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Old May 12, 2010, 5:47 PM   #1
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Default Flash Diffusers

I've been lurking here since Feb. after making the decision to upgrade to a DSLR, an e620 with both kit lenses plus 50 f/2 and 70-300. Since the built in flash is considered weak (I've never seen a properly exposed photo w/the pop-up and mine won't do it either) an external flash was purchased as well. My choice was a Vivitar 383 which is marketed as an fl50 work-alike.

In normal usage it seems to work fairly well: 1) Auto exposure works fairly well beyond about 3'; 2) plenty strong enough for bounce flash in ordinary sized rooms and 3) the built in reflector provided enough frontal fill.

I was also curious how it would work for "quick and dirty" close-up when I didn't want to set up a my tent and that is the main subject of this post. Findings as follows: 1) at 2' or less the flash and Auto or Program could not throttle the flash back enough to prevent extreme overexposure and 2) Using the built in diffuser and switching to aperture priority f/16 would produce reasonable exposures. I also tried three third party diffusers, a Sto-Fen like diffuser, an Opteka fold flat w/a front face ~4"x5", and an Opteka inflatable w/a front face of 6"x8.5"

Photo 1 - The diffusers tested.
Photo 2 - Built in diffuser.
Photo 3 - Bounce w/built in reflector, the auto setting of f/5.6 works well.
Photo 4 - Sto-Fen type diffuser
Photo 5 - Fold flat diffuser
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Old May 12, 2010, 5:57 PM   #2
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Default Final Photo

Photo 1 - Inflatable diffuser, this diffuser attenuated the flash so little that f/16 was still over exposed. Using the built in diffuser plus the inflatable cut the light enough that f/16 worked.

Conclusions: Not surprisingly only bounce was a reasonable simulation of a light tent. The built in diffuser modified the light quality very little and was fundamentally just an attenuator. The Sto-Fen didn't do much more the built in.

A. C.
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Old May 12, 2010, 8:00 PM   #3
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A.C., the bounced light #3 is definitely the softest light, the problem with the light modifiers you showed is that they are not changing the relative size of the light they Are just spreading it out in different directions. To get soft light you must think size not diffusion, when you bounce off a white ceiling or wall the ceiling or wall becomes the light source not the flash. in theory, say when you bounce off the ceiling you get a 4x8 ft. projection on the ceiling, your relative light source is now 4x8 ft. lighting your subject, not the 2x4 inch flash head.
charles

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Old May 12, 2010, 8:58 PM   #4
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I realize that. However at two feet or less the relative size of a 6"x8" diffuser is large enough to be a larger light source and the inflatable did have the softest shadow of any of the direct illuminators. Shooting ten feet across a room they are identical other than attenuation.

It would be very difficult to fit a larger inflatable softbox to the flash without moving the flash off camera, not necessarily a bad idea in and of itself.

A. C.
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