Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TTL multi segment sucks (sometimes)

Just a small interlude to show you why modern "superduper" TTL can drive you sometimes crazy and a good reason to shoot Manual. The very sophisticated microchip driven TTL "I evaluate ambient and flash in 1000 segments" can sometimes lead to strange results.

If you follow my blog you have realised that today's flash automatic at its highest form has evolved with ever more layers of technology. In my Blog I try to show the steps in this technical development and show examples of the advantages and disadvantages each technology presented.

Today's top model flashes have ALL of the past layers in them and come with thickly handbooks. My first flash had literally a one page instruction the size of a postcard.

In this Blog I want to show a short coming of the most current technology. I will not explain how we ended up with it, that will become clear with the future installments of the Blog.

Take a good look at the picture above.

I wanted to have a picture of the car, with Burj Khalifa in the blue evening light after sun down and a reflection of the cars headlights in the puddle. I planned the shot long ago, because puddles are rare and are not around for long in Dubai. The evening after the rain I went to the spot I had scouted out in advance. The camera was quite low. To get the perspective right and because I wanted the car to look a bit more aggressive. (As far as possible with a long limousine.)

I started in P mode adjusted the aperture to my liking and played around with the ambient light setting by dialing in some negative adjustment until I had the right background light level. Switch on my 4 Speedlights all in remote i-TTL driven by a commander.

The picture on top was the result? You see very, very little flash if you look carefully. I dialed the flash up with the commander as far as I could with pretty much the same result.

At that point I started swearing. The light moves fast, fast, fast when you are near the Equator.
I thought I made some mistake with the set-up and checked camera and flash settings.
All OK, all flashes firing.

Then it hit me: %/*-@#$% i-TTL. Two problems in the scenario:

1) If you dial down ambient light by reducing the main exposure compensation that reduces the complete exposure (my setting was at -2) so if you dial up flash exposure it is relative to this base setting. The maximum the controller allows is plus 3. (so my overall flash exposure was only overall plus 1)

2) The headlights from the car were in the picture. Causing the i-TTL to "think" that there is already waaay too much light in the highlights and suppressing the flash down to next to nothing

OK Switch Camera to Manual and all flashes to Manual.

There you are!

The problem is, that the design approach for i-TTL comes from the fill flash world. You know, models in bright sunlight further brightened up. That is what it does perfectly. It struggels in some other situations and specifically when you do not want to smooth out contrast but rather increase it.

Next post we go back to a time when such problems did not yet exist.
Stay tuned

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Metz 45 CT-1 and Mecamat 45-20

This is the first installment dealing with the accessories available for the 45 series.

There are some that fit all 45 ers, others are general flash related and do in fact fit most flashes and some are specific for the model.

The filter set fits all 45ers. The early versions (45-21) had red, green and blue filters plus a clear one for your own gelantine filters and a wide angle adapter. The Wide angle adapter came already as a standard with the flash and extends coverage to 28mm. By buying the filter set you ended up with two. In later and current versions (45-32) it was replaced by a yellow filter. The filter sets seem no longer to be on the market and is not listed on the Metz website anymore. I found it to be one of the really useful add ons.  But maybe Metz decided to stop production in view of the many gel filter sets that are on offer.

In the picture on the right from the filters there is the simple photo cell Metz Mecalux 11. I said simple, because it can not suppress pre-flashes and is today only useful in 100%  manual set ups. Nevertheless I own several of it. It's big advantage is, that it can take any trigger voltage a 45er or 60 can produce. It is my go to trigger for the older CT-1s that I do not want to attach to any electronic device.

I did another little test with the Mecalux 11 and an SB 900. The modes which do not use a pre-flash on then SB-900 are:
- the Manual mode
- the Guide number mode
- the Automatic mode if the pre-flash is disabled in the menu

The Manual mode is for a number of photographers the preferred (Strobist) way but the Automatic mode can also be pretty useful as we will see later.

It is worthwhile to note that the menue option of the SB 900 to disable pre-flash does NOT work in any of the TTL modes with a DSLR. Pre-flashes are emitted and trigger simple photo cells such as the Mecalux 11.

For the Metz 45 CT-1 to be fully usefull in Manual mode you need an accessory called the Mecamat 45-20. It combines an external sensor with an upgraded electronics. Metz has produced a number of different versions of the Mecamat for different models of the 45er. Mecamats can ONLY be used with the model they were designed for.   

