Panasonic cameras have limited TTL flash capabilities such as assuming legacy lenses are f/2.8, while they stop you from using shutter speeds higher than flash sync. The Panasonic branded flash units are generally more expensive versions of the Olympus models.
One potential issue is the lack of 3rd party vendors making radio wireless remote TTL accessories such as Pocket Wizard for Canon and Nikon – but with then surge in popularity of Micro Four Thirds, perhaps that will soon change.
On the positive side, after using Canon’s 580EX II flagship strobe, the Olympus flash units are FAR simpler to adjust – no need to memorise arcane Fn Ctrl settings to put it in “Auto” mode instead of “TTL”, etc, and, for Canon users, you can use your Canon off-camera cord with these units and still have TTL.
Furthermore, you can use an Olympus flash on a Canon dSLR hotshoe and the flash will automatically set itself to “Auto” mode (as no TTL or FP mode available), and you just set zoom, ISO and aperture on the flash and it will take very well exposed shots indeed – not only that, but you can physically fit accessories designed for the Canon 580EXII head to the FL50R head.
Optional Flash Power Grip (Olympus FP-1) provides off-camera support and extra power.
The flash units currently available with TTL compatibility include:
- this is the flagship model for Olympus, the R designation is the newer version which allows infrared remote TTL flash.
- GN 50m at ISO 100 at maximum zoom setting of 42mm (= 85mm in 35mm terms)
- 350g, 4x AA batteries, tilt and swivel including 7deg tilt down for macro, AF assist beam, supports Super FP flash (high sync flash)
- built-in flip out wide diffuser to cover focal lengths 8-12mm
- ?2.5-6sec sec recycle time from full output
- no modeling light – but then I have not found this useful anyway on a portable strobe
- it’s exposure compensation (up to +/- 3EV) is additive to camera flash exposure compensation setting.
- as with all portable strobes, it must be rested for 10min after high burst rates – at full power, rest after 10 shots at 1sec intervals, or at 1/8th power, rest after 80 shots at 0.2sec intervals.
- optional high voltage pack (HV-1) allows recycle time to be reduced to 1.3sec for full output, and allows up to 40 frames at up to 8fps at 1/8th power instead of 5 frames without it.
- I bought the cheaper, discontinued FL-50 as I don’t really trust remote TTL flash anyway from my experiences with my Canon, and the Olympus E510 and Panasonic GH-1 do not support remote TTL (the Olympus E-PL1 and all current Four Thirds cameras do).
- similar to the FL-36R but 4 batteries for faster recycle time, an additional video light and faster flash sync of 1/250th sec, plus commander mode for RC flash.
- similar to 50R but more compact (260g), less powerful than the 50R, but only has 2x AA batteries and thus longer recycle times.
- tends to be preferred for Micro Four Thirds, or for travel.
- GN 36m ISO 100 at maximum zoom
- see Wrotniak on the FL-36
- compact 74g vertically styled flash but no bounce, tilt or zoom,or Super FP mode. GN 20m ISO 100
- ultra compact 84g horizontal styled flash for Micro Four Thirds cameras with GN 14m ISO 100
- no bounce, tilt, zoom nor Super FP flash mode.
- see manual (pdf) hosted on Biofos.com
Metz dedicated units:
- Metz 58 AF-1 digital
- Metz 48 AF-1 digital
- Metz 36 AF-1 digital
Metz SCA 3002 digital units:
- requires SCA 3202 adapter with latest firmware – see Metz info
- non-handle style MZ’s can be used off camera via the SCA 3008A connecting cable
- can use Metz P-76 power packs
- Metz 45CL-4 digital – digital version of the old handle style flash with no zoom, no fill flash, no 2nd curtain flash, requires SCA 3045 connection cable
- Metz 76 MZ-5 digital – but no auto fill flash
- Metz 54 MZ4i digital – but no auto fill flash
- non-swivel but tilting white flash which is similar to the FL-36 but uses 4xAA batteries for faster recycling
- may be nice for Micro Four Thirds users.
- see here
Other brand flash units:
- Vivitar eg. Pro 648
Macro TTL flash units:
Olympus Ring flash SRF-11:
- a nice simple ring flash, which unlike the Canon version is full circumferential, but annoyingly, it only fits certain lenses as it does not use filter threads to attach.
- no Super FP mode
- fits the ZD 14-54mm lens
- designed for the first version of the ZD 5o-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens but does not attach to the new SWD version
- requires an adapter to use on the ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro – but adapter is so nice, I use it as a lens hood on the lens all the time!
Olympus Twin flash TF-22 :
- uses the same control unit as the Ring Flash, and unlike the Canon equivalent, comes with diffusers which are essential for this style of photography.
Olympus UFL-1 flash:
- waterproof to depth 40m
- TTL flash in slave mode
Olympus UFL-2 flash:
- waterproof to depth 40m
- TTL flash in slave mode or via the new “RC data transfer” wireless communication method developed originally by Olympus
- When connected (via an optional fiberoptic cable) to the PT-E05/E-520, the UFL-2 can easily be set up and controlled via the LCD panel on the back of the camera, making it easy to quickly respond to a variety of fast-changing underwater shooting situations.
NB. the old Olympus FL-40 is NOT compatible with Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds in TTL mode!
Non-TTL flash units:
- Can use any Canon flash directly or via off camera cord without conflicts with pins, but cannot use nikon flash units without taping up all pins other than central PC sync pin.
- Can use most other flash units directly if they only have a central pin (or if they are Olympus digital or OM) and their trigger voltage is not excessive (check very old flashes)
- Can use the multitude of radio wireless non-TTL triggers – see here