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Initial Impressions: Better Beamer FX5

January 31, 2012

I admit it.  I’ve lusted after a Better Beamer for years.  The Better Beamer is a device that you strap onto your flash that can throw a narrow beam of light onto a distant subject, effectively extending the range of your flash when you are using a zoom lens.  The concept is that it is used as a fill flash to help balance light when shadows creep in.

The concept of extending the effective range of a flash is intriguing and very useful.  Unfortunately, I bought a Canon Speedlite 420 EX almost 10 years ago when I moved from the FD manual focus world to the EF auto focus world and there was never a Better Beamer made for the 420 EX.  My 420 EX was dying a horrible and painful death.  I dropped the flash not once but twice when visiting the National Museum of the United States Air Force and intermittently the flash was not responding to the camera it was mounted on.  It was time to replace it.

So at Christmas I was blessed to acquire a Canon Speedlight 430 EX II to replace my old 420 EX.  Once I got it, I knew what had to be next–the Better Beamer FX-5.  The FX-5 is designed specifically for the 430 EX and a couple other Speedlights.

My shakedown cruise with the Better Beamer was at South Llano River State Park.  And my results on this first time out with the Beamer were mixed.  When it was good, it was very, very good.  The Fox Sparrow in my January 20th blog entry was aided by the use of the Better Beamer.

In these two images the top image had the Beamer fill in some of the dark spots, where as the one shot right after had the flash turned off.  I did not touch either image in Photoshop in terms of exposure, brightness, etc. It is subtle, but the Beamer did it’s job.

But, my experience also was that if the bird is turned just right to your flash and is in the right (or wrong) place, you can get a blue tinted, almost squarish catch light in the eyes.  This certainly could be corrected post processing, but the idea is to get it right in the camera and that is very distracting.

Overall I was pleased with what it gave me.  It didn’t fix everything and it was not perfect.  But it seems to have a place in the toolbag.  Undoubtedly over the weeks and months I will have a follow-up.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2012 10:21 am

    Hmmm……….To be honest, I like the Cardinal bottom photo the best. I can see how it can project light farther, though, and that is it’s purpose, I can see where it can be useful in the right siturations.

    • January 31, 2012 5:11 pm

      I generally agree. Picture #2, if not for the chicken-wire enclosure, would be the one that I would use. But in terms of filling in shadows appropriately, the Beamer hit where it was supposed to. Another example of the Beamer doing it’s job was from my trip to San Angelo SP with the House Finch. Still a bad image thanks to the horrible backlighting, but you can tell what the bird is supposed to be.

  2. February 14, 2012 6:08 pm

    Hi Jim,

    Do you mount the flash on the camera, or on a separate flash bracket? I wonder if you can avoid the problem described with the white-crowned sparrow image by having the flash on an extra high flash bracket… I have no experience with better beamers myself, so just speculating.

    • February 14, 2012 8:51 pm

      Hi – It is mounted on the on the camera. I’m guessing it could work on a bracket, but then you’d have to get the geometry right on aiming it down and you would be limited to a specific distance where it would be effective. You might also end up with situations where you have half of the eyes lit up which could be even an uglier fix. It is something I will contemplate. Thanks for sharing.

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