Where should you start when it comes to flashguns and flash accessories? We recommend six flashguns and a range of accessories to help you control your flash and manipulate its output

Where should you start when it comes to flashguns and flash accessories? We recommend six flashguns that are worth considering if you decide you are ready to dip your toe in the water. They come in a range of prices, but none of them should break the bank.

You will also find a range of accessories to help you control your flash and manipulate its output – from gels to control colour temperature, to a nifty little softbox to diffuse the flash’s output, to a power pack that will prolong the usage of your chosen flash.

All you need to do now is get out there and start shooting!

Rosco Strobist Collection


Price: £10

Website: www.rosco.com

By default the light emitted from flash has a colour temperature of 5000K, which is approximately the same as the ambient light at noon on a sunny day. That’s fine if you only ever shoot in the midday sun, but if you’re shooting indoors under fluorescent lights (c.2500K) or household light bulbs (c.2700K) then the mixture of different colour temperatures can produce unsightly colour casts. The easiest way around this is to change the colour temperature of your flash using a strip of gel so that it matches the colour temperature of the ambient light. This comprehensive gel pack from Rosco contains 50 individual gels that, between them, cover 20 colour temperatures. Simply attach one to the front of your flashgun, set your camera’s colour temperature to match and say goodbye to unseemly colour casts. They can also add a bit of colour to your flash for dramatic or artistic effect.

Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 Softbox


Price: £90

Website: www.lastolite.co.uk

One reason off-camera flash has become so popular it that it allows you to take complete control over the direction of the light emitted by your flashgun, which in turn enables you to produce more interesting pictures with a much greater sense of depth. This is especially true when shooting portraits, where careful lighting helps the person to really ‘pop’ from the image. In order to achieve these goals a decent light modifier, such as a softbox or shoot-through umbrella is a must-have tool. These are primarily used to diffuse the light to produce better skin tones and softer, more subtle shadows. The Lastolite Ezybox II is a lightweight 22cm-wide softbox that is specifically designed to fit directly onto hotshoe flashguns. Quick and easy to assemble, the Speed-Lite 2 can be used either on or off-camera to soften and diffuse light for more flattering results.

Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible


Price: £50

Website: www.garyfong.com

Inside the box of most flashguns you’ll find a small translucent diffuser that clips on to the end of the flash in order to soften the light it emits. While these are small and practical, they don’t always get the best results. The Gary Fong Lightsphere has been around in one form or another since 2004 during which time it has undergone numerous revisions. The latest incarnation uses the same soft translucent rubber that allows the Lightsphere to be collapsed into itself for easy storage but adds a new ‘speed strap’ design that produces a better fit regardless of the size of your flashgun. If you regularly shoot events or weddings then it’s a fantastic piece of kit that’s easy to use and produces great results. The basic kit comes with a translucent white dome; however you can also buy kits that include an AmberDome warming dome and a GrayDome colour correction dome.

Nissin Power Pack PS 8


Price: £120

Website: www.nissindigital.com

Virtually all hotshoe flashguns use four AA batteries, and while it pays to invest in a set – or indeed a couple of sets – of rechargeable batteries, that still leaves you with the potential problem of having to change your batteries midway through a shoot. Your flashgun can also be slow to recharge in between full-power flashes when using AA batteries, which can lead to frustrating delays. If this sounds familiar, you might want to consider a dedicated flash battery pack. Not all flashguns have the required input with which to attach a battery pack, but if yours does and you regularly shoot weddings or events then a power pack such as the Nissin PS 8 makes a lot of sense. Powered by a 3,000mAh battery the PS 8 is good for around 550 full-power flashes and boasts a recharge time of just 0.5 secs. That should be enough to ensure you never miss a shot or a ‘moment’ again.

PocketWizard PlusX Transceiver Twin Kit


Price: £140

Website: www.pocketwizard.com

When it comes to off-camera flash, the use of radio-based wireless triggers offers a number of advantages over the infrared based triggering systems used by the pop-up flashes of some cameras. It increases the overall range of your off-camera set-up and eliminates the line-of-sight and bright sunshine issues that can affect infrared based wireless control. The PlusX is PocketWizard’s entry-level model, but is built to the same high standard as devices higher up the line. The PlusX consists of a commander unit that attaches to your camera’s hotshoe and a receiver unit that attaches to your flashgun. Unlike more expensive PocketWizard models the PlusX lacks an LCD display and doesn’t support TTL (you’ll have to set your flash power manually) or high-speed sync (the PlusX syncs to a maximum 1/250sec), but the twin-dial controls make them exceptionally easy to use.

Nikon SB-700


Price: £220

Website: www.nikon.co.uk

Released in 2010, the SB-700 occupies the middle ground within Nikon’s Speedlight range, sitting below the SB-910 (£340) and all-new flagship SB-5000 (£500) models, but above the entry-level SB-500 (£200). As such, it provides a fantastic balance of power and flexibility. While the Guide Number of 28 the SB-700 employs Nikon’s i-TTL metering technology and also encompasses a multi-step power zoom range of 24-120mm. In addition, it can also be used wirelessly via Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, which enables you to trigger it when mounted off-camera via the pop-up flash in compatible Nikon DSLRs. For those Nikon cameras without CLS technology, it can also be used as a commander unit to trigger other flashguns.

