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Old Jan 3, 2012, 10:09 AM   #1
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Default Flash Sync Speed Setting

Wondering what the flash sync speed should be set at when using the built in flash on my PL-2. Presently it's set at 1/180 and seems a bit high. Thanks.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 11:24 AM   #2
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It can be adjusted. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

The E-PL2 will sync at any shutter speed up to 1/180 second with the built-in flash. There are a couple of settings you need to look at. The flash box in the control panel. If it has the lightening bolt only (forced flash), there is a way to "tell" the camera what speed to use if you are in "P" mode.

Look in your menu under the "cogs" menus for the flash custom menu and you will see you can select the x-sync and slow shutter speed range. This is the range of speeds the camera will select while in forced flash. 1/180 is the default x-sync, but you can change that setting to any speed you want. Once you make this change, the camera will never go higher than that setting when using flash.

Be careful changing the slow sync speed as that also seems to adjust how auto ISO works in non-flash regular shooting. If you set the slow end to a higher speed, like 1/125 second, the camera also moves up the ISO range faster when shooting without flash once ambient light falls low enough the shutter speeds drop below 1/125 second. Conversely, if you set the low/slow speed limit to something like 1/30 second or lower, auto ISO will retain ISO 200 much longer when shooting regularly without flash until shutter speeds drop below 1/30 second. It really depends on how comfortable you are shooting handheld at lower shutter speeds in changing the slow sync setting. I have the slow sync set to 1/30 second so the camera stays at ISO 200 as long as possible. With the 12, 20 and 45mm primes, I am perfectly comfortable shooting it at 1/30 second wide open. With the slow zooms, you might rather use a higher speed like 1/60 second.

If you want a specific shutter speed and you are using flash and shooting in "P" mode, simply select the same shutter speed as the x-sync and low-end speed in the flash custom cogs menu and that is what the camera will use.

You can also shoot in manual mode and just select both the shutter speed and aperture you want to use yourself.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Jan 3, 2012 at 11:29 AM.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 11:43 AM   #3
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Thanks Greg. I believe I understand how that works now. Select the shutter speed based on what you are trying to accomplish and the flash will sync to that speed. Seems like back in my old SLR days, the shutter was fixed to sync at 1/30 of a second. I guess what I don't understand is that what difference does the shutter speed have to do with the flash as long as the flash fires when you trip the shutter. The shutter is going to trip at the same time but only the length of time it stays open is changed.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 12:19 PM   #4
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These mechanical shutters have a maximum speed at which the flash will sync properly and expose the flash to the sensor at one time. With the Pens, that speed is 1/180 second. As the speeds get faster, the second shutter curtain starts moving before the first one hits the other end of the sensor, creating a smaller and smaller slit to achieve the faster shutter speeds. Electronic flash units have to be able to light the sensor at the same time or you will have areas of the sensor that do not get the flash.

With older film SLR's (like Spotmatics, Nikon F's, etc) with the two cutain shutter mechanisms from the late 60's and into the early 1970's, that fastest sync speed was only 1/30-1/60 second. With the newer electronic shutters and improved mechanical ones the speeds started picking up to 1/125 to 1/250 second.

That's why the accessory Olympus flash units FL36 and FL50 (both the "R" and non-R models) have the FP function for using flash at higher shutter speeds. In FP mode, instead of one single pop, the flash emits hundreds of pops over a longer period of time so the flash is "seen" by the entire sensor, which lets you use any shutter speed with flash. The negative of FP mode is, the distance coverage is shorter because of the power needed to do FP mode, but the coverage is far enough to allow stuff like portrait work outdoors in light where you need faster than 1/180 second.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 12:27 PM   #5
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Thank you Greg, you have explained it very well...understandzee now. I'll probably never buy an outboard flash as I don't take too many pics that require flash other than fill in. I've been sitting down with a printed out manual in one hand and the camera in the other slowly learning/absorbing. The menu options for the PL-2 are unbelievable, much more than I had with my Canon 40D.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 12:46 PM   #6
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The menu options are mid-bending. Not so much the amount of them as most I am used to because most have been been in use going back 5-6 years in the DSLR system menus, but those hidden ones....

I had no idea until recently that the slow sync option in the custom flash sync menu also affected how Auto ISO worked in regular non flash shooting, and don't go looking for something about it in the manual. It's not there. It's great to know and lets you customize to a great extent how auto ISO works to fit your style of shooting as far as how slow the shutter can go that you are comfortable when handholding.

I also think most english language Olympus manuals today are translated by someone for whom English is their third or fourth language.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Jan 3, 2012 at 12:48 PM.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 3:26 PM   #7
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I had no idea until recently that the slow sync option in the custom flash sync menu also affected how Auto ISO worked in regular non flash shooting,

Uh Oh, another curve ball? In what way does it affect it?
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 3:51 PM   #8
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Try this. Set your camera to auto ISO and go to the flash custom menu as noted above and set the slow speed x-sync to 1/125 second. Use P, program mode, and find a subject where the camera meters 1/60 second shutter speed. Take the picture.

Now, leave the camera setup to where it will take the exact same picture again, but for this second shot, go back to the menu system and change the slow x-sync to 1/30 second. check to verify the camera is still using the same 1/60 second shutter speed. Use program shift if you need to to get the shutter speed to 1/60 second. Take the shot and compare the data between the two shots.

If you can't figure out what I am saying above, just use shutter speed priority and use the same 1/60 shutter speed setting for each shot. Should work the same way.

The second shot where you had 1/30 second dialed in as the slow x-sync speed should show a lower ISO was used, maybe 200 instead of 800, or 400 instead of 1600, etc.

If you use auto ISO (I do all the time) and you want to keep the ISO setting down as much as possible, set the slow x-sync number down to the slowest shutter speed you are comfortable handholding and the camera will not start moving off ISO 200 until shutter speeds drop below the value you dial in.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 4:17 PM   #9
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Weird, but it works. Thanks. Sync is now set at 1/30. My sync was set at 1/180 and that explains why whenever I would take indoor pics with flash, the ASA was always at 1600.
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Last edited by James Emory; Jan 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM.
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Old Jan 3, 2012, 5:03 PM   #10
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Yes, what you are probably running into is, the built-in flash is just not very strong and the 1/180 second shutter speed, combined with the f3.5-5.6 zoom is just more than the flash can handle so it has to raise the ISO to higher levels. The lower the ambient light in the scene and the bigger the area, the higher it has to go. Lowering the shutter speed to even 1/60 second should help quite a bit. If you see any ghosting/subject movement at 1/30 second, you might want to raise it to 1/60 second when shooting with the flash. It's always a trade-off. How fast of a shutter speed you need for good results vs. how high an ISO setting is acceptable for the results you want.

When I use my FL50R flash, it's so powerful the ISO rarely ever raises from 200 at any shutter speed chosen, even when I use my Demb bounce attachment. Even the less expensive FL36R would be a huge upgrade for you. You'd just want to make sure and use rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries to keep recycling times as fast as possible and shots per battery charge up. Regular alkaline cells are the pits in terms or battery life and, especially with the FL36R which only uses two AA cells, recycling times.

Last edited by Greg Chappell; Jan 3, 2012 at 5:12 PM.
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