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The best camera flashes for DSLR cameras are a must for any professional photo environment. When used in combination with effective diffusion and lighting surfaces, these accessories can help provide even lighting for your subject. Unfortunately not every flash attachment is compatible with all DSLR cameras, so compatibility is an important factor when deciding which flash is best for you.
While not necessarily essential for casual photographers, using an external flash does offer benefits outside of a studio setting. Using a dedicated flash has a couple of benefits that will be obvious to your run-of-the-mill user. First, you'll drastically extend your battery life, and second, the articulation present in most dedicated flash systems allows you to "bounce" your flash, giving you the benefit of evenly lighting your subject while avoiding the dreaded "red-eye" that can plague most direct on-board camera flashes.
If you're looking for more ways to get the most out of your new flash, make sure to dive into our guide to taking awesome flash pictures with your digital camera.
Because flashes constitute a very deliberate aspect of photography, those who are willing to spend upwards of $300 on a flash should really know what they’re doing. Whether for portraits, weddings or darkly lit environments, the proper use of a flash is something only professionals seem to get. If you’re a Canon shooter with the need for a bright, versatile hot-shoe flash that will work well in most environments and conditions, you should check out the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash.
Speedlite is Canon’s proprietary line of EOS (DSLR) flashes, and it is home to pretty much all the best flashes in the category. The Speedlite 430EX is a compact zoom flash covering a range of 24-105mm, with a maximum guide number of 141ft./43m at ISO 100. It’s compact, lightweight and easy to use if you’re a novice. As we mentioned in the introduction, flash photography is very camera- and user-specific, but it’s safe to assume that this one will satisfy any Canon shooter in need of a go-to flash.
Sometimes simple is better. The Neewer TT560 is a perfect example of a flash without all the frills — a basic Speedlite that can be found for less than $35 and which is compatible with both Canon and Nikon DSLRs. The features are pretty limited: It comes with a built-in bounce card and a wide-angle diffuser, and it offers eight steps of manual brightness control.
It rotates 270 degrees and tilts 90 degrees, and it has some pretty simple controls that any novice can get a handle on fairly quickly. Probably the best feature of this flash, considering the price, is the slave mode, which allows you to set the flash to automatically fire when it senses light from another Speedlight. This isn’t a highly common feature on super cheap flashes, but here it is. That alone will seal the deal for many budget-conscious shooters.
If you’re a serious photographer but prefer Nikon’s line of camera gear, you may want to take a look at the SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash. Like the Canon 430EX, the SB-700 is quite pricey; it is not something you should pick up if you don’t know a whole lot about photography. But if you do, this thing is thoroughly next-gen. It’s compact, versatile and compatible with a wide range of Nikon DSLRs. It features Nikon’s Precision i-TTL flash control technology, wireless operation, and flash control, 360° rotation (as well as 90° tilting), three light distribution patterns, streamlined controls and a number of other useful features.
If you’re somewhat new to flash photography and are on a tight budget, then the YONGNUO YN560-TX is probably worth looking into. Some shooters still prefer the proprietary realm of flash technology, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to spend a lot more money on those devices. For basic functionality—not to mention, wider compatibility—there’s the YONGNUO YN560 IV Wireless Flash.
For less than $70, this package includes a built-in wireless trigger system, which allows you to use it as a flash speed light, as well as a flash controller-transmitter. It’s relatively compact and lightweight, well built, versatile and rugged. It’s also pretty darn fast. Some users have complained about long-term reliability, and the lack of TTL (automatic, “through the lens”) may be a bit of a turn-off, but all that’s sort of something you have to expect for the budget price range.
Nikon’s top-of-the-line, radio-controlled speed light earns top marks for nuts-and-bolts functionality as well as some cool, innovative features. In today’s market, Canon commands a lot of market share, but if you overlook Nikon's amazing entry-level DSLRs or its pro-quality accessories, then you are missing out on a lot of great products.
