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
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.
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.[box type="note"]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.[/box]
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.
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.
[box type="note"]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.[/box]
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.
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!