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Dave601
11-28-2004, 06:05 PM
Alright so I have a Panasonic FZ20. I am thinking I need to buy a flash for it. I am using it to take pictures in a gym (basketball and volleyball games). With the flash that is built in to the camera the pictures are very dark. I can slow down the shutter speed but this makes the pictures very blurry. I can also touch the pictures up with photoshop but they are just barely usable for me.

First, will a flash even help me in this situation.

Second, what type of flash will I need (recommendations please).

And third, is using a seperate flash pretty easy. Pretty much you just put it on the camera and take pictures, right. And please try to put this in fairly basic terms because for the most part I am new to this. :)

Oh yeah...try to keep the prices under $200. Thanks.

freshlightphotographer
11-28-2004, 06:15 PM
Dave,

I just asked a similar question in a different thread ('Want to buy Panasonic FZ15/20 but....') in the 'Which Camera Should I Buy?' Topic.

All I can tell you is that the FZ20 does not support TTL (through-the-lens) flash systems. This means that you may have to make some manual adjustments to your flash settings when using an external flash. I have always found this to be difficult and don't fully understand it. I currently use a TTL flash on a Nikon film SLR with perfect results every time.

This is actually the one thing that is holding me back from going digital. I can't afford a digital SLR, so a 'prosumer' model like the FZ20 is my best bet. But I am nervous about this flash situation.

Are there any flash experts out there who can help?

Pete

leadeater
11-28-2004, 08:41 PM
Before there was TTL (through the lens) metering, there were flashes that measured their own light output, and cut themselves off when they sensed the correct amount of their own reflected light. All you had to do was set the correct aperture in the camera. I haven't used this type of flash for many years, but I would imagine that there are still flashes that work this way.

<<First, will a flash even help me in this situation.>>

Did you know that there is a limit as to how far any flash will work? Obviously you have been taking pics outside your flashes effective range. I've been in a few basketball gyms, and I can tell you that no flash will work from one end to the other, and certainly the in-camera flash will not work from the seats to the floor. There are however some pretty powerful flashes out there, and these type are mounted on a handle. The handle is mounted on a bracket that will attach to the camera's tripod mount. A regular hotshoe flash can be used and will extend your flash range quite a bit, but again it won't light up the whole place.

Do a search for Vivitar, Sunpak, Metz, and Sigma flashes. You should be able to get a quite powerful flash for under $200, but I don't know if there are any handle-mount flashes in that price range. If you want to start off with something fairly inexpensive, then look at the Vivitar DF200. I think you can find these on ebay too.

Phil

freshlightphotographer
11-28-2004, 09:59 PM
Phil,

If I go ahead and purchase a Panasonic FZ20 and sell my film SLR system, do you think I should keep my Nikon SB-50DX flash? It has served me well but would it be better to sell it and buy a cheaper non-TTL flash? I think I paid about $150 for it new, after rebate.

Pete

leadeater
11-28-2004, 10:15 PM
I've not used Nikon stuff, so the only thing I could say is get the FZ first, try the Nikon flash on it. If it doesn't work, then chuck it....

Phil

freshlightphotographer
11-28-2004, 10:38 PM
That sounds like a good plan, thanks.

Billiam
11-29-2004, 07:55 PM
First, will a flash even help me in this situation.


To answer that, you will have to decide just how far you want your flash to reach, and what ISO you are willing to use to get there (i.e. how much noise will you allow in your photos). Once you know those two things, you can calculate how powerful of a flash you will need. The power of a flash is rated by its guide number. Take a look at this site:

http://www.shortcourses.com/how/guidenumbers/guidenumbers.htm

The guide number (GN) = (f/stop) x distance, at ISO 100.

I have an old Vivitar 550FD for my Minolta X700 film SLR. It has a guide number of 80, so at f8 and ISO 100 it's good to 10 feet. At f4 it's good to 20 feet, at f2.8 it's good to 28 feet. At ISO 400, f2.8 it's good to 60 feet.

Fortunately, I don't have to remember any of that. I f a want to set the flash manually, there's a sliding scale on the back of the flash that lets me set the ISO, and shows me the range of f/stops and distances that apply. It also has 2 auto modes. In auto, it tells me what f/stop to set, and shows me the available distance range. The sensor in the flash reads the scene and cuts off the flash as needed. Not quite as accurate as TTL metering, which the X700 can't do, but it's worked well enough for my needs (like shooting pictures of homecoming floats setting up before a parade, at night, with no ambient light at all).

What you need to do is calculate the guide number you need based on the range and ISO you want to use, and shop for a flash that will deliver that guide number (or a bit more).




Second, what type of flash will I need (recommendations please).

I'm no expert on what's available, remember my flash is maybe 20 years old, and neither of my digital cams will support an external flash! FWIW, a look on Google tells me that the oft-recommended Sunpak 383 ($70 or so) has a guide number of 120, which should give you 42 feet at ISO 100 and f2.8 (wide open). Go to ISO 200, 59 feet; ISO 400, 80 feet. After a quick look throught he Adorama website, that looks like a power/$ bargain. The cheapest handle-mount was $169, and the guide number was only 150. Diminishing returns set in pretty quickly!


And third, is using a seperate flash pretty easy. Pretty much you just put it on the camera and take pictures, right. And please try to put this in fairly basic terms because for the most part I am new to this. :)


Using an external flash on an FZ20 would be just like using my Vivitar on my old Minolta - camera in manual mode, flash in auto, set the shutter to the proper synch speed (1/250 on the FZ?), set the apature as directed by the flash, and fire away.

John_Reed
11-29-2004, 08:25 PM
To answer that, you will have to decide just how far you want your flash to reach, and what ISO you are willing to use to get there (i.e. how much noise will you allow in your photos). Once you know those two things, you can calculate how powerful of a flash you will need. The power of a flash is rated by its guide number. ...of becoming a super annoyance and hindrance to the teams on the floor, if you DO get a flash capable of reaching the players on the floor? It seems to me you could get kicked out of your seat pretty quickly, or at least asked to cease and desist. If this is really important to you, you should seriously consider moving up to a dSLR with a long lens, capable of ISO 1600 shots, and thus not requiring any flash. You never see sports photogs using flash at basketball games, that I can remember. Think about a Canon 20D, or a Nikon D70, or even a dRebel.

Billiam
11-30-2004, 07:10 PM
Think about a Canon 20D, or a Nikon D70, or even a dRebel.

Can he do that for "under $200"?

Dave601
11-30-2004, 07:51 PM
Thanks for all your responses. I am going to take a good look at buying a flash. I like Billiam's way of determining the flash that I need.

John. I don't think that the flash will be an issue in the gym because it is so well lit (to the human eye, not to a camera). I have talked to players and coaches and they think it will not be problem. I think if I was in the absolute front row taking a lot of pictures it would be a problem, but I am a few rows up and only taking 5 or 6 pictures a game. With 11+ home games in the basketball season I do not need to take many pictures a game to get enought to fill 2 yearbook pages. If it is a problem (the flash) I will just go back to touching up the pictures with photoshop. It will all work out in the end. :D

Again, thanks a lot for the responses.