So only the 45-20 will work with the CT-1. (Please note that later versions of the CT-1 have low voltage electronics and use the mecamat 45 -43. The later versions start at serial number 534000) The logical reason is, as mentioned above, that the device is an upgraded version of the flash sensor and electronic and it had to be changed whenever newer electronics were used.

The upgrade provided by the Mecamat has three major benefits :

1) In Automatic mode it extends the number of usable Apertures to 9
2) In Manual mode it allows manual power setting in full stops  from 1 to 1/64
3) It has a spot meter option. (bride in dark church scenario)

It was the most useful accessory when the flash came onto the market and it effectively extends its usefulness to the present day.

There are a number of people who collect a full studio set up from used Metz 45 CT-1 and Mecamats in Strobist style on the cheap from the bay.

When the CT45-1 came on the market the Mecamat was marketed as a Macro-Tool, but it is much more versatile than that.

Seen from the back there are five elements. on top is the left right switch. It activates either the extended automatic dial on the left side or the manual dial on the right side. A white indicator shows which side is activated. Below in the middle is the flash ready lamp which replicates the flash ready status from the main unit. Below the flash ready lamp is a red led which lights up shortly if there was sufficient light. (The sensor did switch off the flash.) At the bottom uf the housing is a screw dial that allows to adjust the angle of the Mecamat upwards or downwards, in order to point the sensor when using the spot metering mode. Pointing downwards is also speciffically suitable for Macro work, when the subject is very near to the camera.  The little red button on the hot shoe can be used to trigger the flash for a test shot.

The front can be tilted to the side and the hole then acts as a visor so that you see where the Sensor is aiming. In the back a plastic part can be pushed out to be used for aiming with the visor.  (you can see it in the next picture at the feft sid near the bottom of the case in its pushed in state.) the The sensor itself can be turned with its black plastic rim and then pulled out to give a spot metering effect.

On the right side is a dial that looks very simmilar to the one on top of the the flash itself. When the mecamat is attached the dial on top of the flash is without function and it does not matter how it is set.
The inner dial is used to select the ISO. The outer dial can be set from Manual full power to 1/64 power. For each stop the table indicates the flash duration time between 1/300 to 1/16000 of a second. The upper part matches apertures with distance for the chosen setting. The highest ISO setting is only 400 but that does not matter as it is anyway only for informational purposes. A strobist shooting digital will get the right power setting by test shots and can ignore the ISO setting completely.

On the left side is a second simmilar dial and a switch. The switch can be selected to activate a "green" and a "red" modus. Waht you can see is currently active. In each modus 5 automatic apertures can be selected by turning the big dial. The "red" modus allows lower apertures. The  "green" modus allows higher apertures. The two modes overalp for one in the middle resulting in a total of 9 selectable apertures. For ISO 100 the apertures range from 2.8 to 45. The scale also shows the maximum distance for each aperture. Again ISO 400 is the largest ISO, but that is not tragic either. As aboove mentioned the ISO settings dial is just there to mechanically align the values printed on the dial. If higher ISO values are set in the camera simple adjust the aperture by the muber of stops necessary.

For example the read out of the dial says 400 aperture 2.8 and your camrea is set to 800 you need to close the aperture one stop to 4.

I will give a more detailed explanation how to work with when we come to an automatic set-up with multiple flashes.

This is my initial set up with a mecamat. I have swiveld it slightly to show that it could be moved about 45 degrees left or right.

Making this picture I used the Nikon 300s and the SB-900 in the hot shoe. The camera is set to manual and the Flash to slow sync TTL. It is pointing 45 dregrees up, the white reflector card is out and I use the wide angle reflector.

Following are a number of test shots that show how to make ugly pictures when using manufacturer recommended settings.

This is - no joking - the shot with level flash head Camera set to Programm and slow flash sync. The problem is the 3D Matrix Metering which wants to get a correct exposure for the focus distance, ignores the back ground and struggels with the combination of black and shiny subject surfaces. A picture straight for the bin.

Now this is the opposite extreme shot straight into the ceiling otherwise like above. My background is OK but there is no fill from the camera angel and my main subject is underexposed in its own shadow.

This one is nearly good.The camera is set to Program the Flash to slow sync TTL. It is pointing 45 degrees up shooting forward the white card is out and I use the wide angle reflector.

I can only encourage you to go and really play through all options with you gear and compare the results. The cameras and flashes of today are full of microchips that have a mind of their own and the only way you keep halfway in control is, to know how they react to each setting. You can also go the strobist route, dial in manual and be in control from the start.

