Review – Olympus FL600R (with video)

With the launch of the OM-D E-M5, Olympus also launched their next generation flash, the FL600R. The Olympus FL600R is a compact, yet powerful flash, packed with features. The FL-600R is a straight-forward, easy to use flash with a large display and wireless TTL controls for use with Olympus Pen and OMD series cameras.

Olympus loaned me two FL600r flashes to evaluate which I put to the test on a cover shoot. Some standout features are -

  • Small size
  • High power
  • Fully articulated head
  • Fast recycle time
  • Wireless functionality
  • Built in LED light
FL600R LED On

When you need just a splash of light the LED is the tool of choice.

The FL600R features a built in LED that can be used as an AF Illuminator or adding a bit of light for shooting movies and stills. Pen users will already be familiar with the directional control pad/wheel on the back that looks very similar to what is on the back of my Pen Mini.

In wireless mode, the FL600R can control other Olympus flashes with wireless capabilities, but only when used with the E-M5. That’s not really a draw back since most people will use the included clip-on flash of the E-M5 and Pen cameras to control the FL600R.

With the E-M5 up to three groups of flashes (A,B,C) plus an additional on-board flash such as the FL-LM2, that comes with the E-M5, can be controlled independently. The on-board flash can be activated as a controller only or as a controller and flash. Therefore, you can have four groups if you consider the on-board as group D.

There are also four wireless channels available for you to choose from, which will come in handy if you are shooting wirelessly nearby other Olympus photographers and don’t want to trigger each others’ units.

FL600r_rc

Setting the E-M5 for wireless flash control

I really enjoy using the FL600R wirelessly on the E-M5′s touch screen control panel. The control panel is available after you turn on Flash RC mode at the bottom of Shooting Menu 2. Once engaged, you access the panel by hitting the Info button on the back of the E-M5.

If you have the Super Control Panel enabled when using wireless flash hit the Info button to cycle between the SCP and the flash control panel.

The flash control panel on the E-M5 is straight forward and easy to use. You can access controls for each flash by tapping the option that you want to adjust on the screen and then using a control dial to change the setting. Alternatively, you can use the four-way control pad on the E-M5 to select the option and then use the control dial.  Either way is fast and I find myself using both.

Flash_Control

Flash Control Panel on the Olympus OM-D E-M5

I like to build my lighting one group at a time so I can see how a particular group is throwing light and then work in the other groups one by one. To do this, keep all groups off then adjust each group individually. For instance – you might want group A as your main light, group B as a fill and group C as a hair light. Start by having groups B and C off, only adjusting A. Next turn on group B to see how it works with group A then turn on C and adjust.

When building your lighting for a particular shot, it’s handy to adjust one group of flashes at a time so you can see how the light from each group affects the scene.

The wireless capability of the FL600R is line-of-sight meaning if the front of the FL600R (where the sensor is located) can’t see the flash pulses from the controlling unit (your on-board flash), it will not trigger. Keep this in mind if you are shooting large spaces or in bright sunlight where the sun might interfere with the operation.

In this case, I suggest using a radio transmitter and a receiver setup. As of this writing, there are no wireless transmitter/receiver systems that will allow TTL capability. In this case simply adjust the flash power manually on the back of the flash.

For power, the FL600R uses 4 AA batteries which according to Olympus’s testing will give 250 full-power discharges using standard alkaline cells. When I shot my last cover, the units discharged well over 500 times (not at full power) using alkalines and the batteries are still good.

fl600r_control

The FL600R is easy to use with its large screen

The FL600R has ten custom functions to suit your particular tastes. The most useful for me is having the distance chart in feet instead of meters. Other than that, the custom functions are very basic.

Download the manual here if you are interested in learning more about this unit.

Build wise, it’s quite solid and I have no problem using these on future jobs.  In fact, I don’t want to send these back! I would say the FL600R is built as well as any Nikon or Canon flash I’ve owned.

I really don’t have any complaints about the FL600R. It’s not designed to be a pro flash, but its is quite usable on jobs. If Olympus were to make a pro flash I would like it to have -

  • Option for audible ‘beep’ when the unit recycles
  • Option for a external power source
  • Weather sealed
  • Full TTL control via radio transmitter

If I do keep the FL600R and I might, I’m booked for 40 shoots from now through August and believe me I’ll work them hard. I have no doubt they will do the job and do it well. Shopping around on Amazon I made a list of the accessories I’ll be ordering to go with the units if I decide to use them this summer. It’s exciting to think about lighting more assignments with a small yet feature rich flash like the FL600R.

