Top critical review
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Good Budget Option
on 27 December 2011
I received this as a gift (it's what I wanted). It's a difficult item to rate as it does not use flash tubes so in the end I opted for three stars.
The best thing about it is the price. It costs a fraction of the price of a Canon ringflash. At short range the light it provides is bright, even and there are no harsh shadows . There are several modes: constant light; flash; right flash; left flash; exposure compensation from -1.5 to +1.5 and a pre-flash to test the brightness for flash mode. The flash is a bonus as other similarly priced products are merely ring lights and do not flash. However, the unit does not contain flash tubes and uses LED bulbs so the usable range is far less than that of a true flash and falls off more dramatically than conventional flash with increased distance from the subject. Remember to set your white balance manually or to use "flash" from the presets. AWB did not always give accurate results. I found that shooting in raw then adjusting the colour temperature in the conversion software (DPP in my case) gave the best results. If you have dial in settings on your camera the 5500k quoted is reasonably accurate though occasionally I find 6000k reproduces colour more accurately.
Don't bother with the instruction booklet; it's very amusing (probably typed into a internet translation program) but it makes little sense. Play around with the settings and the camera. It helps if you understand metering. I can imagine that trying to get this right if you don't know what you are doing could be very frustrating and lead to you writing off the flash as a dud. It takes work to get the shots right but after an initial twenty minutes of fiddling about when I first opened the box I can now get the exposure right more or less immediately at each use as long as I manually meter the exposure. At close proximity to the subject the power of the flash/light is stronger than you might imagine so at first I found I was over exposing). If you need precise results immediately then this unit probably isn't for you. With portraits I found that the shadows are not totally eliminated if the background isn't separately lit but the shadow is a mere soft halo; no harsh dark shadows. The brightness might cause the subject to squint a bit though. I prefer using this flash for macro work.
Unfortunately the unit is NOT compatible with the flash menu on my Canon 550D, in other words TTL metering is not available and you can't set a precise flash sync speed (flash is set at 1/100 sec whilst the camera's standard setting is 1/200 sec). Before you stop reading this and dismiss the flash unit I would say that an external light meter has worked wonders to get some very acceptable results. If you want to use the flash rather than the light switch the light on, meter the exposure, turn off the light and switch on the flash. Take a shot. If the results aren't quite right then fine tune using the exposure compensation on the flash unit and/or your camera. I don't possess a light meter but I downloaded a light meter app onto my phone which serves the purpose, saves further expense and uses something I always carry with me. I was surprised no one had reviewed this product - perhaps prospective purchasers have been put off by the low price thinking that at that price the product is probably very poor. The build quality is what you would expect for the money but it's okay, it's quite sturdy. The flash fits onto the hotshoe quite snugly so I find I don't need to use the built-in screw on the flash unit to hold it fast and care is need when removing the flash from the camera as rough handling might snap off the battery compartment leaving the base in the hot shoe but, as with anything, you just need to be careful. One downside - there is no tripod fitting if you want to use this off camera - but then, why would you?
In summary I am very happy with the product. Is it worth more money? Probably not, although I think it's good value at under £25 including postage. It does what I want. Yes, I would like the real thing but it just wasn't an option. If I were to rate this compared to a Canon flash unit this one would probably only receive one star but I've tried to review it for what it is rather than a direct comparison with a Canon product so I've given it three stars and was debating four stars but beginners/the inexperienced might struggle to get the best from this flash so settled on three.