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1. Sigma EF-500 DG Super
Sigma’s top-of-the-line, TTL-dedicated flash boasts almost all the features and power of a typical flagship unit, but sells for much less ($229, street). It also has some rarer features, such as a dual-mode optical slave. In the digitally encoded “Designated Slave” mode, it fires only when the triggering flash is another EF-500 DG Super — good for arena sports, where you don’t want other lights triggering your flash. (www.sigmaphoto.com)

2. Sunpak FP38 Flat Light Panel
Want flattering, softbox-style light without the hassles of an actual softbox? Try Sunpak’s super slim FP38 Flat Light Panel ($75, street). Less than an inch deep and under 10 ounces in weight, its light source is almost 4×5 inches, large enough to produce softer illumination for jewelry, insects, flowers, and other small subjects. It mounts onto a hot-shoe or flash bracket, and pivots for horizontal or vertical use. It offers a built-in optical slave, too. (www.tocad.com)

3. Metz 28 CS-2 Digital
If your digital compact needs more flash power, Metz’s 5-ounce Mecablitz 28-CS-2 slave flash ($130, street) will probably go farther (to 72 feet at 35mm) and wider (covering up to a 24mm lens). It’s fired by your compact’s built-in flash, and you can train it to recognize (and ignore) exposure-setting preflashes. Its output can be auto or manually controlled from full to 1/4 power. (www.metz.de/en)

4. Digi-Slave LED Ring Lights
Perfect for small products and nature close-ups, SR Electronics’ continuous-output, lensmounted LED ring lights come in three sizes. The smaller Digi-Slaves (from $120, street) throw a continuous but variable output. The largest unit (the L-Ring 3200; $290, direct only), with 32 oversized, daylight-balanced LEDs, can be fired like a flash, via a PC or hot-shoe connection, or operated as a continuous light source. You can also turn off the LEDs on one side for strong side-, top-, or bottom-lighting effects. (www.srelectronics.com)

5. Quantum T-5D
Nothing says pro quite like a bracket-mounted Quantum Qflash. The latest, the T-5D ($622, street), is the biggest, brightest portable flash on the planet, with output reaching 150 watt-seconds. It can be fired remotely with TTL control from a number of SLR platforms. Its parabolic reflector and diffuser package is the largest (and thus softest) of any high-power, bracket-mount flash, and, since the reflector is removable, it’s also capable of bare-bulb lighting. Exposure controls include exposure compensation and readouts that show (in f-stops) how over- or underexposed a pop is. (www.qtm.com)