Panasonic LX3 Flash

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Chart of Flashes for  LX3 and Leica D-Lux 4 , also LX5 and M4/3 cameras.

The little LX3 pop-up flash works quite well within its distance limits. The light appears to be evenly spread across the 24mm wide setting at 16:9 aspect ratio. That wide spread of course limits the range when the focal length is longer as much flash is being wasted. Adding adapter tubes and filters and adapter lenses may cause shadows at the bottom edge of the image. To avoid that you will need a taller flash attached in the hot shoe.

The manual shows a table on page 47 (in my manual at least) that gives the range at wide angle with ISO 100 as 2.6m, so the guide number at ISO 100 works out to be 5.2 (m) or 17 (ft) because of that f/2.0 used at wide angle.

The flash uses TTL mode where an initial flash is fired to measure the light, then the shutter is "opened" and the actual flash for the exposure is fired. My measurements showed a delay of 130 milliseconds between the two flashes and they make a distinct pop-pop when in operation. This delay causes many subjects to blink because of the initial flash and then their eyes are closed for the real flash. That between flash period can be extended by using second curtain flash trigger and a slow shutter speed instead of the default first curtain flash trigger, but of course you must warn the subject that the second flash takes the shot..

Use a foreign flash (with no TTL compatibility) in the flash shoe and only one trigger is received by the flash so that double flash blink then does not happen, but of course you have the added complexity of  having to tune the flash output to suit the camera. More on that below.

To get full TTL operation with an attached flash use either Panasonic or Olympus brand modern flashes (or any other brands that are truly Panasonic/Olympus compatible such as Metz), they work fine in TTL mode. To get the possibly large flash off the top of the camera, a side bracket can be used and then an extender cable from the hot shoe to the flash base. Extender cables from Panasonic, Olympus or Canon will all work with Panasonic or Olympus hot shoe cameras as the essential pins are all in the same location. Panasonic and Olympus extender cables will not work with Canon cameras because there is one less contact available in the Panasonic/Olympus setup.

Foreign flashes will work and I have used various Nikon flashes with no problems. Old flashes with very high trigger voltages will possibly destroy the camera, so stick with relatively modern flashes with typically 5 to 10 volt trigger for best results. The trigger voltage can be measured on the trigger pin of the flash, measuring between that centre pin and the metal base plate or contact that is the "earth" of the flash. A common multimeter may give misleading results due to its possibly low input impedance, it's safer to use a high impedance input meter (most digital voltmeters are OK) to get a more accurate reading. Check the list here for your flash http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html

When using a foreign flash there seems to be no problems caused by failing to insulate or isolate the seemingly incompatible small contacts in the hot shoe. The centre one of course is the normal trigger contact to fire the flash, and normally one of the rearward contacts is a "flash ready" indicator and is handy to let the camera know that the foreign flash is present and ready to fire. Of my Nikon flashes the small SB-30 the medium SB-15 and the large SB-26 all work well.

The foreign flash itself needs to be in the self-auto mode and then the aperture and ISO matched to the camera settings, a couple of test shots will be needed to fine tune the flash and camera aperture to get the correctly exposed result. Use the camera in Aperture priority mode or in Manual mode with a set selected ISO, probably 200 and lower is best, or maybe up to 400 if desperate. A good test is to have the flash turned off and the camera in P mode, notice the shutter speed indicated. then turn on the flash, the flash ready signal (if connected correctly) will cause the shutter speed to go to 1/30 sec, from my experiments it seems that any voltage detected on the trigger contact makes the camera realise that a flash is attached and turned on.

Others have tried Canon flashes but I have had no experience with them so cannot comment on their use but they should behave just like the Nikon flashes, and of course with the usual advantage that the foreign flashes only give one flash and hence prevent the blink reaction. One user tried a Nissin Di28 Canon dedicated flash but it didn't work, it is a TTL only flash and obviously needed dedicated Canon TTL signals to function. The foreign flash must have a self-auto function and the all important front reflected light detector to make life easy. A foreign flash that has only manual mode takes you back to the bad old days where you need to play with ISO and aperture to get a result, based on distance from  subject to camera. A few test shots soon sort out this problem.

The main advantage of the large flashes whether they be Panasonic, Olympus or foreign ones is that they usually can be bounced off the ceiling for a better spread of light and help overcome those dead looking dark background corners in room scenes. The 4 x AA battery flashes are best for bounce flash in larger rooms.

Slave flashes can be used with the LX3 when its own pop-up flash is used. I use a Wein Digital Trigger which ignores the initial measuring flash and then fires on the second flash. Some adjusting of the slave strength and positioning may be needed after a few test shots to get the light balanced. If the pop-up flash is too powerful for the situation then it can be backed off by as much as -2 EV by using the cursor +/- button.

A note about LX3 flash compensation as discovered by "Mr Click" on the DPReview forum.......

