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Old Jan 24, 2008, 6:56 PM   #1
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I take group shots (ie; birthdays, etc.), fill flash, long shots sometimes, when someone is on a stage (grad, weddings, etc.). I tried both on a K10D and both flashes seemed to be very similar in the shots I tried.

Now this was just a few shots in the store showroom, but I noticed both flashes seemed to spread flash more evenly at 20 mm as opposed to 16mm.

Long shots at 45 mm were a little disappointing, but maybe I just need to read the flash manuals and get more practice in.

Questions:

Is the 540 worth that much more money, what features does it have over the 360?

Are there non Pentax brands that should be considered...what and why.

Thanks for any suggestions I'm looking at getting a new flash in the next short while.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 2:14 AM   #2
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Hi lesmore49,

The AF540 FGZ has more power (about 25%) than the AF360 FGZ and is more easily bounced in both landscape and portrait orientations because of the tilt/swivel head. Otherwise, they are very similar in features. The Pentax flashes have one thing that the 3rd party lenses don't, and probably won't ever have, and that is that Pentax might tweak their P-TTL system further in future bodies, and they will most likely do it within the present firmware capabilities of their flashes, so no updates should be needed for them.

The Sigma EF 530 DG Super is similar in power and features to the 540, but significantly less expensive not including any rebates. IIRC it has one feature that the Pentax guns don't -- a strobe function, but for your stated uses, this might not be something that you'd need.

The Sigma EF 530 DG ST is the same flash with many of the advanced features missing. Again, IIRC, these are: strobe, high speed synch, wireless TTL, optical slave, and modeling light, rear curtain synch, and power auto zoom. Both Sigmas have a tilt/swivel head, AF assist beam, and the same power. They have to be sent back to Sigma for firmware updates if necessary.

The Promaster 7500EDF, 7400EDF, and 7200EDF models all are less powerful than the Pentax 540 or the Sigmas, and I believe they are all missing the more advanced features like wireless TTL, high speed synch, rear curtain synch. They are supposed to be dealer updateable for firmware, but dealers are generally pretty few and far between. They also offer the 5750DX which needs the proper module to work with the Pentaxes, and have a ringlight that also uses the module, so would be the only P-TTL ringlight available at this time. I don't have personal experience with these flashes, and haven't heard enough from heavy flash users to comment on the compatibility or durability of these units.

Metz has recently announced two models, the 48AF and the 54AF. The 54AF is probably the most expensive, but possibly the most capable of the P-TTL flashes. They have a great reputation among wedding and event photographers. The 48AF has less power and features, but should be a good unit if it lives up to Metz's rep, and is relatively reasonably priced in the low to mid $200s. I've no direct experience with them, but I'd probably buy one. One Metz feature that I like is their "smart auto" where the flash reads the ISO and aperture from the camera and sets up its auto thyristor mode automatically.

There are some really inexpensive units out there also. They are reported to be made by Sakar, and are marketed under Soligor and Digital Concepts brand names. I've not heard a lot of good about these, and personally wouldn't buy one.

My experience with both Pentax flashes has been good, and pretty closely match your projected uses. I like to shoot events, parties, and family get-togethers, in addition, I've started to use flash more for birding. I usually use the 540 because I bounce just about everything (not for birding), and it's a lot easier to use with the swivel head in portrait orientation. There is a learning curve, but the "film" is cheap and so is charging the batteries for the flash, so experiment a lot before trying to use whatever you get in a situation where it counts.

I'd also take a look at the "flash thread" on this forum. There's a lot of good information there, but some of the info might be dated or incorrect at this time.

If you might feel that you're not going to use a flash enough to justify the expense of a P-TTL flash, I'd look at the Sunpak 383 or a used Pentax AF280T. They won't be P-TTL, but they will work semi-automatically in auto-thyristor mode, where you set the ISO and aperture according to a table on the flash unit and the gun meters the flash with its own sensor within a certain range. A little fiddly, but easily done, and they work well. With these, you'd be talking less than $100, and used, possibly less than $50. Used Nikon flashes with auto thyristor mode would also be good alternatives if you can get them cheap enough.

