Getting a Flash that Won't Dwarf my Electro 35?
July 6, 2010 9:20 AM   Subscribe

What became of tiny, cute camera flashes? I don't want a speedlight on my Trip 35!

So, photos of cameras past haunt me - the flashes are really small, smaller than the camera. Obviously not do-everything sync-anything flashes, but these cameras aren't that kind either. I want one of these!

Why have flashes gotten a lot larger? Obviously, there's the issue of the flash being ideally farther away from the lens. And flashes that can bounce. But aren't there people who just want a flash on a small camera that doesn't have one, just like the good old days?
posted by tmcw to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
But aren't there people who just want a flash on a small camera that doesn't have one, just like the good old days?

Almost all small cameras have small flashes built-in. Very few small-camera users want another object (a flash) to carry around; those who don't mind, tend to be using slightly larger cameras - SLR-scale - who do have smallish options available, like this Canon flash. But the idea of "small add-on flash for small camera that doesn't have one built-in but does have a hotshoe to add a flash" is a bit of a niche.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:32 AM on July 6, 2010

Funny you should link to that Olympus. Their newfangled mini 4/3rds cameras are full-on cute, complete with optional cute flash.

(I think the reason cute flashes have died off is that most consumer-grade cameras now have built-in flashes; people who need a separate flash would want something professionalish.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:34 AM on July 6, 2010

Well, the first one you linked to used one-shot flashbulbs, and they packed a heckuva wallop in a tiny space - but were stupidly expensive to use. The mecablitz 20 C-2 is pretty small.
posted by scruss at 9:38 AM on July 6, 2010

Sys Rq has a point - look at that adorable little thing! - but really, most users are either A) satisfied with their tiny in-camera flash or B) looking to do serious lighting and therefore need flexibility and power. Plus, big SLR flashes need lots of power - which means space for batteries. If you take a look at an SLR flash, the hinge to position the light and the battery compartment are actually a huge proportion of the total size, and that's not really stuff that can be made small and cute.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:42 AM on July 6, 2010

There is always this one; there are a few others at B&H as well. Or you may look at used flashes like these. One other consideration is that most newer flashes are designed to work with the TTL metering systems of different manufacterers. You can probably use them in manual mode but you would still be paying for something you don't need.
posted by TedW at 10:34 AM on July 6, 2010

One reason is that people have discovered that small flash units mounted close to the lens give a really horrible light.

A better alternative is to use a really fast modern film that will take pics indoors without flash.
If your old camera only goes to 400 ASA you may be able to compensate by +1 stop and still use 800 ASA film.
posted by Lanark at 2:12 PM on July 6, 2010

You might be better off buying a completely new camera. It will be smaller, more convenient and you might not end up paying much more than the worth of a separate flash.

There's a decent selection of second hand compact film cameras with a built in flash. The Olympus XA series, Olympus Stylus Epic series, Yashica T4, Nikon L35 AF, Canon AF 35 are all rangefinder style cameras with a sharp 35mm f2.8 lens or something similar. The level of automation ranges from manually focused and semi-automatically exposed (the first XA) to fire-and-forget (Yashica T4).

I think they're pretty good value right now ($50-150 USD), considering these cameras were once marketed as premium compacts . If you don't mind paying a lot more you might also be interested in the Nikon 35Ti, Contax T3 or Ricoh GR film series.
posted by quosimosaur at 8:50 PM on July 6, 2010

I have a flash that's very similar to the Olympus one you linked to (but made by Minolta). It's bloody awful -- dim, doesn't fire reliably, inconsistent light and temperature, eats batteries, etc... Basically, it's almost as bad as the flashes you find bundled with cheap point & shoot cameras today. The lack of TTL metering also meant that I never got a single good photo out of it. After 2 or 3 rolls of attempts, I finally gave up.

I also have something like this, which is awesome for its bling/tinyness value, but also decidedly-not-awesome for its use of one-shot flashbulbs.

The Lomography folks used to sell some cute flashes, although I suspect they're all expensive, non-standard, and crap (and, at the moment, out of stock).

It would be nice if there was some middle ground for us DSLR users who occasionally need a small flash, but refuse to use the POS built into the camera. Modern flashes do seem to be "overthought"
posted by schmod at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2010

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