Product Review: Metz 50 AF-1 Digital Flash Unit

Image of Metz 50 AF-1 Digital Flash Unit by Metz

When you’re creating your wish list for your photography toolkit, a Metz external hot-shoe mounted flash unit will give you more control over the lighting of your subjects and improve the flash quality and impact of your images.

For the first time digital flash user, the process can be both simple and complex. Work through the features a step at a time.

Keep two things in mind. First, the brightness of the flash remains constant.

Second, the correct exposure is determined by the duration of the flash (the brighter the subject conditions, the faster the duration).

Enjoy the learning process, practice making images with a variety of settings, and you’ll find that you’ll be amazed with the results.

The Advantages of Using a Quality External Flash Unit

1. Not only reduces red-eye in portraits by adding “space” between the lens and flash unit, but feathers and balances the light from the strobe.

2. Adds to the ambient light by bouncing a touch of flash lighting off reflective surfaces, such as the ceiling and walls, by angling the flash unit at varying degrees upwards or by swiveling the flash unit left and right.

This gives you much more flexibility and control over the direction of the flash light. It also will produce a softer, more diffused light, and reduce hard shadows.

(Note: pay attention to the color of these reflective surfaces, as their reflected color will affect the color of the image.)

3. Has the power to illuminate a large area (useful with a wide angle lens) 0ver a greater distance (built-in camera flash only has a useful range of 10-15 feet).

4. Better control over fill flash. For instance: remove harsh shadows cast on your subject on bright days, or eliminate the silhouette effect by lighting your foreground subject when the background is bright.

5. Flash Synchronization: It means synchronizing the firing of the flash with the opening of the shutter. High Speed Synchronization (HSS) lets you use a flash unit with shutter speeds that are faster than the normal flash sync speed.

Normally, a camera syncs at 1/60, but with HSS you can use 1/250th or 1/500th in daylight. This function lets you open your aperture to a wider setting, creating a blurred bokeh background for portraiture.

6. With a tripod, use a slower shutter speed and “drag” your shutter: light not only the foreground subject, but low-lit background areas.

7. Have a flash soft box, diffuser, or reflector panel to help soften and direct the quality of light being reflected or cast on the subject.

8. Control with “slave flash” function. This remote flash unit function can fire the external flash whenever another flash goes off, such as your built-in flash or other flash units set in various locations.

9. Modeling light function: lets you access the distribution of light and shadow formations before making an image.

Finding an external flash with Through The Lens (TTL) capability should be your first functionality choice. That means the flash is communicating with your camera and it will be triggered when you press the shutter button. Just be sure to check with the manufacturer that your camera and flash unit are compatible. (For instance P-TTL: compatible with a Pentax camera.)

Try to determine how much power you will need from the flash. The more you make images in low-light situations or want to utilize bouncing and diffusing options, the more power you will need to transfer correct light onto the subject.

If you are unsure, I would suggest you get one with more power than what you think you’ll need – you can always decrease the amount of light it puts out, but you can’t go beyond the flashes output capabilities. This is an investment, so purchase a unit that can meet future needs.

The Review: Metz 50 AF-1 Digital Flash Unit (P-TTL)

The Metz 50 AF-1 has all of the capabilities mentioned above and more. It has customized, remote TTL modes (slave modes) for Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, Pentax, or Sony Alpha. It also includes servo flash mode for Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic. You’re going to get precision light output with each individual subject.

The sleek housing is mounted on your camera’s hot shoe via a metal, quick lock base, so it slides in easily and once the nut is fully turned it’s secure in its position. Slide the switch “On” and the green ready light will let you know the flash capacitor is charged. You can start using the flash immediately. After you click the shutter release, it will let you know if your exposure was correct with its 5 second red indicator light. When you adjust the setting, the LCD screen illuminates (Glitch – better have excellent vision to see some of these tiny icons and numbers!). If the flash sits idle for more than 10 minutes, the unit will automatically turn off, saving your battery power.

With both vertical (-7/+90°) and horizontal (300°) swivel reflector, which also includes a wide-angle diffuser and a reflector card, you’ll have limitless possibilities for directing, reflecting, diffusing or softening the light on your subject.

The flash output performance has increased over its predecessor and that means high performance. The guide number is now 50/ for ISO 100/21° and 105 mm focal length.

There are numerous additional configurations, so your creative possibilities just keep going on and on: Motor zoom for 24 – 105 mm illumination, auto focus spot beam, modeling light (permanent light for checking the photo), integrated autofocus measuring flash, flash range indicator in the LCD display, manual flash mode with 8 partial lighting levels, HSS – high speed synchronization, 1st and 2nd shutter curtain and slow synchronization (e.g., shutter speeds up to 30 sec.), manual flash exposure correction for TTL or automatic flash mode, automatic fill-in flash and flash bracketing.

© 2012 Marla Meier. All rights reserved.

More Tech Info:

High flash number [e.g. 330 full flashes with NiMH rechargeable batteries (2100 mAh)]
Flash delay 0.1 – 3.5 seconds (depending on energy source and flash output)
The power supply is 4 x AA alkaline-magnesium or lithium batteries or 4 x AA NC or NiMH rechargeable batteries.

Here’s a very nice feature: it comes equipped for the future with a USB interface for online firmware updates.

Cautionary Note: Do be careful. “Never fire a flash in the immediate vicinity of the eyes! A flash fired into the eyes of a person or animal at close range may damage the retina and lead to severe visual disorders, including blindness.”

Metz is a company that has a reputation for high quality products and lasting performance. When you visit their website’s About Us page, they say it all: “Decades of development experience and production in Germany ensure the high technical standard of Metz devices.”

External flash units can be complex for a first-time user, but if you are dedicated to creating great images and keep at it, you will be glad you made the investment.

For added flexibility and creativity (especially if there is nothing from which to bounce the light), a hot shoe extension cord would be a benefit, so you can hold the flash off-camera and direct the flash from different angles and various locations.

I would most definitely add the Metz flash unit to your photography toolkit wish list for the Holiday Season. It’s a sturdy, compact and high performing flash.

Visit the Metz website for more information.

by Marla Meier, APM Editor
Review: © 2012 Marla Meier. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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