How to buy a flashgun: the most important features every photographer should have

How to buy a flashgun: the most important features you'll want to have

Flashgun features every photographer should have

A really useful feature in many flashguns is a motorised zoom head. These respond automatically to the focal length or zoom setting of the lens you’re using.

For short focal lengths, you’ll need a wide angle of illumination. At telephoto lengths, spreading the flash over a wide angle wastes power.

By zooming in, the flash head can channel the available output to the relatively small area required, giving greater reach.

Some flashguns have a bigger zoom range than others, and a few enable you to tailor focal length compatibility for full-frame or crop sensor bodies.

For extra-wide shooting, a diffuser is usually available. A pull-out reflector card is also often fitted, which can work well for close-up shots.

Another handy feature of flashguns is a bounce and swivel head, which enables you to angle the head upwards or to either side and soften the quality of light by bouncing it off walls or ceilings.

Again, some boast extra refinement, having a secondary sub-flash tube for adding a little direct flash when you’re using the main head in bounce mode.

In the infographic below we’ve listed some of the top features we look for when buying a flashgun

Buying a flashgun: features to look for

How to buy a flashgun: the most important features every photographer should have

Click on the infographic to see the larger version, or drag and drop to your desktop to save.

Bounce and swivel
By bouncing light from the flash off walls or ceilings or reflectors, the effective size of the light source becomes massively larger than the flash tube itself, therefore creating a much softer quality of light.

Motorised zoom
The ability of the zoom mechanism in a flashgun to adapt automatically as you sweep through the zoom range on your fitted lens can be a big bonus.

Info panel
The provision of an LCD panel is a must for keeping an eye on advanced flash settings. Some flashguns feature colour or even touchscreen LCDs.

Control options
Intuitive controls enable quick and easy access to settings. Most good flashguns include an HSS (High Speed Sync) mode.

Extend your reach
The maximum power output of a flashgun is given as a Gn (Guide number). Higher numbers signify greater power, and therefore extended reach.

AF illuminator
The red window on the front of most flashguns shines a red grid onto the scene while the camera is autofocusing. It helps to enable accurate focusing even in darkness.

Diffusers soften the light, and coloured diffusers allow you to match the flash’s White Balance  with that of artificial ambient light.

PAGE 1: How to buy a flashgun
PAGE 2: Flashgun features every photographer should have
PAGE 3: The benefits of wireless flash
PAGE 4: 10 things to look for when buying a flashgun


Flash photography tips: external flash techniques anyone can understand
In-camera flash settings: exploring your built-in flash options
49 seriously good Canon DSLR tips, tricks, shortcuts and time savers
100 Nikon DSLR tips you need to know right now