If you are a professional photographer, you will want to invest in the best camera flash for your DSLR camera. It may seem overwhelming at first to choose, but there are a few things you need to consider when investing.
This article will explore the best camera flashes for 2021, which will take your flash photography to new heights. Let’s take a deeper look.
Table of Contents
- What Defines an External Flash?
- TTL Explained
- What is the Difference between a Speedlight and a Flash?
- How to Choose a Camera Flash?
- Best Camera Flash for Canon
- Best Camera Flash for Nikon
- Other Flashes to Consider
What Defines an External Flash?
So what are camera flashes anyway? Well, you might have already guessed that many cameras come with a built-in flash. The little light that pops up on the top of your camera when a setting is too dark. However, this little on-camera flash is not nearly strong enough for professional photographers.
It’s important to invest in an external camera flash. This type of camera flash attaches to your camera via the hot shoe or that piece of metal sticking up from the top of your camera. An external camera flash is very powerful and can fill a room with a lot more light than an on-camera flash. Let’s look at some other differences.
Direction- With an external camera flash, you can control the direction the light hits. Any flash head has the capability to twist and turn and bend. So you can bounce your light off a wall above, below, or beside you.
Placement- Since your flash attaches to your camera, it can also be detached and become a wireless flash. Any off-camera flash should come with a built-in radio or infra-red sensor that allows you to trigger the flash from further away without mounting it to your camera.
Color- Often, a camera flash will come with color modifiers attached to your light source. These can be orange, red, or yellow and allow you to change your light source color easily. They also come in handy when you are shooting through umbrellas or softboxes.
Power- As mentioned above, a camera flash has much more power and strength to illuminate most situations. It also comes with a bit in focal length reader, so the flash is connected to the zoom range of your camera and can increase the power of the light by how far you are from your subject.
So you may be wondering what TTL stands for. The letters actually mean “Through The Lens” which represents a metering system that gives you control over the power of your flash. This is based on the exposure settings determined by the camera. This means you can raise your camera’s exposure while lowering your flash compensation.
TTL flashes have been around for a long time. We are talking decades and have replaced ETTL (Evaluative Through The Lens) flash setups. TTL is essentially working with your camera to determine proper exposure given to the flash through the camera.
The TTL setting considers what your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are set to and then sets the powers of the flash to match. If you want to get the most out of your TTL settings, then it’s a good idea to use the compensation buttons to change lighting rations while in TTL.
What is the Difference between a Speedlight and a Flash?
Basically, flash refers to any artificial electronic light being used instead of natural or ambient light. So a flash could be anything from a studio lighting setup to a flashgun. A Speedlight is a type of flash that connects to your camera’s hot shoe. However, that does not mean the Speedlight has to connect directly to your camera, as they can be set up on stands or tripods as well to work off-camera.
How to Choose a Camera Flash?
So how do you choose a camera flash? With so many options on the market, it may feel daunting to try and choose which flash is best for you. Here are a few of the things you should look for when choosing a camera flash.
Guide numbers are defined by aperture ratio and distance. Simply put, a flash guide number will state how far the light from the flash will reach based on the basic settings of your camera. The higher the guide number, the farther the reach of the flash.
Hot shoe flashes work great because they don’t always have to attach directly to your camera. More advanced flashes have wireless capabilities that allow your camera to turn them on without attaching to your DSLR, but instead using infrared or radio frequencies to talk to each other. Being able to move your flash off-camera gives you much more wiggle room to get creative and make your light work in any situation.
Nothing is worse than shooting a wedding or other stressful event, and you miss the shot because your flash took too long to power up again. This is where recycling speeds come into play. They indicate how long your flash takes to become ready to flash again. If you are photographing runners or other fast-moving events, recycle speeds are very important.
High Speed Sync
Pro flashes usually come with many different sync modes. But one of the most important modes is the high-speed sync. This allows the flash to continuously flash bursts of light so that you can up your shutter speed above your flash sync. If you do not have this control, then parts of your photo will turn black as an effect of missing the sync.
If you are leaving your flash on camera, it’s important you can tilt and move the flash around to bounce the light off of walls, ceilings, and anything else around you. Make sure to look closely at the flash you invest in before buying to see that it rotates and tilts as much as possible. This will save you headaches later while shooting.
Best Camera Flash for Canon
If you are new to flash setups, then you may not know certain flashes only work with certain brands of cameras. We will stick to the top products of Canon and Nikon for this article. Still, there is another section below with information on other camera flash setups compatible with Nikon or Canon. Let’s have a look at Canon first.
1. Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI
This is one of the top camera flashes by Canon because of its ideal bounce angles. Before the camera shutter clicks, the strobe flashes rapidly twice to illuminate your subject. The Canon 430EX also offers a semi-automatic feature that allows you to bounce off a reflector or other surface. But keep in mind, it cannot act as your master flash but only as a slave.
- Manual Power options from 1/1 to 1/128th power
- The Rotating head moves from 0 to 90 degrees up and down
- 180 to 150 degrees when moved from side to side
- 24-105mm focal length
- Offers wireless capabilities for difficult light situations
2. Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT
This Canon 600EX external flash is designed for professional use and provides gorgeous images. We love its consistent power design with a built-in 2.4GHz radio trigger system. It cost around $500 and is designed with Canon shooters in mind. Because Canon makes it, it naturally works with its TTL metering system and provides automatic exposure features. The 2.4GHz radio transceiver allows you to connect to up to 15 off-camera external flashes! If you want to get creative with your lighting, this could be a great place to start!
