The Metz Mecablitz 45 CL-4 Digital hammerhead flash is a tough, no-nonsense flash that offers plenty of creative options.
If power, adaptability and portability are important elements of your artificial lighting requirements, then Metz is an essential brand to check out. Metz has been making flashguns for serious amateurs and pros for years, and are often the first choice for those looking for a tough and reliable source of illumination.
The 45 CL-4 follows the design of older models but has been redesigned to safely fit digital cameras and work in harmony with the current crop of digital TTL systems.
The unit is a hammerhead-type flash that attaches to the side of the camera via a bracket, which screws into the tripod bush on the base of your DSLR. By placing the flash to the side, the light from the flash is off the lens axis so there is very little chance of redeye. It also adds balance to the camera/flash combo and keeps the flash head out of the way when using the tilt and swivel movements. The swivel offers up to 360° of movement and the tilt up to 90°, which allows the light to be bounced from almost any direction, offering variety in any location.
With a GN of 45, the unit doesn’t offer the power of the top-end hotshoe-mounted flashguns, doesn’t match the covering angle (covers a 35mm lens) or have the portability – it’s quite big. What it does have is a rechargeable NiMH battery offering up to 200 flashes at full power, a four-second recycling time (less at lower powers) and the option to add a more powerful battery pack. So for high-capacity shooting a hammerhead unit is a must.
The 45 CL-4 has two light sources, the main one situated in the flash head with the bounce facility and a smaller supplemental light for additional frontal fill light if using bounced light.
Plenty of other features are available too, from manual control down to 1/32 power to fast-sync flash up to 1/1000sec. There’s also a pre-flash feature to assist in accurate exposure in TTL (through the lens) mode. Basically this sends out a preflash to the subject and measures the reflected light to adjust flash exposure for the final image. This is useful if shooting a white or reflective surface which will ‘blow out’ without adjustment.
The TTL features that enable the camera and flash to work using information from the camera’s metering system, are only accessible if you use a hotshoe module dedicated to your brand of camera. For example, the SCA 3402 module fits Nikon and ‘talks’ Nikon’s TTL language. An additional device – the SCA 3045 – connects a cable between the flash and the hotshoe module so the flash and camera can ‘talk’ to each other. These two additional devices cost around £80 for the pair. Without these a standard PC sync socket is included but this works in manual or auto mode only.
The quality of light from the Metz Mecablitz 45 CL-4 is certainly very good – deep and crisp and even, as King Wenceslas might say. The light outputs at 5600° Kelvin, and colours are bright and clear, without a blue/cyan cast that can occur with some cheaper flash units. In daylight the automatic fill-in produces images with subject illumination and ambient light in perfect harmony.
This is a tough, no-nonsense flash unit that provides plenty of creative options. Its bulk and advanced features are not for everyone and some might be better off with a standard on-camera flash. For those who use flash a lot though, the Metz is one of the best.