The first touchscreen shotshoe flash, Mecablitz 52 AF-1, from German manufacturer Metz is now available in the Canon version, with Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus/Panasonic/Leica versions soon to come.
The 52 AF-1 is probably a fitting way to start 2013 as this will likely be the year touchscreens take over a large portion of consumer electronics, and photography equipment obviously won’t be immune. Whether touchscreens will be a force for mostly good of evil is yet to be seen, though Metz are known for their down to earth user friendly interfaces so it probably a good thing they have got the ball rolling, hopefully in the right direction.
At just $250 the 52 AF-1 is almost a fully featured TTL and HSS flash, with the Canon and Nikon versions having optic wireless master and slave compatibility built in. With a guide number of 52 metres at 105mm zoom that puts it roughly in-between the Canon 430EX II and 600EX-RT in power. So the 52 AF-1 is not quite a full size competitor, but really not that far off either. The other main omission separating the 52 AF-1 from the top end units is a lack high voltage port for external battery packs.
- High max. guide number 52 (meters) at 105 mm
- 3.5 sec recycle at full power
- Wireless TTL, Master and Slave: 3 Groups, 4 Channels
- Simple optic slave with pre-flash supression mode
- HSS – High speed flash synchronisation
- 1st and 2nd shutter curtain synchronisation
- Manual power mode with 22 partial lighting levels
- USB port for firmware updates
- Autozoom Head: 24 to 105mm
- Horizontal/Vertical Swivel: 300/90°
- Illuminated, Auto-Rotating Touchscreen
- LCD flash range display
- Simple operating concept
- Integrated wide-angle diff user and Flip-out reflector card
- Metal base with quick lock
- HV Port for external battery packs
- PC sync port
- Auto sensor
The 52 AF-1 touchscreen features an automatic 90 degree swivel function which rotates the screen when the camera is held sideways in the portrait position. The illuminated LCD looks simple and clear, though its interesting Metz have chosen not to go with a full colour LCD screen
The 52 AF-1 has a metal foot, though Metz have retained the old locking ring system. Which in itself is not a bad thing, though the current locking ring is smaller and less grippy than some previous models which doesn’t help when mounting and removing the flash.
A USB port allows for future firware updates, which is becoming fairly critical these days with Camera manufactures making more significant changes to their protocols in new models.
For off camera flash use compatibility with other third party TTL radio triggers can be an issue though. As third party TTL radio triggers become more popular this is becoming an increasing issue. In general mixing third party gear like this is not ideal, so that may be one thing to consider carefully if off camera use with radio triggers is a priority.
Metz make high quality flash units otherwise at very reasonable prices, and the 52 AF-1 looks to be no exception. Whether the touch screen is to everyone’s liking remains to be seen, though Metz are already expanding into monolights with touchscreen control as well, so its clear they are only going to become more prominent.
Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and the Olympus/Panasonic/Leica available.