Shutterbug’s Exclusive photokina Coverage; Electronic Flash Units: Add To On-Camera Lighting Capabilities

Whether you own a 35mm or digital SLR camera, a dedicated external flash unit can be a valuable accessory. Not many new models were unveiled at photokina, and three of the four were macro ringlights. These have been gaining in popularity for extra lighting in extreme close-up photography of products, nature subjects, and medical/dental applications, but they can also be useful for some portraiture. In addition to those products, I found a more conventional high-tech Metz unit as well as a couple of very useful LumiQuest accessories for serious flash photography.

Sigma: The Macro Flash EM-140 DG ($400) is now available for Sony and Pentax/Samsung 35mm or digital SLRs. It is fully dedicated with the latest TTL autoexposure systems and compatible with high-tech camera features such as ADI or P-TTL metering plus high-speed sync and flash exposure compensation for advanced flash photography. A Modeling Flash function is also available; that’s useful for checking for reflections and shadows before actually taking the flash picture. Use the EM-140 DG as the “master” and a wireless flash function is also available for extra lighting versatility, but that requires an optional Sigma EF-530 DG SUPER as a slave unit.

Sigma Macro Flash EM-140 DG

The circular head contains two flash tubes in a rotating assembly. Activate both for a flat, shadowless effect that’s ideal for scientific, medical, and documentary applications. Deactivate one tube and rotate the head to the optimal position in order to create some shadowing and contrast for a more three-dimensional look. In my experience, that’s preferable for most creative nature photography. The Guide Number (GN) of 14 (in meters, at ISO 100) does not indicate high power, but it’s adequate for close-up photography.

This Sigma Macro Flash (also available for Canon, Nikon, and Sigma D-SLRs) includes the controller unit and the actual flash unit for a combined weight of 15.2 oz. The kit includes 55mm and 58mm lens adapters; these are the most common filter sizes of compact macro lenses. Optional adapters are available, too, in sizes from 52-77mm, making the flash unit suitable for virtually any brand of macro lens.

Metz: Billed as the world’s first wireless off-camera TTL macro flash unit, the Mecablitz 15 MS-1 digital ($400) is suitable for off-camera flash without a connecting cable when used with a Canon, Nikon, Four Thirds, Pentax/Samsung, or Sony Alpha D-SLR. This unit is compatible with the high-tech metering systems found in these models: E-TTL, i-TTL, P-TTL, Four Thirds TTL, and ADI Remote Flash modes. It’s particularly convenient for use with a D-SLR with a built-in flash that will trigger the optional 15 MS-1 unit; otherwise, an accessory flash will be required as the “master.”

Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 digital

Flash output is automatically adjusted using wireless TTL metering for great ease of use; first or second curtain sync can be selected as desired. (Fully manual flash is also possible, using a PC cord or the non-TTL Slave mode.) Features include two individually adjustable reflectors, a modeling light and a focus-assist lamp, a data panel, and a Manual mode with six levels of light output. The Metz 15 MS-1 digital kit includes a reflector panel (disc) accessory and 52, 55, and 58mm adapter rings; optional 62, 67, and 72mm adapters are available as well.

Metz Mecablitz 36 AF-4 digital