Extend the reach of your flash

If you are using telephoto lenses and find the reach of your flash units a litle short, a “Better Beamerâ„¢” may be what you need for that extra power in the field. This handy flash range extender packs flat for easy transport, weighs less than 90 grams and can be attached to your flash in less than 30 seconds. (Search eBay for a Better Beamer.)

The Better Beamer was invented by Walt Anderson and intended for wildlife photography. It is a fresnel lens that mounts in front of a shoe mount flash unit to refocus the light into a tighter pattern. The pattern corresponds roughly to the field of view of a 300 mm lens (FX format), or a 200 mm lens (DX format). The fresnel lens extends the reach of the flash and provides up to 2 f-stops extra boost.

The Better Beamer is supposed to attach to the flash with supplied Velcro straps. It comes in six different sizes and to fit different show-mounted flash units. Here is a list sizes for what is considered best fit:

  • FX-1: Canon 199D, Canon 380EX, Canon 430EZ, Minolta 5200, Minolta 5400, Nikon SB-24, Mikon SB-28, Pentax 5000AF.
  • FX-2: Canon 540EZ, 550EX, Nikon SB-25 , Nikon SB-26, Sigma EF 500-series, Minolta 5600HS.
  • FX-3: Canon 580EX, Canon 580EX II, Metz 54-4, Nikon SB-700.
  • FX-4: Nikon SB-600, Nikon SB-800.
  • FX-5: Canon 430-EX, Pentax AF500FTZ.
  • FX-6: Nikon SB-900.
You may use an elastic band to attach the Better Beamer to the flash head.

I prefer to secure the Better Beamer to the flash by means of an elastic band, as shown on the right.

If you use it with a lens shorter than 300 mm (FX) or 200 mm (DX), it narrows the beam in a similar manner to a snoot. But while a snoot simply restricts the beam of light (wasting some of it) the fresnel lens in the Better Beamer concentrates the light into a tight beam, giving your flash more power to, say, overpower the sun.

In the instructions that comes with the unit, it is recommended that you set your flash zoom head to 50 mm in order to obtain even 300 mm coverage (FX). Setting a wider zoom results in a narrower beam of light emitted and vice versa. You may want to experiment with different zoom settings to see the types of coverage you get. In a pinch I sometimes widen the zoom setting to 35 mm to obtain a little more range.

When used with TTL (Through-The-Lens) flash metering, exposure is automatically handled by the TTL computer, so no special compensation is required.

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