Let’s take a minute to talk about flashes. And not just any flash, let’s get straight to the good stuff. Today, I’m going to introduce you to the best flash gun for your Nikon or Canon cameras.
First, A Bit Of Advice About Flash Guns
An external flash is often the first lighting accessory many people invest in.
It’s cheap, it’s easy to set up, and simple to use.
Not to mention, they’re useful in a wide variety of photography situations.
However, buying a flash is an intimidating task to the unfamiliar!
Many people are undecided as to whether they should go for one made by the same equipment manufacturer as their camera, or buy a third party compatible unit.
Are you unsure whether the power of the third party unit will be comparable to an OEM unit? You’re not alone!
Well, today, we’re getting to the bottom of it!
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Best Flash Gun For Canon
- Profoto A1 AirTTL-C studio Light
- Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT
- Hähnel Modus 600RT
- Metz Mecablitz 64 AF-1 digital flash
Profoto dubs this as the world’s smallest studio light.
But what we really like about about the Profoto A1 AirTTL-C is that it’s extremely powerful and extremely well built.
Of course, the design also caught our attention. Unlike the traditional rectangular shape, the flash head is round. 😎
The design is useful because it produces more wrap-around, resulting in better light quality. This, of course, is better for portrait shots.
That said, you could use a normal rectangular flash head with a proper diffuser and get the same look.
You get a physical flash head zoom ring (albeit made of plastic) and modeling light. You also get a set of buttons and dials at the back of the light for controlling it manually.
Where The Profoto Beats Most Third-party And Some OEM Units…
The real power of the unit is when you’re shooting fast, continuous shots. The flash recycles very quickly. So much so that you hardly miss a shot.
That said, when you fire the Profoto A1 AirTTL-C in continuous mode, it actually fires at a smaller power setting.
Is this is the best flash gun for Canon? No, but it’s close. It loses out to the one we discuss next.
This is the second version of the highly popular original Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT. The guide number and zoom capabilities remain the same.
The flash has a decent build quality with some amount of weather resistance built into it. That said, this is not a completely weatherproof construction.
One thing we really like about the Speedlite 600EX-RT is that the flash head is secure. It –doesn’t wobble like the Profoto A1 AirTTL-C when you mount a diffuser. There’s a reassuring feeling when you work with the 600EX-RT.
Where the 600EX II-RT loses out to the Profoto A1 AirTTL-C is the recycle time. This is despite the fact that the new version is 1.1 to 1.5 times faster than the original version.
It is still much slower than the Profoto. Keep that in mind if you forecast yourself shooting at rapid rates.
Although the flash can recycle up to 2 times quicker when you use the optional compact battery pack CP-E4N or a third party option.
Shopping For The Best Flash Gun For Canon On A Budget?
The 600EX II-RT is less than half the price of the Profoto A1 AirTTL-C.
You could buy two 600EX II-RT and still have some money to spare. For this, we feel the 600EX II-RT is the most value for money and the best flash gun you could buy for your Canon camera.
- Improved performance of continuous flash by approx. 1.1 to 1.5x for fast firing (up to 2.0x if used with optional Compact...
- Wireless flash shooting support is available for both radio and optical transmission, offering users greater functional range...
- Multiple flash system allows control of up to five groups of flashes;Approx. 100 to 700 flashes
- Power Source:Four AA size/LR6 alkaline or AA/HR6 Ni-MH batteries
At just about $250 the Hähnel Modus 600RT TTL is a bargain. I know a lot of photographers are wary about buying third-party flashguns. Build quality and customer service are two major reasons for that. And, for the most part, that’s totally justified.
However, the build quality of the Hähnel is better than some of the other third-party flashguns that are available.
That said there’s no weather sealing on this flash gun. It’s going to be best for indoor shooting situations or using it in locations you’re unlikely to encounter rain or other weather-related setbacks.
Hähnel is known for its fast recycling speed and the number of maximum flash cycles. It uses high power lithium-ion batteries instead of AA units. The flash is capable of producing around 600 flash cycles.
Another advantage of the Hähnel is it comes with a transceiver built-in. That means you can use the Modus 600RT as the primary flashgun mounted on your camera to control a series of slave units.
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Similarly, you can also control a series of Modus 600RT’s in a channel with a transceiver unit mounted on your camera.
Undoubtedly, this is the best flash gun for your Canon system if you are on a budget.
It’s rare to find a flash that has a full-color LCD touchscreen at the back of it. The Metz Mecablitz 64 AF-1 has just that.
This should interest the section of users who have now become attuned to touching an LCD screen instinctively.
Beyond that, the Mecablitz 64 AF-1 has one more advantages, that is, a sub-flash module.
