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Old Dec 22, 2008, 6:42 PM   #11
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Hi IW,

I'm going from memory, so I might have some details wrong. . .

I'm going to assume, from your comments, that you'd like to use at least some exposure automation in getting the flash exposures.

The three modes that do this with a K10 are P-TTL, remote TTL, and Auto Thyristor (Auto).

With the first (P-TTL), you pretty much mount the camera on the hot shoe, the camera defaults to a shutter speed slower than 1/180, and you shoot. The flash emits a preflash right before the exposure, meters the scene, then tells the external flash the correct power level and duration to give a proper exposure.

In the second (remote TTL), you take a few steps to make sure that the camera and flash are on the same channel, then you can use the popup flash to trigger the external flash that is placed somewhere other than on the camera. The popup flash communicates with the remote flash using a series of preflashes (it all happens VERY quickly) and sets up the remote flash to give the proper exposure of the scene. The popup flash can be set to either contribute to the exposure or not via a menu setting.

In Auto mode, there is no commuinication between the camera and flash gun. You set the flash for power range, depending on the distances that you plan to shoot, then it tells gives you ISO speed and aperture combinations that you can set the camera for to get auto exposure with the flash setting -- sounds more complicated than it really is.
The gun has a sensor on the front, and when it receives the correct amount of light reflected back, then it cuts off the flash to give reasonable exposure.

All of these modes (and more) are available with both the AF360 FGZ and AF 540 from Pentax, and the 58 AF P-TTL model from Metz (I believe that the Metz also reads the ISO and aperture from the camera in Auto mode, so there's even less fiddling with settings).

P-TTL and remote TTL will work with all A and AF lenses, but not with M or K lenses. Auto will work with any lens, but not necessarily with all ISO, distance and aperture combinations. P-TTL guns have a lot less limitations, and a lot more advanced flash applications than the Auto flashes, but can, at times be more confusing/frustrating to use.

You can also get just an Auto capable flash, like the Sunpack 383 that you mentioned, or the Vivitar 285 HV that Dawg uses, but you would give up High Speed Synch (which allows you to use the flash for fill with shutter speeds faster than 1/180), Rear curtain synch (which fires the flash as the shutter closes as oppose to regular synch which fires as the shutter opens), Remote TTL, of course, automated contrast control (which sets the power ratio that two flashes put out to create shadows), and probably one of the most important, but usually ignored features, a nice unassuming AF assist lamp. There are probably some other advanced features that I can't remember at the moment. . . :? A good Auto flash will work with any lens on any camera with a hot shoe. So one of these models will work (with auto exposure) with all your lenses, as will any of the mentioned P-TTL flashes.

Here's a nice site that compares and explains the features and such: http://pttl.mattdm.org/

The advanced features are neat, but not really necessary for basic flash use. As I believe someone has already pointed out, the 540 and Metz have tilt and swivel heads, the 360 does not swivel, but has all the rest of the advanced features. Don't be too quick to say that you wouldn't use the advanced features. . . many are surprised how good (and relatively easy) these features are to use. . . probably the most wanted of these is High Speed Synch.

All that being said, If you just want a more powerful flash, and aren't going to want some of the more advanced features, then an Auto flash like the 383 or 285HV will be the best and lowest cost alternative to use with all of your lenses. Other low cost possiblities are the older Pentax, Nikon, Canon, and Olympus flashes with an Auto mode. Used examples of these can sometimes be bought for ridiculously low prices. I have an AF 280T which is a TTL flash with an auto mode and a tilt swivel head for something like $20. It's compact with a tilt/swivel head, has a very nice build quality, and works fine for what I use it for. There are a lot of other older Pro quality flashes out there that don't work totally automatically with DSLRs, so there's not a lot of demand, though there should be. . . The only thing to watch out for in older used flash guns is the trigger voltage -- to be safe, you need to keep it around 6V or under.

The listed P-TTL flashes are the only ones that also have an Auto mode, so are the only ones where you won't have to go totally manual with the flash when using a K or M lens.

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Old Dec 23, 2008, 4:04 AM   #12
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IronWill wrote:
Thanks again Jack ... useful info. I like the sound of the Metz. Do you have any regrets in having bought this flashgun ... any weaknesses?

At the moment no regrets at all, but it is early days ...I haven't really had time tofind any negative features. The buildquality is excellent, and Metz do have a very good

reputation, the updateable firmware seemed to be a desirable factor also, so far no updates have been issued for the Pentax model. At present timeI feel it will do what

I want, I'd made sure of that before buying, so only more use and experience will reveal any shortcomings. ... Jack

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Old Dec 23, 2008, 7:09 AM   #13
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Thank you Scott ... really appreciate the time you took on this. You have answered a lot of my questions (including many that I did not know how to ask). Excellent link. When I look at my "ideal" flashgun, it would now have to be the Metz 58 (if money were not an issue), otherwise I think I might still go for the Sunpack. For me it is one extreme or the other. I would want the Metz because it could work in Auto with my M series lenses.
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Old Dec 23, 2008, 9:14 AM   #14
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im gettin a flash for christmas

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Old Dec 23, 2008, 9:37 AM   #15
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Excellent link Scott, wish I'd seen that at the time I was looking at flashguns ... it would have helped considerably ... Jack
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Old Dec 23, 2008, 7:25 PM   #16
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i would go for the Metz 48-AF.

I currently have the Sigma 530 DG ST and am soon switching it for a Metz. Mainly because the Metz has the option of setting the power manually, something that can be very useful or even necessary in many situations.

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Old Dec 24, 2008, 9:25 AM   #17
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FWIW, I've always used Auto-thyristor flashes w/ my K10D. Look at the list of features that snostorm listed. If you need any of them, go for a P-TTL flash.
I think the only thing I would have really wanted is the ability to change flash power levels remotely so you don't have to walk around. I'm hoping the K30D or whatever comes w/ a built-in Radiopopper trigger instead of the optical stuff they use now...

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