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Turn Your Flash Into a Super Tele

If your subject is at a distance which requires a telephoto lens, the light from a small strobe could be pretty diffuse by the time it gets there.

Add this fact to the shortcomings of on-camera flash, and it's no wonder that added light is underused by many amateur wildlife photographers.

Walt Anderson's Better Beamer flash extender is a Fresnel lens that mounts on a shoe mount strobe to refocus the light into a tighter pattern. Field tests and sample flash patterns are here.

Luminous Landscape has a review of the Better Beamer. While most of the info deals with on-camera flash, the better possibilities are in conjunction with off-camera strobe.

A Fresnel is different from a snoot. While a snoot merely restricts the beam of light (wasting some of it) the Fresnel concentrates much of the light into that tight beam. This gives you the ability to reach out forther with a telephoto lens, or to throw more light into a restricted beam shot outside to better overpower the sun.

This Strobist group discussion is full of information on shooting wildlife with strobes, including some common-sense cautions. There is also this excellent tip from Kin Lau to ensure that the over-zoomed flash is pointed exactly at the subject. He remotely triggers a flash which is mounted on someone else's camera, someone who's tracking the same subject.

Wildlife photographer Frans Lanting uses small flashes - including ones with similar Fresnels - extensively in his location work. There is a good interview on his general technique here.

By Mike H.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just one note on the beamer. I have read that the beamer can melt your flash if it is in direct sunlight. Basically it is a magnifying glass and your flash is the leaf on the ground or ant for you mean people. Here is a link for more info:


December 09, 2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger Jon Thornton said...

The Better Beamer is not just useful for distant subjects. At close range, the Better Beamer reduces flash recycle time enabling a rapid succession of shots to be taken.

December 09, 2006 2:44 PM  
Anonymous John Dohrn said...

melting your flash? That's a new one... I've been meaning to pick up a better beamer for some time now. If i have some money left over after xmas shopping, I'll pick one up :-)

December 09, 2006 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Chris Leck said...

It's a Fresnel lens, not fresnel, and the 's' is not pronounced. There have been reports of nature photographers being burned by hoisting their rigs over their shoulders, allowing the sun to shine though and causing skin burns.

This Strobist entry surprised me. Just a day or so ago, I mentioned the Better Beamer, and have not seen any discussion in the prior month or two (since I've been on the Flickr discussion group).

December 10, 2006 5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife's 420EX actually does have a few burn/melt marks. Now we keep a cloth over the Fresnel when not in use.

My "Flash Extender" by Tory Lepp is a bit better in this regard, since the sides are boxed in. It's also much faster to attach than the BB.

Kin Lau

December 11, 2006 4:34 PM  
Anonymous PANZERWOLF said...

you can save your bucks, just get some of those credit card sized fresnel lenses (i got mine for 1€ each) and tape them to your cardboard snoots ;)

February 28, 2007 7:58 PM  

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