The sub-flash module is designed to work as a fill light in specific situations, such as when the main flash head is raised or swiveled. The fill light is activated via the menu option and is a cool way to add some fill light when shooting portraits.
The Mecablitz 64 AF-1 also has a great Guide Number of 210’ at ISO 100.
Two Thumbs Up For Built-In Wireless Functionality!
Wireless master and slave functionality is also built into the system. You can use the unit with other slave units in a channel setup. Similarly, you can use this unit as a slave unit.
I would not rate the Mecablitz 64 AF-1 as the best flash gun on this list, even though it still deserves a place here.
It’s not the fastest when it comes to recycling speed. It’s also not the fastest when it comes to the number of flash cycles per full charge. And, finally, the price is on the higher side.
Those things aside, the Mecablitz 64 AF-1 certainly brings something new to the table.
- Secondary reflector with 3 light output ratios ^Easy operating concept ^Illuminable dot-matrix display ^Motor zoom for 24 -...
Best Flash Gun for Nikon Cameras
The Nikon SB-5000 AF is the best flashgun for Nikon’s i-TTL system. It’s extremely powerful and has a fast recycle time of 1.8–2.6 seconds.
Plus, it has a built-in cooling system for continuous shooting for up to 100 shots. This is the current flagship and the best flash gun you could buy for your Nikon system.
The system comes with a radio transceiver built-in, which it facilitates the flash gun to be fired remotely.
This is the first Nikon flash gun to have this functionality. 💪
When the flash is used as the master unit, it’s capable of controlling a series of other flash units. Actually up to eighteen of them in total, in six groups.
The guide number of the flash is not exactly the best we have seen, only 113’ at ISO 100.
- Radio Control Advanced Wireless Lighting
- Cooling System for 100 Consecutive Shots
- Compatible with Nikon i-TTL
- Guide Number: 113' at ISO 100 and 35mm
- Zoom Range: 24-200mm (14mm with Panel)
Needless to say, this one is designed specifically for the Nikon i-TTL system.
- Limited 2-Year Warranty
- A1 AirTTL-N Studio Light - Li-Ion Battery for A1 - Battery Charger for A1 - Bounce Card - Dome Diffuser - Wide Lens - A1 Bag...
This third-party flashgun is an economical option. You could buy two of these for the price of one Nikon SB-5000 AF.
The flashgun includes a wireless receiver. This allows the flash gun to be used as a slave with other units, as well as the triggering it optically using the camera’s built-in flash.
Another interesting feature of the Nissin Di700A is a quick power lock option.
Pressing this will lock all the settings of the flashgun. It prevents any accidental change of settings while the flashgun is in use. Plus, it prevents any accidental change of settings when the flashgun is inside a bag being transported.
The system supports 3 groups of flash units on 8 different channels.
The thing that we don’t like is the overheated circuit that shuts down for about 15 minutes after about 20-25 shots. This means this flash is only going to be ideal for light work and not for heavy continuous work.
- Stylish design with enhanced user experience
- Focal Length range coverage of 24-200mm
- Professional flash head design
The SB-700 AF is a mid-range flash gun from Nikon.
It’s a reasonably well-built unit with all the bells and whistles.
A recycle time of 2.5–3.5 seconds ensure reasonable performance. But it is not ideal for fast continuous shooting. Still, it’s faster than the SB-600 which it replaces.
The SB-700 has both wireless master and slave functionalities. It can support up to 2 wireless groups across 4 channels.
The system has a thermal cut off system which will switch off the flash when it detects it has overheated. 🔥🚫
That said there’s a thermometer icon on the flash that will let you know in advance when you’re reaching that red line. You can stop shooting for a few minutes to cool the flash down.
Where The SB-700 Let’s Us Down…
Despite the better functionality, the SB-700 AF does have its own disadvantages.
A reason why it lost out to the SB-5000 AF as the best flashgun for Nikon i-TTL system is that the LCD display is not exactly the best. Plus, it won’t work with a lot of the older version camera systems.
That said, this is a great little package. It has a price tag of around $150 less than the SB-5000 AF. Plus, it packs in a lot of features. If you are using one of the newer Nikon DSLRs, then this is the best flash gun on a budget for your camera.
- Portable, Versatile Speedlight Unit
- Nikon's Precision i-TTL Flash Control
- Complete Flash Head Positioning Freedom
- Hot Shoe and Wireless Operation
- Wireless Flash Control
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The Best Flash Gun Depends On You
Budget vs quality? Third-party vs. OEM? There’s a lot that goes into deciding on the best flash gun. And, it’s up to you decide which is perfect for you.
However, every option we listed today holds its own in the world of flash gun photography. Truth be told, they’re all pretty decent speedlights! Let us know which one you decided to shoot with in the comments below!
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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