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I have been thinking of getting a flash to improve my low light photography (particularly indoors). However, there seem to be a number of different models available at similar price points (budget of INR 8,000-12,000 ~$150-250). What features and functionality should I look for to choose a suitable flash?

I'm using a Canon 550D with the 18-55mm IS & 55-250mm IS lenses. Metz seems to be one of the brands easily available in India (beside the OEM flashes). I'm considering the Metz 36 AF-5, 44 AF-1 and 50 AF-1, which seem to be considerably cheaper than their Canon counterparts.

Update: I got the Metz 44 AF-1, as it supports TTL (proper implementation & not reverse engineered, so should be more reliable than other brands) plus manual controls. It has a built in diffuser & reflector, and the head can be rotated & swivelled. It's cheaper than the Canon 430 Ex II as well.

I also got the On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography by Neil van Niekerk, after going through quite a few of his blog posts on flash photography. I found his articles to be a better starting point (particularly for on-camera flash) than the Strobist.

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As a practical point, note that there's a line drawn between the lower end Metz flashes (36 AF-5 and down) and the others. The lower models are made in China to Metz specification; the 44 AF-1 and up are made in Germany actually by Metz. –  mattdm Dec 5 '11 at 18:50
check info here photo.stackexchange.com/questions/17002/… –  rfusca Dec 5 '11 at 19:32
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Consider a flash with a head that you can twist around. This feature enables you to aim the flash at a nearby reflective surface (such as a wall) before firing. This technique is called 'bouncing' the flash off a surface. Doing this creates light that is generally more pleasing than if the flash is aimed straight at your subject.

More possibilities for aiming your flash (straight up/down, 360-degree swivel, etc) are available as you move up in price. More possibilities for movement = more options for using light creatively without buying additional pieces of gear to redirect light.

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+1 for the flash head that turns - a flash with out this feature is pointless. –  Graeme Hutchison Dec 7 '11 at 15:17
Accepted this, as I made the purchase based on these parameters. –  ab.aditya Jan 11 '12 at 16:56
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There is no better resource for flashes than Strobist. The article Two Things Your Flash Needs to Have should explain what you need. But simply put you need a flash that can be externally triggered and manually controlled.

The chinese made Yongnuo 460 is dirt cheap at about INR 2000 (USD 40) and does the job pretty well. The build quality is average, but manual controls and a built-in optical slave make it a steal.

Did I mention it has a built-in diffuser, bounce card and comes with a stand and soft pouch.

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I think Strobist is a great resource, but it is definitely slanted towards a very particular philosophy, which is what drives those two specific requirements. I don't think it's the only valid approach to flash, though, and other approaches have different "must have" requirements. –  mattdm Dec 5 '11 at 18:48
I realized that as soon as I finished writing this post, since the question didn't really seem to be about off camera flash. But even with those requirements kept aside, I believe that the the YN 460 is a heck of a deal for a beginner before getting a 'pro-level' and much more expensive speedlight. –  Abhimanyu Dec 5 '11 at 19:08
@mattdm is right here. Specifically for a beginner, TTL may be much more useful than a manually controllable flash, especially when you can control Flash Exposure Compensation from the camera menus, to offset the fact that you don't have manual control. In off-camera mode, using ND gels is an effective way to add "manual exposure control" to a non-manual flash. –  ysap Dec 5 '11 at 22:11
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