Quantaray MS-1 Slave Booster
The Quantaray MS-1 is called a slave flash booster and is readily available for $19.95 at most Ritz Camera Stores. Buy a pair and stuff them in your camera bag along with some AAA batteries. For less than $50 you can enhance your digicam's flash picture quality.
Got your attention huh?
It isn't long after you start using your digicam before you discover that the builtin flash may be handy but it always makes your flash pictures *look* like flash pictures. Usually a harsh shadow down one side of your subject or the other is the result of the camera's flash being to close to the lens.
You also find out that the whimpy little flash on your camera can't even light up the room without one or more dark areas that need more light. This is exactly what these little flash boosters were made for. But, they were made to work with regular film camera strobes that output only one flash.
NOTE: Many digicam flash units put out two flash pulses, a pre-flash to set the white balance and then the main flash. If your camera is one of these then you can't use the MS-1, you need a specially built digicam slave like the SR Electronics DSF-1s. SR Electronics also makes special flash slaves and several different pre-built slave flash units.
Digicams like the Nikon Coolpix 900/900s/950 use only one flash in most modes except for red-eye reduction and will work perfectly with regular photographic slave flashes like the Quantaray MS-1. Many other digicams also work with only one flash pulse, sorry I don't have a list of those that do and those that don't.
The MS-1 is a brainless flash and it always puts out the same amount of light whenever it is triggered. Often it can overexpose your pictures if your digicam does not have a manually-controlled aperture that you can stop down. You will have to experiment with these slaves to find the best way to use them with your camera but practice is half of the fun, right?
Move the flash units farther away from the subject or use them in bounce mode off of the ceiling or wall. Indirect lighting is always preferred over direct lighting. When shooting pictures of people a bounced flash will also limit the occurance of red-eye or glare coming from a pair of eye glasses.
If you continuously get overexposed pictures you can use a neutral density (ND) filter if your camera has threaded filter rings on the lens. Or you can block or diffuse the light coming out of the flash units. Be careful not to block more than a portion of the flash tube though because an intense amount of heat is generatred with each flash and this heat must be dissapated or the flash tube will get damaged.
Follow the links below to find out how to build your own flash deflector to keep your camera's main flash from hitting your subjects "head on." You need your camera's strobe to trigger the slaves but you don't want it to ruin the effect that they create. You can also see what other people have done using the MS-1 and similar slave flash units.
Your mileage may vary but most people who have tried the MS-1 or other similar slave flash units really love them. With enough practice you can shoot professional looking pictures with your digicam that rival those done in a studio with thousands of dollars worth of flash equipment.
This is the bracket that comes with each MS-1, it allows it to be positioned easily for the angle needed. It has a standard tripod screw mounting hole on the bottom of the base. It also comes with a velcro strap to allow it to be attached to a pole or other handy "steady" object.
I give the MS-1 a rating of 5 (out of a possible 5) digicams!
These little slave flashes are great and you can't complain about the price! They run on 2 AAA-size alkaline batteries and are so small that they can fit in anyone's gadget bag. If you feel like experimenting then buy one or two of them and see what they can do for you.