Here's one of the basic facts of camera life: flash sucks. Big time. That's why camera-makers are so intent on packing our compacts with super steady shot and high ISO modes to try and drag out as much from the natural light as possible before finally giving up and firing the flash bulb.
But it needn't be so. Perfectly illuminated shots can be yours, pro-maker Metz claims, with this handy little flash gun and a little experimentation – time we donned the lab coat and put it to the test.
Made for compacts
Designed for compact snappers it's barely bigger than a pack or cards yet will illuminate to a distance of 28m without the camera ever leaving its super sharp ISO 100 mode. It comes supplied with an adjustable bracket that screws into the cam's tripod mount and lets little CS-2 sit snugly alongside.
Strapped to our Canon Ixus 75 the difference between the weedy on-board flash and the Metz was staggering. Because it's triggered by the on-board flash firing, there are no wires to attach. There's a learning mode for it to discover the intricacies of your camera's particular flash habits and then it's off – popping away like a true pap.
The intensity can be adjusted from warm glow to stadium lighting effect with simple plus and minus controls. Low is handy for subtle fill-flash to get rid of shadows around peoples eyes while max power lends itself to artist-blinding shots at rock concerts.
The real fun comes when the bracket's loosened and the CS-2's taken off-camera. This is what the pros do with studio flashes to get flattering illumination of faces and objects. By holding the flash in an outstretched hand or perching it to the side somewhere, the flattened out, rabbit in the headlight effect of on-camera flash disappears and pictures get a far more eye-pleasing 3D look. It's something no compact can achieve on its own.
The Metz can be used with any camera but DSLRs are a special case. The random pre-flashes on our Sony Alpha 100 threw it completely, so too with a Canon EOS 350D until we set the flash to manual mode. The best bet is to take your DSLR down to the local camera shop for a test drive before you lay your money down because Metz doesn't provide a full compatibility list.
It'd be nice to have a few extra features like a tilt and swivel head for getting funky with bounce flash. The lack of hot shoe attachment's annoying too, if your camera's got one. For £100 we were also a bit miffed to find cheapo plastic had been used, rather than cool brushed metal to match our premium cams – but, hey, at least it keeps it light.
We were seriously impressed with the results this thing produced. If you've been disappointed by your camera's night time habits, strap this on and prepare to be dazzled.