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I do interior photography occasionally. I'd like to replace my Canon M50 with the iPhone 13 Pro Max but I'm concerned about an external flash.

  • Is it possible to use an external flash with iPhone?
  • What's the best external flash dedicated?
  • I already own a great Canon Speedlite 430EX II. Can I use it with the iPhone?
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I do interior photography occasionally. I'd like to replace my Canon M50 with the iPhone 13 Pro Max but I'm concerned about an external flash.

You should be. The rolling electronic shutters in most phone cameras eliminates using flash at all, since it lowers the camera's flash sync speed down to roughly 1/30s or slower (on my iPhone8, it was 1/25s). It's why the "flash" on most phone cameras is really a continuous LED light, rather than a Xenon bulb strobe.

That LED 'flash' also cannot trip "dumb" optical slaves.

Is it possible to use an external flash with iPhone?

It is, but at this time, the only company that's cracked the problem of syncing an off-camera radio-triggered flash with an iPhone camera is Profoto. Which costs a kidney (e.g., the Profoto A10 speedlight is US$1100). But the Protofo Camera app for iOS and Android lets you use Profoto lights with your iPhone camera via their AirX technology at any shutter speed.

AFAIK, at the time of writing this (Sept. 2021), nobody else has managed to correctly sync a strobe with a smartphone camera.

There was the Godox A1 transmitter/flash which communicated with the phone via Bluetooth, but it stopped working after iOS 13 and the iPhone 11 came out, and has since been discontinued. It had a very narrow window of usage, anyway, because, unlike Profoto, they never found a way around the sync speed issue, and the Godox Photos app itself (which was what you had to use as your camera app) was badly designed and wonky. I detailed using one in this 2017 dpreview post.

What's the best external flash dedicated?

There is no such thing as a dedicated flash for iPhone, since the iPhone has no physical flash sync connectors on it. And all the "flash" units that can be connected via a lightning port are really continuous LED lights.

I already own a great Canon Speedlite 430EX II. Can I use it with the iPhone?

No. Profoto does not make add-on receivers for speedlights for the Air system. And the only wireless protocol the 430EX II "speaks" is the Canon "smart" optical one.

My advice would be to consider using continuous video (LED) lighting instead of strobes with your iPhone, or if flash photography is vital to what you need to accomplish, that you not move entirely to an iPhone, but also keep a camera with a flash hotshoe in the bag.

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  • I’m interested in Profoto A10 or B10 if they can fit this purpose. Do you think they can replace my Canon 430EX-III for my use cases? Is the Profoto A10 enough? Alternative, what continuous light do you suggest?
    – KaMZaTa
    Sep 23 at 11:13
  • 1
    @KaMZaTa, Shopping questions are forbidden on stackexchange as they're not a great fit in the goal of finding long-term permanent answers for a wide audience. I think you might have better luck asking on the dpreview forums, which is all about the shopping as they are owned by Amazon. :) As for an A10 being "enough" vs. a 430EX III-RT? It's overkill; more like an EL-1.
    – inkista
    Sep 23 at 21:54
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I do not know anything specific that directly connects to any phone.

Probably the most realistic solution is to use continuous light. There are many affordable solutions. Even a normal desktop lamp.


For a moment I was thinking that an external flash with an optical slave could work; after all, you can use it on a DSLR camera to some extent, even with a TTL flash with a dumb optical slave. You can add some cardboard to block the light from the DSLR flash from hitting your subject and only bounce it to the optical sensor if the flash is in range.

But a cellphone flash is soo close to the lens that you can not add that. Besides that, there is no guarantee that the optical slave would recognize the light as a triggering light.

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  • The LED "flash" on an iPhone will not trigger "dumb" optical slaves.
    – inkista
    Sep 22 at 19:18
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Look up Potech's TricCam. I use my speedlites with it on my iPhone 13. Sync speed is 1/60th. You have to use TricCam's app, which costs about $8.00. The device itself costs under $60.00. Once you can fire one speedlite, you can set the up others as optical slaves. The LED flash on the iPhone will trigger an optical slave, but it has to be placed about a half inch away from it to see it.

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