Now back to the main program and the key question: How useful is this combo for my modern DSLR? There are three questions to be answered:

1) How high is the trigger voltage and can I attach it to my camera?
There seem to be three different types of 45 CT-1 on the market. Very early models seem to have voltages over 300V which is a clear NO to any modern camera. I could not find anyone who can confirm the serial numbers for the first batch. But it seems to be only a small run of early production and these are rarely encountered in today's second hand market. The second production model has numbers lower than 534000.  I tried to find as many references I could of people who measured the voltage of their CT-1 and so far all information I could find points to the following:  Models with a serial number beween 200000 and 534000 seem all to have a trigger voltage around 230V. My own has something like 219. BUT the 200000 for the lower end of the range is a provisional figure based on more than incomplete observation and in the absense of better information. Measure before you connect!!!
Hmmmm the camera manual of my Nikon says that it is OK with 250V maximum. Will I attach a CT-1 to it?  NO!
I fully admit that I am a chicken when it comes to wrecking expensive equipment.

2) Is It usefull in a remote flash set-up?
If your remote set-up is manual flash you will need the Mecamat 45-20. (or 45-43 for later versions) If it is Automatic flash it is useful in itself but even more usful with the Mecamat (9 stops range).

3) Can it be integrated with CLS?
Not really. It can serve as background lights or for a very specific purpose and also in this role only if you find a remote cell that can supress pre-flash.

This picture is part of a shoot for the Swiss artist HAFIS. He was working in a ceramic tile factory on a set of large handpainted tiles.
Knowing that a factory is mainly gray, gray and more gray I took two 45er along, used the red and blue filters and set them to remote triggered automatic mode. Suppressing the pre-flashes I got nice dramatic back ground light fitting to the subject of an artist. He is lit with an SB-900 in the hot shoe.

Admittedly the flashes used in this shot were not CT-1 but CT-3.
But the same result can be achieved.

A Macro set up in the early eighties looked something like this for me. The lens was in a retro mount. The flash was sometimes used with lumiquest reflector when softer light was required.

It could be used to make something like this

Stay tuned for more automatic flash experiments.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Ueberblitz Metz 45

On Christmas 1981 I "found" a Metz 45 CT-1 under the tree. It was no surprise as the Christmas money from parents, grandparents and relatives was pooled for the purchase. WOW! Compared with my earlier Revuetron I felt that I had just switched from a bullock cart to Mercedes S-Class. (In 1981 I had not ever driven in either, but I can still quite strongly remember the joy of the moment.)
The 45 had been unveiled at Photokina 1976 and had become an instant success becoming the workhorse of many pro's and amateurs.  


- It had amazing power for the day (and still today see below) with a GN of 45 while illuminating a 35mm lens field of view.
- The reflector could be swiveled and turned 90/360.
-  It offered automatic flash for five apertures.
- The automatic worked for all cameras and lenses of the day (unlike CAT)
- It had a built quality to match the pro cameras of its day. My 45 still works and works and works after hard and long use in 29 years.

- It had a large range of system accessories (which will be explained later in more detail).

Like everyone I was simply drooling for it as a youngster and happy like squirrel when I got it.

How did it work?
The "computerised" electronic flash as it was often called in marketing language at the time even though there was no computer involved was pioneered by the famous Vivitar 285 Model.

The simple manual electronic flashes like Revuetron had basically three components: A battery connected to a capacitor connected to the flash bulb. The connection between capacitor and flash bulb was through the connectors in the hot shoe. (Hence the often high voltage.)
A capacitor can be compared to an electronic toilet tank: The voltage from the battery slowly but steadily charges the capacitor like a stream of water. Once it is full, It stops charging. The voltage when fully charged can reach high amounts and in earlier simpler designs this high voltage might be connected to the hotshoe as explained here. As soon as the circuit between flashbulb and capacitor is closed all the stored energy drains out in one go, like pressing the button on the toilet tank.
In earlier manual flash designs like Revuetron or ED the full charge was always fully drained. And then a new re-charging cycle started, taking minutes.
The automated models added basically two more elements: A light sensor and an electronic switch (a so called thyristor) between capacitor and flashbulb. Now closing the hot shoe or cable contacts switched the thyristor "on" which in turn let the high voltage get to the flashbulb. The light sensor measured the light reflected back to the flash and after receiving sufficient light switched the thyristor "off". The whole thing works because thyristors can handle high voltages and they are very, very fast switches.(Computer chips are built up with tiny thyristors that can switch more than a billion times per second.)
There are two brilliant effects with this design, first and foremost that of flash automation, second because only part of the capacitors charge is used before it is switched off by the thyristor, "there is water left in the tank" and the recharging is much quicker!
Why was the 45 a quantum leap?