Check the shop to see what I’m thinking of getting.  If you think I left anything out or have questions, let me know in the comments below.

One more thing:  check out the video review to learn how to set up the E-M5 for wireless flash control. Let me know what you think of the video format.

Thanks for your support!

G

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About Giulio Sciorio

Since 2009, Hybrid Photography pioneer Giulio Sciorio has been blending still + motion & sound with his photography. Giulio is a Lumix Luminary, commercial photographer and founder of SmallCameraBigPicture.com - the resource for everything Hybrid. A portfolio of Giulio’s hybrid work can be found at GiulioSciorio.com.

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38 Responses to Review – Olympus FL600R (with video)

  1. qiv June 28, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    The video is private and cannot be seen by other people.

    • Tobias Weisserth June 28, 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Yes, the video is unavailable it seems.

    • Giulio Sciorio June 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Sorry the post went live before the video did. It should work now.

  2. Onslow Russell June 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    I do not see the video at all. Where can I find it?

  3. Onslow Russell June 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    It suddenly appeared. Sorry.

    • Giulio Sciorio June 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      Thank goodness! Your first comment about gave me a heart attack lol. Don’t know what browser you’re using but for me Chrome has been not been getting along with Youtube lately.

  4. m43photographer July 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    G, awesome video. My favorite feature? The unboxing. No boring monologue. No lingering on the trivial. And high speed.

    Intro, transitions, organization, flow, outro… it all works to convey the message well. Post and video are well integrated and very readable.

    Great job.

    BTW – Small Camera Big Picture is my M43 authority site.

    Mark

    • Giulio Sciorio July 3, 2012 at 1:15 am #

      Thanks Mark! Happy to hear you dig the format. Will be refining it going forward.

  5. Mooboy July 3, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    One thing I’ve found super annoying about this flash – is that when turned onto slave mode (either standard flash slave mode, or the Olympus RC mode) it continously pulses the video LED. Why? To let you know it is on? I find this super annoying and considering duct taping this LED up permanently! Why Olympus, why?

    • Giulio Sciorio July 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      The blinking LED is to let the photographer know that there is communication between the flash and camera. I think your idea of taping the LED is a good solution if it bothers you however I’ve not found it a distraction.

      • mooboy July 5, 2012 at 2:45 am #

        It would just be nice if Olympus gave us the choice – other flashes I’ve used with slave or rc modes don’t need to keep informed me mode is set properly. I normally use radio triggers anyway – but nice to have slave and rc modes as back ups if triggers fail.

        Which is the other interesting thing about this flash – I found it wouldn’t fire reliably with cheaper triggers – where as other flashes mounted on the cheap triggers worked fine.

        I’m finidng this flash a bit like the OM-D itself – I’m wanting to love it, has most of the core things right, but still has a few annoying niggles.

  6. Eric July 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I’ve only got one nit with your video review — you keep referring to the flash’s RC mode as “radio control,” when it’s actually (infrared) “remote control.”  Folks that watch the video but don’t pay close attention to your written review could be pretty disappointed when they buy the flash and find they need clear line-of-sight between camera and flash.

    • Giulio Sciorio July 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

      I didn’t even realize that until now. Thanks for pointing that out Eric. Yeah its line-of-site.

  7. Steve July 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Hi there,
    Im using ttl in rc flash menu in om-d but it seems that zoom level in fl600r doesnt change (stuck in 17mm) while I change focal length (zooming) with 12-50mm kit lens. In this state, should zoom level in flash change as I do zooming with lens? Or does it actually change its zoom level but the lcd in flash only show manual zoom level?

    Thanks for help me with my problem

    • Giulio Sciorio July 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      The flash zoom will automatically change to match your focal length when set to do so. Otherwise you have to zoom the flash head manually. 

  8. Estuardo Salazar September 21, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    thanks for the video, i just got my FL600r, and i was wondering if the flash would go off if i use triggers in RC mode? i cant figure out how to set the flash to work in FP mode in Manual mode, thanks the best only FL600r video review!

