Leica SF26 Review 8 of 10
Leica SF26 Review
I brought the Leica SF26 because I felt my street photography needed to have more light and edge to the images. To buy the SF26 was fairly difficult because Leica has stopped making this model of flash, there has been third party flashes with the same body and styling. The look alike model called Mez does not talk to the Leica body and lens very well, but the price is significantly cheaper than the branded Leica SF26.
When the Leica SF26 arrived, it was compact, taking AAA batteries due to the size. Once the flash fitted on to the Leica Q, it looked very professional and I was impressed with the overall appearance, with it also being lightweight.
Using the SF26 flash was a whole different story, my images after the first few shots were completely over exposed because I found the flash to be very powerful. The rest of this review will explain how I overcame some of the technical challenges.
The first round of settings when using the flash.
The flash uses TTL which means ‘Through The Lens’, so the flash takes all the light and metering information through the lens, I found this to be confusing because I am used to using flashes that do not use the camera. In other words, with a normal flash you are able to control the flash with the manual settings on the back of the flash unit, but the SF26 has to be set up through the camera itself.
I was setting the camera up for my street photography, as I normally would without the flash (f.56, shutter 1000, ISO between 100-1600) I was finding the SF26 flash would over expose the subjects I was photographing. The flash needs to send out a pre-flash to meter the distance of the subject, to then tell the flash how brightly to illuminate the subject, I found my settings on the camera would struggle to focus on the subject, so would then focus behind the subject due to the powerful flash over exposing them as can be seen in the image above.
Because of the over exposure, I then thought about tilting the flash away from subjects!
I assumed the right thing to do would have been to move the flash in to an upright position, which I would have done with a normal flash. However, as previously discussed, the flash uses TTL, so when the pre-flash is fired to meter the brightness, there is no feedback from the meter, which made the subject extremely bright. At this time, I was stumped, my images were not turning out how I had envisioned.
Trial and error below
I therefore looked for someone to help with how to combat the over exposure and washed out images. I looked for reviews and blogs but there was limited information and advice on the internet to help. I was almost ready to give up and send the flash back! As however, I am not a quitter, I sought more help.
I called Leica help line!
After about an hour of conversation and explaining my photography style, I was ready to give the flash one final go!
I found out that I was setting my camera to be used without a flash! By this I mean that the camera is set to F5.6 which will allow more light onto the sensor from the flash, then if I set the camera to F16 so the lens is only letting in a small amount of light, therefore when using the flash the brighter the light.
The first task in order to use the flash effectively, was to first understand that the Leica Q does not need flash, and to use the settings appropriately. I moved away from using multi-focus and started to use the centre weighted focus, I changed my exposure compensation to darken the overall image digitally so the flash is now illuminating rather the over exposing.
I turn on the flash first before the camera.
To turn on the flash, push the pin button first then the power button.
The TTL will need pushing to make sure the setting is selected, the TTL will turn green when there is enough power for the flash to fire, plus the green light above the buttons also indicates when there is enough charge for the flash to fire.
After use, make sure you turn off the camera first before the flash.
Successful flash settings when working with the Leica Q
Remember to save these settings into the pre-set profiles, so when using the flash again the camera can be set correctly and quickly.
For the love of flash!
The flash has made taking images a real joy, correctly using the settings allows the colours to pop better, my recent project has been focusing on the transient public transport of buses, where the flash helps light inside of the buses and to get past the dark tinted windows.
The flash helps highlight the subjects and make sure the focus is on the characters.
The final result
After using the flash for just over a month I don’t go anywhere without this powerful tool, the beginning steps of using the flash were really touch and go because I had invested a reasonable amount of money and naively I expected the flash to be easy to control and set up. Now I have the flash setting dialled in, I have really enjoyed using it!
If you’re worried about buying the flash, I would recommend to not rush getting results, but to be patient and get used to the settings and angles that work for your photography style.
If you ask what I thought of the flash when I first used it I would give it a 3 out of 10 due to it not being easy to use! But now I would give the flash a strong 8 out of 10, I find it really handy to use and fun whilst helping to get some fantastic image results.
I hope this helps and I look forward to hearing how you have gotten along with Leica SF26.
Keywords: camera, flash, leica, photography, portraiture, q, review, sf26, street, street photography
Also, make sure electronic shutter is OFF in the menu.
I just spent 10 minutes working that out, hah.
Might save someone else some time troubleshooting though...
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It is interesting to read your blog post and I am going to share it with my friends.
Other manufacturer flashes on Q(non-registered)
With a modern flash, having matching hot shoe contacts, is there any danger to using a non-Leica flash on the Q? Big Head Taco (youtube camera reviewer) has a nice video using a Fuji flash on the Q. What are the actual physics of any back-current from any flash possily damaging anything in any camera (not just Leica, but anyone). Does one need a degree in electrical engineering to know that?
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