Portable, inexpensive- fill flash for my 4x5

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


I was recently asked to take a couple of picture at a friends wedding with my 4x5. My first thought was to use available shaded light, for lack of a better word. It would be nice however to add a little fill flash just in case a light shadow developes under their faces, or to perhaps give the dress a bit more pop. I thought of reflectors, but never having used them, I thought of flash. Would something like a Sunpack work, the kind you would mount on the flash shoe of your camera? Their both aware I've never done this sort of thing before, but I would nevertheless like to do the best I can, within of course a reasonable budget.

Thanks again for your help,


-- Albert Martinez (martinez@unitekmiyachi.com), August 28, 2000


I almost forgot to ask about film type, any preferences and why would be appreciated. I was thinking of Fuji Astia, but could really use all the speed I can get, so I am considering a faster film.


-- Albert (martinez@unitekmiyachi.com), August 28, 2000.

Albert: I screwed a flash mount shoe off a junker 35mm camera to the top of my 4x5. I mounted it directly over the center of the lens, so the flash does not throw shadows to the side. You can also use a bracket such as a Bachrach bracket to put the flash above the camera and on center. I use Vivitar 283 flash, which has plenty of light. The Vivitar flash has a provision for a flash cord to reach the lens sync connector. It is an easy fix and it works great. I don't like mounting the flash to one side of the camera, as it makes shadows to the side.


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), August 28, 2000.

calumet sells a vivitar i think 3500 or maybe another number flash that has a variable flash power attatchment, this with a bottome mounted sensor for setting off flash is great behind for back ground or on the side.. you can use standard flash mounted to camera for one side, then the vivitar on the other side and put background flash on sheet or drapes or use sun thru trees etc.. you need a good flash meter to tell you what is going on tho.l. once you get the stuff you can really get into goodphotos.. one stop diff from right to left is plenty and backgorund is aobut on the lesser stop.. lets say back ground at subject is f8 right side is f8 left side is f11 or abouts.. with naturall lighting aobut f5.6 and a half or so.. this changes up or down with exsisting lighting of course. excuse me if this is very basic for you.. i get carried away.. VBG with varialbl flash and coulple other reg flashes its not hard.. put some wraps of white cloth over flashes to tone them down jor move them farther out.. good luck ( the variable flash tho will go into your day to day kit and cover most of the stuff easieiy, you just take ambient {daylight} reading, make variable flash one stop over or under depending on accent and brightness, depth of field and youll improve all your shots.. ))) ffffg

-- dave schlick (ffffg@juno.com), August 28, 2000.

Coincidentally, I bought a Vivitar 285HV just yesterday (for use as a background light actually)

Sunpak makes the 383 http://www.tocad.com/383.html which is better than the Vivitar 283 and 285HV in that the head swivels - the former two just allows your to tilt the head to do a vertical bounce. It has the same manual power settings as the 285HV but doesn't have its zoom head.

It's a toss up but either the 383 or the 285HV would be good value.

-- KH Tan (kahheng@pacific.net.sg), August 28, 2000.


I was also doing some digging up of info about cheap power solutions for the 285.

I found a source of very very cheap mil surplus 3V Lithium D sized cells. They are 7.5Ah capacity ea. (20 for $25)


The same people have a small battery pack that can be mounted on TOP of a 6V flash that probably uses these batteries. Rated at 700-900 full manual flashes - which is a helluva a lot of juice for $2+ worth of batteries!

-- KH Tan (kahheng@pacific.net.sg), August 28, 2000.

Coincidentally, _I_ just got a 285HV last week! It is a reasonably-priced, reasonably-powered backup to my Metz for my "semi-pro" photography, and the flash to keep on my camera for my personal photography when photography is not my "job" at some event. I liked it because of its number of automatic settings, it's manual power control and the fact that I could plug it into my Turbo battery.

But that's beside the point.

I was just going to comment on the flash position - for FILL flash, the flash isn't going to be casting deep shadows, so I wouldn't be concerned too much about flash position (above, to the left or right of, the camera). I'd just keep it within a foot or so of the camera, or you'll be deepening shadows instead of filling them.

(BTW, For small format photogaphers - the Stroboframe Pro-TL flash frame is probably the best money I ever spent for the improvement in flash photography I've achieved.)

-- John H. Henderson (jhende03@harris.com), August 29, 2000.

Albert, if you are using it in fill situations for portraits, i would recommend reflectors. they are cheap to make and they appear more natural than fill flash. In shaded situations consider using a silver (or silver/gold) reflector, and white reflectors for brighter situations.

You may need someone to hold the reflector though...

-- Dave Anton (daveanton@home.com), August 29, 2000.

I would recommend shooting print film for the wedding. Try some Fuji NPS (ISO 160) or Kodak 160NC, or Kodak 400NC (ISO 400) if more speed is needed. These films are made for portraits and weddings, and excell at the task. Using print film has the advantages of making printing easier (do they want prints?), and also gives you much greater latitude, in case exposure is a bit off. If in doubt, overexpose. You will probably need to experiment a bit, as most Thyristor controlled flash units only give the option of a few F stops, with F8 or F11 the smallest they offer, so you will need to juggle the flash ISO setting to adjust to the F stop you will be using, if smaller than that. Good luck...

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), August 29, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