Still no OM-D.
However, part of my rebate offer showed up today, the Olympus FL-300R. The current deal in the US is that if you order an OM-D EM-5 you get an FL-300R, MM-3 or MF-2 adapter free with mail in rebate. It has to be purchased from the same retailer as the OM-D E-M5 you buy and has to be purchased in April or May (or was pre-ordered).
I choose to go with the FL-300R seeing as how I already have an OM to micro 4/3rds adapter that works well (not Olympus branded) and I have no 4/3rds lenses and don’t plan to buy any. I have a couple of flashes already, an S-20 and a 285hv, however I don’t have one that’ll communicate with an Olympus digital body for TTL control. The OM-D E-M5 comes with a small clip on flash, but it has a GN of 14 and to the best of my knowledge cannot do bounce flash or RC operation (but can be used to operate Olympus RC flashes wirelessly).
The FL-300R has a GN of 28, so twice as powerful as the clip on flash for the EM-5 as well as twice the power of the built in flashes in the PEN series. It can also do bounce flash, be folded flat, flash at a downward angle has RC mode for remote wireless use and doesn’t draw power from the camera body so it’ll extend the internal camera battery. It is also really small, maybe 110% of the size of my S-20 in height and width and basically the same thickness and a little lighter (probably owing to the pair of AAA batteries in it versus the two AA batteries in the S-20).
Yay, presents! (well, one is after a fashion, the other one certainly is not free)
The FL-300R and the memory cards I am going to use in the OM-D E-M5. A pair of Lexar UHS-I 8GB x400 SD cards. Not THE fastest cards out there, but solidly well rated, faster than most/all regular class 10 cards and fairly cheap at $38 for the pair. I don’t like relying on a single card in case of a failure “in the field”, so I want a backup card. I also don’t like having too many eggs in one basket if doing extended photo shooting, so instead of a single 16GB card a pair of 8GB cards is a bit more my speed. Also within reason, its unlikely I am going to fill both cards in any one trip for a long time to come (I certainly don’t have any European vacations on my docket any year soon).
What is in the box (not including small stand) and a little size comparison against the 40.5mm lens cap for the 14-42mm kit lens and my keys. Pretty small.
To put the cart before the horse, if you need a small flash that’ll easily fit in the outer pocket of your camera bag (if you use a small bag like I do, a Lowepro Nova Mini AW or Nova 2 AW) this is a great flash. If you need something powerful, this is not the flash for you. Look at something like the Vivitar 285hv if you need an inexpensive powerful flash (GN140) and don’t need TTL control and don’t mind the size. If you need something small and inexpensive and don’t need TTL control, see if you can find an Olympus S-20. They are rare, but I got mine for $40, it is slightly smaller than the FL-300R and has longer battery life (about 200 flashes on a pair of AA 2000mA NiMh batteries in the S-20 vs the 135 shot rating for a set of NiMh AAA batteries in the FL-330R). If you need TTL control and more power, than the other Olympus flashes or a Metz might be more up your alley. The FL-36R is roughly $60 more, but has a GN of 118 compared to 28 and is going to last a lot longer on its batteries.
That said, if you are getting an OM-D EM-5, unless you NEED an adapter for your legacy 4/3rds or OM lenses, get the FL-300R. If nothing else it’ll probably resell for more on Ebay. If you aren’t getting one or this is long past the rebate deal, the FL-300R is still a great little lens, if not exactly super cheap (note, $30 cheaper than the FL-14, twice as powerful and a lot more flexible if a lot taller, which can be a good thing to avoid red eye).
A quick shot with the FL-300R on my wife’s E-PL1 with Sigma 30mm f/2.8, -.3EV, f/4.5, 1/60s TTL auto direct flash.
One of the nice things about this flash, beyond RC mode which can be useful (but a little low powered for off flash use in my opinion) is that it has a built-in diffuser that you can toggle on and off. Most flashes only go to 35mm equivalent or on built-in ones because of how wide the kit lenses are these days, 24-28mm maximum flash coverage. I am not 100% sure on how wide the FL-300R is set on normal, but I suspect 35mm equivalent, though maybe wider (i’ll have to try it with the kit lens on to see), but when you set it to wide mode, it diffuses to cover 9mm/18mm equivalent, which is frankly pretty darned wide for not having a strap on diffuser. It’ll also nicely reduce flash power if you are shooting in close (the manual recommends you use it if shooting closer than 1m) and also helps add a little bit of bounce flash if there are surfaces near the subject, such as walls, floor, low ceiling, etc.
Direct flash, set to wide
Bounced off the ceiling, set to standard diffusion
Pointed down/bounced off the floor, set to wide diffusion
As I mentioned one of the nice things about the flash is you can also point it toward the floor at about a 30 degree down angle for when shooting things very close in and for a little floor bounce. You can also fold the flash completely flat forward (which switches it to sleep mode) when you are just carrying your camera around to keep it out-of-the-way some.
A final picture, f/3.5, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, 0 exp compensation, wide diffusion, TTL auto mode
I’ll have a full-page up describing the flash in a bit more detail, more sample pictures, tutorial on how to use RC mode for remote flash work and comparisons to at least the all manual flashes I have right now, later, once the OM-D E-M5 shows up and I have a bit more time to use both the flash and the new camera.