I’ve done all of my flash work with non-TTL flashes but like with legacy lenses, there are tradeoffs. With legacy (or any other manual) lenses, you lose shots spending time focusing. With manual flashes, you lose shots spending time locking in the right exposure. Through-the-lens (TTL) metering “is a feature of cameras whereby light levels are measured through the lens that captures the picture… This information can then be used to set the correct exposure, and control the amount of light emitted by a flash connected to the camera.”
Not only could I save time, but compact m43 flashes like the Nissin i40 (featured below) could save space and keep your gear light – something any Micro Four Thirds owner loves.
That’s the flash I’m favoring so far, but I wanted to pose this question to the community and get your thoughts, “What’s the best TTL Flash for Micro Four Thirds?”
Here’s what I found with my research so far, and I’ll provide additional info for beginners who might be looking for a flash:
The Basics / Things to Know
- For compatibility, you’ll need a TTL flash compatible Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds (they’re interchangeable).
- For off-camera flash, there are no current Wireless TTL Radio Triggers (eg. PocketWizard) for Micro Four Thirds yet. There are however manual options, I use the Cactus V2 and it works without a hitch. On DPReview, a Cactus rep mentioned, “The [Cactus] V6 is able to wirelessly control power and zoom of Cactus RF60. It is another option for Olympus / M43 user because both V6 and RF60 are designed for any camera with standard hotshoe or PC sync.”
- Many people do however use the Olympus OMD EM5 along with the bundled LM2 Flash that can be used as a wireless commander. The caveat though is that it requires line of sight triggering, ie. each of the slave flashes need to see the light from the LM2 to be enabled. Edwin talks about this in his Amazon review:
In terms of an actual flash, on camera, this unit is really only good for a little daylight fill or extreme desperation to light something in a pinch. As a remote commander flash used with either the PEN or OMD series cameras it is excellent. I recently was keeping two systems, a complete Nikon system and a near complete Micro Four Thirds system. I finally decided to sell the Nikon gear and switch fully to m43. For the photography I do it made a lot of sense (YMMV). One of my big concerns was giving up the PocketWizard Flex system to trigger my Nikon strobes in TTL and High Speed sync with radio. I decided I would make due with the line of sight triggering provided by this small strobe and the accompanying Olympus strobes (FL50R’s and FL600R’s). For times when I cant do line of sight I use Phottix Stratos II triggers (get the ones made for Canon as the terminals line up perfectly and they will wake sleeping strobes) but for all the other times I use this unit as the commander. You would be surprised how well it works in outdoor conditions, especially if you buy a cold shoe swivel to aim the receiver of the off camera flash at this unit. I have very few issues under 50ft in bright daylight and that is very workable for most portrait sessions. I am buying a second one as backup as it it much nicer to use one of these than a larger FL600R as a commander.
Best TTL Flashes for Micro Four Thirds
If you have an OMD, and want both on and off-camera TTL capabilities, the Olympus FL-600r ($300) or FL-50r ($500) are your best bets. The most notable difference is that the latter has much more power. Amazon customer review from Loren says that, “Absolutely the best feature of this flash is its power. At ISO 400, with the lens at f4, the auto flash will shoot out to 25 meters. That’s 82 feet!” John Uske adds that he uses this flash on bounce mode 99% of the time, “even if the ceiling is 60 feet.” Though in a DPReview comparing the FL-600r vs FL-50r, while people commend the power, many state that it’s fairly large and bulky, and doesn’t quite balance well with smaller Micro Four Thirds cameras. Overall, many argue that the FL-600r is the better option unless you need the additional power.
Since I don’t have an OMD, though that feature could change my mind and swing me towards Olympus, nonetheless it’s had me looking at other options. And one highly touted flash that has caught my eye is the Nissin i40 ($270). Let’s compare it against the slightly more expensive FL-600r:
Power: The Nissin i40 is rated for slightly more power with a guide number of 40 at ISO 100 at 105mm, while the FL-600r sports a guide number of 36 at ISO 100 when built-in wide panel not in use (8.0mm equivalent coverage with built-in wide panel).
Size: While both are compact, the Nissin i40 wins this one again, you can checkout a size comparison on this post (though it’s in Japanese). And here’s an imaging pitting it against other Nissin flashes:
Functionality: The FL-600r features a LCD screen while the Nissin i40 focuses on simplicity with two dial in knobs. There have been complaints that the LCD screen on the FL-600r is tough to read in the sun. And conversely, on the Nissin i40 there are reports that it’s hard to read the print on the dial knobs in dim light. Thus that could help you decide depending on where you shoot more.
For more info, checkout a side-by-side specs comparison on B&H Photo.
What about Panasonic TTL Flashes?
Panasonic has the FL-360L, essentially identical to the FL-600r with the exception that the wireless is made for the GH3 and GH4.
- There are many reports of Olympus cameras underexposing images by at least 1 stop.
- Explore different light modifiers and diffusers, checkout our RoundFlash review for that perfect ring lighting for portraits.
I’m leaning towards the compact Nissin i40, what do you guys think are the best TTL Flashes for Micro Four Thirds? Anything I’m missing? Let me know in the comments below.
I’ll likely make the purchase soon and have a review up in the future, please subscribe if you’re interested in the latest news, rumors and reviews for Micro Four Thirds.