Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Xenon flash for iPhone, part of Photo Gear Weekly.
- As photographers, it seems that we have a limitless number of choices of what sort of camera we might use, but you've probably heard the old mantra that the best camera is the one you actually have with you and for many of us, that is sometimes our smartphone. We might not have our digital SLR or our mirrorless camera with us and so we just need to make do with a smartphone and actually, it's not even really making do very much these days because the cameras in these smartphones have gotten to be very sophisticated. The quality is quite good. But one area that tends to be a little bit lacking is flash.
The flash on a smartphone camera is very, very small. It tends not to be very powerful, it doesn't fire a great distance and we're not able, in most cases, to exercise very much control over it. We can still employ flash. I have a wonderful old camera here and I'll go ahead and capture an image just using flash, the built-in flash, and I get a reasonable amount of illumination, I get some fill. The color's not looking all that good, it's a little bit too yellow and we're not really getting lots of fine detail showing up.
It's a reasonable result. It's better than having no flash in many cases, but we can do better. Enter a product such as an accessory flash. This is from iStabilizer. This is their Xenon. This is actually a flash shell as they refer to it because it looks a little bit like a shell which makes it interesting all by itself but even more interesting is that it can clip right on to your smartphone so that you can use it as an attached flash. I can also, of course, detach and fire away from a different angle if I'd like to.
It is rechargeable and it connects via Bluetooth and so I can go into the app for this device, the Flash Shell app, and I can make sure that I'm paired on my Bluetooth connection and then I'll enable the flash, of course. In this case, I think I'll keep it attached to the smartphone so that I know that I'm firing right at my subject. And I have a slider down below so that I can specify the distance that I want to fire that flash, in other words, the overall strength of the flash. Here I'm obviously very, very close so I'll maybe back that off.
Oh, I'm maybe somewhere around six inches or so and so I'll dial in an appropriate setting for that flash distance and then I can frame up my subject (flash clicks) and fire the flash. And because it's a Xenon flash, I get a much better light source. A little bit cooler, I don't have that yellowish cast that I had with the built-in flash. That control built in, the ability to operate with the flash separate of the phone itself, of the camera, essentially. So I can bring that flash in from a different angle if I'd like. So, a variety of advantages, but really, I think the biggest advantage just being that it is a very powerful and nice, clean light source that you can use as a supplemental flash with your smartphone.