I think I've at least covered most of the possibilities. . .
Probably too much information, but that seems to be my tendency. . . :?

Scott
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 2:40 AM   #3
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My Sigma 530 DG ST should arrive today, I'll let you know what my first impressions are.
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 5:49 AM   #4
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Old Jan 25, 2008, 6:27 PM   #5
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snostorm wrote:
Quote:
Hi lesmore49,

The AF540 FGZ has more power (about 25%) than the AF360 FGZ and is more easily bounced in both landscape and portrait orientations because of the tilt/swivel head. Otherwise, they are very similar in features. The Pentax flashes have one thing that the 3rd party lenses don't, and probably won't ever have, and that is that Pentax might tweak their P-TTL system further in future bodies, and they will most likely do it within the present firmware capabilities of their flashes, so no updates should be needed for them.

The Sigma EF 530 DG Super is similar in power and features to the 540, but significantly less expensive not including any rebates. IIRC it has one feature that the Pentax guns don't -- a strobe function, but for your stated uses, this might not be something that you'd need.

The Sigma EF 530 DG ST is the same flash with many of the advanced features missing. Again, IIRC, these are: strobe, high speed synch, wireless TTL, optical slave, and modeling light, rear curtain synch, and power auto zoom. Both Sigmas have a tilt/swivel head, AF assist beam, and the same power. They have to be sent back to Sigma for firmware updates if necessary.

The Promaster 7500EDF, 7400EDF, and 7200EDF models all are less powerful than the Pentax 540 or the Sigmas, and I believe they are all missing the more advanced features like wireless TTL, high speed synch, rear curtain synch. They are supposed to be dealer updateable for firmware, but dealers are generally pretty few and far between. They also offer the 5750DX which needs the proper module to work with the Pentaxes, and have a ringlight that also uses the module, so would be the only P-TTL ringlight available at this time. I don't have personal experience with these flashes, and haven't heard enough from heavy flash users to comment on the compatibility or durability of these units.

Metz has recently announced two models, the 48AF and the 54AF. The 54AF is probably the most expensive, but possibly the most capable of the P-TTL flashes. They have a great reputation among wedding and event photographers. The 48AF has less power and features, but should be a good unit if it lives up to Metz's rep, and is relatively reasonably priced in the low to mid $200s. I've no direct experience with them, but I'd probably buy one. One Metz feature that I like is their "smart auto" where the flash reads the ISO and aperture from the camera and sets up its auto thyristor mode automatically.

There are some really inexpensive units out there also. They are reported to be made by Sakar, and are marketed under Soligor and Digital Concepts brand names. I've not heard a lot of good about these, and personally wouldn't buy one.

My experience with both Pentax flashes has been good, and pretty closely match your projected uses. I like to shoot events, parties, and family get-togethers, in addition, I've started to use flash more for birding. I usually use the 540 because I bounce just about everything (not for birding), and it's a lot easier to use with the swivel head in portrait orientation. There is a learning curve, but the "film" is cheap and so is charging the batteries for the flash, so experiment a lot before trying to use whatever you get in a situation where it counts.

I'd also take a look at the "flash thread" on this forum. There's a lot of good information there, but some of the info might be dated or incorrect at this time.

If you might feel that you're not going to use a flash enough to justify the expense of a P-TTL flash, I'd look at the Sunpak 383 or a used Pentax AF280T. They won't be P-TTL, but they will work semi-automatically in auto-thyristor mode, where you set the ISO and aperture according to a table on the flash unit and the gun meters the flash with its own sensor within a certain range. A little fiddly, but easily done, and they work well. With these, you'd be talking less than $100, and used, possibly less than $50. Used Nikon flashes with auto thyristor mode would also be good alternatives if you can get them cheap enough.

I think I've at least covered most of the possibilities. . .
Probably too much information, but that seems to be my tendency. . . :?

Scott
Scott,

Thanks for the very detailed answer...lot's of info for me to consider. I apreciate your explanation of the difference between the 360 and 540 capabilites...I will have to think about my needs a bit more.

Thank you to the other posters..

Les
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