5 Must-Have Flash Units

Illuminate your photos with these cool flash accessories.



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 4x5 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)