Flash for Fuji Camera MEIKE MK-320F review
How to write a review for a flash? I have been thinking about this for a while now. I don’t like technical reviews, I don’t want to write a technical review, I want a real life review of the flash but that is so difficult to write and to qualify an opinion as a flash does not control the quality of the photo, only the quality of the light. So you could easily take terrible photos with a flash but that is not the flashes fault. So I will review this flash on the following criteria. Firstly I will review build quality and ease of use, secondly, I will look at the ttl metering and the quality of light given off by this flash.
My purchasing of this flash began with a broken lens. I broke my Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR zoom lens that I use to shoot music festivals but since I had a super-wide zoom lens for my Fuji XT1 camera already, I decided to buy a flash for the Fuji XT1 and incorporate the Fuji XT1 into my workflow. Now the Fuji XT1 comes with its own flash, but it is a terrible dinky flash that is basically only good for some fill flash but it is completely unusable for me in my line of work and Fuji really does not have many flash options, so after doing some searching, I found out about the MEIKE MK-320F flash.
On paper, this flash seemed to have everything that I would desire.
- GN 32 (Iso-100)
- 5-second recycle time (NiMH)
- Powered by 2 AAs
- Tilts –7° to 90°
- Swivels 60° left, 90° right
- TTL, manual and stroboscopic modes
- Optical slave S1/S2
- LCD control panel
- LED modeling lamp
- Dimensions: 110 x 65 x 36mm
Another specification that I really liked on paper was the ability to charge your batteries in the flash via USB. This meant that I could charge my batteries on location with a USB charger that I carry around with me for my phone.
The flash unit sounded fantastic so I ordered a unit online and got it the next day. When it arrived, I was amazed at the quality of the packaging for the flash. The flash is not very expensive so I would have expected cheap boxing from the Chinese company MEIKE but the boxing and packaging was at a much higher level than what I would get from my Yongnuo flashes that I buy.
Taking the flash out in my hand, it struck how small this flash was compared to the bigger SLR flashes so I had high hopes for this flash. The box includes a flash stand, a stofen or diffuser, instructions manuals, and a cloth pouch.
The flash runs off two AA batteries so even with batteries, the flash is extremely light, weighing only 200g. So the combination of this flash with the Fuji XT1 is not really very heavy.
The flash itself feels well constructed, about the same quality as the yongnuo flashes that I use very often with my Nikon but not in the same league as the build quality of the Nikon or Canon flashes. The LCD screen and the buttons on the flash are well designed and easy to use. You can change settings on the flash with relatively easy and it is highly unlikely that you will accidentally change a setting. I really like the LCD and button layout on this flash. It is much better than the systems on the Yongnuo or Nikon flashes. It feels easier to use and more modern. The yongnuo flashes tend to copy canon or Nikon in their design and they feel like they are stuck in the 80’s with their interfaces. So the MEIKE MK-320F flash definitely has an advantage in that department.
I started to play around with the MEIKE MK-320F flash on top of the camera when I noticed the first real problem with the flash. You really cannot bounce light very well with the flash as it has limited mobility with the flash head. You can bounce light to the left or right of you, or from the roof but you will not be able to bounce light from behind you as the flash head does not swivel 180 degrees. When tilting the flash head, there is just enough resistance to make it feel good. Again I was disappointed with the degree of motion that you could move the flash head but you could work with it and it has more range of motion than the supplied flash that came with the Fuji XT1.
The flash mounts to the camera with the traditional wheel to tighten onto your body of the camera and feels strong. I never worried about the flash falling off my camera while I was shooting. The LED flashlight is very useful in the dark, but I would not use it as a video light though. The quality of light from the LED for video is extremely harsh. The only time I would use it for shooting video is when I was running and gunning in an extremely dark environment and it was my only option. But the flashlight is great for packing your gear up in the dark. I have used it as a flashlight on many occasions know, really useful. So far so good for this flash.
The flash works well in S1, S2 mode but I seldom use it, to be honest. If I am shooting with some slave flashes, I have a ton of Yongnuo at home or the office that I can set up quickly to use. I only tested the functionality once when I bought the flash. But you could easily use an on-camera flash and use this off camera somewhere. But I doubt this functionality will be used by most people who buy this flash though.
The light the flash gives off is not balanced really well. I find the center of the image to be extremely hot and the light falls off very quickly. I find that a lot of images that I shoot are overexposed in the center and then the sides of the image are under exposed.
As stated previously the flash has a recycle time of 5 seconds and it sometimes feels like a whole lot longer than 5 seconds to me. If you are shooting a lot, the recycle times seem to get longer. It was extremely frustrating trying to work with this flash, basically, you have to take one photo, put the camera down, then come back later and shoot again. The flash will fire if it is not completely recharged but you will be left with an extremely underexposed image. The recycle times on this flash is simply too long. 5 to 7 seconds to recharge is terrible to be honest and when you are waiting for it to charge, it feels like hours have passed before you can shoot again.
The flash has no bounce card though and the tilt is limited so it gives you fewer options when trying to bounce the light. Often when I shoot a bands portrait, I would bounce the light off the wall behind me, but this is not an option and the only real option to bounce the light would be the roof now or maybe the wall to the left or right. The MEIKE MK-320F flash does come with a stofen but I have never used it and I leave it on the flash box at home.
So this flash is clearly not a flash unit for a working photographer, so would I recommend this flash to no pros looking to get a better image in the dark compared to the supplied Fujifilm flash, and that is a difficult question to answer. The flash is small and easy to carry, it can be used to bounce light off walls if you are creative, its ttl metering is average, and the light falls off the center really quickly. There are many negatives to this flash but as far as flash options go for the Fujifilm system, this is most likely the best option right now, but being the best option when there are no real other options is not really great though.
Most people will use this flash with their small cameras to shoot people though, not shoot events like I normally do. So let’s compare the light to the supplied Fujifilm flash. The quality of light you get from the MEIKE MK-320F flash is much more workable and easy to manage than the Fujifilm. You can bounce it and work it much more to get pleasing results. If I had to choose between using the Fujifilm flash that came with the XT1 or this flash, then I would pick this over the Fujifilm flash every single time. And in this regards, the flash does its job really well.
To write a conclusion for this flash is difficult. I personally don’t like this flash a lot, I missed many shots with this flash at work but I was using a flash that was not designed for professional use so it is really my own fault. As a flash for shooting everyday life, shooting your friends or family, then this is a good buy for you. If you want to shoot more demanding things than that, then maybe you need to look for a flash with more power and versatility. The MEIKE MK-320F flash has many good features, and I really like the LCD interface and buttons. The LED light is really useful, the USB charging is a unique feature that I wish many other flashes would incorporate. Even with all those strong points, think carefully before you buy it though. I still carry the flash in my camera bag when I am shooting with the Fujifilm XT1. It is still the best option for me to carry around every day, it is small and compact and great if I have to shoot something quickly in the dark, but when I am home and I shoot something with the XT1, I never grab this flash. I always grab a Nikon or Yongnuo flash and shoot it manually on the camera as I find it much easier to control the light with one of those flashes. I guess that is the best conclusion I can give this flash. It is great for run and gun type shooting, where you don’t care about controlling the light, but if you want to control the light to any degree, then this is not the flash for you.
- Good build quality
- great interface
- Unique features such as USB charging and LED light
- Small and compact
- Limited mobility
- inconsistent light spread.
- Slow refresh times.