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Old August 27th, 2013, 07:16 PM   #1
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Best M43 camera for flash photography?

For my video work, I'm have 3 GH2s which, aside from a few well-known issues and one faulty LCD, I'm very happy with.

I've recently set up a small area of my studio for stills photography and I've got a nice but older set of studio strobes, basically hand-me-downs.

I was disappointed to discover that when a flash trigger (ANY flash trigger, not just ones with TTL contacts) is connected to the GH2, the maximum shutter speed is 1/160.

This results in overexposed images even at ISO160 at anything open than about F8, maybe a bit wider if the subject is further from the strobes. It prevents playing with shallower depth of field.

I understand the reason for this (1/160 is the maximum speed when the flash curtain is fully open, higher speeds expose the sensor as a slit, meaning the flash would only illuminate part of the exposed frame), although some users of other M43 cameras report being able to go to 1/320 without problems, but the GH2 design prevents you from trying even if you want to.

I could try an ND filter, but wouldn't this impact auto-focus? I could throw more modeling light at the problem in combination with an ND filter, but that might start blend with the flash and be visible in the final product. (Suggestions and anecdotes welcome!)

Given that I don't want to invest in new lenses for a completely different camera system, can anyone suggest a M43-mount camera with a high flash-compatible shutter speed? Even higher than 1/320? The camera need not have a video mode, as the GH2s are still handy for that. It could even be an older body ... obviously, in this studio scenario I don't need high-ISO, either.

Thanks again for any suggestions.
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Old August 28th, 2013, 12:12 AM   #2
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

You don't need a new camera you just need to turn down the power of your flash units. I can fire mine at 1/64 of full power. Alternatively use a large soft box with extra layers of diffuser. Finally take advantage if the old Inverse Square Law & move the strobes further away.
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Old August 28th, 2013, 07:41 AM   #3
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

Too much power can be a issue when using older, high power strobes. Modern strobes are generally less powerful because high ISO capability of modern cameras is so good. Newer strobes also tend to have a greater range of adjustability and a much shorter flash duration. If you are working within a confined space or doing product photography, it can be difficult to overcome the issues associated with the high power of the strobes.

If you are using a pack and head system, you may want to try using a dump head. This means attaching a second head to the pack that will cause a drop in power to your primary strobe and then place the dump head in a closet or somewhere it won't affect the image.

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Old August 28th, 2013, 09:04 AM   #4
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

These are Bogen monolights from the late 1960's or early 1970's. They have some adjustability but are nuclear bright.

"Free is a very good price", a local retailer used to say, but maybe not so in this case.

Yes, the inverse square law is your friend, but only to a point in this particular limited space.

It sounds like it may be wiser to invest in a set of basic flash units rather than a new camera body, from what has been said so far.

But just out of curiosity, does anyone know of M43 cameras for stills (no video mode required) with a flash shutter speed better than 1/320? If there's an inexpensive one on the used market it could still be cheaper than getting more flash heads, and it may have other uses.
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Old August 28th, 2013, 09:24 AM   #5
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

Bob,

1/320sec is a pretty high flash sync but, it is only one stop over your 1/160. Is one stop really going to be enough to get you where you want to be? I would recommend taking a look at the products offered by Paul C. Buff. I personally do not own any of their equipment but they have a very good reputation for performance for the dollar. The Einstein E640 monolights are used by a lot of professionals who need high performance on a budget.

Paul C. Buff, Inc.

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Old August 28th, 2013, 11:35 PM   #6
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

If the space is so small then two or three speedlites will give all the power required. Good manual units can be found very cheaply. There is loads of great info here Strobist: Lighting 101
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Old August 29th, 2013, 04:13 PM   #7
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

I've been wanting to ask this question for quite some time now, and this thread seems like the right place - what would be a good flash for the GH3? I'm assuming the Olympus FL-50R is a solid option, but it's so damn expensive! I'd appreciate any feedback, seriously considering getting into photography, it's a shame to ignore that awesome AF system :)
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Old September 3rd, 2013, 07:55 PM   #8
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

[quote=Bob Richardson;1810257]
These are Bogen monolights from the late 1960's or early 1970's. They have some adjustability but are nuclear bright./QUOTE]

I've had a lot of experience with these in my studio/film days. I had and used Bowens Monolights for a lot of location/prom/formal ball events shooting ASA/ISO 100 color neg films. One: You don't hardly ever want to be using those things direct. You are dealing with smallish reflectors which concentrate light and also tend to be a bit harsh. The easiest way to "tame" those things is to fire them into soft white umbrellas, 42" ones if you can get them. Or option two is to use as large a softbox as you can mount/rig on them and add additional layers of diffusion.