  9. MaxHeadroom October 11, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    Guilio – love the site and the effort you put into it! Your posts and video inspired me to go and look at the flash, it looked so compact and light. Looked at it and bought the flash on the spot… the OMD may just replace my E-5′s as my main workhorse, having so much fun using it, and the flash is just perfect size for it. If I need more I have a bag full of FL50 flash guns.

  10. Simon Fuller December 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi G. I salute you for all the work you’re doing to help others enjoy the hybrid or simply the mirrorless world as much as you do. I have been shooting Canon for years, and for some time now have worked with the Fuji S5Pro,Fuji X100,Panasonic GH1. I have been working almost exclusively with my OM-D and the FL-600R for a few months now and I have very good results in camera, when I have set flash compensation depending on if I use TTL alone or Auto with a manual slave (which over exposes a lot). My problem is that from the 1st day I opened the FL-600R box, I noticed the flash door hinge is inherently fragile and if you haven’t slid the door all the way open for some reason, and you lift the door open, there will be pressure on the hinge on the right hand side, which I’m sure would break it easily. Because I noticed this, I’m always careful when changing batteries, but I have noticed today that the weak part has a crack in the plastic and will eventually break. Have you seen this? Do you have any hints or advice? Since you have so much experience now with Olympus, can you kindly inform them that this design is crap and should be better, no excuse. We need a repair plan. I’d love to know their feedback.

    • Simon Fuller December 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Guess what happened, yup that cracked piece broke the very next time I closed the battery door, nice one. Luckily the hinge still works, but I guess I’ll hold my breathe everytime I open it now, waiting for it to come apart.

      I realised that in my comment, I mentioned the auto flash setting on the FL-600R. I didn’t write it correctly, but what I meant to say was that, although TTL seems to expose well, or sometimes under expose, especially when bouncing, the AUTO setting however over exposes, by what I believe is 1.7EV. I find that really strange, as Canon, Nikon, and Metz all seem to have their auto setting correct. Anyway, I usually compensate by -1.7EV, and the results are similar to 0.0 comp in TTL. Anyone experienced this or is it just me?

      • Giulio Sciorio December 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

        Holy crap really? Simon send that back right away to get repaired. I don’t use rechargeables in my FL600s rather I use a fresh set of batteries (I know its silly) so I open and close the doors fast but nothing has broken yet. Not even a sign of a crack so I can only assume that you’re is defective and should be fixed ASAP under warranty.

        I can’t really talk of TTL accuracy since I shoot with my flashes in Manual power and camera on Manual exposure.

        Have you checked the flash exposure compensation both on camera and on the flash?

  11. Brad Calkins December 10, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    Thanks for the review, nice to see someone focusing on the MFT system components. I purchased the FL-600R to go with my OM-D and coming from a Canon system with the 430EX and 580EX I have to say that I find the FL-600R somewhat lackluster.

    First, the exposure in TTL is usually quite underexposed (for me) when bouncing it off ceilings, etc. I’ve checked all the usual places to make sure I’m not missing exposure comp, but typically I end up shooting at +0.7 EV or using manual exposure. The images are pleasing enough, but there is a lot of noise if you try to push the exposure up… The histogram shows a lot of empty data in the top half of the histogram, so I don’t think it is just my taste! That said, if I switch to manual I can overpower the subject with light, so it isn’t a lack of power either.

    Second, I find the use of the guide number instead of power (1/2, 1/4, etc.) really annoying. I just don’t think that way as I have to remember the max guide number to be able to figure out where I’m at. This contrasts with the OM-D SCP which uses power values like I like them to be.

    Third, I find the controls quite a bit more fiddly than the Canon flashes I’ve used – particularly the 580EX is much more usable with direct access to exposure compensation / power using a rear dial. On the 300R the dial is small and fiddly and the toggle back and forth between mode and power is slow. You can go through the touchscreen as you show, but that is slow compared to a dedicated rear dial or button, and takes you out of other photographic controls.

    Fourth – not a comment about the FL-600R per se, but I don’t like that the on board flash still emits light during the exposure when used as a trigger. Even when set to off you can still get a weak catchlight unless you use a card or something in front. One area where an IR trigger system is better.

    Finally, I find the flash itself feels and sounds cheap. Not backed up by a story of a broken flash or anything, but it just doesn’t feel as professional as flashes I’ve used in other brands.

