Among my resolutions for blogging this year was some discusion on working methods and equipment. Of course this could cover a lot of ground but the impetus for this post was when a friend of mine who’s not a photographer commented on my use of studio flash.
The problem for her seemed to be how the flash could fire at the right time when the flash and the camera were not connected. We seemed to back in the era of flash powder when the the photographer would uncap the the lens manually and ignite the powder.
This got me thinking. It is a sort of magic and it also emphasizes some of the facts about my working methods.
Before I went digital I used cameras from Yashica, Rollei, Zenza Bronica and Konica which all had an outlet for a flash cable. Beastly things they were too with wires getting in the way and the contacts often failing.
Of course many cameras are still produced with flash contacts for external guns but as I mentioned before light weight is important to me so I bought a Canon D350 SLR without an external contact – though of course it has a flash shoe.
As an added problem it seems that many modern electronic cameras do not like the high trigger voltages produced by many flashguns manufactured in previous years.
I wanted to be able to use all the flashguns I possessed including my old Colorflash 100 studio light which must be over 20 years old now and has no sophisticated controls but does the job of producing light.
Anyway I looked around and it seemed my best option for off camera flash was to use some sort of flash trigger. I had some idea about these and had already realised that some were based on infra-red and some on radio technology.
For my purposes I decided against infra red as with this technology you need a clear path between the receiver and transmitter. With radio technology there can also be problems as the flash can be fired from other sources using radio transmission. So nothing’s perfect.
Anyway, here in Bulgaria where I live there’s not the same range of photo equipment available as in some other European countries and so I decided to see what I could find in the UK.
Just by chance I came across a company called studioflash.co.uk who advertise on the internet.
I’d better say now that I had no prior contact with this company so I was astonished with what followed.
I decided to buy a unit called MiniMagic which seemed to be inexpensive and simply made.
I ordered online but at some point the order failed – probably – because the payment system was not available in Bulgaria at that time.
I emailed studioflash.co.uk with my problem and was surprised at the response.
The guy who emailed me – was it Ray? I can’t remember now said, “I can see you’ve entered the details in my system so I’ll send you the unit and you just send me a cheque when you get it”.
That’s what I call service. I received the unit safely and sent the cheque promptly – it was the least I could do.
Now none of this matters if the unit doesn’t work but it does. Here it is.
The construction is lightweight and there’s no lock on the foot but I haven’t found these points a problem.
Bottom line is, provided the two AAA batteries are fresh the unit does the job. I use it connected directly to my Chinese built studio flash and have slave units on other flashes I use at the same time.
It’s great to have a reliable system without trailing wires so I strongly recommend you give this or a similar unit a try.
Update – I see on the website there are new units with a more rugged construction and a choice of channels.
Of course this deals with how to get a flash working these days. But the central question is, why use flash? What are the special qualities of flash as a light source and how best to use it. That’s for another time.