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Whether you need an inexpensive secondary flash to use as a slave or a single unit powerful enough to light a room, independent makers have you covered. Here are six great hot-shoe flashes—pick the one that suits your needs and budget best.
$****52 Sunpak FP-38: Providing unusually soft light in a shoe-mount unit, this panel is great for close-ups, especially when used on a stand. It’s lightweight and comes with a sync cord for off-camera shooting. The main drawback? It’s dim and is only useful for close subjects. No TTL either, but it will operate as a slave.
**$65 ****Phoenix SmartFlash 92C: **This inexpensive flash is compatible with Canon’s E-TTL II system, but not with any other camera brands. Still, it’s got an infrared focus-assist beam, a zoom/tilt/swivel head, and can do redeye reduction, rear-curtain and slow-shutter-speed syncing, too.
$90 Vivitar DF-283 Series 1: Want a flash you’ll have forever? This well-constructed Vivitar is built to last. It’s a good price for a TTL unit that is available for most camera systems, and it has an AF-assist beam, too. Beware, though: Recycle times can take up to 7 seconds, and external power isn’t an option.
$139 Nissin Di466: TTL-compatible for some camera systems, this surprisingly lightweight unit boasts flash exposure compensation, variable manual power, an AF-assist beam, fast recycle times with NiMH cells, and even has updateable firmware. Our only gripe? It can tilt, but won’t swivel.
$405 Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1: This serious flash is dedicated to current TTL systems, and has all the extras, including high-speed syncing, an auto-zoom head, wireless firing with built-in optical slave, and a stroboscopic flash. Missing? A terminal for an off-camera cord.
$878 Quantum Qflash Trio QF8: This powerful, pro-level flash has a built-in radio wireless firing system and super-fast recycle times. Add a full line of accessory reflectors and diffusers, too. For long nights of shooting, its separate battery packs will keep you popping. It is, of course, pricey and bulky.