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Complete setup as pictured above: Canon 5D MK II, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro lens, SunpakPF20XD flash, dual flash bracket made into a single flash bracket and Studio hut PT-04 Radio flash trigger.
After I developed my lightweight hand holdable reasonably priced macro set up for Nikon my Canon friends asked me to come up with something similar for them. My goal was something very light that was easy to carry and travel with that gives you great looking results but had to be within most peoples’ budgets.
Cosmos flower and visitor and 1:1 life-size magnification ratio, hand-held, Palos Verdes, Southern California. 1/200 s, f/8, ISO 200, flash on manual 1/8 power setting. Canon 5D MK II, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro lens, SunpakPF20XD flash, dual flash bracket and Studio hut PT-04 Radio flash trigger.
After quite a bit of time trying multiple flash units and about a dozen different flash brackets I now have a lightweight, reasonably priced Canon macro flash that works great. Canon’s MT-24EX works okay no doubt but its very expensive, very cumbersome and is not exactly light. This little simple system works great and weighs in at less than 16 ounces with batteries. The cost is a whopping $102 and if you already own an off shoe camera cord you can forget the radio trigger and get the rest of the gear for around $80.
The set up is built around the Sunpak PF20XD flash. I chose this flash because it is so light and offers manual output control. With macro smaller is better, something small and light is easier to carry with you and allows to spend more fatigue free time out in the field. You need to understand that I use this flash set up in manual mode and not TTL. As far as I am concerned this is the only way to work with macro but finding a small flash unit that offers manual power is not easy. In fact I think you are looking at the only one available as far as I know. The PF20XD output is settable from full to 1/128 power with a rear control dial. It uses normal AA batteries in the field recycles really quickly in manual mode. Best of all the flash weighs less than 4 ounces with batteries and is available for about $40 with free shipping at some big retailers like Adorama.
Of all the brackets I tried this bracket from ishoot was by far the best. The quality and finish is really surprisingly good and is almost made entirely of metal, even the little ball heads are metal! This thing will even hold a full size Canon (or nikon flash) if you choose to. The arca swiss quick release plate is a big bonus for people that might want to use a monopod or tripod sometimes. This unit is available from a number of sources online, I picked this one up for $28 shipped. I bought two units and kept one as a dual arm unit and removed one arm on the other unit since I normally use a single flash so losing one arm saves even more weight.
Never use a macro flash without some kind of diffuser, I chose a mini soft box type diffuser for the the PF20XD. This unit is labeled Polaroid, but they can be found all over, I found the same unit labeled Vivitar online at Walmart.com. One of the best things about this unit is that it folds flat so it takes up almost no space when it is not being used. Since it is a universal fit unit it can be awkward to set up at first but some velcro and a wide rubber band at it works well enough. I paid a $8 with free shipping at an online retailer.
This system offers high performance at a very low price. Mix and match and add or delete items as you see fit. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good light.
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