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May 18, 2007 7:22 PM   Subscribe

New camera or new flash?

I have a Canon 400D. It's wonderful, and I'm very much in love with it. However, it's big. Even with pocket-rocket (50mm) on, it's still very obviously a big scary looking camera. Basically if I take it out (to a party, etc) I pretty much have to spend the whole night taking pictures, or otherwise lugging it around, plus because of its value to me I' wary about taking it to some places, for varied reasons.

It's not, in short, something I can just put in my pocket and forget about.

So for awhile now I've been mentally singing the praises of a tiny-little canon number, so thin I can literally always have it in my pocket (voila! No more 'I wish I had my camera' sort of regret). In specific I'm in love with the Ixus 75/ (Which may be the SD750 to you?)

But, recently, I've being shooting more in situations where the flash on my 400D doesn't cut it (night events, etc). Further, I'm getting paid in some of these situations to take pictures so quality and excellent results are obviously my goal. I wouldn't mind getting paid for taking pictures more in the future, and I'm thinking an external flash would defiantly come in handy.

So my question is that, do I get an ultra-portable camera that I can take everywhere, or do I an external flash that will give my existing camera more power, and give me more capabilities but also conversely make it even less portable?

(Related side-question: How groovy is the Speedlite 430EX? Would I be many magnitudes happier with the $200 more Speedlite 580EX II?)

Thanks for your hope.
posted by oxford blue to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The 400D is tiny compared to the cameras I lug around, so I think its a matter of perspective... But I do understand where you're coming from. Ultimately, I think you owe it to your paying clients to use the best tools available to you though... so stick with the dslr rather than going with a point and shoot. Also, consider the Sigma EF-500 DG Super flash as well - very affordable - I have 3 and all have served me well.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:40 PM on May 18, 2007

The flash on the pocket Canon's just doesn't cut it. Harsh. Some of the newer ones allow the flash to be scaled back, which helps somewhat.

If you are taking flash pictures for pay you need a real flash, and a diffuser to soften the harsh blow from that thing. Separate the flash from the camera as well to further improve the pictures, but just a big ass flash sticking well above the camera and then using a diffuser will get you most of the way there.
posted by caddis at 7:59 PM on May 18, 2007

The best thing I have for my 10D is the battery grip and hand strap - no neck strap or holding it loose for me. You'd probably want to skip the battery grip, but the hand strap lets you dangle it off your hand even without holding on to it - while still being ready to shoot at a second's notice.
posted by kcm at 8:01 PM on May 18, 2007

GET THE FLASH. You'll be amazed at the difference between pictures with it and pictures with your built-in flash; it's incredible. Especially when you bounce it with the catchlight screen up. You know how blurring the background with a fast aperture makes shots look "professional"? Well-used flash is exactly the same.

I know what you mean about parties, but the P&S is just going to frustrate you. The shutter lag will annoy you, the low-light performance is shit anyway and you'll either get blur or grainy pics. Forget the P&S, and get used to the canon's size. As SLRs go, it's really pretty tiny.
posted by bonaldi at 8:13 PM on May 18, 2007

(Also, with flashes get as much power as you can afford. Better to have it and not need it).
posted by bonaldi at 8:15 PM on May 18, 2007

If you're getting paid to take pictures, you need something more than a point-and-shoot, unless the people you're taking pictures for very clearly want the front-flash/morgue-photo look that cameras like that deliver. At the very least, I'd think you'd want your SLR and a flash unit that would let you use a diffuser, or bounce the flash off the ceiling indoors. Direct on-axis flash just isn't flattering and it screams amateur photography. (Although I'd grudgingly admit it's a necessary evil in some photojournalistic/documentary situations.)

I don't know a ton about Canon gear (I'm a Minolta guy myself) but I'd think you'd want something like the Speedlite 580EX II, or maybe one of the older versions of same if you can't swing that price. Basically something that does full auto TTL metering, has a zoom head, reasonably high power, and pan/tilt (you want both pan and tilt so that you can do bounce flash regardless of whether you're using the camera in landscape or portrait).

Anyway, but I'm not disagreeing with you about the niceties of a small camera for when you're not working professionally. I don't drag my big SLR system around with me to social events when I'm not there for the purpose of taking pictures; I have a couple of cheap compact digitals for me and the SO.

Admittedly, I'm an SLR snob, but I don't really think there's a whole lot of product differentiation in the compact cameras, particularly if you're mostly going to be using them indoors with flash for happy snaps. I think a 7.1MP subcompact camera is a bit ridiculous -- I suspect you're pushing the resolving power of the lens at that resolution, and the huge 3" screen on the back seems like it's asking for pocket damage. I'd save your money and get yourself something a little more inexpensive, maybe down in the 4 or 5MP range, perhaps with some more zoom, and that you won't be afraid to take with you everywhere, even if it might be the death of the camera. (This is, of course, assuming that the SD750 wouldn't be "shrug-offable" to you; if it is, then you've got no problems.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:22 PM on May 18, 2007

As with kcm, I think some of your problem is just being comfortable keeping your 400d with you. A low-profile, fast holster case will let you stash your camera out of sight and keep any flash units/diffusers out of the way when you don't need em. Crumpler was highly recommended in recent AskMeFi threads.

