Tips for buying your first Pentax flash
Last updated on March 20, 2022
To Pentax user wishing to buy a flash to use on the hot shoe, in this brief article I provide you some information that will help in choosing a genuine product or one of another brand.
First of all, I recommend AF540FGZ II rather than AF360FGZ II because a guide number 36 is really insufficient for the bounce flash technique without increasing sensitivity over 400 ISO and for using a diffuser, which reduces the light reaching the subject. I highlight that the guide number stated by the manufacturers (not only Pentax) is a mere marketing choice, which is not reflected neither in the measurements with an electronic light meter, nor in empirical tests with the middle grey card. On AF540FGZ II at zoom 85mm I verified a real guide number 34 (-1 ⅓ EV) by means of my light meter Sekonic L-308X.
The flash AF540FGZ II is provided with a fabric case without belt loop or shouder strap attachments, so I suggest that the Tamrac T0340 pocket is perfect for housing the flash unit along with Rogue gels and 4 spare batteries.
Choosing a genuine Pentax flash has the following advantages:
● protection from humidity and water drops (although, when will you ever need to use a flash in the rain?);
● control of the flash output (only in TTL mode) and LCD panel illumination directly from the camera body;
● a very useful front LED, that also helps in focusing;
● in low light conditions it makes short flashes to help autofocus.
The flaws are as follows:
● expensiveness (about 500 €);
● full-power recharge time at 7 seconds;
● in manual mode, the power levels are restricted to 1 EV steps;
● designed to be mounted only on the Pentax hot shoe, if used together with a radio trigger of other brands (whose metal brackets are a few tenths of a millimetre thicker) the locking lever mechanism might break after a few months of use because it’s entrusted to a very fragile plastic cog sliding in a groove. Replacing the shoe bracket assembly is an easy job, the problem is finding the spare part, no longer supplied by Ricoh.
The alternative I propose to the genuine flashes is the Cactus system mounted on an L-shape bracket, for a total price reduced to about half:
● wireless flash RF60X;
● transceiver V6 II;
● L-shape bracket.
The flash system, after the proper update from the Cactus website, works both in manual mode and in TTL. If mounted directly on the hot shoe, the RF60X might work only in manual mode. The transceiver RF60X controls the flash via radio at a maximum effective distance of 100 metres, and I also successfully tested it across two hollow brick walls. The RF60X has a full-power recharge time at 1,9 seconds. The transceiver V6 II controls up to four groups to be set with different power.
The L-bracket that I have suggested is a passable product not different from what you can buy in any photography store, I personally use a Neewer bracket modified by myself with addition of three Smallrig adapters with anti-off button.