11 Best Camera Flashes in 2020

By Ann Young 4 days ago Photo Accessories

Let me help you choose the most powerful camera flash for your DSLR!

best camera flash

best camera flash

Any camera flash is designed for shooting in low light as well as taking pictures indoors. Besides, it should also be compatible with your camera, simultaneously offering all the necessary functional features.

Any DSLR flash can also improve the photo by filling it with shadows, producing more balanced lighting. Choosing a flash is quite difficult because of the very wide selection in the market. That is why I’ve made a list of top 11 external camera flashguns I recommend to buy this year.

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1. Canon Speedlite 600EXII-RT

FixThePhoto editor’s flash choice

Compatibility: Canon | Focal length: 20-200mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 1.29 pounds

⊕ Low power consumption
⊕ Fast recharging time
⊕ Silent work
⊕ Improved superheat control
⊖ Not found

600EXII-RT is my favorite flash for Canon DSLRs because it is the most powerful flashgun I’ve ever used. This camera flash has a guide number of 60 meters; it can also boast advanced features inside a waterproof housing.

One of the most important advantages is its wireless control system that can operate within a radius of 30 meters even through obstacles. The motorized zoom has a range of 20-200mm and there is a complete turn of the head for 180 degrees in both directions, while the programmable strobe mode is also always at hand.

Compared to the original Speedlite 600EX-RT, the new MarkII heats less. It produces up to 50% more flashes in continuous shooting mode.

The recharging speed is quite high when using alkaline as well as NiMH batteries. TTL accuracy is also high.

Faster recharging when used with a battery pack, more economical battery consumption, a redesigned and efficient light filter system as well as a standard diffuser make it easier to use the flash.

This Canon flash gives photographers more freedom for creativity and allows them not to be distracted by technical issues. Canon 600EXIIRT is what the professional needs.


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2. Nikon Speedlight SB-700

Reliable and classical flash for Nikon

Compatibility: Nikon | Focal length: 24-120mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 12.6 ounces

⊕ Small
⊕ High-developed features
⊕ Top-class quality for a reasonable price
⊕ Great battery life
⊖ It charges slowly in multiple shots at high power

Another popular option is Nikon Speedlight SB-700. It offers many features including full-fledged master and slave flash modes. Besides, it has a variety of lighting patterns, tilts up and down, and supports rotating 180 degrees in both directions.

This Speedlight surpasses the previous offer in all these aspects, and it also has a large lighting angle. However, wireless communication is limited only by infrared radiation.

Built-in controls are easy to understand. As a result, you can easily switch between TTL and TTL-BL (Balanced Light) modes by changing the exposure metering mode on the camera.

Though the guide number of this model at ISO 100 is only 28 meters, this Nikon Speedlight shows quite decent results.


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3. Nissin Di700A + Air 1

Simple but very effective flashgun

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Four Thirds | Focal length: 24-200mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Weight: 1.45 pounds

⊕ Rather easy to install and use
⊕ High-speed sync (HSS)
⊕ Compact and lightweight on-camera commander
⊖ Very complicated user manual
⊖ A bit weird UI with buttons performing various tasks

This option is one of the best flashes at a reasonable price. A simple control interface is based on one Set button and a disk around it. Operating modes include fully automatic tuning, TTL, manual and at least three wireless modes.

All other settings, such as the TTL exposure shift, require the use of the camera menus. They include rear-curtain sync, high-speed sync and manual zoom of the 24-200mm motorized head.

Wireless slave mode via infrared is available with three independent groups, and there is also a mode that ignores the preliminary flash of the driving light. Both modes require manual power settings.

It has a fast recycling time, despite the high maximum power. A very simple interface and limited range of wireless triggers are the minuses of this cheap camera flash.


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4. Nikon Speedlight SB-5000

New version with increased power

Compatibility: Nikon | Focal length: 24-200mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/256 | Weight: 1.4 pounds

⊕ Radio and optical remote functions
⊕ Improved heating control
⊕ Excellent ratio of professional features and ease of use
⊖ Expensive
⊖Some troubles with a radio set up

The radius of the radio channel is 30 meters. Thanks to this, you can create complex systems of several flashes, placing them outside the sight, around the corner or even in the next room.