Key specifications:

  • Guide Number: 28 (metres, ISO 100, 35mm)
  • Tiltable/rotatable head: Yes/Yes
  • Motorised zoom head: 24-120mm
  • Power: 4 x AA battery
  • Size: 71 x 126 x 104.5mm
  • Weight: 360g

Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT


Price: £260

Website: www.canon.co.uk

The 430EX III-RT was released in the summer of 2015 as the successor to the popular albeit ageing 430EX II that came out in 2008. Smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the 430EX III-RT further utilises Canon’s proprietary E-TTLII/E-TTL metering, supplemented by a manual mode and High-Speed Sync options. In addition it also benefits from a built-in Radio Transmitter (RT) module that enables the 430EX III-RT to be triggered wirelessly from up to 30 metres away with no direct line-of-sight requirements. Its wireless radio capabilities also enable it to be used as a wireless TTL commander unit for other flashguns, although commander control via infrared is not supported.

Key specifications:

  • Guide Number: 43 (metres, ISO 100, 105mm)
  • Tiltable/rotatable head: Yes/Yes
  • Motorised zoom head: 24-105mm
  • Power: 4 x AA battery
  • Size: 70.5 x 114 x 98.2mm
  • Weight: 295g

Sony HVL-F43M


Price: £250

Website: www.sony.co.uk

The F43M is designed to work with the current generation of Sony cameras equipped with a Multi Interface Shoe. For cameras equipped with the older Auto-Lock Accessory Shoe design, an optional ADP-AMA Shoe Adaptor (£25) is available. Positioned below the flagship F60M (£430), the F43M packs in plenty of features, including Sony’s unique Quick Shift Bounce feature that allows you to laterally rotate the flash head by 90° so you can maintain an even distribution of light even while holding the camera in portrait orientation. Meanwhile a built-in LED video light on the front of the unit provides constant yet adjustable light. Last but not least, the F43M also supports wireless connectivity for creative off-camera flash set-ups.

Key specifications:

  • Guide Number: 43 (metres, ISO 100, 105mm)
  • Tiltable/rotatable head: Yes/No
  • Motorised zoom head: 23-105mm
  • Power: 4 x AA battery
  • Size: 75 x 140 x 87mm
  • Weight: 335g

Metz Mecablitz 44 AF-1


Price: £115

Website: www.metzflash.co.uk

Metz is a German manufacturer that specialises in flashguns and studio lights. The 44 AF-1 sits in the middle of the Metz range, below the more advanced 52 AF-1 (£180) and the flagship 64 AF-1 (£300) models, both of which come equipped with touchscreen control. That said, for those on a budget the 44 AF-1 delivers a decent amount of power and packs a range of useful features including wireless TTL control via infrared. It’s also very simple to operate. The only slight drawback is that when used in Manual mode the power output is limited to just four options: 1/1, 1/2, 1/8 and 1/64. The 44 AF-1 is available for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax and Fuji cameras.

Key specifications:

  • Guide Number: 44 (metres, ISO 100, 105mm)
  • Tiltable/rotatable head: Yes/Yes
  • Motorised zoom head: 24-105mm
  • Power: 4 x AA battery
  • Size: 73 x 128 x 105mm
  • Weight: 320g

Nissin i40


Price: £169

Website: www.nissindigital.com

With a Guide Number of 40 the i40 is a great little flashgun that packs a surprising amount of power into its diminutive body. Thanks to its twin dial control system it’s also very easy to operate, with one wheel used to select the mode you want to use (TTL, Manual or Automatic) and the other dedicated to flash compensation in TTL mode and power output when used in manual mode. Complementing this are two wireless-specific modes that allow you to sync the i40 to either the pre-flash or the main flash of your commander unit. In addition, the i40 sports an adjustable LED video light on the front. The i40 is available for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji and Olympus cameras.

Key specifications:

  • Guide Number: 40 (metres, ISO 100, 105mm)
  • Tiltable/rotatable head: Yes/Yes
  • Motorised zoom head: 24-105mm
  • Power: 4 x AA battery
  • Size: 85 x 61 x 85mm
  • Weight: 203g

ProFoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit


Price: £1495

Website: www.profotolights.com

The Profoto B2 bridges the gap between a regular speedlight and a studio flash head in that it’s exceptionally powerful and very portable. As such it’s perfect for wedding photographers or anyone looking to shoot professional-looking portraits on location. With up to 250Ws of power (about the same as six Nikon SB-910 units combined!) the B2 can be controlled wirelessly, is fully TTL compatible and also allows you to switch into manual mode. Used in high-speed sync mode the immense power of the B2 means you can select the fastest shutter speeds without suffering any noticeable drop-off in power – even with a full-sized softbox attached. It’s hardly cheap, but as far as portable studio flash goes the Profoto B2 is about as good as it gets.

Key specifications:

  • Max output power: 250Ws
  • Wireless Control: Built-in AirTTL
  • Recycling time: 0.03-1.35s
  • Battery capacity: 230 shots
  • Flash Head Weight: 700g
  • Battery Pack Weight: 1.6kg