Earlier automated flash models or cheaper ones had only a limited range of apertures to choose from. The majority of models had one or two apertures to choose from. The apertures you could choose depended on the ISO of the Film used.

The 45 gave you a choice of five apertures after selecting the ISO. The inner Dial on top was used to select ISO of your film. The outer transparent wheel could be turned to one of five aperture positions or Manual. The scale below the transparent wheel showed the selectable apertures and maximum distance for your selected aperture. The full charge of the capacitor is used when the indicated maximum distance is reached. The flash duration is between 1/300s to about 1/25000s. The minimum distance is between 0.5m and 1.5m depending on the selected aperture.
In the picture above you can see, that with ISO 100 selecting 2.8 as aperture results in an automatic working distance between 1.5m to 16m. The selected 5.6 (to get a bit Depth of Field) has a working distance from 0.7 m to 8m.

The workflow was

1) Select ISO and aperture on the flash (as per picture above)

2) Set camera to desired time of 1/125 or lower and to the selected aperture.
3) Aim at something between minimum and maximum distance.
4) Focus and fire
5) Depending on the selected aperture and distance you could be ready for the next picture within less than a second (0.3 seconds to be precise)

Compare this to the manual flash workflow.

The 45 had so much power that you rarely needed it in normal situations. That meant faster recycling than anyone else. Within normal working distance you could even hold pace for picture bursts with the winders or motors of the day between 1 to 3 pictures per second.

The large capacity (from the large capacitor) also made a big difference to indirect flash. Suddenly you were no longer limited to ugly direct flat light but could bounce from the ceiling or a side wall. The 45 had the power to do it easily and the automation to do it perfect out of the box.

The light travels a longer distance when bouncing and the surface you bounce from will not reflect 100% light. So you loose in the process.

Imagine attempts to bounce Revuetron or Ed from the ceiling with the hot shoe adapter. First of all you have only a very rough estimate of the lighting (which as we have seen is already not so good under the best of circumstances). Second, there will simply not be enough light in many situations.
Now you see why this baby was and is worth every Mark, Dollar or Euro spent on it.

This shot is literally out of the box on Christmas evening. It was bounced from the ceiling and a beautiful soft light lights up not only my Grandfather but also the whole room. The falloff of about a half stop to the background is perfect. The illumination of the subject is on the spot.

I could not believe it when I got the developed slides. This was light years ahead of my old Revuetron. (get it? light years!)

If you watched the evening news from the late seventies to the late eighties, you could see that the reporters gear on display was nearly 100% Metz 45. The 45 had a larger brother the Metz 60. It had even more power with a guide number of (you might have guessed) 60 but it was quite a bit more expensive and required an external battery pack. While the 60 is preferred by some wedding pros the 45 remained the sweet spot in market for many years.

The batteries of the 45 are held in a basket that is changed literally within one second. With one or two spare baskets, which are much less bulky that the external battery pack, you would be set for any shoot.

The direct successor of the 45 CT-1, the Metz 45 CL-1 is still manufactured and sold 34 years after its introduction. The high end member of the family the 45 CL-4 digital speaks i-TTL and E-TTLII and can function just like a Nikon flash. There is just one big  disadvantage: No CLS.

Today Marketing has taken over the GN that you see stated with flash units. With the emergence of zoom flash reflectors, all manufactures tend to give only the MAXIMUM GN that you can reach at ISO 100. If you want to find out how much power a flash really has, you need to compare GN at same zoom level and illuminating pattern.

Now below a couple of comparisons at 35mm and normal light distribution:

Model GN
Metz 45 45
Metz Mz54-4 34
Nikon SB-800 38
Nikon SB-900 34

Yes the 900 has LESS power than the 800. The Marketing claim to more power only rests on the fact that the zoom head goes to 200 and you can change illuminating patterns. (But that's another post.)

So where do we go from here?
The next installments of the blog will be (not necessarily in that order)
- a number of experiments with automatic flash
- comparing it to the modern marvels
- an introduction to the flash accessories
- a number of experiments wit the flash accessories
- an overview of the 45 family then and now.
- experiments with a set up of multiple remote controlled automatic flashes.
Stay tuned.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The CAT System.