Now you can work in any conditions, even out direct visibility or when the optical signal is lowered by bright sunlight.

Nikon SB 5000 has a new built-in cooling system that allows you to take up to 120 shots at 5-second intervals, at full impulse power. Light and compact, SB-5000 has simple controls that make working with it intuitive.

Efficient cooling system and high TTL accuracy, as well as high recycling speed, are the advantages of this flash. At the same time, this model is more expensive than other Nikon top flashes, so it won’t suit everyone.


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5. METZ MECABLITZ 64 AF-1

A flash with a large touch screen

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Micro Four Thirds, Sony | Focal length: 24-200mm | Rotating head: -9 to 90degrees | Swivel: 180/180 |Manual power: 1/1 to 1/256 | Weight: 2 pounds

⊕ Slave stand and a belt pouch are in the kit
⊕ 9° tilt down
⊕ Fast mode
⊕ USB upgrading
⊖ Inconvenient battery compartment
⊖ Inconvenient way to fix the flash on the camera
⊖ No head-lock button

The world's first touchscreen flash. The sensor responds to any touch (even to gloved hands). No other flash manufacturer has a touch screen.

It allows you to change settings quite quickly and intuitively. For many users, this is a powerful argument for considering this model as one of the best flashes.

At the same time, Metz needs to take one more step to make using the screen absolutely convenient.

Unfortunately, you need to press Metz 64 AF-1 screen quite hard to get it ready for work.

Besides, you must click on the options as they cannot be scrolled. All this makes using the flash screen less convenient than it could potentially be.

However, a nice feature of this camera flash is its guide number of 64. But mind that such a number works only at maximum zoom.


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6. Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT

High-quality camera flash for Canon

Compatibility: Canon | Focal length: 24-105mm | Rotating head: 45 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 150/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 10.4 ounces

⊕ Integral wireless
⊕ Quick recycle time
⊕ You can control other flashes too
⊕ Allows to reduce the light to 1/128th of full power
⊖ Lack of weather protection
⊖An additional battery pack can’t be used
⊖Rotation on the flash head is limited

This Canon flash has a maximum power of 43 meters (guide number) and a swivel head with lighting angles of 24-105 mm. The horizontal angle of rotation is as much as 330 degrees.

Onboard controls are now more intuitive, and build quality is very good but it doesn’t have some features of pro-class models. It supports high-speed sync modes, as well as rear-curtain sync, but there is no snooze mode.

I would also like to note the presence of autofocus backlight and strobe flash.

You can use this model as a master flash wirelessly or as a slave flash with other compatible Canon flash units. Despite the lack of support for an IR signal connection, a radio frequency connection allows you to increase the range outside the camera from 10 to 30 meters.

Operation in bright daylight is more reliable. Actually, this cheap camera flash has a wonderful maximum power and recycling time.


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7. Phottix Mitros + TTL Transceiver

Professional camera flash for everyone

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Sony | Focal length: 24-105mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 1.65 pounds

⊕ Tiniest self-supporting flash + radio remote kit
⊕ Works on common AA batteries
⊕ Strobe lights can be added with ease
⊕ You can upgrade firmware
⊖ Faulty battery life measurements
⊖ Worse performance compared to Nikon and Canon leading models

This flash has the terrific build quality and plenty of interesting operating modes. It can be synchronized with the second shutter curtain and has a customizable stroboscope.

The guide number equals to 58m (on 105mm with ISO 100). The body comes with a socket for connecting an external power unit. Just like Canon 600EZ II-RT, Phottix has a hot shoe mount that prevents moisture from getting inside.

Phottix has a radio transceiver. This feature places it above Nikon Speedlight SB-5000 since you can use Phottix as a master wireless flash or as a slave device without having to buy an additional radio transmitter or transceiver.

Additionally, this camera flash is compatible with Phottix Odin systems and Strato triggers. The maximum power level is slightly lower compared to the market leaders but is still very solid.

