Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Metz 44 AF-1 for Olympus MFT Cameras

I am writing this because when I was looking for a flash for my Olympus E-PM1 there were not much information out there.  I based my purchase decision from a couple of user reviews on Amazon.  What I wanted was a low cost (but not low performance) external flash gun that is compatible with the Olympus remote flash control system with a head that can be bounced and swiveled.  My choices from Olympus are FL-300R (GN=20, £152), FL-50R (GN=50, £499) and FL-600R (GN=50, £299).  FL-300R is a nonstarter due to its low power and it inability to be bounced or swivel.  The other two are just too expensive.  That was when I started looking at third party flash guns and started looking at Metz and Nissin.  My choice went to Metz because I was able to find a lot more information for Metz and got one at a great price on Amazon for £99 delivered.  Other retailers sell it for £129 normally.

The flash gun is well built but you can see it is a budget model as there are no fancy stuff included.  Something I like to have is a flash stand so I can mount the flash gun on a tripod stand.  That is not a major issue as I have a few of them knocking around.  There are only 5 buttons on the back with no LCD display.  Here is a summary of the flash gun:

·         Max guide number = 44m
·         Swivel and bounce head
·         Built in white reflector
·         Auto zoom head for lens from 24-105mm
·         Built in diffusor for lens down to 12mm
·         Uses 4 AA batteries
·         Compatible with TTL flash mode
·         Compatible with Olympus RC mode
·         1st or 2nd curtain flash if your camera support it
·         Manual power @ 1/64, 1/8, 1/2 and 1/1
·         Recharge time at full power is 3-4s
·         USB socket for firmware update

Once switched on you have the option of using TTL, manual or slave mode.  For TTL all the controls are on the camera.  Features like flash compensation, red eye reduction, 1st /2nd curtain sync are all controlled via the flash control menu. The zoom head moves with the lens and works well.  One problem is sometimes you want to zoom the head to a position that is different to the lens setting.  This is not possible with this flash gun.  The “Flash” goes green once the flash gun is ready.  After firing, the “Flash” symbol also goes green to indicate a correct TTL exposure.

Pressing the “SL” button switch the flash to slave mode, the Olympus RC flash control.  For my E-PM1, I must mount the supplied flash on the camera and raise the flash for it to work.  Also, I had to enable RC flash mode on the set up menu.  Once enabled, I can control the flash to TTL, Super FP RC (high speed sync) and manual flash control.  First of all, Super FP RC Mode does not work with this flash gun.  For that you need to buy the Metz 50 AF-1 which I do not want to spend money on.  The reason is because I have two Canon EX flash guns for my Canon DSLR and I do not remember using FP Flash at all.  I worked around it by fit ND/polarising filter on the lens to reduce the light level so I can shoot at a lower shutter speed.

Enabling RC Mode

I can report the wireless remote feature works well indoor.  All the features work as far as I can see.  One thing I’ve noticed is when switched to RC manual power control, you can control the power in very small increment, much finer than the normal flash menu.  The only negative of this flash gun is that it can only be used in Group A in RC mode.  My E-PM1 can control three groups (A, B and C) independently.  This mean I can not use three 44 AF-1 to create complex lighting.  As a strobist I love the flexibility of using multiple flash guns and control them separately.  In future I will have to think about adding other flash guns if I want to explore Olympus RC flash further.

Setting flash compensation in RC TTL mode
In summary I am very happy with the Metz 44 AF-1 and it works well with my E-PM1 and is vastly more powerful than the supplied flash.  I would love to have an Olympus flash gun to compare with, but I’ve no access to one.  For the price, I can’t complain about the flash gun.  Two features I like to have is the ability to control the position of the zoom head and change the group for RC mode.  The flash is so much bigger than my camera, it can be a little unbalance, but that is not the fault of the flash itself.  For the money it is excellent value for money.  If you want Super FP mode, then go for Metz 50 AF-1 for a little more money.

Update: 23rd October 2012

I've used the flash now for about two weeks and actually used the wireless flash function for real, I've found the flash tended to under expose images.  I was using RC TTL mode and had to dial in +2/3 flash compensation to correct this error.  When the flash gun is mounted on the camera flash exposure works much better.  I'll try to borrow a Olympus flash gun and compare results if I can find one.

Update: 2rd November 2012

I've just tried to use the wireless flash outdoor and it was not very successful.  Even in the shade it was difficult to trigger the flash.  I had the receiver facing the camera but the success rate was very poor, maybe one in ten.  I don't know if an Olympus would be better.  Used indoor, it was 100% reliable.  In future, I will use radio trigger in manual mode if I am shooting outdoor.

Comparison with Olympus FL-50R

I have done a comparison between the Metz 44 AF-1 to the Olympus FL-50R.  Click on the link to read

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  1. I've just got a Metz 44AF-1 for my OM-D EM-5. Exploring what it can and can't do, I encountered issues with high-speed sync. However, it does appear that manual control at high speeds is possible when connected via my Canon-fit Calumet radio triggers. Have you tried that approach?

  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)