Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tiffany's Debut @Rockwell Clubhouse AND Canon 320EX Speedlite Review

The last time I shot a photo only gig by myself was sometime last year. (I mean hey, I still shoot photos, but outside of the videographer spotlight during gigs) I've been completely and sincerely immersed into the video culture for the past couple of years now. Last night I made a comeback as a solo photographer, and ran in with a brand new flash fresh from the box. The Canon 320EX hybrid flash.

Now, I won't really get into the technical specs nor am I a poster boy for Canon. (I have bought and used every single popular flash brand out there from Nikon to Canon to Yongnuo, along with the one time in my life that I owned 9 units of 580EX II) But, I'll give everyone my first impression of the 320EX from actual use on my Canon 60D for over 1000 shots at Tiffy's debut in Makati.

It's very compact in size, so I can fit it in my "medium" sized camera bag with room for one more 320EX. It's designed differently from other Canon flashes. The first thing that came to mind when taking it out of the case for the first time was that it resembled the battle rifle design from a video game called Halo 3 on Xbox 360 that I still actively play. Anyway, performance wise, it was plenty of light to work with for me. Of course, I use all primes, so I don't need the power of, let's say, a Nikon SB900 or Canon 580EX II to compensate. However, despite the lack of power, this flash is very heavy on utility. I can easily say it's a jack of all trades, master of none. Not necessarily a bad thing!

The ETTL isn't as good as most other flashes, because of it's lack of infrared (which is actually a plus if you work with other photographers, the red lines can ruin both photo and video). If you're good with manual flash, you won't have a problem adjusting anyway. It has a built-in LED light, which I tried for a few things... I tested it for video clips both before and a few during the event. The light isn't as bright or flattering as my dedicated LED, but for off cam lighting it's actually quite good. Heck, the flash itself is a strobist's dream. Why? Because the flash has a built-in trigger that can trigger video recording or for taking photos. The flash can even be triggered by Canon cameras that have the commander feature. Meaning, by using a tripod, I can justify eliminating the light man position and light close subjects myself for both photo and video without having to be at arms length of the camera. The downside is... The distance isn't that great. So, I'd say it was limited to small to medium group shots of up to 10 people, give or take a head. For the situation that I was in last night, it was perfect.

Being away from the camera gives me the advantage of choosing my bounce sources, angles, and distances manually without moving the camera or subjects. Sometimes you're stuck a limited angle of incidence with the flash mounted to the camera, and this method completely frees you from that even if you have to hold the camera in one hand and the flash in the other. I can even hold a small umbrella and shoot light right through it if I want to without having to worry about being stuck in one spot. I can help people pose, take the lint out of someone's hair, or even be in the shot. It's like flipping the whole system around, which others might think it's blasphemy but I think it's absolutely brilliant. Lose the tether, be a dual operator, work faster and more creatively with light. I love it. I shoot with two bodies, so that makes me love it even more for B-angles or a static designation for documentary. So, let's take a look at some of the shots! The lighting was spotty.... The flexibility of the flash helped with it a lot. Some of these shots didn't have flash at all (purposely)

In conclusion, I absolutely adored shooting Tiffany's Debut (Also known as an 18th birthday for all those Americans who still keep up with me) It was inspiring enough to shoot over 1000 properly exposed shots with the new flash. =P Chef Jessie is a great place to eat, I especially loved the Pistachio Panna Cotta as seen below. (The green blurred one. Sorry, everyone took it all before I could focus on the green. It's THAT good!)

The family was really nice to me, didn't go back on any parts of the agreement, fed me without me having to ask, (It's actually in the contract that the team gets fed) and I didn't feel one cold or dull moment when I was there even if Tiffany's brother did say "This is actually pretty chill compared to all the other debuts, I like it!" Yes, I am proud to say this is my favorite photo only gig this year, even if it's my only photo only gig (prenups don't count!), hehe.

- Ryan Reyes

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