The most versatile speed lights are those that are high specification and have all the bells and whistles built in. These top end speed lights are not only powerful but they have manual mode, Through The Lens (TTL) metering mode, High Speed Sync (HSS) mode and stroboscopic modes. As you’d expect these speed lights are expensive and the top brands are damn expensive.
Before splashing out on these high spec speed lights you need to ask yourself if you really need the features they offer. If your style of photography and the subjects you take photos of don’t require TTL what’s the point in paying for it? If HSS isn’t needed for your photographic interests why pay more for a speed light with this feature? If stroboscopic photography doesn’t suit you why have it?
If all you need is speed light that gives you total control over the flash exposure, i.e. flash power there are cheap speed lights available that will do exactly what you want, and no more. It is worth noting that if you use the same camera/lens combination at the same setting etc. the speed light you use will have no effect on the final photo. That’s right, it doesn’t matter whether you use a top end speed light costing several hundred bucks or a budget speed light costing very little, the final image will come out the same.
There is no such thing as good flash light or bad flash light – just flash light. I have seen many photography forum posts claiming that “speed light X” provides superior light and is the external flash you should buy. These claims are a total fallacy, and all else being equal the speed light makes no difference at all.
If you want a high powered speed light that is manual only the only options are third party speed lights, and the budget brands at that. The problem with the budget brands is they are typically made from lower grade materials and components, which means they are not that sturdy. Even though these speed lights are not as durable as the top end models they will last provided you look after them of course.
If you only need a manual speed light I suggest staying away from the premium and top end speed lights and take a look at the budget brands instead. Check them out and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Some recommended speed lights that are worth a look…
For smaller cameras......
If you shoot a CSC or mirrorless camera the standard speed lights and flashes above are a little top heavy and will make the camera feel unbalanced. Fortunately, there are small speed lights designed with smaller CSC and mirrorless cameras and the best ones include:-
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.