Saturday, February 16, 2013

Old External Flash for OM-D E-M5!

I dislike using flash in my photography, but most indoor lighting condition are not really bright enough for even illumination.

Direct flash can cause even the most flattering photos to turn out bad, direct flash is harsh and highlight in photos are "burn out" and lack detail.

If you are serious about your photography, the first technique you must learn is how to BOUNCE your flash!

Sadly, virtually all the smaller, so called "point and shoot" cameras came with tiny, fixed flash that you cannot tilt and bounce! Even if it can, the output is just too weak for that purpose.

I can understand cheapo point-and shoot cameras came with tiny flash, what about a NZ$1,600 Best Camera of 2012?  You will be lucky ;)

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 came with a really tiny removable, camera powered flash that plug onto the hot shoe.

The light output from this tiny light is just about useless, not only that; the illumination from this flash is hardly able to cover a e_28mm lens!

And when my favorite lens is the ultra-wide 7-12mm, DISASTER

This is what happened when you shoot with the tiny supplied flash with an ultra wide e_14mm lens! What do you expect?

Solution... go and get an external flash with a bounce-head!

I can get the Olympus FL-600; left, for NZ$465 or the FL-50R for $626!!

Is Olympus MAD?

How do they justify selling an external flash, yes; a bleeding electronic flash at ONE THIRD of what an OM-D body cost?!

No doubt these modern electronic speedlights got all the latest bells and whistles, but all I wanted is some extra diffused light for my shots.

And since I seldom use flash anyway, I cannot justify plonking down $500 just for a flash!  I need another solution!

My 1987 Metz 32CT3!  This old work horse have nine lives! I wrote about this gem in "Déjà vu 1 - SEE NO EVIL", I also explained what that silver male video cable plug came about; I believe this is the ONLY 32CT3 like that!

Through the years I have used this old flash on a Canon 10D, 30D; a Nikon D300 and Olympus E-P2.  The tough German warhorse work every time!

 The tiny OM-D flash beside the humungous 1985 Metz 32CT3.

What about using the 32CT3 on the OM-D? Is it safe?

For those that don't know, older electronic flash use a high to very high "trigger voltage" (as high as 500V) to fire the flash.  This high voltage can literally fry your sensitive electronics in your digital camera!

When asked "I have a third-party electronic flash. Can I use it on the E-M5?"

In the Olympus U.S. FAQ page :

"Flash units that are not specifically listed by Olympus as compatible with this camera may pose problems if used on this camera.

Thyristor-type flash units can be used with the E-M5’s Manual shooting mode as long as the sync voltage does not exceed 24 VDC (volts of direct current). Higher voltages may potentially damage the camera.

Third-party TTL flash units will not have TTL capability but possibly may be used with Manual exposure control. Olympus can only guarantee the operation of Olympus flash units."

Oh dear!  I remember a dpreview forum reader measured the 32CT3 trigger voltage to be 13V and it was 17.76v when using Ni-MH batteries.

Base on that I concluded the old Metz is SAFE to use on my OM-D :)

The old and the new... the old German blitz mounted on the OM-D's hot shoe. The flash chamber is tilted for bouncing the light upwards.

Does the combo work?  See for yourself ;)

I tested my OM-D+32CT3 at our CNY dinner with friends at the Dragon Restaurant.  I have shot a friend's weddding at this spacious restaurant before, but that was many years ago and I am not sure of the exposure setting to bounce the flash off the lowish ceiling.

By setting the Olympus to "M"(manual exposure), I select a speed of 1/30, this speed will "take in" some of the ambiance light during the bounce. Aperture was set to f5.6 and the optimum will be decided from previewing the shot. The flash was also set in full-power manual mode.

Once upon a time, during the bad old "film era", getting an accurate bounce flash exposure setting was a hit or miss affair.  I remember I have to resort to a flash meter just for that!

The shot above was done at ISO 800, 1/30 and f5.6, the lens was my 7-14mm ultra-wide zoom. It only took me a few minutes to arrive at this ideal setting... no brainer ;)

Below are some other cropped shots from takes of the same exposure.

You must agree that kind of result from a 1985 flash is not bad eh?

Oh... a few words about the type of batteries I used for the flash.

I only use Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries for my battery needs.

What is so special about this type of batteries?

Eneloop is a brand developed by Sanyo encompassing rechargeable batteries and associated devices, introduced to the market in November 2005.

The batteries are low self-discharge NiMH, which lose their charge much more slowly than previous NiMH batteries; 10% in the first year, compared to about 20% on the first day and 1-4% on every successive day. 

The eneloop batteries are sold pre-charged and can be used immediately, while traditional NiMH batteries lose their charge so quickly that this isn't feasible. Due to the number of alkaline batteries they can replace during their lifecycle, they are marketed as being eco-friendly when used appropriately.  -Wikipedia

The type I am using now can be recharge 1,500 times!  Just think of that... the batteries might be slightly more expensive than the other brands but none that I know of are able to last 1,500 charges! Since you are throwing away less batteries, I agreed that they are more Eco-friendly than others :)

Famous Last Worlds...

What are you waiting for? Go find a used Metz 32CT and start bouncing :)

You Might Also Like:

Bounce Flash For G12

Bounced Flash and Bake Off 

Wein Safe Sync for Old Flash 


heather said...

Looks like I won`t be bouncing my flash with my little mobile phone camera..oh well!
Maybe the time will come before I die when I will get to bounce my flash.(sigh)

Thomas Røst Stenerud said...

Thanks for a sweet walk through. I am trying this with a series of old flashes on my om-d em5 (yes, careful with the voltage), but I can't get the camera to fire them. They all fire on my old om-2. Could you please post all the settings you do on your camera? "M", yes, but what flash settings etc.? Thanks in advance!