Overall, Phottix Mitros is a multifunctional, sturdy model and can be considered the best camera flash in its market segment.


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8. METZ MECABLITZ 52 AF-1

Smarter than it seems at first glance

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Sony | Focal length: 24-105mm | Rotating head: 0 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/120 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 1 pound

⊕ Automatic shutdown function
⊕ Manual mode with 8 different power levels
⊕ Touchscreen controls
⊖ Retrieving and installing light deflectors and diffusers is inconvenient
⊖ Weak autofocus backlight
⊖ Recharging can sometimes take a very long time

If you take a look at the controls of this midrange Metz flash, you’ll think they’re oversimplified. In reality, this device has a wide range of functions that can be easily accessed thanks to the provided touchscreen.

The guide number stands at 52 meters at ISO 100. Its rated power is a head above the best flashes from Canon and Nikon in the same price range. 52 AF-1 has a rotatable, tilting unit with a motorized 24-105mm zoom paired with a wide-angle diffuser and reflector.

It lacks built-in radio controls, but unlike Canon 430EX-RT III, it has an infrared receiver and transmitter, which allows using it both in slave and master modes. Recharging the flash takes a very long time, which makes working with it a bit unpleasant.

Nonetheless, the overall performance is good, and convenient controls will satisfy most photographers.

The fact that this model can take on either the master or slave role via the wireless infrared channel is a huge plus that makes it a contender for the best camera flash title.

The controls are very simple and intuitive to use. The recycle speed isn’t high, but the guide number is quite impressive.


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9. Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI

Camera flash for the masses

Compatibility: Canon | Focal length: 24-105mm | Rotating head: 0 to 120 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 13.6 ounces

⊕ Comes with a retractable diffuser for ultra-wide-angle optics
⊕ Can be used wirelessly as a slave flash via the IR-channel
⊕ Large LCD screen and convenient settings
⊕ High-speed performance
⊖ No master flash mode

The 470EX-AI is often considered to be the best DSLR flash as it takes automation to a whole new level thanks to its swivel head that is controlled by an AI. The coolest thing about it is the 360-degree horizontal and 120-degree vertical rotation angles.

When working in the fully automated AI Bounce mode, the flash emits a pulse towards the object, then looks up, and sends a second pulse at the ceiling. Next, it calculates and sets the optimal bounce angle, which offers automatic shooting in reflected light.

The only weak part is that the AI Bounce mode isn’t available for some cameras, including all Canon DSLRs released up until the second part of 2014.

In all other aspects, this camera flash is fairly simple. It doesn’t have radio frequency support, and only works in the slave mode wirelessly.

It also doesn’t have such popular features like a programmable repeat mode or even a retractable reflector. The guide number stands at 47 meters, even though the recycling speed of 5.5s isn’t the fastest one.


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10. Hähnel Modus 600RT

Affordable professional flash

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Micro Four Thirds, Sony, Fujifilm | Focal length: 20-200mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 180/180 | Weight: 1.19 pounds

⊕ High-duty lithium battery
⊕ Optimal power output
⊕ Integrated radio frequency
⊕ High synchronization speed
⊖ Hot shoe adjustment system feels clunky

Modus 600RT and the Viper Kit deserve praise both for the thought-out design and impressive functionality. Even a single look at the manual after you’ve received the device is enough to see that you’re dealing with a company that knows how to produce the best off camera flash photography gear.

The main upsides of the 600RT and the included kit are the wireless support and an operable distance of 100 meters, which proved to be true as long as there’s a clear line of sight.

The flash and receiver generally work without skipping a beat. The flash can take some dull photos if you’re releasing the shutter too quickly, but the max recycle time of 2sec is still superior to most hot-shoe flashes.

The single relevant flaw of this flashgun is that you can’t substitute the power source with AA batteries in case it dies unexpectedly. Thankfully, once you’ve used Modus 600RT a couple of times, you’ll have a better idea of how long the battery lives and can take a spare one for a longer shoot.


