What are the Best TTL Flashes for Micro Four Thirds?

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:

nissin i40 ttl flash for micro four thirds

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.

Last Tips:

Conclusion

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.

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  • William Booz

    Jay, thanks. This is exactly where I am. I have an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and multiple manual only flash units plus I kept my “old” Canon 580EX II. For event work, I bought the Olympus FL-36R flash, but am looking for a bit more umph! So, I am also considering the Nissan i40 and Olympus FL-600R. Again, I’m also leaning toward the i40, but bummed by reports (on Facebook) that it is almost impossible to use diffuser such as the Rogue FlashBenders on the i40 because of weight.

    Have you decided yet? Despite the diffuser issue (I think I have a Macgyver solution), I will probably get the i40.

    • Jay Soriano

      I bought the i40, I know it won’t work for some diffusing applications, like the RoundFlash:

      http://1kcreatives.com/roundflash-review-the-perfect-ring-light-for-portraits/

      But, I suppose we always have our manual flashes to fall back on. Haven’t used the Rogue FlashBender, so can’t comment on that application.

      According to the guide numbers, the i40 should only be slightly more powerful than the FL-36R. For events, you might want to consider the FL-50R, if a full stop difference could help:

      On the FL-50R, with a 50 guide number vs 36 on the FL-36R; if you’re shooting at f4, ISO 100 with direct flash, you can reach about 12.5 meters with the FL-50R (50/4 = 12.5), 10 meters on the i40, and 9 meters with the FL-36R. At ISO 400, the FL-50R reaches 25m (82 ft) vs FL-36R at 18M (59 ft).

      Overall, the i40 has a 1/3 stop advantage vs the 36R, and the 50R has about a full stop advantage vs the 36R.

      • DevilMind

        @Jay Soriano said:
        I bought the i40, I know it won’t work for some diffusing applications, like the RoundFlash:

        http://1kcreatives.com/roundflash-review-the-perfect-ring-light-for-portraits/

        But, I suppose we always have our manual flashes to fall back on. Haven’t used the Rogue FlashBender, so can’t comment on that application.

        According to the guide numbers, the i40 should only be slightly more powerful than the FL-36R. For events, you might want to consider the FL-50R, if a full stop difference could help:

        On the FL-50R, with a 50 guide number vs 36 on the FL-36R; if you’re shooting at f4, ISO 100 with direct flash, you can reach about 12.5 meters with the FL-50R (50/4 = 12.5), 10 meters on the i40, and 9 meters with the FL-36R. At ISO 400, the FL-50R reaches 25m (82 ft) vs FL-36R at 18M (59 ft).

        Overall, the i40 has a 1/3 stop advantage vs the 36R, and the 50R has about a full stop advantage vs the 36R.

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  • Torkel Stenqvist

    I think a major advantage with the FL50R is the possibility to have the power grip FP-1. Unfortunately it’s expensive, but gives good balance and lasting power. Unfortunately both FL50R and the grip seems to be discontinued – Olympus in Sweden are not marketing them any longer (but the power pack SHV-1 is still there).

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  • Frank Gross

    what about Meike 320 P for M43

    • Jay Soriano

      It’s a newer release I haven’t had the chance to use, looks like a decent option though. Another budget option is the Nissin di466.

      • Fandi

        Di466 does not have Wireless TTL Slave mode.

  • “The Nissin i40 is rated for slightly more power”
    Comparing GN at different zoom settings is a newbie mistake. The FL360L is MORE powerful than the i40. Yes, the i40 claims a GN of 40, but that’s with the head zoomed to 105mm. The FL360L has a GN of 36 with the head zoomed to a considerably wider 43mm setting. At the same zoom setting, the FL360L will produce significantly more light.

    • Jay Soriano

      I think you’re right, either way it’s close though. Just took another look, and the Panasonic is listed with 12-42mm zoom, though the 35mm equivalent is 24-84mm where the i40 is listed at 24-105mm (which I assume is the FF equivalent since it’s the same for Sony, Fuji, Nikon, etc.) Here are the equivalent numbers based on B&H:

      FL360L – Guide Number: 118′ at ISO 100 and 84mm

      i40 – Guide Number: 131′ at ISO 100 and 105mm

      • Ah yes, good point. The error was mine. The Panasonic’s “42mm” probably covers the MFT AoV at 42mm whereas the i40’s “105mm” setting probably covers a 135-format AoV at 105mm.

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  • I assume that since you can’t set ISO and aperture manually on the i40, you can’t use it’s non-TTL auto mode off-camera. This capability would be handy when using it with a dumb radio trigger. Can anyone confirm?

    • capitalphotog

      I don’t understand. For manual exposure, you set the ISO and aperture on your camera, and simply dial in your preferred power on your flash – just as you would for any flash in manual mode

      • I’m not talking about manual exposure. I’m talking about autothyristor mode (as opposed to TTL). The flash has a non-TTL auto mode, but if you can’t set exposure parameters on the flash, auto mode won’t work when the flash is off-camera, since it relies on the camera to communicate exposure settings via the hotshoe. My Metz 54MZ-3 and Panasonic FL360L flashes have an auto mode and the ability to set ISO and aperture on the flash, so they can work in auto mode even when off-camera and triggered by an optical slave. The i40 seems not to have this ability.

  • WILLIAM CHUANG

    Any tricks to using the cactus v2? My panasonic gx8 doesn’t recognize the transmitter.

    • Jay Soriano

      Make sure the battery has power, and make sure you select a channel, one or the other, but not both.

      • WILLIAM CHUANG

        They both have power and when I hit the test button the receiver lights up (flash works when attached too). I think it must be something with the GX8’s hotshoe. Thanks for the quick reply Jay, I really appreciate this website. I’ve reached out to cactus too – if I figure it out I’ll reply here.

        • Jay Soriano

          You have both the trigger and receiver correct? Make sure the receiver has battery power as well, and it’s set to the same channel as your trigger.

          • WILLIAM CHUANG

            Yep, that was all setup. The problem was actually the camera setting – I had it set in electronic shutter and it has to be in mechanical shutter mode to work. Thanks Jay!

          • Jay Soriano

            Nice… Glad it worked out!

  • Riccardo Santorsola

    Hi Jay! Excellent article! What about the Yongnuo YN-568EX II compatibility with Olympus m43 ttl ?

    • Jay Soriano

      Quick Google search shows that as a Canon TTL flash, thus it won’t work on Olympus. The Yongnuo 560 is an option for manual flash, I ordered three but all were defective though 🙁

  • Joel Coster

    re: “Panasonic has the FL-360L, essentially identical to the FL-600r with the exception that the wireless is made for the GH3 and GH4.”

    This statement implies that the FL-600r does NOT work on the GH3 and GH4 in the RC mode. In fact, all the same RC functions work on the Panasonics as well as the compatible Olympus cameras. Channel, Groups, TTL, FP TTL, etc

  • Frank Bennett

    Have OMD-E1 and am using Meike 300 and 320 flash units. Full TTL small lghtweight simple to use. Also Viltrox remotes that will trigger via IR, Radio so out of line of sight is good, or simply from the on camera flash light. Both listed as GN 32. Some say a bit light in this respect but I have not had a single problem with them.

    • Jay Soriano

      I recently picked up the MK320… LOVE IT.