Having homeowners or renter's insurance on your camera will also let you relax a bit on being so protective of it.

A great quote I heard is "the best camera is the one you'll have with you." If you simply can't get over the extra effort of having a small dslr with you, by all means get the p&s. But if you're willing to make the effort to bring the bigger camera, the inconvienances only have room to get better as you get more experienced and comfortable keeping it with you.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:40 PM on May 18, 2007

I have a S400, which is a very pocketable older canon point and shoot. I love having a camera I can slip in my pocket, but I picked up 350d though because there were times I wanted better low light performance, the option shallower depth of field, and more focal length options. (the better image quality is nice too). At some point I'll upgrade the S400, most likely to a Fuji F40 because its larger sensor gives it much better low light performance than most pocketable cameras, though the 28mm-equivalent wide angle on the Canon SD800 is also tempting.

I have the 430EX flash. I'm pretty happy with it, but it would be nice to have more power. It's not strong enough to do bounce flash in a lot of public spaces with higher ceilings and bigger rooms and when I use it at home, it often has to do almost a full cycle between shots.

As for what you should do, I have no idea.
posted by Good Brain at 9:53 PM on May 18, 2007

I'll repeat what everyone else said: BUY THE FLASH!
posted by tastycracker at 11:32 PM on May 18, 2007

As a person who recently got an SB-600 flash, get the flash, man. Even it has enough oomph to make usable (but not very pretty) light halfway across the pond behind my apartment in the middle of the night at ISO 400.

While a diffuser might be nice, I get excellent indoor results by bouncing off of walls or the ceiling. The built-in flash on my D70s is absolutely no comparison. It's essentially useless, except for its ability to trigger Nikon Speedlights remotely. It looks like ass no matter what.

I've long had a small camera, although not one of the ultra-tiny ones (I did previously own a digital elph, though) and I didn't carry it substantially more than I do the dSLR.

Every day I find myself amazed at the quality improvement in even the simple snapshots I take thanks to the new flash. That alone made the switch to a dSLR worth it. Without it, it was only really useful outdoors during daylight or on a tripod.

Or, you could do both. Get one of Canon's cheaper IS Powershots and a flash. And pick up some Eneloops while you're at it. Do not, I repeat, do not buy a point and shoot without image stabilization. Since the flashes are nearly useless, IS is a godsend.
posted by wierdo at 1:37 AM on May 19, 2007

So my question is that, do I get an ultra-portable camera that I can take everywhere, or do I an external flash that will give my existing camera more power, and give me more capabilities but also conversely make it even less portable?

The only camera I could think of that would really satisfy this desire is probably out of your price range, so I would also opt for the flash. Yeah, it's yet another piece of gear to shlub around, but it will really open up a lot of options, compositionally. I thought I knew a lot about cameras before I went to work with a fashion photographer when I quickly learned I didn't know shit. Taking pictures with a flash is goddamned art in and of itself. Just be careful, it can get addictive because the brighter the lights, the more options you have.

(Related side-question: How groovy is the Speedlite 430EX? Would I be many magnitudes happier with the $200 more Speedlite 580EX II?)

Yeah, probably. More light = more options. Remember that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:25 AM on May 19, 2007

I own a 300D and love it in many situations. But when I spent a month on vacation, I took a Canon Powershot S410 and only regretted it a few times -- there were photos I wanted but couldint get, but they were nothing compared to the lighter backpack I carried every day.

With a compact or ultracompact, you are stuck with a mediocre zoom lens. There's bad shutter lag. You'll end up using the LCD screen all the time. The batteries don't last long. Less ISO range. More sensor noise. And the flash is even worse than the built-in flash on your DSLR.
posted by jepler at 5:57 AM on May 19, 2007

The new Nikon P5000 is a 10mp point and shoot with a hot shoe. Seems like best of both worlds.
posted by johngumbo at 5:38 PM on May 19, 2007

Spend an extra hundred or so and get the TTL cable for the flash as well. On camera flash does 2 things: it's more powerful than the on camera flash, and it will bounce off of the ceiling. With the cord, you can create a more direct, contrast-ey light than you can with the bounce. It opens up a million possibilities.
posted by thenormshow at 6:33 PM on May 19, 2007

Response by poster: I bought the flash today. It's awesome, and well worth the money. Thanks for the advice everyone.

I did however have a minor heart attack when I first started using it--the status screen would flicker, and the flash wouldn't fire. Suffice it to say, the recharagble batteries I bought didn't come charged.
posted by oxford blue at 3:55 AM on July 27, 2007

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