First off, the flash mounts right on the hot shoe of your Nikon cam as expected, and is specifically compatible with the Nikon i-TTL. You can control the light with standard optical control or the more updated radio control — the latter letting you easily pair a few SB-5000s for a more immersive remote lighting solution. It tilts from -7 to 90 degrees and covers a zoom span of 24–200mm, giving you some nice versatility.
But arguably the most interesting feature is the Cooling System — which Nikon claims is the first hot shoe-mounted cooling system on the market. It allows you to snap up to 100 consecutive shots, meaning your shoots can run longer and you won't miss a moment.
Finding the best flash for your DSLR can be challenging, especially if you’re just getting started with photography. We love the Neewer NW-561 Flash for beginners because it’s much cheaper than most flash units, yet still has plenty of great features to help you figure out if you want to step up to more expensive units.
The Neewer NW-561 measures 31.5 x 90.5 x 41.3 inches and weighs 1.4 pounds. It offers a powerful flash that can recharge in less than three seconds and has eight levels of output control. The unit has a fixed zoom, with a vertical rotation angle between 7 and 90 degrees and a horizontal rotation angle between 0 and 180 degrees. It also has a power-saving mode if you have a long photo session ahead.
Customers said the Neewer NW-561 was a great value for the price, but noted that the instruction manual was unintelligible due to a bad English translation. But if you’re willing to play around with the dials and features, you’ll get up to speed quickly.
At an extremely affordable price point and with a carrying case and all the connection accessories you’ll need, the HVLF32M earns its spot for sheer value. First, let’s talk about the flagship aspect here: this flash is a multi-interface model, meaning you can adapt it to use with a variety of Sony options from its DSLRs all the way to the Alpha line.
The company has included a wireless remote control, high-speed shutter synchronization, and a proprietary Advanced Distance Integration that tempers or amplifies the flash response depending on how far away the subject is. The display is small and unassuming, but it does contain most of the info you’ll want in an external flash unit. It has included tiltability from -8 to 90 degrees, with a 270-degree, side-to-side swivel for versatile control and unique shadow bouncing techniques.
Finally, the build itself is pretty impressive as it is water and dust resistant, so it shouldn’t have much of an issue braving the elements. It isn’t quite as substantial, from a brightness perspective, as the top-line Nikon or Canon options, but for a Sony-branded accessory meant to pair perfectly with your Sony camera, you really can’t ask for more.
While certainly not for everyone, the Profoto A1X is an excellent, rapid-fire flash for anyone using a DSLR in a high-speed environment. At maximum power, the A1X is capable of cycling at 1-second intervals, making sure you never miss a once in a lifetime shot. This flash is AirTTL compatible with Nikon, Sony and Canon DSLR cameras, and even has a 2.4Ghz wireless receiver to coordinate multiple flashes off-camera.
The extensive battery life allows for around 450 full-powered flashes on a full charge making for a versatile and reliable flash, perfect for anyone that needs a fast and powerful lighting solution.
For steadfast reliability and accuracy, we recommend the Canon Speedlite 430EX. This compact external flash is easy to use, even for novices, and offers a stable platform for even lighting in virtually any environment.
Camera system - Most flashes can be used interchangeably with different camera systems if you don’t mind setting the flash power manually. However, if you’re looking for a flash that can automatically adjust its output depending on the scene, you’ll need to make sure the unit offers TTL compatibility for your camera brand.
Flash output - How bright do you need your flash to be when shooting? Keep an eye out for a flash’s guide number which tells you how far a flash can reach. Typical budget flashes will have a guide number of around 35 to 45, meaning they can reach 35 to 45 feet at ISO 100, while more expensive and powerful flashes can easily have guide numbers that surpass 100.
Recharge time - How long will your model need to wait before you can use your flash again, or will your flash recharge fast enough for you to capture sports? Some high-end flash gear can take up to 100 photos without having to recharge, but others will need a few seconds after each shot.