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Owning a cheap Canon 20D, I now want to buy an entry level speedlight/external flash but I'm confused with

  • should i go for used or new the one while considering my low budget(150$ max).
  • What things i should take into considerations
  • Also is it good to spend money on "Aurora Mini/Max 6 x 8" BHB Soft Box"
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3  
What currency is that? –  Rowland Shaw Aug 23 '10 at 18:51
    
@Rowland: Good question, I assumed USD... Options get a little better if it's Pounds or Euros. –  John Cavan Aug 23 '10 at 18:56
    
in us dollars (150$) –  Ifi Aug 23 '10 at 18:56
    

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are not a lot of new options for flash that is sub-$150, though the Metz Mecablitz 20 C2 is one of them and Metz makes a good flash, though I haven't used this one personally.

In terms of flash shopping, considerations would include:

  1. Recycle time (how fast is the flash at being usable again once fired).

  2. Guide number (at full power, what's the range of the flash at ISO 100, the higher the better).

  3. Power supply (e.g. what type of batteries, most are AA).

  4. Ability to control the flash power. Sometimes you want to be able to dial down the power and decrease the duration of the light burst.

  5. TTL support for the camera.

  6. Wireless support and/or sync cable support.

  7. Trigger voltage. Some older flashes can have higher voltage and that could cause damage to your camera.

However, some of these considerations are less an issue for basic flash use for taking candid shots of friends and families at parties, etc. Also, given your budget, in some ways you're going to really just look at getting the best you can buy. I'm a fan of hitting Craigslist for stuff, but you may want to look at going new. You can, of course, get a more powerful used flash, but there are risks (see item 7 above) and it's really much better to go in and get some expert advice at the counter if you're not sure.

I can't say on the Aurora soft box, I'm afraid.

Edit By the way, if you do go used, take a look at this page on voltage by flash as it applies to the EOS line.

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If that is sterling, the only Speedlite that would be in your price bracket (new) would be the Canon Speedlite 270EX, which retails at about £100 (a direct conversion would be about $150, but I suspect it may be cheaper in the US market). If I were in your situation, I'd probably consider saving for a more powerful model that has a few more features that come in handy, such as AF-assist.

Generally, you need to consider the Guide Number of a flash - as a general rule, the Canon Speedlites have model numbers that are ten times their (metric) guide number (so the 580 EX has a GN of 58, the 270 has 27).

Depending on what you want to use the flash for, you may want to consider recycle times (although this does vary on batteries in use)

Flashes often have over (optional) features such as an auto-focus assist beam, which can be handy in low light situations; or the ability to "zoom" to focus the light and use less power; both can also be useful.

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Would love to know why this was downvoted? –  Rowland Shaw Aug 24 '10 at 7:53
1  
I didn't downvote this, but I'd hate a flash that cannot be turned to the side. It takes away half of the fun. –  che Nov 29 '10 at 22:54

I have used both:

  • the Nissin Di466 (supports TTL - but I have only used it in manual)
  • the Vivitar 285 (only supports manual mode).

Both have given me very satisfactory results. I believe that both should be within your budget.

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Time for an updated entry, as the cheap flash landscape has changed considerably in the last five years.

As regards the small softbox, see: Are small on-flash softboxes useful, or a gimmick?

I'm also moving the budget to $200, since that's more where the "used OEM vs. 3rd-party TTL flash" tipping point seems to be. At $150, as Rowland mentioned, used OEM models are liable to be the less-powerful smaller models. At $150-$200, you can pick up a mid-range used OEM flash or a 3rd party TTL/HSS capable flashe, as well as rock-solid manual-flash alternatives you can find new from reputable sellers.

The first thing you want to consider is how you plan to use the flash, what features you want, and how much reliability means to you. With a flash, you can have two of any of the following three things: a low price, an extensive feature set, and rock-solid reliability. So, with a lower budget, your choices are an extensive feature set with ok-to-terrible reliability, or a simpler flash with fewer features that you can count on with a client breathing down your neck.

If you're not familiar with flash features, you may want to take a spin around these two Q&As: What features should one look for when selecting a flash? and What are the most important features to look for in a low budget hotshoe flash and why?

Most of the feature set boils down to whether or not you plan to use the flash on-camera or off-camera. On-camera usage typically entails chasing subjects around at an event. You are moving in and out of dynamic lighting conditions, and you may not have time to fiddle with and adjust your flash output power and your go-to technique for diffusion (unless you don't mind wearing an umbrella). In this case, TTL is probably a must. However, if you plan to use the flash in an off-camera studio-type of setup, then possibly you can give up TTL, HSS, and wireless commanding and go for a manual-only flash.

The lower-cost offerings with TTL/HSS, etc. would include flash units from Yongnuo, Pixel, and any number of no-name Chinese manufacturers who sell on eBay. Higher-cost TTL/HSS offerings would include Phottix, Godox, Metz, Nissin, and Sigma. Higher-cost, but rock-solid Manual only would include Godox and Lumopro. Models are constantly being introduced and retired, so mentioning a specific flash model would cause this post to go out of date as quickly as the 2010 answers here (e.g., a Vivitar 285 is no longer considered a good recommendation, since we know they're made by Sakar (i.e., the Strobist now calls it junk), don't swivel, are missing 1/8 power, and have a proprietary sync connector), and all these newer brands and models have arrived. The Flash Havoc and Lighting Rumors blogs are a good way to see what's out there in new stuff.

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