MrClick wrote:
Please note this...
The Flash Compensation feature on the LX3 is not a 'TRUE' feature. It really doesn't work as it should i.e. actually increase or reduce the actual flash output by the amount we actually compensate for in 1/3rd EV steps!
How do I know? I actually measured the flash output with a Flash Meter. For those who do not know, these are devices used in the old film days when we had no access to 'real time histograms' or 'instant feedback LCD previews'!!
What the LX3 does is to reduce power or increase power just a little bit and the rest is achieved via an algorithm that kicks in and tweaks a gamma/tone curve to further enhance the effect of dimness/brightness.
So, is this is useful feature then? Of course it is... it is better having this feature than not having it at all. That said, negative flash compensation works better than positive flash compensation on the LX3.

Many complain that flash shots give skin an unnatural look so some tuning of the film characteristics may be needed, I am happy to use Standard Film with Saturation and Contrast both at minus 1 on my LX3 for a more natural look that is easier to adjust in post processing.


Flashes that work on the LX3/LX5 and Leica D-Lux 4/5 and all M4/3 cameras and any Olympus and Panasonic hot-shoe cameras. 

Table being reworked, please be patient, the "?" and blank boxes will slowly be filled.
Please email me email about errors or additions.
Michael Meissner's excellent list compiled for Olympus cameras, so will work with Panasonic http://www.the-meissners.org/olympus-flash2.html
Michael's list has more complete information and also shows which models have swivel heads.
Panasonic   Olympus   Canon   Nikon    Metz    Miscellaneous
PanasonicAutoTTLBounceBatteriesComments
FL220YesTTLNo2xAAFor proper TTL needs firmware update on LX3. See it here.
FL360EYesTTLBounce2xAASame flash as Olympus FL-36
FL500EYesTTLBounce4xAASame flash as Olympus FL-50
 
OlympusAutoTTLBounceBatteryComments
FL-14YesTTLNo2xAAACompact flash designed for Pen cameras. See it here FL-14
FL-20YesTTL?No2xAA?Small flash. See it here FL-20. Feedback reports no TTL with LX3, but OK with earlier Olympus.
FL-40YesNoBounce2xAA?Some limitations on some later cameras. See it here FL-40,
FL-36, -36R YesTTLBounce2xAAR version = remote ability on Olympus. See it here FL-36 FL-36R 
FL-50, -50RYesTTLBounce4xAAR version = remote ability on Olympus.. See it here  FL-50 FL-50R.
 
CanonAutoTTLBounceBatteryComments
Canon TTL and E-TTL is not compatible with Panasonic/Olympus TTL, so flashes need to be used in self-auto mode.
A Series Flash
YesNo??Need more info on this one....
270EXNoNoBounce2xAACanon dedicated flash, will not be useful on other cameras.
430EX/ EX IIManual with power adjustsNoBounce4xAANo TTL of course but works fine for manual with adjustable power settings so needs more test shots and also change settings with each distance change. Latest quieter 430EX II model here.
530 EX/ EX IIYesNoBounce4xAA Waiting on confirmation, see it here.
580EX/ EX IIYesNoBounce4xAABig and heavy for those large bounce situations. See it here.
177A & 277TYes?NoNo?Model 277T reported as working, but these are old models and limited in operation and output. They won't cover a 24mm equivalent lens. Experiment if you like. Google for information as the old links have gone away for me.
  
NikonAutoTTLBounceBatteryComments
Nikon TTL is not compatible with Panasonic/Olympus TTL, so flashes need to be used in self-auto mode.
SB-400NoNoBounce2xAAHas not got a manual mode. Nikon TTL only. See it here.
SB-600NoNoBounce4xAASB-600  Nikon TTL only or selectable power output, no self-auto mode.
SB-800YesNoBounce4xAASB-800 
SB-900YesNoBounce4xAASB-900
SB-10YesNoNo4xAASB-10
SB-15YesNoBounce4xAASB-15
SB-20YesNoBounce4xAASB-20
SB-22, SB-22sYesNoBounce4xAASB-22  SB-22s
SB-24YesNoBounce4xAASB-24
SB-26YesNoBounce4xAASB-26
SB-27YesNoNo4xAASB-27 manual
SB-28, SB-28DXYesNoBounce4xAASB28 SB28DX
SB-30YesNoNo1xCR123ASB-30 My favourite little carry anywhere flash, has slave mode.
SB-50DXNoNoBounce2xCR123ASB-50DX, another Nikon TTL only flash.
SB-80DXYesNoBounce4xAASB-80DX  

