Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sunpak Quantaray XLF-50

I have an EF-S 60mm that I use for day trips when I don't want to carry an MPE-65mm, an MT-24EX, and spare batteries. But I wanted something better than the flash that's built into my 40D so I picked up a Sunpak Quantary XLF-50 flash. It uses 2 AA batteries and you get about 280 full power pulses out of it with a set of NiMH cells. The hot shoe rolls up into the body of the flash for storage and it sounded like a nice small flash for my day trip bag.

A few days ago I mounted it onto a Kaiser adjustable flash shoe via an off camera cord and connected it to the flash mount that comes with the MT-24EX and stuck it on the end of my MPE-65mm just to see how it would perform. I took some test shots at F11 and ISO 100 all the way out to 3x and the recycle time with a fresh pair of charged batteries was instantaneous. I haven't built any kind of diffuser for it, I just used the flip down diffusion panel that comes with the flash that I don't like (too opaque so I'm sure it's changing the temperature of the light) but the light didn't look too bad! Here's a shot at 1x, F11, and ISO 100:

Here's a similar shot with the MT-24EX:

I made some very minor changes to those images in post, but I didn't change the white balance at all. With a better diffuser I'm sure that the quality of light that's coming out of that little flash will be even better.

The really cool part about the XLF-50, other than it coming in Canon and Nikon versions (E-TTL II, and i-TTL), is the weight -only 7 ounces without batteries. It's so light even with 2 AAs that you could Gaffers tape it to the end of a lens provided you have an off camera cord. The guide number is only 66 but because it's so small and light weight it's easy to get it close to what you are shooting. The sticker shock is $99 USD + the cost of an off camera cord.

Footnote: In some markets the flash is called the Sunpak RD2000.

I've been playing around with the flash today and I've run into an irregularity that has me scratching my head: With the EF-S60mm on my 40D and the Sunpak flash mounted directly to the camera's hot shoe I can get a good exposure at F11, 1/250, and ISO 100 -cool. If I drop the Fstop down to F8, or increase the ISO to 200, I get a black frame. Either of those changes should decrease the amount of light that I need for a good exposure by a full stop and it should be easier for the flash to give me a proper exposure. Turning the flash off and then back on seems to clear the problem. I'll add more to this later as I do some more experimenting. The odd thing is that I didn't run into any issues with the flash connected to an off camera cord when I was testing it with the MPE-65mm...

Update: I connected the flash to an off camera cord and I get the same problem. Turning the flash off and then back on clears it and it starts working properly.


Kurt (OrionMystery) said...

That looks really good for a single flash. If only we can use two simultaneously :D...thanks for sharing, John!

WelshWench said...

Nice to see such a positive report coming from such a good photographer!

Can I ask, is this flash the same as the one here ?

Dalantech said...

Thanks Kurt and WelshWench!

The flash is called the RD2000 in the UK.

WelshWench said...

Yay! I hoped it was that one, thanks John :)


overread said...

Interesting little quirk of a problem with the flash.
Do you think you will ever get to try testing two of them together for lighting. Though they lack the lights on mode for helping focus the MPE at greater magnifications they (along with a flashbracket) might just be a cheaper alternative to the positional lights - considering the price rises (at least in the UK) that we are having

Dalantech said...

I think that Sunpak could fix the error I saw with a firmware upgrade (suppose to be user upgradeable). As for triggering two flashes -no idea how. It doesn't have the ability to act as a slave -would be cool if it did though...

Seta said...

I own a Sunpak RD-2000 and I am very happy with it, small and does not add much weight to the set-up. I own a 40d and I bought a secon flash unit, the Metz 20 c-2wich cost me 30€ new. It only has 3 settings, manual(full power), f2.8 and f5.6 which I plan to use as a second unit triguered via PC Sync as it has the socket and includes a 30 cm cable. I also bought a gorila duo flash mount (just search in ebay for "gorilla duo flash") at 53$, the picture ilustrates a camera with the MPE-65 and the mte 24ex; so you might be interested.
also a flash I thoughtwould be goog as a second unit(maybe better than the one I bought) is the sunpack pf20xd
is triggered via photocell and has the following power ratios FULL, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32
Nice work

Dalantech said...

@ Seta: Thanks for the links! I've been thinking about getting a small flash that I can use to keep the background in some of my images from being flat.

I can't really use the flash mount, since all I really want to do with the MT-24EX's flash heads is get them as close to the subject as possible.

Seta said...

You are wellcome!!! My flash set up now looks like a "poors man" Mt-24ex (without all the nice controls over light power and 1sec torch-like feature)
Before with only one flash when shooting at high mag (x3, x4) I got very bad shadows. Now with 2 flash I think I will have more control. I thing it is a good alternative to some one starting in macro like me, 150$ for 2 flashes plus the bracket