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Old Jun 15, 2006, 9:12 PM   #1
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I have a brand new camera and flash and am trying to get them to work together properly. The camera is a digital: Lumix DMC-FZ30 bu Panasomic. The flash that I got with it, upon the recomendation of the sales people, is the Vivitar 728 Zoom. (They sold me the one with the Pentax connectio with the claim that the Panasonic and Pentax share the same hot show configuration...)

The problem that I am having it trying to figure out the proper flash and camera settings to use in order to get a properly lit photo. If I set the camera in any mode other than manual and then turn the enable the flash then the photos are too bright. (The camera auto sets to ISO 100, and F4.0 with variable shutter speeds...) If I adjust the aperture or white balance they still seem to be too bright. About the only way I could get the flash to properly light the image without washing it out was to bounce it off the ceiling - and then it took several attempts at different angles to get one usable image.

Another more simple question is this: the hood containing the flash window will slide out in about 4-5 different positions. Trying the flash in all these positions seemed to make a little difference but not much. What do the settings mean on the different positions?
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Old Jun 16, 2006, 2:14 AM   #2
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Since this flash does not seem to have true dedicated operation with your camera, I guess that you need to rely on the automatic setting on the flash and use your camera in manual mode.

I looked at a few adds for this flash and couldn't really determine whether it has an automatic setting, but most flashes do. Automatic is where the flashes' own light sensor reads the overall light level and cuts off the flash output when it thinks that proper exposure has been reached.

Usually, there is some kind of color-coded sliding curtain in front of the light sensor with a different sized hole in it for each available f/ setting. Then, on the back of the flash, there is usually some provision to match up the color-coded setting of the sensor curtain with the ISO setting of the camera. When you match those two, it tells you what lens aperture to use to get the correct exposure. There is usually also a scale that tells you the subject-to-camera distance range that the setting you chose will work within. That's why you get several choices of color-coded f/ settings: to give you several different auto exposure distance ranges.

If your flash has an automatic mode, it should work something like this. Your owners manual should fill in the details.

One of the bitches with this kind of flash mode is that it isn't as accurate as real TTL flash metering would be and it's easy to overexpose closer objects within the automatic distance range chosen. Only experience will tell you when and by how much to compensate by selecting a smaller lens aperture (larger f/ number) than the flash recommends.

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Old Jun 16, 2006, 7:50 AM   #3
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From what I can tell by looking at photos and descriptions of this flash, it's dedicated only. It's relying on the camera to tell it what do do (and your Panasonic won't be able to do that).

With your Panasonic, it's always going to fire at full power. So, your only way to control exposure would be via ISO speed and aperture.

It's got a scale on the back to do that with (determine distance to subject and set the aperture shown). But, I'd return it and buy a different flash if you don't want to constantly try and change apertures (and your Panasonic may not be able to stop down the aperture enough for close ranges anyway).

It's not a good flash choice for your camera. Just because you can fire it via your hotshoe doesn't mean it will be very usable. I'd take it back and let the salesperson know it's not an acceptable solution.

The Sunpak 383 Super is a popular model for your Panasonic. It's around $79 brand new, or less used.

This is a non-dedicated Auto Thyristor Flash with 3 Auto Aperture Ranges + manual power settings (Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16).

You'd still need to use manual exposure with the camera (as you will with any similar strobe). But, the flash can control it's own output based on how much reflected light it sees for the selected aperture range.

These strobes have a sliding scale for ISO speed. When you select one of the aperture ranges and set the ISO speed, the flash tells you what aperture you need to set your camera to. Then, when you use it, the flash automatically terminates it's own output when it sees enough reflected light for the aperture range selected. These strobes have a built in sensor that can see the light reflected during the exposure.

For example, one of the ranges may be from about 3 to 22 feet. When you move the ISO speed slider, it will tell you what aperture to use. For example, ISO 200 and f/5.6, ISO 100 and f/4, or ISO 50 and f/2.8 will all work fine on the lower power Auto Range (around 3 to 22 feet)..

You set the camera to the same ISO speed and aperture shown on the scale using manual exposure, and set a shutter speed that gives you more or less ambient light, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. At lower ISO speeds indoors, around 1/100 second is usually a safe bet (fast enough so that ambient light won't be contributing any to the exposure at lower ISO speeds in most indoor conditions).

Shutter speed has no impact on the amount of light the camera sees from the flash (since the flash burst is 1/1000 second or faster).

Then, as long as you shoot within the distances shown for the desired aperture range (and in average size rooms, the 3 to 22 feet range is a good bet), the flash automatically controls it's own output based on the amount of reflected light it sees with the built in sensor. That's the Auto part.

You've got two more auto ranges to select from, too (for example, my 333 Auto also has a 4.6 to 30 feet range, as well as a 9 to 60 feet range). If your bouncing the flash, one of the higher power ranges will work better in typical rooms (you've got to allow for power loss from bouncing it).

A number of similar strobes will work exactly the same way as the 383 Super if you're on a tighter budget.

For example, I've got a Sunpak 333 Auto I use now with a KM 5D. It's also got 3 Auto Aperture Ranges + Manual Power Settings, and has tilt, swivel, and a manual zoom head on it (the 383 super is missing the zoom head, but you can get one as an option). I paid $25 for my Sunpak 333 Auto in 10 condition (as new in box) from the used department at B&H. Sometimes, you can find them for around $10 on Ebay.