I still have a pair of Paul C. Buff's economy line monolights, Alien Bees AB800's, which I use with a pair of 42" silver umbrellas (only ones left over from my studio days). I can set the power level way down on these units.

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Originally Posted by Bob Richardson View Post
It sounds like it may be wiser to invest in a set of basic flash units rather than a new camera body, from what has been said so far.
If you do, then look into the Paul C. Buff "Alien Bees" line. Funky name but really decent affordable studio monolights. You'll find cheaper but those will be mostly "junk" level crap with little QC on the circuitry.

Also be very careful what you connect to your GH2 hotshoe. Many of the older stuff had "hot" trigger voltages which could "fry" modern camera circuits. Those old Bogens should probably be connected with a Wein "Safe Sync" that goes between the camera hot shoe and whatever contact converter you use. Trigger voltage allowed to pass the hotshoe contacts should be 5v. or less (Alien Bees are 5v.).

A trick I used to use on Canon's was to attach a "dedicated" flash to the hotshoe, set it for MANUAL, and set the output level down to 1/64th, then turn it up to fire at the cieling or at a wall if held vertical (portrait orientation). The very weak flash was enough to trigger slave circuits on the AB800's and that worked well for me.
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Old January 13th, 2014, 09:43 PM   #9
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

A faster shutter speed won't help with the problem you're having as that will only reduce the ambient light reaching the sensor, not the amount of flash. If you want shallower depth of field, you have to either reduce flash output, or use and ND filter.

Each full stop of aperture (going from f:8 to f:5.6) is equivalent to doubling the light from the flash, so to maintain your exposure, you need to cut the power reaching the subject in half. You can do this by reducing the flash output, if it goes lower, moving the strobe further from the subject, or with a filter. ND filters may impact your autofocus if they're dark enough. An alternative is to have something in front of the strobe to reduce the light reaching the subject. Maybe something like an ND gel, if such a thing exists. I even saw a recommendation of draping window screen (the metal kind, not plastic) in front of the strobe. Supposedly it will really reduce the amount of light, and you can use more than one layer.
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Old January 14th, 2014, 01:45 PM   #10
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

In flash photography shutter speed controls the ambient exposure and aperture controls the flash exposure.
In a studio environment you would typically pick a shutter speed just below the synch speed of your camera and leave it there. The creative choices beyond that are flash power and aperture. Start at 1/160 of sec for shutter, 5.6 f-stop and turn the power way down on the strobes. Take a shot and then adjust the flash power until you see a good exposure.
The camera format is has no bearing on the rules of flash photography.
Olympus makes the FL-600 that will work with the Panny cameras.
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Old January 15th, 2014, 10:08 AM   #11
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luc Spencer View Post
I've been wanting to ask this question for quite some time now, and this thread seems like the right place - what would be a good flash for the GH3? I'm assuming the Olympus FL-50R is a solid option, but it's so damn expensive! I'd appreciate any feedback, seriously considering getting into photography, it's a shame to ignore that awesome AF system :)
Hi Luc

I am using the Olympus FL-600R which works well with my GH3. Very powerful and also works wirelessly - plus it also has a LED light if you want to use it for video
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Old January 20th, 2014, 07:13 PM   #12
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

I just wanted to chime in again and thank everyone for the responses. The advise is correct regarding shutter speed, flash time and ambient light. I can only say in my defense that I didn't have my brain fully engaged at the start of this process, and that I'm coming from a video production background.

When doing portraiture, I'm often wanting a "wafer thin" depth of field, but without having to add an auto-focus-killing ND filter. But I'm getting reasonable results with the big monolights turned down to their lowest, which is still brighter than an entry-level Alien Bees unit at its highest setting (I tried a friend's). But there's no variability with the settings, and only so much space to move light stands. So over time, money permitting, I'll be retiring the big units and gradually acquiring small units.
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Old January 20th, 2014, 07:31 PM   #13
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

Hey Bob, it sounds like you are between a rock and a light place. There have been some very good points covered so far, including the Wein Safe Sync, ambient light etc. Without more space, I reckon you will have a hard time bending those strobes to your will.

If you can reduce the ISO setting on your camera that will help, but many cameras are not really designed for the low ISO end, so it may be as high as 200 for your lowest.

For portrait work, I would look at doing without auto focus, so you can make sure of exactly what is in wafer-thin focus in each shot.
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Old January 21st, 2014, 04:33 PM   #14
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Re: Best M43 camera for flash photography?

Just a thought. You can put ND on the flash to reduce the amount of light.
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