Which camera flash is best?

To oversimplify, a camera works by recording the light that enters through its lens. If there isn’t enough light entering the lens, then you record a poor image  — if you record an image at all. Many cameras, such as the ones in phones, have a built-in flash that’s just strong enough to take a simple photo in low light conditions. Professional-grade flashes like the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash are much more powerful and can be minutely adjusted to take the best possible pictures.

What to know before you buy a camera flash

Compatibility

Compatibility comes down to how a camera flash physically connects to the camera and how its software connects. You should also consider the brand.

  • Physical: Camera flashes typically connect using something called a hot-shoe bracket. Most professional-grade cameras have a hot-shoe bracket panel directly above the lens on top of their body. If they don’t have this panel, you may be able to connect it with a cable or wirelessly.
  • Software: Even flashes that fit your camera may not have their full suite of functions available to you, though you should at least have access to its basic functions. Most flashes include a list of cameras they’re compatible with.
  • Brand: When in doubt, consider buying a flash that matches your camera’s brand. Except in rare cases, it should work perfectly. Don’t be afraid to buy branded or generic flashes that don’t match your camera — just check its compatibility first.

Guide number

The guide number essentially relates to how powerful a flash is, and higher numbers mean higher power. You use the guide number to determine what your camera’s settings — namely its aperture and ISO — need to be in order to light your subject properly at varying distances.

Battery

Camera flashes run on their own battery or through your camera’s battery. Usually the largest and most powerful flashes require their own battery power, using either replaceable or rechargeable batteries. Flashes that use the camera’s battery access it through the hot-shoe bracket.

What to look for in a quality camera flash

Screen

The best camera flashes have screens that show the flash’s current settings, making it much easier to adjust them.

Through-the-lens and exposure compensation

Both of these optional modes make using your flash much easier.

  • TTL mode lets the camera automatically adjust the flash for optimal picture quality.
  • Exposure compensation mode adds a small amount of manual control when using a TTL mode. Typically, it gives you control over the flash’s intensity and your camera’s exposure.

How much you can expect to spend on a camera flash

Camera flashes typically cost $25-$750. Basic flashes for simple jobs cost less than $100 with better midrange options costing roughly $100-$200. The best flashes start at around $200.

Camera flash FAQ

Does the flash need to be connected to the camera to use it?

A. Some need to be directly connected to the camera. Others can be used remotely if connected by a cable, and a few can be used completely wirelessly.

Can I use multiple camera flashes at once?

A. Absolutely. In fact, it’s considered a standard practice to do so — if you have the time to set up a shot. In situations where you need to be relatively candid, one flash should still be enough. Take wedding photography, for example. You can set up multiple flashes for official photos after the ceremony and wander the reception with one attached flash.

How should I transport my camera flashes?

A. Cameras and their accessories are delicate, so you should transport everything in a good camera bag. Some camera flashes are compact enough to fit in a pocket, which may be necessary if your current job needs you to move around and change flashes quickly. You can also leave your flash attached to the camera. Just make sure to turn it off when you’re done with it.

What’s the best camera flash to buy?

Top camera flash 

Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash

Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash

What you need to know: It offers excellent features and works with many camera brands.

What you’ll love: The body is small and lightweight, making it easy to travel with. Settings are easily adjusted, thanks to a dot-matrix LCD screen and multi-dial control button. The zoom flash head has a range of 24-105 millimeters, and it has a maximum guide number of 141 feet at ISO 100.

What you should consider: The flash may work with non-Canon cameras, but not all settings are available to them. Some consumers report issues with overheating, regardless of camera brand.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top camera flash for the money

Powerextra Flash Speedlite

Powerextra Flash Speedlite, 2.4G Wireless Flash Trigger Transmitter Kit

What you need to know: It’s wireless and affordable, and it works with most cameras.

What you’ll love: The kit includes the wireless camera flash, a miniature stand, a 2.4G wireless flash trigger and a user manual. The flash has a vertical and horizontal rotation angle of -7 to 90 degrees and 0 to 270 degrees, respectively. The flash trigger has a maximum range of 160 feet.

What you should consider: It isn’t compatible with most Canon cameras. Some customers had issues with battery life. Others struggled to contact customer support when issues arose.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Neewer NW561 LCD Display Flash Speedlite

Neewer NW561 LCD Display Flash Speedlite

What you need to know: The digital LCD display makes it a breeze to control.

What you’ll love: It’s compatible with most cameras that use a standard hot shoe mount. The flash recharges in 0.1 to 5 seconds. It has overheat protection, a power-saving mode and PC synchronization. It has vertical and horizontal rotation angles of 0 to 90 degrees and 0 to 180 degrees.

What you should consider: It isn’t compatible with recent Canon cameras. A few purchasers had issues with the flash suddenly not working after a few months.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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