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503CW and D40 how limited is the D40


Active Member
Further to some previous thread discussion about the 503 and various TTL flash units, I have borrowed a mint D40 to trial on my 503CW and ran some test shots to judge its output.

I really liked the type of lighting thrown by the D40 in s&le images Marc Williams posted as ex&les a few months back.

Until now I have been using a Metz 45CL-4 (which I also use with other gear like my LF and XPanII, but have seen impressive 6x6 images taken with the D40 - all seem to be a by-product of the different shape and flash bulb output.

BUT, my test shooting indicates that this unit may have very limited output. I woner if someone can put me straight on this.

For ex&le, shooting direct without a diffuser and with the reflector set to N (normal) position I shot with my 80mm and 120mm lenses.

I shot indoors and outdoors (fill) with ISO 100 film. Indoors with light that would need an available light setting of about f2 1/30 sec, I shot 1/125 sec direct into an area of about 10ft wide x 15 ft deep and a 10 ft ceiling height with the walls and celing in white and subjects in brown/black. At f8 - no go; f5.6 ok. When I bounced off the ceiling - f5.6 no go, f4 ok.

Outdoors - with both 80mm and 120mm - available light requiring f5.6 at 1/125 sec - f8 no go. f5.6 was ok. The subjects were only 8 feet away!

Now this performance seems at least 1 stop if not 2 stops more limited than the Metz even with a Stofen diffuser (that costs about 1 stop) for even light spread accross the square frame!

Is there that much performance difference between the D40 and the Metz 45 (I don't know the D40's guide number)? By the way, yes the camera ISO setting was correct.

How would this be of any use at weddings, or do wedding shooters just accept they need ISO 400 or 800 film even with flash?

Is it possible that the batteries fitted are getting a bit low and are "distorting" the effective distance the D40 will cover?

Thanks for the help.
You are somewhat correct Simon. The Metz unit is more powerful than the D40. At ISO 100 the guide # for the D40 is 40m/132' with the 80mm lens and the flash reflector in the normal position for 46 degree coverage... 33m/110ft in the W/A position for 63 degree coverage (50mm lens?)

I don't know the full Metz spec's but I think it is a stop more powerful.

Yes, for most applications at weddings, I use ISO 400 rated at 320 in the church and at the reception ... switching backs for ISO 160 film rated at 100 outdoors in bright sun.

I use all the various light modifiers available for Quantum to increase the angle of coverage or for more telephoto throw. I have spare battery cartridges to keep the power fresh and high (I don't like battery packs all that much, mobility is more important for wedding work IMO). Simplicity, mobility and flash placement above the lens are what I opt for at weddings.

The light quality is derived from mounting the D40 directly on a meter prism and swapping modifiers along with lenses.
Many thanks Marc. I gather that you find more tired batteries also limits the D40's "energy"? Of course low batteries will cause very long recycle times, but do you find they hold back burst power much?

How many stops does fitting the Qunatum diffuser seem to cost you?

I really did get a positive impression of the type of light that the D40 produces from your s&les a while back, and feel Hasselblad is in the business of getting this sort of stuff right. But I was just a bit (if not a lot) surprised by the limitations.

I suppose that my Metz can be a back up (but just hate that hammer head design on a 6x6) when greater power is needed; but, like you, I much prefer having that D40 on the lens axis (I use a PM45 finder). The D40 had a nice surprise in its reasonable weight so felt good on top of the finder. Anyway, a used unit comes at a reasonable cost and today's ISO 400 films are great.

Many thanks again, you've been a great help.
The GN of the Metz 45 series is 45 meters (normal reflector, i.e. no wide angle attachment).

That makes it log(45/40) / log(sqr(2)) =0.33 stops more powerfull.
At f/8 the difference in range is 63 cm / 2 ft (5.625 m vs 5 m).
Thanks Qnu. That reminds me that I recall a while ago I commented to a memeber that the D40 only offers full TTL mode. Someone corrected me saying that the D40 also offers full manual mode - well the D40 I am trialling does not. I think that this is a major oversight by Hasselblad.

Anyway, I ran the same trial last night with my Metz - same light, same subjects etc and I must admit that both the Metz 45 and the D40 produced the same results, or in one instance the Metz was 1/2 a stop better, but could not repeat that.

Then I tried both with wide angle setting (Metz with the WA diffuser and the D40 reflector set to wide) and they both had the same limits.

So, like you said the D40 limits are as expected.

On an ISO 400 setting I got 1.5 stops more out of both rather than an expected 2 stops but that may be a result of the "makeshift" nature of my test!