We have seen the limitations off full manual flash in earlier posts. One engineering approach to improve electronic flash was Canons CAT system. The idea was simple take the distance information from the lens focusing and assume that the object that is in focus should as well be lighted correct. Then use a big (literally) potentiometer to adjust the flash output.

It worked with cameras that allowed matched needle metering. If CAT was activated the level of charge and the feedback from the focus information moved the indicator needle in the viewfinder, and it was matched by selecting the correct aperture. A good description is on the Mir site.

CAT was introduced with the Canondate camera in 1970 and followed in the FTb, and in the old F1 in 1971, EXAuto in 1972 and EF in 1974. While the first compact cameras with inbuilt flash where introduced in 1977 the pocket camera 110ED from the same year still used CAT with the ED flash. In the SLRs it was phased out by the introduction of the A Series in 1976 and finally died with the introduction of the new F1 in 1981.

The whole concept had a number of important draw-backs:
- The system worked only with a number of dedicated cameras. (We are used to that by now, but at the time it was seen as a restriction.)
- The system works with even fewer flashes. In fact apart from the ED for the 110 pocket cameras there was a model D for the Canonet and the AUTO EX Cameras The only model sold in larger quantity was the 133D which was sold with Cameras like the FTb the EF and the old F1. In 1978 Metz introduced the Ueberblitz CT45. After that date there was really no good reason for anyone to buy a 133D which was embarrassingly the "professional" flash for the old F1. To counter the situation Canon came up with the 500A hammer head style flash for the Old F1 which was a total flop. Very few units were produced and sold and it is rare to find today. In typical Japanese fashion the embarrassment got the silent treatment and there is no hint or mention of the 500A in any official Canon Literature anymore. Some people even doubt that they existed, but there are collectors who have some pieces. (The link seems to be dysfunctional now. Earlier there were pictures. A Japanese ad here.)
-The system worked only with four lenses the 50 f1.4 the 50 f1.8 the 35 f2 and the 35 f3.5. With all other lenses the flash was fully manual like ED above. That was really the nail in the coffin of the whole idea to apply CAT to SLRs. While the system worked reasonably well with compact cameras without interchangeable lenses, I don't know how Canon could ever think it was a good idea for the FD lens system when only two focal length worked. The FD lenses had to be fitted with a flash coupling ring that fitted into the front bayonet. There is a small pin on the focusing ring that coupled into the flash ring. When you moved the focus ring the potentiometer in the flash ring was moved and set to the "right" level. Obviously that works only with lenses with a similar diameter but it was also much more restricted by optical lens design. The same ring only works with lenses where the movement of the focus ring produced similar distance settings and the focus movement was in the same relation like the square fall off of light. That explains why it worked only with few FD lenses. Shortly after its introduction the CAT system started to compete with the first "Computer" flashes that worked with all cameras and all lenses. Specifically after the introduction of the Metz 45er it must have been more and more difficult to sell a 133d and a flash ring to Canon users.
- Another disadvantage of CAT is the method of bringing the flash to the "right" level. Actually it did not! The potentiometer simply set the needle in the viewfinder according to distance and the aperture matched the full blast from the flash. Each shot the energy stored in the capacitor is fully released. The flash recycling times were the same regardless of what distance you took the picture. And they were not too fast.

- The mir site perpetuates one marketing myth, the Canon guys came cleverly up with when the automated flash units started to appear and eclipse sales of the CAT flash units. Which is that the CAT system allows to use the flash before it is fully charged and is therefore quicker. As with all good marketing B*** S*** there is a seed of truth in that you can actually fire the flash before it is fully charged. which frankly is the case with all flashes. (see also measuring the voltage here) . However matching a moving needle as the flash is charging along resembles more a video game and the results as things change while you might recompose or refocus make results even more unpredictable and even more ugly as it might result in over exposure.
At some point of time I intended to buy a FTb and a 133D. Somehow I ended up with the 133D alone. I do not intend to buy an FTb just for the sake of CAT so there will be no experiments. The 133D can be used with any camera as a manual flash with guide number 18. As I have quite frankly enough from manual flashes we move quickly on to the "Computer-Electronic Flash" in the next posting .

P.S. Normally all pictures in the Blog are taken by me. If I ever use a picture from the net in exceptional circumstances I will clearly link to the Source. The Picture of the old F1 with 133D is from here

Correction: CAT was actually introduced a year earlier, than I thought. It came with the Canonet 17 QL (new) in July 1969. This was NOT a laps of memory (come on I am not THAT old) rather than a lapse of research.
The error might be forgiven when I show you how I looked like around 1970 in the picture below:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

As promised in the last post, here comes the final appearance of ED. It is used as a fully manual flash. In our last experiment we found that it has a Guide number of about 11.2. I wanted to verify this with a flat surface.

