16 August 2009

Metz flash experiements

My Pentax AF 540-FGZ may have been broken for some time without my noticing. I realise that now, after a few sessions with my new Metz flash. In a previous post I mentioned how easily flash photography leaves me confused, but maybe it hasn't been all my fault after all.

In a friend's wedding a week ago, the exposures made with the Metz were far less confusing than my previous flash sessions. And so are the results for macro, it seems.

However a reliable flash is not the only factor adding improvement. Combined with a A* 200/4 macro, the K20D tended to underexpose by 1 or 2 stops. The K-7 is much closer to the mark.

So again, as it always ends up, the weakest link my technique. I really don't like the specular highlights in the fly's carpace below. And my skill at approaching the subject is still weak; not to mention that I still jump with suprise every time that snap-in focus triggers the camera. :-)

07 August 2009


Today I am particularly proud of my family. Yesterday we hiked to the summit of Norway's highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen, 2469 meters above sea level. Not a terribly big feat in itself, but considering who's involved, the achievement is quite monumental. I see no reason not to brag for people I love. :-)

The summit is the rightmost peak in the background. Over the last two decades, it has changed from a remote and majestic peak to something reachable by any old flatlander on a one-day hike. Under surveillance of a guide, that is, because the shorter route goes across a glacier with many nasty crevices.

The glacier covers roughly one third of the distance to the peak, and we crossed it single-file, tied together with ropes. I hope the images below convey some of the mood from the glacier, with multiple teams crossing simultaneously.

At the summit it was rather crowded, but I got a clean shot of the guy below. A posture that was far from unique up there, but interesting nonetheless.

All pics with Pentax K-7 and FA 43mm f/1.9 ltd. Post-processing done on a laptop with screen of dubious quality.

01 August 2009

Sigma flash woes

Since my Pentax AF 540-FGZ flash began acting up a couple of weeks ago, I've been considering other flashes to replace it. Both Sigma and Metz have alternatives sporting the same functionality and output power. Today I gave in to the shopping lust and grabbed a Sigma EF-530 DG Super, which was a good 500 NOK (90 USD, 50 Euro/GBP) cheaper than the Metz.

Well at home, I subjected the flash to some tests. Exposure looked nice on both K20D and K-7 and P-TTL seemed to work as it should. But alas.

As you know P-TTL actually requires two blinks for each press of the shutter button. One blink to meter, one to expose the shot. So the flash needs to be sufficiently charged for two blinks before communicating "ready" to the camera. The Sigma reports "ready" when charge is sufficient for one blink. Which means that the camera can be fooled into metering for flash, but receive no output from the flash when the actual exposure takes place.

I discovered this by taking a series of shots with the K-20D. The first two shots were correctly exposed, but then followed three or four completely dark frames, and at last one correctly exposed frame with ambient light only. I waited 30 seconds to let the flash recharge, and repeated the series while watching with the camera away from my face. First there came two exposures with double-blinks. Then came three exposures with one blink, and at last a long exposure without flash. The three single-blink exposures turned out black.

So back at the store, I did a test series right there for demonstration. The salesperson sighed. "Worst thing is," he said, "I don't think your flash is faulty. We've seen this on Sigma flashes in combination with Canon as well".

I was offered to return the flash without any cost, but chose to trade it for a Metz 58 AF; spending the additional 500 NOK. Naturally, I asked to test the Metz before committing the money, and this flash behaved as expected. All P-TTL flash exposures correct.

Lesson learned.

Oh, and the Metz is still a good 1000 NOK cheaper than the original Pentax AF 540-FGZ, in case you wondered... :-)