Pentax 645z Review Pt5 – 645z Flash options
Part 1 – The Journey
Part 2 – Image Quality
Part 3 – Lens options and CCD vs CMOS
Part 4 – Ergonomics and weight
Part 5 – Flash System
Part 6 – Conclusion
Part 7 – 100+ Uncompressed DNG’s to download
The Pentax 645 flash system.
*UPDATE* – SInce I wrote this review there are a lot more options available, TTL, HSS and so on. This page still has it’s merits but please research flash options that are new to the market.
I use speedlites a lot in the evenings for the dancefloor and during the speeches. Otherwise I’m pretty much a natural light shooter. Because I sometimes have a second shooter with me I have 10 Canon 600’s and the external Canon CP-E4 battery packs so I’ve been able to explore the flash setup pretty well and how to integrate my existing Canon equipment with Pentax.
For starters though, the Pentax proprietry TTL system (P-TTL) is highly accurate and just as good, if not slightly more accurate in metering than the Canon system. I currently use the MkI Pentax 540 FGZ and it’s very good. If you want to use a full wireless system then Pentax had wireless before Canon did. And that’s true wireless, not infrared.
Because I’m new to this system I went out and had a bit of a journey with the Pentax flashes and whilst I ended up happy it was a bit frustrating along the way.
There are two qualifying things I need in a flash. 1. Infra red assist. 2. An external battery pack.
First off I ordered the Pentax 540 FGZ mkII but had to send it back. The 540 MkII has had the external battery port removed. So there’s no external ports vs the MKI. And while it has a light to assist focus it’s a white LED.
This is intrusive and nothing like the IR matrix on the Mk1 540FGZ. Which is a shame.
So back went the MkII and in came the MkI – that’s an amazing flash. Easy to use menu system and plenty of external buttons to press. Something I miss on the 600’s from Canon. Sometimes you just want to press a button, not go via a menu system.
Pentax make an external battery pack for the 540FGZ called the ‘TR POWER PACK III’ but it’s a ladies handbag. Sorry, but this monster takes 6 ‘C’ cell batteries and doesn’t charge up the flashes anywhere near as fast as the JJC pack which holds 8 AA cells.
It’ll recharge a fully expelled 540 flash in 1 second. It’s the battery pack of choice bar none.
Then for external strobes you can either get more 540’s or as I did, use my existing strobes with the Cactus V6’s. It’s a very good system that allows me to set the power levels remotely and lets the P-TTL signal pass through to the on camera flash. It works almost as well as my current setup with the 600’s, almost…..more on that later….
I did consider the Metz system as they have more power and you can dial it all the way down to 1/256 power (vs the 540’s 1/64) but the power packs are massive (As big as the TR3’s) and I need to pop the charger in my waistcoat. Not clip it to my belt. There’s already two cameras there on the Spider Holster thank you very much, I’ve no room for more.
So that’s my flash sorted. I don’t notice or have an issue with the flash sync speed of 1/125 either. I guess it could be an issue for shots with a long lens and fill but it’s not a situation I’ll be in as I either use a lot of flash or I don’t use it at all.
The 540FGZ does have High Speed Sync, so you can breach the sync limit anyway. HSS does come at a cost though, lower available power. I had this with my Canon system but got around that by getting a quad adapter and firing 4 at once wirelessly. As I currently only have one Pentax flash, I’ve not been able to test this out to see if it’s the same.
Ok so there is one thing that lets this system down and I think it can be corrected in firmware. The on camera flash IR assist beam needs to be in almost complete darkness to fire.
I think many will agree that cameras need to have user controlled AF assist beams. I’d love to have a setting on my camera, regardless of brand, that allows me to say:
‘As soon as I activate the AF, be that by half depressing the shutter or by using back button AF the IR assist beam shall come on too’.
I don’t think that’s too big a thing to fix in firmware?
Here’s the problem, you get into a situation where it’s too dark to focus with ambient light yet the AF assist beam doesn’t come on. You have to almost cover the lens in order to get it to activate. We need something user activated separate from the in camera metering system because it’s pretty much the only reason I use my 1DX at a wedding now over the 645z. Low light AF.
Remember, sometimes we’re on a dance floor, there is still light from overhead spots and the disco which interferes with the metering and can hinder it’s activation. We have manual options on the camera, the flash settings but not the AF assist, but no logical reason why not.
Next: Part 6 – Conclusion
If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please use the comments and I’ll do my best to help!540FGZ, 540FGZII, 600ex-rt, 645z, Cactus V6, Canon, flash metering, flash sync, jjc battery pack, P-TTL, Powerpack, PTTL, review, strobist, tr3, TRIII, TTL, Wireless flash