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11. YONGNUO YN560 IV Wireless Flash

Great features for its money

Compatibility: Canon, Nikon, Micro Four Thirds, Sony, Fujifilm | Focal length: 24-105mm | Rotating head: -7 to 90 degrees | Swivel: 135/135 | Manual power: 1/1 to 1/128 | Weight: 1.2 pounds

⊕ Budget-friendly
⊕ Has a scaling function that usually isn’t added to cheap flashes
⊕ It is relatively easy to use
⊖ No automatic power adjustments
⊖ Low synchronization speed

YN560 IV is a simple and quite functional cheap camera flash. Its main distinctive feature is the integrated radio-synchronizer that works both as a transmitter and a receiver.

Regarding the main functionality, it’s nearly identical to the YN-560 III with one substantial addition – the IV-th generation flash that can be used not only as a slave via the built-in radio-synchronizer, but as the master unit as well.

I consider it to be a very useful addition, especially since the price only increased by a small margin.


Best Camera Flashguns for Photographers

Image Name Features  
Canon Speedlite 600EXII-RT
Canon Speedlite 600EXII-RT
OUR CHOICE
  • 20-200mm
  • -7 to 90 degrees
  • 1/1 to 1/128
Check PRICE
Nikon Speedlight SB-700
Nikon Speedlight SB-700
BEST NIKON
  • 24-120mm
  • -7 to 90 degrees
  • 1/1 to 1/128
Check PRICE
METZ MECABLITZ 64 AF-1
METZ MECABLITZ 64 AF-1
WITH TOUCHSCREEN
  • 24-200mm
  • -9 to 90 degrees
  • 1/1 to 1/256
Check PRICE
Phottix Mitros + TTL Transceiver
Phottix Mitros + TTL Transceiver
FOR PROFESSIONALS
  • 24-105mm
  • -7 to 90 degrees
  • 1/1 to 1/128
Check PRICE
YONGNUO YN560 IV Wireless Flash
YONGNUO YN560 IV Wireless Flash
BUDGET
  • 24-105mm
  • -7 to 90 degrees
  • 1/1 to 1/128
Check PRICE

How to Choose a Camera Flash?

Before you buy any product, the first thing you have to do is read about its characteristics. These are the features you should look for when choosing the best camera flash. Understanding these things will help you analyze each model and pick one that suits you.

1. Compatibility

The first thing you need to make sure of when buying a flash is its compatibility with the camera you want to use. Some flashes can only be used with models from a single manufacturer, while others are universal and can be attached to different cameras thanks to the special mount.

For instance, Canon flashes are designed exclusively for Canon cameras, while third-party models can be suitable for a larger range of devices.

2. Guide Number

best camera flash

One of the main parameters of any flash. The guide number is a conditional characteristic that describes the light intensity of a flash. It allows you to find out the distance (in meters) at which you can shoot, helping you determine the correct exposure while accounting for an aperture of f/1.0 and ISO 100.

Therefore, the larger the number, the higher the chance that you’re holding the best camera flash in your hands.

3. Recycle Speed

The recycle speed of a flash depends on its electronic filling, capacitor, power source, and several other factors. This parameter is important for people, who take a lot of photos in a short period – for instance, during reportage shoots. In this case, the lower the maximum recycle speed, the better.

4. Automatic Zoom

When using a zoom lens, a photographer often changes the focal length. To match the adjusted focal length, the best flashes are supplied with an automatic zoom. It is a dissipative lens that is placed right in front of the flash and it changes the light diffusion as it’s moved.

By using zoom, a flash can concentrate the pulse on the center of the frame or shed a more filling light. This way, the flash will automatically adjust to the shot, regardless of whether it’s a group photo or close-up portrait, taken with a large focal length.

5. Head Swiveling

best camera flash

The availability of a swivel head is always mentioned in camera flash reviews since it allows changing the angle of the flash, receiving different scene lighting options. In a lot of cases, it also allows making the lighting more natural. The larger the possible rotation angles - the better, but they’re not useful for all photographers – don’t overpay without a good reason.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more

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