An on-camera flash is arguably the first piece of photo gear most people buy after their initial investment in a DSLR. Sort of like the fashion world’s designer originals followed by available, affordable off-the-rack versions, third-party manufacturers piggyback their production expertise onto the technology developed by their “first-party” counterparts. But their freedom from having to be brand specific can also lead to interesting or unusual products. This article is dedicated to spotlighting a few recommended third-party flashes.
Nissin Di700A Flash
Available for Nikon, Canon or Sony, the mid-priced Di700A is a full-featured flash with an intuitive color LCD screen. Part of Nissin’s Air system, it has 8 channel/3 group wireless radio TTL and can be triggered with the optional Air1 commander at distances of up to 98'. The flash has a powerful guide number of 177' at the zoom head’s 200mm setting and it recycles in 0.1 to 4 seconds. The Di700A has 3.5mm and PC sync terminals for wired remote triggering and supports high-speed sync at up to 1/8000 of a second. It runs on 4 AA batteries but has an input for an external power supply.
Phottix Mitros+ TTL Transceiver Flash with Odin II TTL Flash Trigger Kit
The Mitros+ TTL Transceiver Flash has a built-in TTL transmitter/receiver that is compatible with many of Phottix’s existing wireless systems. The Mitros+ covers a 24-105mm focal length with its tilt/swivel head and has a guide number of 190' at ISO 100 and the 105mm setting. It supports high-speed sync and recycles at a fast 2.5 seconds at full power. The flash runs on 4 AA batteries and will accept an external power supply. The kit includes an Odin TCU TTL Flash Trigger that operates on the 2.4 GHz radio frequency. It has 4 discrete channels and 3 groups and can fire the Mitros+ at distances up to 328' with full TTL communication.
Metz 76 MZ-5 Digital Flash
Not for the frugal, but if you want a brawny, imposing-looking flash with a lot of power and multi-camera system TTL capability, then the mecablitz 76 MZ-5 is for you. As a part of the SCA system, various TTL modules are available for Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Leica. With a formidable handle-mount design that used to be called a “potato masher” because of its profile, the 76 MZ-5 also has a powerful guide number of 249' at ISO 100 and the 105mm setting of its zoom head. It will recycle in 0.1 to 5 seconds and runs on the included rechargeable NiMH battery pack.
Sunpak 120J II Bare-Bulb Flash
A favorite of wedding and portrait shooters, the Sunpak 120J II has a unique design that uses a studio-like parabolic reflector for broad dispersal of the light’s beam spread. The reflector is removable, revealing a cylindrical flash tube that can be used “bare-bulb” for near-360-degree coverage with a bright, clean quality of light. The powerful flash head has a guide number of 177' at ISO 100. Available for Nikon or Canon, the 120J II’s 8-second recycle time at full power with AA batteries can be shortened to 1 second with an optional high-voltage battery pack. And, manual power adjustment from full power to 1/128 is possible.
Bolt VD-410 Manual Flash
With a price tag that encourages multiple-flash purchases, the all-manual VD-410 offers impressive power with a guide number of 125' at ISO 100, and output control from 1/1 to 1/128 power. It also recycles, at full power, in 5 seconds. Ideal for fill flash and multi-flash setups, the VD-410 supports wireless triggering via optical pulse at distances up to 33'. It also has a PC port for wired triggering. It’s powered by 4 easy-to-find AA batteries and has an HV port for an external battery pack that will shorten the recycle time.
Yongnuo YN-568 Speedlite
Available for Nikon or Canon TTL, the YN-568 Speedlite is a very affordable flash with many high-end features. The flash has a guide number of 190' at the 105mm setting on its zooming bounce/swivel flash head, which will cover 24-105mm lenses. Recycling is a fast 3 seconds at full power, and the flash can be triggered wirelessly by optical pulse. The YN-568 has a mode that gives you a continuous flash burst for 1 second, allowing you to use it as a modeling light.
Nissin i40 Compact Flash
Available for Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Sony and Four Thirds TTL cameras, the 3.3 x 2.4 x 3.3" Nissin i40 is notable for its small size, coupled with full features. The i40 has a tilting/swiveling/ zooming head that covers 24-105mm focal lengths, as well as an impressive guide number of 131' at ISO 100 and the 105mm setting. The flash also has a built-in daylight LED light with 9 output levels that makes it suitable for video shooting. Additionally, the i40 gets 220 to 1,700 flashes 3.5 hours of LED runtime on a single set of 4 AA batteries.
Have we left out your favorite third-party flash? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.