    All that said, aside from my control gripes, it is a very functional and compact flash and one feature I love is that the swivel goes 180 degrees both ways – very nice when bouncing on camera. I really like it for on camera use at events, but not my favorite flash for getting more serious with several units.

    • Simon Fuller July 12, 2013 at 2:17 am #

      I’m glad there have been others adding their experiences here like Brad. I too agree that indeed the TTL on the Olympus FL-600R (and the identical Panasonic DMW-FL360L flash) does underexpose, and I usually add +0.3 or +0.7 EV compensation to get a good exposure. Sadly I find the delay between hitting the trigger and getting the flash out to be to slow for event work (compared to a Canon 430EX or 580EXII), and therefore find myself needing often to use the A setting (optical auto), which has no such pre-flash delay. This is great for speed and for triggering a second flash like an Nikon SB80dx or SB800 on optical SU4 mode. The horrible thing is that the exposure on this auto mode on the Olympus or the Panasonic has no clue when to stop the flash, it over exposes like crazy. I try to control it by compensating -1.7 EV and this helps but many times it has over exposed even when I put the flash exp. comp. to -3 EV. So weird. And yet, all I have to do is put my Canon 580EXII in auto mode on my OMD body and set the correct iso and aperture and that Canon is accurate 99% of the time.

      My question is am I the only person who has used the Olympus FL-600R and Panasonic FL360L in auto mode and am I the only one in the world who finds this to be so strange the way it over exposes wildly? I should add that this over exposure is in direct flash or any bounce direction.

      My last words on these 2 flashes (Oly and Panny) is that they are badly designed and have weak components. I have one Oly with door parts (all flimsy fragile plastic) that eventually broken through normal careful battery changes, and I have one Panny which started to make a loudy noise when charging the capacitor, and soon after I could hear a tiny part shaking inside. It still works as normal but why and what happened? My last hope is my 2nd Panny which is still fine, for now.

      Please make us a better quality flash, example would be to look at Canon 430EXII or 580EXII, these are build to last and even work hard in tough places. There are photogs that need power and reliability people, I can’t be alone in this. PS the LED is WAY UNDER POWERED, at least double or tripple the power would be useful. It helps me lose shots in the dark as it is not bright enough to auto focus, the red AF assist light on camera works much better even though it is weak and concentrated on a small area only. My iPhone is much brighter and I say is far more useful.

      Brad, I hear you and feel the same on the subject of the guide number vs power (1/2,1/4 etc). Use you Canon 580EX directly on the OMD body, but in manual or auto, it’s so much better, and you can get away with 1/250 or 1/320 shutter speed outdoors.

      Giulio, you have been communicating a lot with Panasonic of late, please tell me they are making something better, or help them to do so. Water resistance to match the GH3 & OMD would be great, but I mainly need something to work quickly and be durable to work with.

      • Giulio Sciorio July 12, 2013 at 7:34 am #

        Hi Simon,

        The F360L/FL600R is not Panasonic’s pro solution. Think of it as a mid-range flash. That said I have used it on many assignments like this one – http://www.smallcamerabigpicture.com/g-shoots-miami-people/

        Of course I would love more power and in my meetings with Panasonic I expressed that to them. They are aware of the request and from those that they read online (they do read forums BTW).

        What you’re seeing now with the F360L and GH3 is just the start of everything it’s not the last and its not the high end of what is yet to come.

      • Mike September 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

        Hello SImon, can you use the Canon 430EX with an Omd-Em5? Is it better than the FL600R?

  12. Bill February 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    I’ve been using my FL-600R and my two FL-50Rs with my Lumix GH3 and they seem to work OK in TTL RC mode with the on camera flash for trigger. I have had some triggering problems that I think are due to the sensor not seeing the trigger flash. Moving the flash to reveal the sensor to the camera does seem to make a difference, but I am so new to this that I need to use the system more to understand it better. One thing that I do know is that I need to make labels for the flashes so that I will know at a glance which group each flash belongs to. I might use colored tape to denote the group. What I probably need to do is to set up a shot with a mannequin and vary the settings on the flashes to see what the effect is. I have been using two flashes firing into shoot through umbrellas for diffusion.

