Metz 64 AF-1 Flash Review
January 16th, 2015
Quality “speedlites” or compact flash units are amongst the most indispensible tools in any photographer’s arsenal. Photography is about light, and good photographers not only use light but through tools shape it to their purpose. I love using natural light, but there are moments when I recognize that the available light in a certain setting just isn’t going to cut it. For that reason I own a number of portable flash units, or speedlites in Canon parlance. Today we going to take a close look at the Metz 64 AF-1 flash unit, which is the new flagship model for German manufacturer Metz.
Innovation has come but slowly to the electronic flash segment of the photography industry, but one of the leading innovators through recent years has been the Metz flash company from Germany. They have pioneered such innovations as touch screen control, a USB port for firmware updates, and a secondary flash head/reflector on the front of the flash to provide fill light while tilting the flash head to “bounce” the light off a ceiling or wall.
All of these innovations have culminated in the Mecablitz (is that not a delightful word?) 64 AF-1 flash, the new flagship model for the Metz line. It is currently the most powerful compact flash unit in the world, with a max guide number of 64m, which works out to an amazing 210 feet at ISO 100. In other words, it packs a powerful punch. The touchscreen has evolved to a highly useful color version loaded with easy to find (and select) menu options. I can very clearly remember how overwhelming it was to try to find options in the almost incomprehensible menu systems of some of my other flash units, and I would often just resort to adjusting what settings I could in camera. Consider that problem solved with the 64 AF-1!
Like the newest top end flashes from Canon and Nikon, the 64 AF-1 now features coverage over the zoom range of up to 200mm (up from the earlier standards of 105mm), and with its diffuser dropped, it can provide coverage as wide as 12mm (3mm more than the competition). The flash unit has exceptional capability to match its output to your desired shooting conditions. The flash unit is loaded with ports, from a USB port for firmware updates to a sync port (for wired pairing) to a port for an external power source. It has a sleek, professional build that is ready to weather the bumps and bruises that come with serious photography.
The 64 AF-1 is exceptionally versatile. It can be fired in full E-TTL/II mode in this Canon model (including multiple zone AF metering), but the unit will be available in Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic/Leica (Four-Thirds System), Pentax, and Sony “mounts” with full compatibility with each of these system’s automatic metering. I was very pleased with the unit’s accuracy in this mode, as it provided very pleasing and well balanced light. The secondary reflector on the front allows for unusually gentle light when the flash is set in bounce mode even when mounted on the camera. But when you are ready to venture out of the automatic modes, you will find a host of options, including high speed, strobe, master, slave, and servo modes.
Power to the People
But most of us are looking for one quality above all when using a compact flash unit: power! Power to illuminate large groups at weddings, or to provide fill flash from a distance, or to overpower the ambient lighting conditions to get dramatic portraits. In the shot above I had to overcome the sun backlighting this family with incredible intensity. I cranked up the power of two 64 AF-1 units and got the shot I wanted.
I often shoot my flash units through umbrellas or softboxes to provide more gentle lighting, but this means that some output is lost. The ability to dial up more power is always welcome, and the 64 AF-1 offers more of that precious power than any other flash unit. That in and of itself is the single most compelling reason to give it a look, but a huge secondary reason is the extreme ease of use due to the large, color touchscreen and intuitive menus. Oh, and that secondary fill light is a treat for those times when you need to mount the flash on the camera and bounce the light.
But what if you don’t have all of those fancy modifiers and intend to use your flash unit on the camera? With the 64 AF-1 I was able to nicely illuminate my model from a long distance, giving the scene a balanced look without harsh shadows or overly cool tones. In other settings I was able to meter for a moody sky while still having enough “punch” from the flash unit to balance the lighting on my model. I shot some shots at 200mm from a long distance away. I deliberately shot the images below with just a single 64 AF-1 mounted on the camera body; no flash modifiers or light stands. There is a whole other world of possibilities that opens up with those, but the 64 AF-1 had enough flexibility to allow me to accomplish what I wanted without anything complicated…or anything extra.
And for many users that is what matters most.
That additional power adds a great deal of flexibility when you begin to add in light modifiers as well. I’ve created a lot of great images with one or two Metz 64 AF-1 flash units used with softboxes, grids, umbrellas, and even snoots. I liked these units enough that I sold off several of my Canon units and replaced them with the Metz 64 AF-1 units. I prefer the menu system of the Metz units, the secondary head for bounce flash shots, and the great power and recycle time of the Metz units. Here are just a few of the shots that I’ve taken for clients in the past six months where I have used the Metz lights.
In summation, I gave the Metz 64 AF-1 flash units the highest praise that I can think of – I bought them for myself. I currently own two of these units and am considering adding another. They have served me very well so far. They are effective, easy to use, work perfectly in the TT-L modes, and provide me with a plethora of lighting options. The one “killer feature” that they lack is built in wireless capability, but fortunately I am already invested in Yongnuo’s incredibly good yet cheap YN-622C triggers. They have proven both easy to use and reliable, even in very cold weather (important here in Canada!) These flash units are not cheap, but they provide more power at a better price than the first party options. Plus, I get to say the word “Mecablitz” when I tell people about my flashes! (A portion of this article appears in the Fall 2014 issue of PhotoNews Magazine.)
Metz 64 AF-1 Flashes can be purchased in Canada at Amplis Foto in Canon compatible models and Nikon compatible models. Using the code “AMPLIS52014 ” will get you 5% off everything in your cart and is stackable with other promo codes as well. Amplis Foto provides the warranty work for the Metz brand in Canada, and I got mine from them.
In the US or other countries, you can purchase the Metz 64 AF-1 flash units from B&H Photo in Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus/Panasonic mounts.
Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera (Body Only)
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Zoom Lens for Canon
Metz Mecablitz 64-AF-1 Flash Units
Yongnuo YN-622C Wireless Flash Triggers
Yongnuo YN-622C-TX Wireless Flash Command Controller
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Software for Mac and Windows (Boxed Version)
Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud 1-Year Subscription
Alien Skin Exposure 6
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Great News! I can now offer a 5% discount on all purchases at Amplis Foto, Canada’s Leading Photographic Supplier. Please enter discount code: AMPLIS52014 in your cart. It is good for everything in your cart, and is stackable with other coupons, too! It will take 5% off your entire order! If you want to go directly to this lens, click here: Proceeds go towards keeping this site going and providing you with new reviews!