Nissin i40: Utility Unlimited

 

The Nissin i40 is an incredibly small flashgun, considering the features that it manages to pack in. Shridhar Kunte puts it to the test.

With sensor technology surging ahead at an astounding speed, a lot of photographers believe that they do not need flash anymore to shoot in the dark. Has high ISO killed the flashgun? With the right use of lighting technique and a feature-filled tiny flash like the Nissin i40, I would answer that with a resounding NO.

Features

Nissin i40

Nissin i40

This TTL flash has a guide number of 40 (in metres, at ISO 100, when the zoom head is extended to 105mm). That may not compare to some of its larger-sized but similarly priced competitors, but I don’t think that’s a problem. Increasing the ISO is an easy option to increase the power, especially as modern cameras perform well at higher sensitivities.

The flash comes with a diffuser dome to soften the light, but there are no gels included herewith. The flash’s zoom range is 24–105mm. So you can use the flash easily with a standard zoom lens, and also get creative with tricks like shooting at a wide focal length but zooming the flash to 105mm for a more concentrated throw of light. A built-in wide angle diffuser lets you use the flashgun with a 16mm lens too.

It can be used wirelessly, but it is not possible to use this flash to command other flashguns. The flash allows Slave operation with both film and digital SLRs. In the Digital Slave mode, the flash ignores the preflash emitted by the built-in flash and it fires when the built-in flash throws the light for the final shot. In our tests, the Slave Film mode worked well with the Vivitar 285HV and Nikon FM2 combo. But with relatively newer film cameras that have AF (like the F80, for instance), you need to use the Digital Slave mode to duck the preflash.

This is the first third party dedicated flash that has video light.

Nikon users (who don’t have a proprietary flash with video light) and Sony users (whose video flash is way more expensive) can consider the i40.  The output can be controlled in 9 steps to achieve the desired effect.

Handling
The flash head is able to tilt upwards 90° and can rotate 180° in both directions, giving you complete 360° coverage. There is no locking mechanism to prevent the accidental movement of the head. But even while shooting in crowded places, the head never shifted from its normal position.

This tiny, nifty flash is ideal for travellers. It produces consistant illumination without cast. Exposure 1/60 sec at f/22 (ISO 100) Flash fired in TTL mode. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

This tiny, nifty flash is ideal for travellers. It produces consistant illumination without cast. Exposure 1/60 sec at f/22 (ISO 100) Flash fired in TTL mode. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Performance
I powered the flash with 2000mAh NiMh batteries; the flash was ready to fire in approximately 3 seconds. I could manage to get about 250 shots at full power, but after 200 full power flashes, the recycling time increases to more than 5 seconds.

The illumination is consistent and without any colour cast.

Additionally, as you lower the power setting, the flash’s strobe duration gets shorter (1/800sec at full power manual, down to about 1/20,000sec at lowest power), so the low-power Manual modes are great for stopping really fast action like balloons bursting or water droplets falling.

In the TTL mode, the flash exposure compensation dial works in conjunction with the setting in the camera body. So if you have set the dial on the flash to 0EV and the setting in the camera to -1EV, then the effective setting is -1EV. But if the camera and flash are both set to -1EV, then the effective output is -2EV.

As a standalone video light, the i40 has a moderate output. It can illuminate one person standing closeby, but does not make much of a difference when there is sufficient ambient light around.

Conclusion
For the still photographer, the i40 is well worth the price tag of Rs.

19,500. With no LCD menus to step through, it is the first advanced flash which is easy to navigate. It took me back to yesteryears in the precalculator era, when complex calculations were done with the help of slide rule. Just twist the dials and you are set.

If you have been wary of learning how to balance flash and ambient light, the i40 is one of the best flashguns to learn on. It is tiny, versatile enough to interest the video enthusiast and while it may not have as much power as the flagships, it gives far easier and quicker control over the final photograph.

The amount of light being emitted can be adjusted on the fly, by simply moving the concerned dials. It’s the easiest way to get quick and complete control over lighting, ideal for a street photographer.

Features
Slave works with digital camera, video light with variable output, output not very powerful
22/25

Performance
Good colour balance, fast recycling time
23/25

Build Quality
Metal shoe, feels sturdy, tilt-and-swivel mechanism lever that is built of metal
17/20

Ergonomics
All control can be done by easy to use dials
24/25

Warranty & Support
Limited number of service centres
2/5

Overall
88%

Who should buy it? Street and travel photographers who appreciate simplicity, but still want maximum control.

Why? The i40 is one of those rare flashguns that can be adjusted in very subtle ways, very quickly. It may not have the horsepower of larger flashes, but will suffice for general work.

Tags: Shridhar Kunte, flash, Nissin i40