Projects and ponderings for film photographers

Archive for March, 2010

101: Vintage Electronic Flash

When buying cameras off eBay, or checking them out at secondhand shops, it’s very common for a vintage camera kit to include some weird, funky-looking old flash unit.

Today, these retro strobes are practically being given away. So I’m sure many of you have asked the question: Are they still good for anything?

Vintage Flash Unit Lineup

Now, if you started doing photography within the past decade or so, your camera probably included a built-in flash. With those, you might choose between a couple of different flash modes (or, the camera might pick for you); but the exposure settings are all figured out automatically.

But it wasn’t so simple back in the 1960s and 1970s. Flash was a separate, add-on accessory, usually made by a different company. And getting the exposure correct might require a little figuring.

Built-in flash may be easy to use. But light coming from directly above the lens gives a very stark, unflattering look. It’s not a very pleasant light for photographing people.

So my thinking is, a few cheap old flashes are a great way to start experimenting with different, more interesting styles of lighting.