camera--conventional or digital--that's used with this flash unit. The EF-500 DG Super allows for S-TTL flash with Sigma SD cameras, 3D multi-sensor balanced fill flash and D-TTL flash with Nikon SLR cameras, as well as ADI flash and P-TTL flash with Minolta cameras. It also incorporates a modeling flash feature that allows for previewing flash effects, multi-pulse flash for numerous flashes during an exposure, six power level settings and more. This model is also compatible with cameras that support wireless TTL or manual flash, slaved remote flash or high-speed sync flash. Other valuable features (for certain cameras) include redeye reduction pre-flash and a flash exposure compensation control.

A more affordable model, the Sigma EF-500 DG ST offers the same Guide Number and basic features: various types of advanced TTL flash and manual flash options, zoom, swivel tilt head, and so on. However, it does not offer the more advanced capabilities. Like the Super model, it includes an LED data panel that's very useful for checking settings and other data. (List price: $275.)

Powerful Sunpak Model
Intended for conventional autofocus SLR camera systems from Canon, Minolta, Nikon, and Pentax, the Sunpak PZ5000AF should also offer some compatibility with Canon and Nikon digital SLR cameras. Discuss this issue with a photo retailer if you're considering the Sunpak model for a digital camera. This is a large (13 oz), high-powered unit with a Guide Number of 180 (in feet, at ISO 100 at the 135mm setting) and includes an auto zoom (and manual zoom) head with settings from 28-135mm.

The Sunpak PZ5000AF offers all of the essential features: TTL auto sensor, power ratio options, Auto flash with many aperture choices, manual flash operation, and multi-pulse "stroboscopic" flash. It also supports certain camera functions such as rear curtain flash, and off-camera slaved flash for wireless non-TTL flash; with Minolta cameras, wireless off-camera flash is TTL controlled. A large, illuminated LCD data panel on the back of the unit offers feedback on settings while the tilt/swivel head is great for using bounce flash. For more information, visit Sunpak's web site, (Street price: $179.)

Several New Metz Models
Manufactured in Germany and distributed in the US by Bogen Photo, Metz flash units range from fully manual to highly sophisticated and versatile. The latest high tech TTL model in this line is the Mecablitz 36AF-3 with tilting manual zoom head and autofocus illuminator lamp. Specific units are available with dedication to Canon, Minolta, and Nikon autofocus SLR cameras. There's a non-TTL autoflash version, too, the Mecablitz 36 C-2 with tilting head that offers three selectable working apertures and a manual zoom head with settings from 28-85mm. The last of this trio, the Mecablitz 36 M-1, is a small, basic unit with tilting head; it's intended for manual operation only for photographers with expertise in flash metering. (Prices not yet set for U.S.A.)

Metz in Zirndorf, Germany, also introduced another new model, the Mecablitz 44MZ-2 which should be available in the US by the time you read this, for about $249. At press time, the only information available was in German. In spite of my limited ability in that language, I deciphered some of the contents of the press release. This is a TTL flash unit with a Guide Number of 144 (in feet, at ISO 100, at 105mm zoom setting) with a tilt/swivel head plus power zoom head with settings from 28-105mm and 20mm with an adapter. When used with the pertinent SCA adapter, the Mecablitz 44MZ-2 is compatible with numerous autofocus SLR cameras, with Contax and Leica models, and also with some digital cameras including models from Sony and Minolta (DiMAGE 5 and 7 series). Apparently, this unit supports many of the high tech capabilities of the cameras; for specifics, review the compatibility information provided on the Bogen Photo web site, or discuss your needs with a photo retailer.