Top 10 External Flash for DSLR Photography
Light is most important factor in Photography. The photographs we make are a net resultant of the available lights on the sensor of camera. This effectively means that you can add external source of light not just to illuminate the subject properly but also to get creative lighting conditions. This will give a creatively different look to your photograph depending upon how you use your external source of light.
You can use a homemade DIY lighting source but it would be difficult to sync it with the shutter speed of your camera if it is not a professional unit.
External flashguns are now inexpensive and depending upon the model, you will get it for anywhere between $20 to $400. Now you must be thinking why there is so much price variance between the top end model and entry level model of external flash! This is because of the features and power of the flashlight. Flashgun is also called speedlite unit in professional photography vocabulary.
An inexpensive speedlite will work with your camera as good as a professional one. The higher end speedlites have more capability like synchronizing with multiple flashes at the same time. For the ease of understanding, let’s check out the features of the most popular and inexpensive speedlite with a professional and branded speedlite.
Below we are comparing a cheap and popular speedlite with a professional speedlite.
The first major difference you will notice with a cheap speedlite is that there is no TTL feature. TTL stands for ‘talk through lens’. This means there is a physical electronic connection between your camera and the TTL determines the power and strength of flash output.
Digital TTL works as follows: Before the actual exposure one or more small flashes, called “preflashes”, are emitted. The light returning through the lens is measured and this value is used to calculate the amount of light necessary for the actual exposure. Multiple pre-flashes can be used to improve the flash output. So this means you will have to manually adjust the power of flash on a cheaper flash to get correct exposure. This can work in a controlled setup where you are doing some creative work and can retake a shot if required. During live events and shoot this may not be your best options as the light conditions may vary in every shot and you will end up getting underexposed or overexposed images.
The cheaper models may or may not have a LCD display depending upon the model and cost price. Generally LCD displays are better choice as they display a lot of important information. The cheaper models may have lesser battery life compared to professional model. The built quality is obviously better on the expensive flash units. There are a lot of other differences which we will explore later in this post. The strength of flash is more powerful in expensive units. It is measured as GN or guide number.
But there are many third party flashes with TTL, which will work on your camera and are still reliable and inexpensive. In-fact a lot of professional photographers use a combination of cheap and expensive flash units.
Let’s do a visual comparison of a cheap and popular external flash unit with an expensive and branded unit.
The expensive flash units have built in wireless function while you will have to buy it as external unit for cheaper models if you wish to use the flash units off the camera. For example keeping the flash unit behind the subject to get a rim light effect.
If you have a inexpensive flash without inbuilt wireless transmitter then you will have to buy a ‘flash radio trigger’. They do not cost a lot and will do the job just like a professional flash unit. The radio triggers are a set of transmitter unit along with multiple receiver units. The transmitter unit goes on the flash mount on your camera and the receiver unit is used for external flash. You can trigger multiple flashes of the camera if you have multiple receiver units. You can check some of the options for wireless flash triggers here.
You can see that the price difference between cheap and professional units is huge but the cheaper ones will do the job just fine enough if you are not on a professional assignments. The cheaper flashes are also helpful when you are getting serious about photography and want to learn the use of speedlites for creative purpose.
Now that you know the basics of external flash and what to expect, let’s check out the Top 10 External Flash or Speedlite for DSLR Photography. The following list contains the most popular flash units in the cheaper price category. Prefer a TTL flash unit over other if you shoot events or outdoors. The list is not ranked and you can go with any of them depending upon your budget and requirements. An external flash will open new creative horizons for you in photography.
Make sure that you check the compatibility and buy the unit for your specific camera model. In general there are different units for Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony mounts. Choose the one which will work on your camera.
- Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite:
This is the most popular and inexpensive flash unit. It does not have a TTL capability so you will have to manually adjust the flash strength. This is ideal for studio environments or setups where you can retake the shot if it is not properly exposed. There is no LCD display on this unit. The upside is extremely cheap price. Check latest price for Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite.
- Yongnuo YN560 IV Speedlite Flash:
This is a very popular brand even among the professional photographer community due to it’s features and inexpensive price. It has a LCD display and supports Wireless Master Function. This means that you will be able to control other flash units using this flash. This flash is very powerful with GN 58 at ISO 100 and 105mm.
If you are confused about what to get then go for this model without a second thought.
Check latest price for Yongnuo YN560 IV Speedlite Flash.
- AmazonBasics Electronic Flash:
This is one of the cheapest options available for speedlite. The unit is fairly basic and just like the Neewer TT560 model. There is no LCD display and power has to be adjusted manually. The price is dirt cheap and you can use it as secondary or tertiary flash using a radio trigger.
Check latest price for AmazonBasics Electronic Flash.
- Altura Photo Professional Flash Kit:
This is also one of the most popular flash unit among photographers. It has a beautiful and detailed LCD display and supports TTL function. This comes as a bundle along with radio transmitter which means you can use it off the camera. This is the best choice if you want to get creative shots. The bundle includes Kit includes: 1 Altura Photo I-TTL Auto-Focus Dedicated Flash + Wireless Camera Flash Trigger and Camera Remote Control Function (1 Transmitter, 1 Receivers) and some more useful accessories.
Check latest price for Altura Photo Professional Flash Kit.
- Neewer 48 Marco LED Ring Light for MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY
Ring lights are extremely useful for macro photography. They illuminate the subject evenly and eliminates the chances of getting any harsh shadows. If you like to shoot macro photographs then you must have one of these ring lights. they are inexpensive and easy to use. Check price for Neewer 48 Marco LED Ring Light.
Read macro photography tips here.Now we will take a look at the professional models of speedlite units. If budget is not an issue then you can directly go for professional model but we recommend the inexpensive options if you are just starting out in external flash photography.
- Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash:
This flash only works for canon DSLR cameras. It does have a strong built quality but supports just as many functions as the cheaper alternatives. Check price for Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash.
- Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash:
This is a very popular professional option for Nikon DSLR users. It is extremely versatile in terms of functionality. Check price for Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash.The options above should be more than enough for all kinds of flash photography needs. You can also buy bundles which contains more than one flash unit along with wireless radio triggers, mounts, filters and gels. The bundles are relatively cheaper if you buy individual items. Here are the best bundle options for external flash.
- Yongnuo YN-560IV 2PCS Wireless Flash Speedlite kit + YN560-TX LCD Flash Trigger Remote Controller:
This bundle contains two YN 560 IV flash units along with radio trigger and other useful accessories. Check the complete list of items and price here.
- Altura Photo Studio Pro Flash Kit Bundle:
This is a very functional bundle and contains 2 Altura Photo AP-C1001 Speedlite Flash for DSLR Cameras + 2 Protective Pouches + 2 Hard Flash Diffusers + Wireless Camera Flash Trigger Set: 1 Transmitter + 2 Receivers + Camera Trigger Connecting Cable. Check the list of items and price here.
- Batteries and more Rechargeable batteries:
External flash units uses a lot of power which is supplied by batteries inside. You will often find yourself running out of power source. Keep a lot of them recharged and handy in case you need them. Here is the best rechargeable battery option for your external flash.
Panasonic K-KJ17MCA4BA Advanced Individual Cell Battery Charger Pack: It comes with 4 AA and recharges up to 2100 times. It maintains up to 70% of their charge after 10 years (when not it use). This is one of the best options available in market today for rechargeable batteries. Better get a few sets if you use external flash.
Which is your favorite external flash? Let us know in the comments below. Check best DSLR backpacks here.