I've also got a Sunpak 222 Auto for a smaller strobe (GN of around 72 Feet at ISO 100) with 2 Auto Aperture Ranges and tilt (no swivel). I paid $7 for it from keh.com

Other units like the Sunpak 36DX or 433D have similar specs to the 383 Super and my 333 Auto (3 Auto Aperture Ranges, GN of around 120 feet at ISO 100, tilt, swivel, manual power settings). Most of the time, you can find one for around $20 (or less) on Ebay.

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Old Jun 16, 2006, 9:01 AM   #4
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With all the confusion and incompatability would it be easier if I simply purchased the Panasomic FL28? I know it costs more but, if it would work better with my camera, I wouldn't be against paying the difference. I need to make the whole process easy enough that my wife, who has trouble figuring out a touch tone phone, can understand.

Does anyone know if the FL28 will also allow you to use red-eye reduction pre-flashes?
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Old Jun 16, 2006, 9:51 AM   #5
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Panasonic does not have a TTL dedicated flash for their cameras.

Their strobes are Auto Thryistor type strobes, just like the models I mentioned above, with built in sensors to measure reflected light during the exposure.

The hotshoe is "dumb" (it's an ISO standard shoe with no extra pins for communicating with a strobe), and the flash does not communicate with the camera (including their own flash).

I did a bit of digging and found this out, though. The newer FZ series cameras have a tiny microswitch located under the hotshoe rail. So, when you use a hotshoe attached flash in Auto Mode, the camera will automatically set the camera to f/2.8, 1/60 second and ISO 100.

The Panasonic strobes' auto range is designed to work at f/2.8 and ISO 100 (the camera is not telling it anything, as the hotshoe is only used for triggering it).

So, yes, it would work OK without needing to mess with settings in the camera's Auto Mode. But, it doesn't give you much "bang for the buck", and doesn't even have swivel (it's tilt only). That's probably why many Panasonic users go to a strobe like the Sunpak 383 Super with more bang for the buck..

You would not get a redeye reduction preflash using an external strobe (Panasonic or otherwise).

Vivitar has some cheap strobes that have only one auto range at f/2.8 and ISO 100 with tilt and no swivel (for example, their 2000 Auto model). It would be roughly equivalent to the Panasonic strobe you're looking at in it's Auto Mode and should work the same way. It's around $20 brand new.

But, it's trigger voltage is too high (you have to keep the trigger voltage at 24 volts or less for the Panasonic models). So, you'd need to use a Wein Safe Sync with it (a hotshoe adapter that insures safe trigger voltages are seen by the camera).

If I happen to spot an Auto Strobe that has a range that is f/2.8 at ISO 100 with acceptable trigger voltages for your Panasonic (so you can leave the camera in Auto without using Manual Exposure), I'll let you know. That's not an available combination on the strobes I've got with lower trigger voltages.

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Old Jun 16, 2006, 11:35 AM   #6
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Thanks for the info. I spent a little time and figured out how to use the settings and information on the flash to set up the camera in Manual mode and was able to take several test photos with proper exposure. I know it's kinda basic info for this forum but, in case anyone else with as little experience as myself is trying to figure it out, here are a few notes that I took:

1) Mount flash to camera
2) Set manual zoom on lens for proper framing
3) Refer to lens zoom amount (in mm) and set lens hood to proper distance (28, 35, 50, or 85)
4) Set bottom slide on flash to T, S, W1, or W2 for lens type (telephoto, standard, Wide 1 & Wide 2)
5) Turn on camera and set to Manual mode. Check for ISO (usually 100) and set top slide on flash accordingly
6) Approximate distance to subject and refer to bottom slide. Set your aperture to the setting indicated on the top slide directly above the proper distance on the bottom slide


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Old Jun 16, 2006, 12:37 PM   #7
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See my first post, when I said this about your flash:

Quote:
It's got a scale on the back to do that with (determine distance to subject and set the aperture shown). But, I'd return it and buy a different flash if you don't want to constantly try and change apertures (and your Panasonic may not be able to stop down the aperture enough for close ranges anyway).

It's not a good flash choice for your camera. Just because you can fire it via your hotshoe doesn't mean it will be very usable. I'd take it back and let the salesperson know it's not an acceptable solution.
Unless you want to constantly change apertures as your distance to subject changes, I'd get another flash. ;-)


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Old Jun 16, 2006, 1:56 PM   #8
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And I will indeed take your advise. As a matter of fact, can someone recommend a good place to purchase one of the Sunpak 383 Super flashes that everyone seems to think are so great? I've shopped online with B&H in the past. While their prices are not always the best, at least they are reliable and seem to have a solid reputation.

And since I will have an extra flash soon, does anyone want a good deal on a 1-day old flash? With as much problems as I had with th place I purchased it from (It's a long story....), I'd rather not go through them for a return.
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Old Jun 16, 2006, 2:33 PM   #9
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No return, huh?

Well, you could use it the way it is (as you can see from the way it works). You'd just need to change the aperture as your distance to subject changes.

B&H has the 383 Super for $79.95

They've got a lower power Sunpak 144 PC for $39.95 (tilt with no swivel and 2 Auto Ranges).

But, I'd probably go used for a strobe.


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Old Jun 16, 2006, 2:49 PM   #10
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I "could" return it but the outfit I ordered it and the camera from really screwed me and I lost all trust in them as a vendor. I'd rather keep this as a spare then go through them for anythig.

B&H's price on the 383 Super isn't bad. I put it on my list of things to get next payday. I also want to get a nice camera / flash bracket. I was looking at the "Flash Frame Flash Flip PF" that is also at B&H but would welcome any suggestions.
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