Metz AutoTTLBounceBatteryComments
(All Metz manuals found here)
20 C-2YesNoBounce2xAALimited self auto available, set the flash for either F/2.8 or F/5.6 at ISO 100 and match that to settings in A mode (or Manual mode) on the LX3.  Factor the distance the flash covers for the given settings including ISO and it works quite well. English version of manual starts on page 60
24 AF-1 O for Panasonic Olympus LeicaNoYesBounce2xAATTL only flash with plus/minus compensation on flash. Flash head swivels up only. Useful as a carry anywhere flash.
28 CS-2 YesNoSlave2xAAASmall slave flash, can aim to use as bounce, works with any digital camera.
36 AF-4 O for Panasonic Olympus LeicaYesYesBounce4xAAOlympus/Panasonic dedicated TTL flash. English version of manual starts on page 68. Use in self auto mode if Nikon/Canon/Pentax model.
48 AF-1 for Panasonic Olympus LeicaYesYesBounce4xAAFull TTL is Olympus/Panasonic compatible version. Use in self auto mode if Nikon/Canon/Pentax model. English version of manual starts on page 62.
58 AF-1 for Panasonic Olympus LeicaYesYesBounce4xAAFull TTL if using the Olympus/Panasonic version. Use in self auto mode if Nikon/Canon/Pentax model. English at page 80 of manual.
60 CT-1YesNoYesSpecial batteryEven though higher flash contact voltage of about 17V (or 21v as measured here), it works OK via a simple hotshoe to PC sync contact adapter, there must be a certain degree of input voltage protection. . Big flash on side bar. Page 27 of manual for English part. These big flashes can have a longer and slower output which varies from 1/200 to 1/20,000 sec so be careful with shutter speed settings when the flash is working hard near the maximum output end of its range.  That warning is for LX3 and the like with in-lens shutters where usually 1/2000 second is perfectly OK for flash sync. Slower output flashes will experience under-exposure at higher shutter speeds at full output. Naturally focal plane shutters as in M4/3 cameras have different limits, some of that explained here.
A Metz note found, re Leica but also is same for Panasonic and OlympusYesYes--For the digital camera Leica D-Lux 4 we may recommend the following flash units:
mecablitz 36 AF-4 O digital (Olympus/Panasonic version)
mecablitz 48 AF-1 O digital (Olympus/Panasonic version)
mecablitz 58 AF-1 O digital (Olympus/Panasonic version)
mecablitz 44 MZ-2 with an adapter SCA 3202M7.
  Work in progress below this line
MiscellaneousAutoTTLBounceBatteryComments
Nissin  Di466No, but 6 manual power settingsYesYes4xAABuy the model for 4/3 cameras. See it here.  A very interesting modern flash, read their whole page on its features. Also their compatibility chart to keep track of other Nissin flashes and their camera compatibility. No self-auto mode so limits versatility.
Leica SF24D, SF20DYesNoSelf auto mode works but no TTL. Presumably SF20D and new SF58 also works. See it here SF24D, SF20D, SF58
Sunpak 120YesNoCan't find a technical description. Sunpak site itself is here to find current flashes.
Sunpak RD2000YesNoFor Nikon (important) SURD2000N - not bad in manual mode. See it here.
Canon version does not work at all.
Ricoh 300PYesNoWorks well in both self auto and manual modes. See it here.
Contax TLA-30YesNoSee it here. Also the TLA-20 smaller flash will work in manual with two power settings involved. See Contax flash pictures on this page. Also TLA-20 here.
Minolta 4000AFYesNoOld style Minolta flashes evidently had a real hot-shoe that is compatible with other cameras. But check that trigger voltage first. Use in self-auto or manual.
Sigma EF-500 DG Super for PentaxYesNoUse in self-auto or manual modes. See it here.
Sigma EF 530 DG Super  for PentaxYesNoUse in self-auto or manual modes. See it here
Vivitar RGPRO-648
Olympus/Panasonic version
YesYesWorks OK, for sale here.
Cullmann 20, Rockinon DF20UnknownAppears to be NoMore replies needed, but this bunch of same build flashes do have an Olympus compatible TTL model available which works TTL on various modern Olympus cameras but TTL appears to be unreliable on LX3. Vivitar 183 seems similar.
Vivitar 183NoYesYes2xAABuy the Oly model for TTL compatibility. Looks similar to Metz 24 AF-1. Vivitar link.
Vivitar 550FD M/P/OYesNoTilt head for bounce. Image here.
Vivitar 283 NO and also YesNoPopular old flash that was made for a long time, later ones did have low trigger voltage and will be safe. You must measure that trigger voltage with a digital volt meter and only use one that shows down around 10 volts or lower (made in China or Taiwan seem to be later ones?). The old ones (probably pre-1987?) could go as high as 600 volts and destroy the camera. See it here.
Vivitar 273NoNo Old flash with very high voltage on trigger contact. See various Vivitar models on this page.
Nissin Di28NoNoIs dedicated TTL only model, no Panasonic/Olympus version available. See it here.
MinoltaNoNoThe later Minolta flashes that I've seen have a totally different non standard hot-shoe so there's no way the modern Minolta flash would fit on a normal hot-shoe. Then there's the contacts, there is not a central trigger contact, it's one of 4 scattered small contacts and who knows which is which? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_shoe to see the different type of the Minolta/Sony shoe.
In summary, if the trigger voltage is low and the flash has some sort of self auto or manual setting, then it is worth a try.
Of course some flashes will not provide the required coverage for 24mm setting, but will be good further up the camera zoom range.
Always select a fixed ISO setting to experiment, Auto ISO may confuse things. Camera in Manual mode allows a greater range of shutter speeds and is recommended.

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