- Strong Build Quality
- Weather Proof
- Flexible Flash Head 7 to 90 degrees of movement
- Long Zoom Range of 20-200mm
- TTL Flash
- HyperFast Recycle Time
- Strong Power Output
3. Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT
A flash built for Canon costs around $250; the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT is an excellent light option. This flash is great for budget shoppers and has enough range to be used in most situations. Many portraits and wedding photographers enjoy this Canon wireless flash control. Even though there are no IR signal connections, a radio connection allows you to increase the connection range from 10 to 30 meters.
- Wireless support for IR and RF triggers, but keep in mind it cannot be the master flash output; it has to be a slave
- Multiple flash mode options
- The focal length of 24-105mm
- 45 to a 90-degree rotating head
- Manual Power of 1/1 to 1/128
- Fast recycle time
4. Canon Speedlite 270EX II
This manual power Speedlight flash by Canon is compact and has full flash automation. However, it only requires power from two AA batteries to get started. Most flash systems require 4 to 5 batteries. It is lightweight but does not have swivel capabilities for this reason.
- Only two AA batteries needed
- Comfortable use
- Recycle time is only 1 to 3 seconds
- Guide Number 89 to 50mm (ISO 100)
- Zoom from 28mm to 50mm
- Long Battery life
Best Camera Flash for Nikon
If you are a Nikon shooter, you may want to consider one of the flashes from this comprehensive list. Each flash offers you a different sort of control when it comes to your fill flash.
6. Nikon Speedlight SB-5000
One of Nikon’s top flashes will cost you around $600. Enjoy the manual power settings, wireless master control, and its effective cooling system. It is a bit more expensive than most other Nikon flashes but well worth the investment with its powerful GN of 55m. You also have a wide range of TTL and TTL-BL modes and the option of using an external power pack.
- Acts as a master and slave wireless source
- Advanced cooling system
- Battery pack capable
- 7 to 90 degrees swivel
- AA batteries needed
- TTL flash advanced system
- Wide-angle continuous shooting
- Fast recycle time
7. Nikon Speedlight SB-700
The Nikon SB-700 offers full master and slave wireless settings and a 7 to 90 degrees bounce. This is the chosen flash by many wedding photographers for its trusted high-speed sync that outshoots many camera flashes. The recycling time is hyperfast for those important moments.
- Nice range of accessories
- Swivel 180/180
- Zoom 24-120mm
- Wide-angle diffuser
- Manual Power Settings
8. Nikon Speedlight SB-800
This powerful and portable SB-800 camera flash designed by Nikon is optimized to go with its other gear and one of the best camera flashes on the market. Enjoy full power at multiple shutter speed settings and full control over flash metering. The hot shoe is durable and does not bend like cheaper models. It comes with a guide number of 184 feet (at ISO 100). Lastly, it’s a favorite among wedding photographers.
- Advanced wireless control
- Fully automatic and independent control of an unlimited number of SB Speedlights including the SB 700 and Nikon SB 600
- Control up to 3 remote groups
- Built-in Wide-area AF (autofocus) illuminator
- Flash compensation
- Bounce and swivel options
Other Flashes to Consider
These flashes will work on most Nikon and Canon cameras but at a fraction of the price. Have a look at each flash and see if it’s compatible with your camera.
9. Yongnuo YN560 IV
For the budget flash shopper, the Yongnuo YN560 IV is a great choice. It works as a flash for Canon but also for Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus DSLR cameras. It cost only $85 and has many shutter speed and power options. Gain more control and full power at a lower cost.
- Wireless master support function
- Wireless Slave
- Supports other flash units including the YN560 and RF-602
- Synchronous support
10. Neewer TT560
This external flash by Neewer is super cheap! Only $47 and works on any camera with a standard hot shoe. It comes with a power rating of GN38 and matches the brightness of a Nissin i40. You have the option to adjust your flash power in eight steps with only a bit of vignetting. But keep in mind the head won’t zoom to match your focal length. Lastly, because it is a completely manual flash, there is no TTL control.
- 0-90 degrees tilt
- 270 degrees of rotation
- Wide-angle diffuser
- Manual power settings 1/1 to 1/128
- S1 and S2 slave modes
11. Nissin Di700A + Air 1
Nissin camera flash works as a Canon flash as well as Nikon, Fujifilm, and Four Thirds. It’s simple to use and cost-effective. Enjoy full control over TTL and wireless modes. There is a manual zoom of 24-200mm included in the motorized head and high-speed sync. Enjoy using the infrared slave mode with three independent groups. Lastly, we love its fast recycling time, even at full power.
- Easy to use
- Swivel 180/180
- High-speed sync
- Limited control for rear curtain sync
12. Metz Mecablitz 64 AF-1
The Metz Mecablitz 64 AF-1 is a pro-level flash that comes with a large price tag. But it is well worth the price when you realize it works with famous brands such as Sony, Nikon, and Canon. We really enjoy its intuitive touch screen panel and the fact that it works as both the slave and the master in IR.
- GN 64m power rating ranging from 24-200mm
- 14mm diffuser
- 180/180 swivel and a 9 to 90 vertical swing
- Fill flash available for bouncing off different directions
We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to choose the best camera flash for your DSLR. We know you have many options when it comes to buying, so we hope this article helped you fine-tune an answer to which flash you should invest in. At the end of the day, it all depends on your preferences and needs. But with so many flashes available, you are sure to find the right pick for yourself.