I moved the set up as described in the last experiment in front of the house and took some shots of the garage door with the 50mm 1.4 lens. The camera was 6 m from the Garage and set to ISO 100 to make the calculation easier. I shot all the apertures from f1.4 to f16 but I will not post all the shots as it might be unhealthy, if you fall asleep in front of your computer and your head hits something hard.

1/4s f1.4 flash ISO100
The shot is a bit too bright.

1/4s f2 flash ISO100
The shot is just a little on the bright side in the highlights but basically OK. Calculation 6m* Aperture 2 = Guide Number 12
Close enough.

1/4s f2.8 flash ISO100
This is clearly too dark. It demonstrates another reason why we want automatic flash. A full stop or even a half or third stop can make a relatively large difference in your pictures. Automatic flash can be any value in between and be therefore much more precise.

I was already in front of the house so I took a couple more shots. First just to see how the old little ED would light a large area.With the guide number only about 11-12 I took the ISO right up to 3200. That gives a good working aperture and the exposure times are not so long.

I set up across the road and determined with a couple of test shots that f8 would give a pleasing flash exposure not too overpowering. Then I made some more test shots without flash to establish that 1/4s will give a nice warm light to the house. However the street was quite dark. Below you see two of the shots for comparison:
1/4s f8 flash ISO 3200
The garage door is slightly lit by the flash, and you see that it is white as the ugly yellow light of the street lantern is overpowered.
The House is nice and warm and inviting in its light. The big dark gray blob of street in the foreground gets some structure. Not at all bad result for the little flash. 

1/4s f8 no flash ISO 3200

The same shot without flash for comparison.

Cross check calculation: I was about 18m from the Garage door. ISO was 4.5 times up - remember doubling of guide number needs quadrupling of ISO. ISO 400 is double the guide number of ISO 100, ISO 1600 is double of ISO 400, two times double is 4 times multiplied by an additional times 1.5 to come from 1600 to 3200. 12 (GN) * 6 (ISO adjustment) = 72 (adjusted GN). And 72/18m = f4.

Uh??? f4?  That is 2 stops off? What went wrong? Nothing!!

Maybe you noted that I used above the words "pleasing" instead of correct. When it comes to light it is all in the mix. In this specific situation I found it pleasing that the flash contributes to some problem-areas of the picture, however you notice that there is still a bit warm light in the garage door. A "correct" picture which would completely overpower ambient light would have been flat and plain ugly. "Underexposure" of 2 stops was the best solution in my eyes.
Now you will understand why manual flash with guide number calculation was such a p*** in the a** in the old film days. Making a series of test shots to zero in on your exposure and light setting mix was only practiced by highly paid professionals with Polaroid backs on their Hasselblads. For everyone else it was trial and error with many many more errors than keepers. That is also the reason why millions and billions of bad flash pictures where produced in the film days. (And I had my fair share in it.)
There are some situation where I still use film for nostalgic reasons, however I currently will not use film in complicated and mixed lighting situations with arranged lights, as the immediate feedback on your LCD is invaluable. I feel that these are the most interesting situations as flat predictable lighting is safe but boring.
To further illustrate the point I made a fast forward to today's technology. The following two pictures are taken with the D300s and the SB-900 in the hot shoe. (ED already relegated to the reserve forces.)

1/30s f5.6 flash ISO 400
That extremely ugly shot is the "safe" variant. The settings are: (S) Time Priority 1/30s, Daylight WB, Flash i-TTL BL.
Take a a good look at the harsh ugly and flat light. Many many years most flash pictures looked like that.

0.8s f5.6 flash ISO 400

Same camera and Flash combo only set to P and i-TTL BL to get the long exposure time. Impressive what the little computer can do out of the box. In my personal taste I would dial the flash back a third stop so that it looks more like ED's last picture above.

So what's the verdict: Is it possible to make good use of manual flash? Definitely Yes! Would I do it voluntarily given today's available technology? Definitely No! Rest in peace ED you will most probably not be used again for a long long time.

Next I will write a shot piece on CAT more or less the first automated flash system. (No experiments.) And then we will move on quickly to the Computer-Automatic-Electronic Flash Revolution (the third one) with the introduction of the German-Uberblitz-Wunder Metz 45!