So I bought a $5 flash

My experience with buying an old external flash (speedlight) meant for Pentax film cameras and mounting it on my digital Lumix GX7.

Recently I found myself at a shop with some old, used camera gear – and one of the items on display was an external flash (or speedlight). I had no idea if it worked or not, but the price was just $5 so I figured… why not? I’d always wanted to try out using an external flash, and I figured this might not be a bad way to get into it.

Sunpak MZ440AF-PT on a Panasonic Lumix GX7
The flash mounted to my Lumix GX7… I think the flash is actually bigger than the camera!
Rear controls of a Sunpak MZ440AF-PT
These controls on the flash/speedlight suggested to me that this was an older flash… maybe a very old flash… from the days of film cameras.

From the controls on the back I could tell that this was an older flash – probably meant to go on an older film camera. So, I didn’t have high hopes that it would work perfectly with my camera – or even that it would work at all! But once I got it home (and got the batteries put in the right way – the markings on the inside for battery orientation were not easy to see) I attached it to my camera, turned it on and… it worked!

exuberant keith holding his camera and flash

Well, sort of.

It turned on – which was the first good sign – and the flash fired when I pressed the shutter on my camera. My camera knew that a flash was attached… but it didn’t know anything about it, nor could it control it in any way.

At this point I decided I should probably look up some instructions or better information. The model of speedlight I had was a “Sunpak MZ440AF-PT,” which I learned was an old flash for Pentax cameras. A bit more research on the connectors for various flashes and camera models revealed that, basically, only the connector for “fire the flash now” was compatible – everything else is manufacturer specific (even if the pins line up – which is annoying). So I would be using this flash in full manual mode.

camera hotshoe connectors
The flash I had matched the “Pentax” hotshoe connector pattern.

Unfortunately, this particular model of flash doesn’t seem to actually have manual controls – even though it looks like it on the back. There are sliders for ISO and for focal length, but I think these are more of a guide than actual controls – as the flash output does not seem to change no matter what I select.

I did some test shots (in manual mode on the flash as well as on my camera), trying out different combinations of settings on the flash while keeping my camera settings the same, and I found that the flash never seemed to vary its output in any way – the photos were identical.

Now, I may just be using this flash wrong – I was not ever able to find the manual for it – but it seemed to me that it would only be able to vary its light output if controlled by a camera – a Pentax camera, not my Panasonic Lumix GX7.

So, at the end of the day I’m probably just going to donate this flash back to the same store I got it from (or to another used camera store) since it’s basically of no use to me. But still, it was an interesting learning experience… and who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll find a flash that actually works with my camera and can learn some more. But for now, it’s back to nothing but natural light for me!

On Camera Bags

A while back I decided to upgrade my camera bag – my old one had served me well and had traveled around the world with me, but it was starting to show its age and also it was a bit of a tight fit for all my gear.

The larger Lowepro sling camera bag
The larger version of my old camera bag

So the first thing I looked at was, naturally, just the next larger model of the same bag. This would still be the sling-style bag I prefer, just with slightly more room (and, as a bonus, a mounting point for a tripod on the side of the bag).

However, size is hard to judge from pictures on the Internet, so I decided to have a look at bags in person – heading into NYC to visit B&H photo (such a fun place to visit!).

While I was there I happened to look at a few other bags, taking into consideration size vs weight, storage options, etc. And as it happened, I noticed a different sling-style bag – one that was more of a backpack shape. It lacked the extensive padding & huge pockets of the bigger bag I had originally come to see, but it had some attractive features – mainly an added pocket for my laptop, which would come in very handy when I was traveling.

Mindshift sling style camera bag
The “backpack” style bag that caught my attention

Unable to make up my mind, I ended up getting both bags – figuring that at the least I’d have options in the future to take whichever bag best suited my needs at the time. I also thought that I’d primarily use the bigger bag, with the backpack-shape bag reserved for when I needed to travel light and not take all my gear with me.

However, as it turned out, I’ve actually only used the bag I’d originally picked out – the larger version of my old bag – just once, while the backpack-shape bag has come with me almost everywhere (and I’ve also somehow managed to fit all my gear into it, so I’m not missing out on anything).

Part of this is just the simple fact that the backpack-shape bag is, by virtue of the material & less padding, a lot lighter. It’s also a bit easier to access while I’m out – I can reach all my lenses with its one big pocket, whereas with the bigger bag I’d have to undo 2 clips and unzip the main compartment all the way (due to the way the dividers & padding are arranged).

The inside of the Lowepro sling bag
The bigger bag has these dividers – which provide good padding, but make it hard to access some items in the bag quickly.
Lowepro sling bag fully open
To get at all of the sections in the larger bag, you have to open it up all the way. This can be awkward to do while the bag is slung over your shoulder.

Additionally, it also has a holder for a tripod either on the side or strapped across the back – and that side holder can also double as a water bottle holder, which is very handy on hikes and photowalks. The straps across the back can also hold other things besides a tripod, such as a light jacket – which has come in handy on several occasions.

So, in the end, the bag I thought I’d only use occasionally has become my primary use bag – while the bag I thought was a perfect upgrade sits unused. I’m very glad I went into the store and actually looked at bags instead of just picking one out based on specs and pictures online!

Desktop Madness: Vol. 107

A few more wallpapers from the anime series “Yuru Camp” (or “Laid-Back Camp”).

Here’s a few more wallpapers from the series “Yuru Camp” (or “Laid-Back Camp”) because honestly I can’t get enough of this show – it is just so enjoyable and relaxing to watch (and the music is pretty catchy, too!).


Desktop Madness Vol. 106

Never before has a single show made me want to go camping so much… but if you can’t go camping, at least we’ve got some nice wallpapers to make up for it!

I’m back again with the latest installment of Desktop Madness and this time the theme is: camping.

Specifically, images from the anime “Yuru Camp” (or as it’s sometimes translated, “Laid-Back Camp”) – which, if you’ve not seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

This show has a beautiful visual style with some adorable characters, and watching a few episodes will make you start thinking about maybe taking up camping yourself (even if you’re not normally into that sort of thing).



Desktop Madness Vol. 105

Oh hey look, more RWBY wallpapers!

Shortly after my previous Desktop Madness post featuring RWBY wallpapers I stumbled across a bunch more, all done by an artist who goes by @mojojo27827860 on Twitter. They’ve done quite a lot of work – all of it very cute – so if you like their work, be sure to give them a follow to see more!