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Well, I don't know about the smallest... but here (http://www.leicagoodies.com/sfill.html) is a rather compact solution: The Leica SF 20 plus SFILL diffuser.
The most important thing is coverage - keep in mind that the 45mm in pano mode covers the equivalent of a 25mm lens on a 24x36. So you need a wide angle diffusor, anyway. Make sure, though, that if you use any flash with more than just the center contact for the hot shoe, you'll have to tape the remaining surface of the hot shoe in order to protect the flash circuit.
Thanks Lutz - I asked a similar question (best flash for the XPan) a few months ago at this forum, but never received a reply... Since I've never used flash before, I wonder if you might clarify "since you do not need the Leica TTL capability..." I believe the XPan does use a TTL exposure control system. Is your response refering to the ability of the Leica SF20 to "communicate" with the Leica camera body in order to automatically coordinate exposure? If so, then I gather that this "communication" would not take place with the XPan body - the user would instead have to adjust exposure manually? Also, when comparing flash units, how can a person best discern what the wide-angle coverage capability is between the different units. I would like to purchase a flash that provides the most wide-angle light possible (in order to best cover the panoramic format). It seems that the only wide-angle rating the flash manufacturers provide is a focal length equivelent, and I wonder if there is a more objective number to look for? Thanks again, and especially for the SFILL link - appears to be just the ticket for softening the flash output. Mark
>>Is your response refering to the ability of the Leica SF20 to "communicate" with the Leica camera body in order to automatically coordinate exposure?<<
>>the user would instead have to adjust exposure manually?<<
That depends on the flash type. The Leica SF20 and the Metz, for instance, have a built-in sensor for an optional automatic flash exposure. The difference between auto and TTL being, that the flash's sensor insn't reading the amount of light reflected from the film surface but from the object, so it still needs to be fead with the correct f/stop, manually. Besides auto flash mode there is of course the manual mode which requires stopping down the lens, manually, according to the object distance and the selected flash output power (if a selection is possible, depending on the flash type).
>>It seems that the only wide-angle rating the flash manufacturers provide is a focal length equivelent, and I wonder if there is a more objective number to look for?<<
Well, that's pretty much all you need. Multiply that value by 1.8 to get the Xpan focal length equivalent: if the flash is meant to cover a "28mm" equivalent in 24x36 it will cover a 28mm x 1.8 = 50.4mm Xpan equivalent. In short, the coverage wouldn't be sufficient for a 45mm Xpan lens unless it's sufficient for a 25mm standard format lens. Most flash units therefor require an additional diffuser like the SFILL.
Thanks Lutz - I'll give the Metz flash a try, and use the SFILL to help diff use the light across the panoramic format as much as possible. One final thought: In additon to landscapes, I also photograph architectural interiors. Do professional photographers use multiple flash units to cover interiors, and if so, could I try this technique with my XPan? Would it be possible to combine two Metz units on some sort of a bracket (angled outward to better cover the wide-format) on the Xpan? Thought I might experiment (by renting some equipment), but wonder about proper exposure when using multiple flash units, or if it's even practical to consider such a complicated set-up with the XPan? Maybe a good place for me to start is with a book or internet resource, to better understand using flash (and it's limitations, etc). Thanks again, Mark
>>Maybe a good place for me to start is with a book or internet resource, to better understand using flash (and it's limitations, etc).<<
Yep. But since you've got me engaged in this thread, I'll try a short answer... ;-)
First, I'm not a flash guru and I rather do without, since the flat lighting coming from the camera usually destroys what made me want to take the picture in the first place. But then there are situations where either I need to just fill in a little to lighten up shadows or where I want to freeze and capture a moment which would otherwise have been lost. The latter is almost exclusively restricted to people photography.
As for architectural photographs I strongly recommend the use of a tripod, instead. Period. Step down as much as you like or need, maintain the original atmosphere of lighting (which is a vital part of the architectural design) and forget about complicated flash set-ups which, BTW, the Xpan (being non-TTL, flashwise) isn't designed for.
Just a last short note: Don't try to widen the angle of coverage by having two units overlap. You won't be able to control the amount of intersection precisely enough, which will inevitably leed to overexpusre in said area.
Addendum: There are light sensors available to trigger secondary flash units in "slave" mode. You would have to arrange and distribute these secondary flashes around and/or about the place in order to pop off automatically as soon as your main unit fires.
Did I mention that for architecture you should get a tripod, instead?
> Mark, You are stepping into the world of highly specialized photography. Quite a few archetectural photographers still use hot lights, as it is easy (relatively) to combine them with light from existing fixtures and windows modified with gels. Ones that use strobes are the rich successful ones, as they use LOTS of lights.
I have seen articles about architectural photographers that use minimal lighting very successfully, but they are unuusual. that comes from years of work and trial and many errors. And yes, I do think many tend to overlight.
Then, of course, there's the subject of cameras.........
Dear Lutz & Bill,
Thank you for the advice. I think I'll stick to my good old tripod for the interior work, and leave the complicated flash set-up for those who know how to make it work. I'll plan to go with the Metz & SFILL for now to provide the extra light needed for birthday parties, etc. I sure appreciate the help - I hope you will continue to contribute to this forum so that we all can continue to benefit from your experience.
PS. Beautiful image Lutz!
Pedro, that unit, although nice and compact, for almost USD 300 is a complete waste for anything but the Contax, which it was designed for. You won't have TTL flash capability on the Xpan, you won't even have auto exposure with that one, the angle (28mm) won't even cover the 45mm of the Xpan... So you could as well use any used unit you can get hold of at the shop around the corner or *bay for USD 5, or get any new USD 24.95 unit that will at least offer an auto sensor. Next think of how to diffuse the output to cover a wider angle... The advantage of the upright design of the Metz or the Leica SF20 type is multiple: You may conveniently attach a diffuser like the SFILL, the auto sensor is placed conveniently far enough away from the bulb, so light reflected from a diffuser can be shaded off sufficiently, plus no red eyes because the bulb is far enough off axis. So, if money isn't one of your concerns take one of the units mentioned. If it is, look out for any similarly designed unit. Cheers.