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|Category:||Portable Flash and Lighting|
|Product:||Metz 58 AF-1|
Metz 58 AF-1 - The Metz 58 AF-1 twin-head flashgun has a GN of 58 (ISO100/metres). Priced at Ł267, it sits between the SB-600 and SB-900 Speedlight flashguns from Nikon and the 580 EX and 430 EX II Speedlite flashguns from Canon.
ePHOTOzine tester matt Grayson takes a look at the Metz 58 AF-1 flashgun and asks is iit worth the £267 price tag?
Metz 58 AF-1: Features
Metz flashguns are highly regarded as being top notch quality, sturdy and powerful. and itheir top models have long been the mainstay of professional photographers.
The Metz 58 AF-1 has a top guide number of 58m at ISO100 (105mm) and 42m at ISO100 (50mm) which is pretty impressive and matches the Canon Speedlite 580 EX. The head has a zoom facility with a range of 24-105mm although this can be expanded down to 18mm with the integrated wide-angle diffuser.
Left: The back has a simple layout of four buttons plus an on/off switch.
Above: A secondary flash adds catchlights when you shoot bounce flash.
The back of the unit has four buttons sat below the LCD panel. What a relief! Some of the top of the range models from the camera manufacturers have dials and buttons dripping off them such as the Nikon SB-900 and Olympus FL-50. However, this could be a portent as to how intuitive the menu system is. Switching the camera on brings up TTL information by default showing information such as aperture, ISO, zoom setting and the mode currently in. TTL will work with D-TTL or i-TTL and by pressing the mode button twice (pressing once merely lights up the screen) will allow you to scroll through the programme modes such as auto, manual and stroboscope which will fire the flash in successive bursts for continuous shooting.
The Metz 58 AF-1 can be used as a slave by enabling the system in the menu by pressing the Sel button, choosing Remote and selecting Slave from there. the Metz can be a master as well, by ensuring you choose the right setting for the flash to control or be controlled.
An interesting feature of the Metz 58 AF-1 is the USB port fitted to the side. It allows for downloads of firmware updates to ensure the flash is fully compatible with the camera.
Another interesting feature is the secondary head (referred to as a reflector in the Metz literature) that's built in to the body of the unit. This is generally used by professional photographers when they bounce the main head, the secondary head adds catchlights to the eyes to make them sparkle. It works on an 85% to 15% ratio with the secondary head at full power. It can be cut down to 1/2 or 1/4 power in the Sel menu and choosing the icon that looks like two dishes on top of each other with three lines going into each.
For the creative side in you, the Metz will accept a number of accessories such as the Mecabounce 58-90 at £17.99 if you'd like to benefit from softer lighting. This would be ideal for portrait work and there's also a bounce diffuser 54-23 for bounce flash lighting although the flash does come with an integrated bounce. The diffuser costs around £22 and can be found with a quick online search.
Metz 58 AF-1: Handling
The flash takes four AA batteries and if you need more power, there's an optional P76 Power Pack which gives five times the power and reduced recycle times. However, at £332, it's an expensive piece of kit and on top of that you need a connecting cable V58-50 at £25, both of which can be found at Warehouse Express.
The only thing that annoys me about the Metz 58 AF-1 was that if I want to enter into a menu, I have to press the button twice because pushing any button once lights up the screen alone. Lighting the screen up when the menu button is pressed is a no-brainer so adding a small button to only light the screen would be a good idea.
The 18mm wide-angle diffuser flips down from the top.
For high speed sontinuous shooting, the Metz 58 AF-1 offers a stroboscope function where the flash will fire off consecutive images in succession. It can match a shutter speed of up to 1/15sec. Flash duration runs from 1/125sec at full power output to 1/33000sec at 1/256 power output.
The Nikon D90's white-balance worked well on the flash pre-set. I didn't have any problems except when bouncing then I noticed a warming in colours although they didn't look unnatural.
Metz 58 AF-1: Performance
The Metz 58 AF-1 was used on a Nikon D90 and 18-105mm kit lens.
Using the flash in TTL mode is the easiest and it's the mode where you don't have to do anything. When the flash is hooked up to different models, you can get different extra modes. The Nikon D90 had TTL BL added which is a fill-in flash mode. Rear curtain sync is available on the Metz which is great for longer exposures and catching the subject as the curtain closes making long trails of light look more natural sitting behind the moving subject.
