I have always loved flashes more so than any other accessory in my camera bag. Flash changed my photography thoroughly and for the better.
The following are the pictures I shot with a single Canon 430 EX flash. Its, TTL, very capable and very consistent. This flash is available for $321 new and for $169 used on Amazon. Ofcourse you can get away with using any other cheap flash and still achieve the same result.
How I shot these?
The camera I had on me was a Nikon D200, with the 430 EX flash (NOT Canon 430 EX II) bounced to the ceiling at 24mm, effectively making it a huge softbox/lightsource. White balance cloudy. f around 4 or 5 I think. Btw these pictures haven't been edited in anyway except cropping a bit. I did take an elinchrome D-lite II it strobe head with me but didnt feel the need to use it as the pictures with flash were already good enough.
A few days back I visited my local camera market (by local I mean its approx 30km from where I live) to buy a sensor cleaning kit. While I was there I asked the shop assistants to show me some cheap flashes. They showed me couple of Vivitar flashes both under $15. Yes under fifteen dollars. Bingo !!!! That’s it I thought, what if I coupled with them with some cheap flash triggers and made my own lighting system? Viola !!! that would be amazing. Since they cost under $15 I wouldn’t even have to worry if they break. The caveat? They are completely manual flashes, no TTL. That is fine by me.
Vivitar in their hey day made excellent affordable flashes, they do now as well. Now the brand is owned by a company called Sakar International. Vivitar brand was owned by many companies in the past. Their 285HV is now a legend. It was prized by both professionals and amateurs It is still manufactured in this day and age. It’s available for approx $82 on Amazon, but comes even cheaper if bought used or on fleabay.
Not just Vivitar there are many other cheap no name flashes available for $15-$100 in the market today. Whatever you buy make sure it is reliable. Personally I feel hundreds of $$$ for a flash is a ridiculous idea, but if you are on the OEM branded flashes side, then you can still buy the Nikon SB range and Canon speedlite flashes in the used market for much much less.
Time to talk about the Yongnuo flashes. How can one post an article about cheap flashes without talking about Yongnuo? haha. It’s a Chinese company and has been making lot of things apart from flashes. Their range of flashes are a hit in the amateur market. Their recent offerings are the cheapest TTL flashes and are available through their online store.
So are there any downsides to using cheap flashes?, yes sure, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Here I list some concerns.
- Most of these cheap flashes do not have TTL . a TTL flash will save you time, shutters and guesswork. Get a cheap flash that has TTL instead of an all manual flash, your problems are solved.
- Some of the older flashes due to their high voltage output may short circuit the internal mechanics of your DSLR. So do your research when using an older flash.
- Reliability is ofcourse an issue. These cheap $15 flashes may suddenly stop working in the middle of a shoot, so having one or two of these as a back-up is always a good idea.