Does anyone here use another bare bulb flash unit with SCA 390 TTL connector? I am aware of the Sunpak 120J but hear it is made from cheap plastics. Is a Quantum unit a better option?
Touche Art. It is a totally stupid limitation not worthy of such a fine company as Hasselblad.
I have never found the D40 limiting after 100+ weddings. The ISO control on the camera provides all the control I've ever needed. My film lab has told me that no one has as well exposed images as those I bring them. The D40 was designed for fast paced, very accurate flash work with V cameras featuring TTL ability. I've used Quantum & Sunpak bare-bulb flashes, but they are not as simple and accurate as the D40 IMO.

There are other choices for manual work both on camera and in studio... but for simple straight forward, highly accurate full or fill flash I'd pick the D40 over all others every time ... which is exactly what I do at every wedding.
So what happens if you do not use the 6-pin connector, hook the D40 up to any synch socket you like, using the PC-cord also supplied...?
Thanks Marc. I decided to get a nice used one for exactly that type of shooting (not weddings, but fast convenient stuff) and use my brain as well as the ISO dial to adjust for the degree of fill needed. Like you have said: "horses for courses".
Qnu, when I borrowed a D40 for a couple of weeks, it came with only one cord arrangement - for TTL connection only.

The cord is premanently fitted to the D40 with 2 permanent cords/lines comming from that.

One line has a pc end to fit to the lens for shutter synch. The second line has the 6 pin plug for fitting to the TTL socket on the side of a 503. So, I'm sure that both must be connected - giving simultaneous TTL exposure and flash synch activation.

While I did not test it, it seems to me that if you don't connect the pc plug, you will not activate the flash. If you don't hook up the 6 pin plug, you won't get exposure control.

Thus I think the pc end is not for any manual flash use, just part of the connections required for TTL flash.

Hence it is 100% a dedicated Hassy TTL unit.
"If you don't hook up the 6 pin plug, you won't get exposure control."

a.k.a. "manual mode".

Like you say, the PC-synch cord is for triggering the flash, the 6-pin thing for hooking up to the TTL-control sensor.
Yes, Qnu, while I am with you the D40 used that way is hardly an "effective" manual flash (relative to all other things manual
) - no light measurement or effective control. Just 100% light. At least on "true" manual flash units there is an ability to adjust the level of light output based on your calculation of distance / guidenumber / focal length used. Or am I missing something here?

"100% light", "no light measurement" is all there is to manual mode.
"True" or otherwise.

The flash 'gives it all', and you figure out what aperture to use, using guide number, distance setting and ISO rating.

Power reduction (is that what you mean?) is an extra, found on some, but by no means all 'good' flash units.
Hello to everyone!
and congratulations for the quality of the comments.

I am a newcomer from Paris France and just joined today.

I have recently purchased a (used) Flash D40 and as I have trouble making some sense out of it,I have read many of your comments and started to be a little more educated!
at least enough to go back to basics and try to put my hands (better yet, my eyes) on a pdf copy of the instruction manual.

Would anyone know where to find on the net a pdf file of the Hassy D40 Flash?
I would appreciate to read the manual on interior lighting and settings recommendations

Negiar, I though I have a PDF of the instructions (quite unnecessary really). But alas I do not.

But, I have had mine for 2 years and used it a lot - never needed instructions - plug it in, turn it on and just use your camera how you want to and the flash looks after itself. For more clever lighting, just use the ISO dial on the camera body to compensate up or down depending upon the effect you want (the instructions will not guide you on compensation effects).

Just remember that with any flash the shutter determines the ambient light allowed in and the aperture determines both DOF and amount of flash light used/pumped out. The same applies with the D40 TTL flash.

Just load some film; set the iso dial; set up the flash (check the reflector is positioned wide for lenses wider that 80mm; and shoot away and play with it - different reflector angles, different iso settings etc. AND make notes on every frame so when you get the prints back you can see what you have done.

It is the ONLY way to learn how to use ANY flash on ANY camera. The D40 is very good, just a bit low on power.

You are welcome to email me direct through this site anytime if you need more help.
Thank you, Simon, for taking the time to answer.

If I understand well what you are saying, I should, in a normal dark interior situation, set the aperture/speed as I would if I did not have the D40 and shoot, the D40 sending the correct amount of light? Is this right? Xavier
That's right.

You always do that, except when the flash is used to fill in shadows. You do not want to make those as bright as the rest, so you set a higher ISO on the camera to keep the shadows underexposed. How much higher the ISO should go, i.e. how much underexposure to keep depends on taste.

But keep an eye on the warning light in the finder and remember that light fall-off is rather fast with increasing distance. So make sure that the main subject isn't out of reach (divide 40 by the f-number you have your lens set to, and you will have the maximum range in meters), and try not to get things quite nearby and rather distant (though still within range) in one shot.
You are welcome Xavier. And the answer is yes just like QG said. Like I said in the earlier post the D40 is limited in its output - a great shame as it's otherwise a very nice unit.