  13. Joto March 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi giulio, thanks for the review. I also have the om-d. Do you mean that we need to have the small flash unit attached to the camera in order to control remotely the fl600r? Cn’t we use wireless tll without having another flash attached on on-d thanks

    • Giulio Sciorio March 13, 2013 at 1:04 am #

      Yes they are controlled thought an optical controller which is another flash. Similar system on my GH3 but for some reason the GH3 is more accurate.

      • Daniel April 12, 2014 at 5:06 am #

        Hi Giulio,
        Chanced upon your video here. I have a question for you. I am using OMD E-M5 attached with a small flash unit to the camera and RC flash – FL600R. How do I prevent the small flash from firing when using the RC flash? I tried turning it off at the flash control unit (well I assume it is located at the fourth column option?) but it still firing it out. Any idea what is going on? Thanks..

  14. Reba Baskett July 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    I just got this flash and in TTL on camera (need it for an event on camera) It won’t register focal length or ISO? It just blinks at me. Did I get a dud? Or is there a setting somewhere.
    I have tried Auto also on both camera and flash and nothing registers. I have the 12-50 kit lens though I have tried the 45mm and Panasonic 25 and nothing registers?

  15. Richard Slackman August 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Hi Guilio … I am an OMD EM-5 owner and after having moved from the bigger Canon MK II system, I am so far after six months, delighted ! I switched from studio to travel photography and the lightweight OMD system has met my every need. I am now looking to add an fl-600r flash to my camera and ran across the Panasonic 360-L. Is it every bit as compatible with my camera as the fl-600r is ? Is there any advantage to it over the fl-600r ( features, power, cost, flexibility ) ??? In your experience, what is YOUR flash of choice for the OMD EM-5 ?

    Am I to understand that the Canon flashes ( 480EX II & 530EX II ) can be used on or with the OMD ??? Can you give a brief explanation ?? I’ve owned and used both those flashes when I was a Canon system user and sold them because I was under the impression they would not be compatible with the OMD. Whats the truth here ?
    And lastly, I LOVE your reviews and you get extra kudos for your “quick flip” thru the unboxing segment of the fl600R. I thought that was SO appropriate and clever. I hate watching unboxing on any review as if its even necessary.

    THANK YOU for what you do.

    Richard

    • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      The Canon flash units will discharge but only because of the X-sync. There’s no communication between Canon units and the M43 flash standard. The Canon units have one extra pin for communication but the other pins all line up fine. This means that while there is no TTL from Canon to M43 if you want an extended TTL cord to go from a M43 camera to a M43 flash a Canon cord will work.

      The FL600R and FL360L are identical units. Both made by Panasonic. I was using FL600Rs for the summer. They were on loan from Olympus and they worked great (all things considered) but I have since sent them back. You can see that assignment here –

      http://www.smallcamerabigpicture.com/g-shoots-miami-people/

      I currently have two FL360L units and they are identical in every function and feature. The only difference is cosmetic.

      Panasonic has been making flash units for the industry longer then have been making cameras.

      Happy to hear you dig what I’m up to.Thanks for reading and commenting. I do appreciate it.

      G

      • Richard Slackman August 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

        So just to clarify, I can use either the Olympic fl600r OR the Panasonic 360L and they will both work with my OMD and produce exactly the same functions and results ?? Is that correct ? Between the two flashes, which do you prefer for use on the OMD EM-5 ?

        Thanks again,

        Richard

        • Giulio Sciorio August 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

          They are one in the same. Buy the one that you find the best price on. I’ve only used Olympus flashes with Olympus and Lumix with Lumix. I’ve not crossed the streams yet. :-)

  16. Richard Slackman August 11, 2013 at 2:16 am #

    So if I use an OMD EM-5 and put a FL36R in the hot shoe and used a canon 580EXII as a remote flash, setting its power manually, would the camera use its TTL of the whole scene and adjust the FL36r accordingly or not ?

    Thanks in advance

    Richard

    • Giulio Sciorio August 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      Not sure. Try it and let me know. Any M43 flash should be TTL and the Canon would be operating like any flash with an optical slave.

  17. Mike September 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Great review, thank you. Just one question: Sometimes, while working with this flash, my unit can not fire and the AutoCheck and Test/charge buttons are blinking. Does this mean something? I take the flash off and put it again and it stars working again. Maybe the contacts are dirty? Or batteries dying down?

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