Best Flash Unit for the PEN Series?

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by mattchew008, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. mattchew008

    mattchew008 New to Mu-43

    May 20, 2011
    Hi, I currently had an E-P1 with the Olympus FL-20 and I would consider it mediocre at best.

    I'm curious what you guys would recommend for a solid flash unit.

    I'm looking for a flash unit to use during low light environments.
    I have the 20mm lens, which is find is decent for low light, and also have a 45-200mm which I find much more difficult during low light.

    Anywho any help would be appreciated.
    Model, price, pros and cons if possible.

  2. Jeroen

    Jeroen Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 16, 2010
    the netherlands
  3. ABCDave

    ABCDave Mu-43 Rookie

    May 17, 2011
    Bartlesville, OK
    @mattchew008 - Some quick questions for you:

    1) Are you typically shooting indoors or outdoors?
    2) What are the typical distances are you working at? In a bar/club or living room at less than 10'? Outdoors at a camp or work site?
    3) How technical do you want to be? Do you have time to "dial in" artistic photos, or are you looking for more of a natural "point & shoot" experience?

    Why I ask:

    1) If you shoot outside at night, you really don't need the added expense of a tilt/swivel flash. If you are shooting primarily indoors, a flash gun that has tilt & swivel is worth its weight in gold. The image quality improves dramatically when you bounce the light off a ceiling. Example of such a product:

    2) You can save a lot of money by buying a "right sized" flash gun based on your typical subject's distance. If you can figure out what guide number best suits your situation prior to your purchase, you can also save yourself a lot of grief down the road. The guide numbers are typically a part of a unit's model number. Ex: Olympus FL-36R has a guide number of 36 while an FL-50R has a guide number of 50. If you overshoot your guide number then you don't use the full potential of the gun, so you spent too much, and you carry a flash that is disproportionately large on your m43 camera. If you undershoot, then you are forced to shoot at high ISOs or risk under-exposure. You can learn more about guide numbers here:
    Guide number - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Strobist: Guide Number: Your Free Flash Meter

    3) You can save a LOT of money by getting manual flashes. They require hours and hours of practice to get good with them. You can spend a bit more and get fully automatic flashes which communicate with the camera via direct proprietary connection or the TTL protocol. You can get some really neat artistic options with a manual lens, but most fully automatic flashes have a manual option, too.

    Bottom line:
    If you are just starting out, I'd recommend getting an Olympus brand flash and learning how to bounce light. The FL-36 is quite affordable compared to other flashes. You lessen the risk of losing a precious moment when starting out by using a fully automatic flash that communicates with the camera. From there you can learn manual settings in your spare time then grow to multi-flash setups using cheap, used, manual flashes which are a dime per dozen.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. twalker294

    twalker294 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 18, 2010
    And if you do decide to go with the dime a dozen manual flashes, the Vivitar 383 Super is a great one. I've been using one for many years on my Canon DSLRs as well as my E-PL1 and it works great. Personally I enjoy the level of control that a manual flash gives me rather than letting the camera make the decision about how much light to put on the subject but an automatic TTL flash is definitely less complicated. A bit like using a manual rangefinder vs. a fully automatic point and shoot.
  5. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm using Nikon SB-30 with E-PL2. It syncs perfectly at 1/400s and even at 1/500s in 16:9 mode. It's surprisingly strong, very close to Metz 24 in output (only about 1 stop difference). Great for both daytime (shallow DoF) and nighttime shooting (e.g. moving or dancing subjects).
  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I like the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R. The 50R recycles faster, but the 36R just seems to fit perfect physically. I use them both on the PEN extensively.
  7. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    Ditto what Ned posted.
  8. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer


    Does the wireless Olympus flash system work via radio or strobe? Do I need to maintain direct visual with the slave? Does the flashes come with basic X-sync contact with manual control? (I have several different systems and avoid flashes that only work with proprietary )
  9. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    Down load the flash user manual from the Olympus web-site, it will answer all you questions.
  10. jambaj0e

    jambaj0e Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 31, 2010
    Definitely the Metz 50AF Metz 50 AF-1 MZ 50312OPL Digital Flash for Olympus, Panasonic and Leica Cameras: Camera & Photo


    Here's what I wrote in my review:

    This is my first flash that I'm using with my Olympus E-PL2. I had the Metz 44AF for a couple of days, but returned it since it doesn't allow you to change the zoom manually (as opposed to TTL) and do high-speed Sync. The Metz 50 AF does all that, plus more! Everything is controllable on the unit itself, which is important if you're using it as a kicker, hair light, fill, etc, as well as main light on a stand and you want a consistent output independent of where you are with the camera. It even can do a version of the modeling light!