I used rechargeable AA Sanyo Eneloop batteries for the flashgun test. After a shoot of around 50 shots, the batteries were starting to wear down. Recycling time is a bit rubbish at around 5sec in manual and between 0.1 - 5sec in TTL/Auto with fully charged high-power alkaline cells, but it slows down as the power empties to nearer 30 - 40sec. I think I'd prefer to see a unit that runs out a bit faster but maintains the recycle time until the very end. I don't think anyone would leave without spares so the quicker power dump wouldn't be a problem. Using a different type of cell, such as NiMh retains the same recycle time but lowers the number of flashes from the 3000 maximum to 2000. Other flashguns, such as the Nikon SB-800 take less to recycle - 2.7sec in the case of the Nikon but take longer in other cases, such as the Olympus FL-50R and its 6sec recycle time.
The Metz 58 AF-1 has a coverage of 24-105mm with an expansion to 18mm with the built-in converter (35mm format). It's a simple flip out and drop over transparent mask that diffuses the light over the wider range. I tried it with and without the mask and it certainly makes a difference. Without it, the light was all over the place with concentrated spots hitting random areas of the frame. Adding the diffuser gives a lovely, balanced light over the whole frame. In TTL, the flash will track the camera including the focal length of the lens and update the information in real-time on the LCD screen.
Metz 58 AF-1 TTL at 18mm without diffuser.
Metz 58 AF-1 TTL at 18mm with diffuser.
There's not enough fall off at the edges to warrant grumbling about it using a crop sensor camera and what is there will only show up at wide-angle. That was also shooting a bare wall, which is an unlikely subject. In the real world, I don't think you'd ever notice it.
Testing the different lengths on Chloe, our test subject showed that without the diffuser, setting the camera to the 18mm setting (27mm on APS-C crop sensor) will start to burn out highlights Using the diffuser at this closeness to the subject is a must and it distributes the light more evenly giving a more balanced exposure across the frame. As the focal length is increased, the exposure becomes more balanced and even gives a good shot at 105mm (157.5mm).
The pictures below were shot in portrait format with the flashgun mounted on the hotshoe.
Even at close quarters, the TTL system is working well.
Any bleaching is due to the close quarters but I like the exposure.
Moving back for a longer focal length and the exposure settles.
The same exposure is maintained even at full range of 105mm.
Cameras in certain groups will get the fill-flash option on the flash gun. Cameras with D-TTL or i-TTL will benefit from TTL-BL. It works well, balancing out contrast and giving portraits an even exposure. The flash will maintain the exposure on its own without the need for any adjustments.
Bouncing the flash off a reflective surface to distribute the light and make it less harsh is a great technique for shooting portraiture and this is where the secondary head comes in. Its purpose is to add catchlights to a portraits eyes while still directing the main amount of flash away from the subject. It works really well with variale extra light depending on the power output you assign to it.
Without the fill-in flash mode enabled, more contrast is noticeable.
Using fill-in (TTL BL) balances out the image for a smoother exposure.
Metz 58 AF-1: Verdict
It's a great flash and at £267, it's competitively priced against the high end models. like the Nikon SB900 and Canon 580 If you're looking for a separate flash unit with fill options and full TTL and you don't want to pay full whack for a manufacturer's own model then this is the flashgun to get.
Metz 58 AF-1: Pros
Secondary flash head
Burst rate option
USB port for online updates
Metz 58 AF-1: Cons
Annoying "double-press" to enter the menu
Metz 58 AF-1: Specification
|Guide number (ISO100)||58 (105mm)|
|Range||24-105mm (18mm with included diffuser)|
|Flash modes||TTL, Auto, Manual, Stroboscopic|
|Compatible cameras||Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Fuji|
|Flash exposure control||On camera|
|Sync modes||X-sync, 1st shutter, 2nd shutter, high speed sync, slow speed sync, flash bracketing|
|Tilt||-7° - +90°|
|Power||4x AA batteries|
The Metz 58 AF-1 costs around £267 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Metz 58 AF-1
For more information on Metz equipment, visit the Intro2020 website here:
Metz at Intro2020