    The fact that you can upgrade the firmware means that when I move up to another Micro 4/3rds camera (Olympus E-P3 or maybe the Pen Pro if it comes out), I can still use this. Runs great with my wireless sync in manual mode and as wireless TTL triggered by my camera.

    About the only thing that I wish this has is a sync cord jack. Otherwise, it's a great combination of value, power, brightness, recycle time, and even size!
    • Like Like x 1
  11. thearne3

    thearne3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 28, 2010
    Redding, CT USA
    It works via strobe. There is no sync port built into the 36R, not sure about the 50R. I use an inexpensive wireless trigger (manual only) when not connected to the hotshoe via TTL cable. Never had a situation where I needed a sync cable, but there are ones that attach to the flash mount, if needed.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. wildcat

    wildcat Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 7, 2011

    With my E-P1, I started with an Olympus T-20 that I bought off e-Bay (~$20) that came with a grip that mounts it high and to the side and allows tilt and bounce, somewhat, since the flash itself does not. It works okay, but not great.

    Then I got a Vivitar 183 ($~50) that's TTL for the Oly, but I get somewhat inconsistent results with it. In fact, the foot fits into the hot shoe rather loosely, even when I tighten the clamp, and the contacts don't always sit correctly...thus, there will be times when I have to fool with the flash or even hold it to maintain the proper connection for it to fire. Not cool.

    I've now just started using off-camera flash as much as possible. I got a Yongnuo 460 off ebay for ~$40 and use it with gels, a 7' stand, and a transparent umbrella diffuser and really like the results I get with it. In fact, I just ordered another 460 (but this time the second iteration) for $30 off eBay, to give me more options. They are manual flashes, so you have to understand and be able to set them accordingly, but they work well with cheapo eBay wireless triggers and they also have slave modes, so you have that option as well.

    I may try another on-camera flash at some point. I'd probably try the Nissin, given the favorable comments I've heard about it.

    One thing you'll want to do if you try non-dedicated flashes is to be sure the trigger voltage is low enough (~6 or lower) so you don't damage your camera. This is easily checked with your standard multimeter.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    The newly announced one with bounce capabilities IMHO....
  14. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Name:
    Jerry Jackson Jr
    When I am shooting with on-camera or near-camera flash I use the FL36R or FL50R either in the camera's hotshoe, with an off-camera extension cord or with the Olympus TTL wireless flash system. As others have said, the FL36R is a better fit for the Pen cameras (the FL50R in the hotshot makes the camera feel unbalanced). If I move the flashes further away from the camera I use pocket wizards and in some cases use various studio lights (depends on what I am trying to do).
    • Like Like x 1
  15. PSH

    PSH Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 6, 2011

    Can you get a high speed shutter between the 50AF-1 and E-PL2 ?
    Can I shoot at 1/350 ?

    The E-PL2 isn't limited to 1/180 sync speed ?

    The same happens with the Oly FL-50 ?
  16. s0nus

    s0nus Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 13, 2010
    Would you happen to know how or if the PEN series cameras (more specifically, the EPL1) would work with the FL36R's autofocus assist lamp?
  17. Sammyboy

    Sammyboy m43 Pro

    Oct 26, 2010
    Steeler Country
    The 36R & 50R works with the E-PL1. The E-PL1 does not have an auto focus assist lamp.
  18. s0nus

    s0nus Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 13, 2010
    I'm interested in using the focus assist lamp on the flash unit itself.

    I just found this thread where Tom bears some bad news:

  19. jambaj0e

    jambaj0e Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 31, 2010
    Yes, you can do high speed shutter on a Metz 50AF. It's not limited by the 1/180 sync speed just on the way HHS works as a quick bursts of flash instead of one