View Full Version : Accessories Targus DL-20 TTL flash Olympus/Panasonic

02-13-2009, 09:14 AM
This is a small bounce-capable TTL flash. It comes in various flavors (Nikon, Canon, Olympus/Panasonic, Sony/Minolta). I bought it in the hope that it and my Panasonic G1 would provide approximately what my (former) Nikon D40 and SB-400 combination provided: a light-weight, easy-to-use combo with TTL capabilities that would provide reliably good results when you hand it to a non-photographer.

The weight is stated as 127g (without batteries), same as the SB-400. Like the SB-400, it tilts but does not swivel, and there's no zoom head. The guide number is supposedly 59ft/18m at ISO 100, compared to 69ft/21m for the Nikon. Given variations in how manufacturers rate their flashes, I wouldn't put too much weight on the difference. From my point of view, the flashes are comparable in power. They're both fine for indoor photography when bouncing off a standard-height ceiling and shooting around ISO 400-800, which is the situation where I use them. If you want to shoot at ISO 100, bounce, and photograph subjects across a large room at f/8, neither is going to have the oomph.

There are only two controls on the flash: the on-off switch and a test button. Direct manual control is not possible; you have to control it from the camera.

The (Olympus/Panasonic version of the) flash is listed on the package as compatible with the Panasonic L1 and L10, and also the FZ50 and FZ30 digicams. For Olympus, they claim compatibility with the E-1, E-3, E-300, E-330, E-410, E-500, and E-510. They also list the C-series cameras 750UZ, 770UZ, 7070WZ, 5000Z, 5050Z, 5060Z, and 8080Z.

The flash doesn't really feel like a paragon of quality. The foot is plastic, and there's a rather odd locking arrangement. You press a button just above the foot to engage the locking pin, and you squeeze the two "wings" beside the button to release it. The head also feels a bit loose when tilting, and the battery door is somewhat fiddly. The seams appear well-matched, aligned, and tight though. Part of the reason for the low-quality impression might be just the overall shape. The SB-400 is short and sleek, with a metal foot and a nice locking lever. That made it seem very well-made. The Targus is more upright and rather fat-looking. Even though they weigh the same, the Nikon's shape gave a light but solid impression, while the Targus's shape makes it feel light and flimsy. I should emphasize that this is just a subjective impression; the Targus may well work fine for many years.

The flash has a red focus-assist light; that's something that the SB-400 lacks, but the D40 has its own real AF lamp. I verified that the Targus lamp works on my E-1, though it doesn't appear much more powerful than the E-1's own lamp. With an E-series camera that uses the flashing strobe to focus, the Targus lamp would probably be a definite improvement.

I don't really know anything about the E-1's TTL flash behavior, but from the testing I did, the Targus is probably fully functional. The AF lamp works, red-eye reduction makes the flash pulse a bit before the exposure, and the flash definitely behaves in a TTL-like manner, giving consistent exposures as you twiddle the aperture or ISO. The main restriction compared to something like the FL-36 or FL-50 is that the flash does not support FP mode, so you're limited to a shutter speed of 1/180 and slower. I did find that the E-1 generally underexposed with the flash, in that the rightmost edge of the histogram tended to be about in the center of the available range. Dialing in +1 flash exposure compensation gave more reasonable results. This may be normal Olympus TTL behavior, but in any case, since I didn't buy the flash to use on the E-1, I didn't worry about it much.

On the G1, it's clear that the flash is not quite so compatible. The AF lamp doesn't work (though since the G1 has a lamp, that doesn't really need bother me), and the only flash modes available are normal and slow sync. You can also select first or second curtain. Basically those are the modes that the camera should be able to do with any old flash. Things like red-eye reduction do not work. But the most important feature, TTL, does work! The G1 seems better at producing good exposures than the E-1. There was an occasional slight overexposure, but nothing too serious, and you can dial in a bit of negative flash exposure compensation if you want.

I am mostly using the flash for indoor people photography. After experimenting, I'd say that my usual method of working with the flash will be basically the same as how I used the D40/SB-400. That amounts to manual mode, aperture f/5.6 for reasonable depth-of-field, shutter 1/80 or maybe a little faster to stop subject motion, ISO 400-800 so as to have the ambient exposure about one stop down, tilt the flash head up, and let the TTL adjust the flash power to get a good exposure. Alternatively, shutter priority 1/80 also works fine if you don't care about the aperture. I have to play a little more with the auto-ISO to see how it behaves. In my initial testing, it tended to go towards base ISO, which was fine as far as the exposure went, but requires more output from the flash, and the recycling slows down. Also, I prefer to let more ambient in to avoid dark backgrounds, so I think working in the middle of the ISO range is more appropriate.

Recycling from a full-power blast takes seven seconds with reasonably-charged NiMH batteries; the Nikon was faster in that. The D40 was also smart enough to automatically crank up the ISO if the flash hadn't recharged enough to give a good exposure. On the G1, you can trip the shutter before the flash ready light is on, in which case the flash doesn't fire at all. I had that happen a couple of times, but if you're working in the flash's comfort zone, it's not a real issue since the flash recycles more quickly than you're likely to be able to compose, focus, and shoot. (The G1 doesn't allow flash in continuous drive mode.) I didn't try to see if it would fire in the half-charged state on the E-1.

On the G1, the flash turns on and off with the camera if you just leave the flash's switch in the on position. The flash cost me US$45 shipped (from Adorama).

Summary compared to the FL-36:

- Both do TTL.

- Both tilt, the FL-36 also zooms and swivels.

- The FL-36 has more effective power for direct flash at telephoto since it zooms. At wide-angle or bouncing, the FL-36 has about the same power (GN 20m vs. 18m).

- The FL-36 has more on-flash controls and supports non-TTL modes such as manual and auto, while the DL-20 is TTL-only and must be controlled from the camera.

- If you get the FL-36R, it can work wirelessly off-camera with later Olympus DSLRs.

- The DL-20 is half the weight and about one-third the price of the FL-36.

- Going by the FL-36 specs, recycle time after a full-power blast is probably comparable.

- The FL-36 is more likely to be 100% compatible with new cameras.

For the money, I'm definitely pleased with the flash. While not fully compatible with my G1, it satisfies my main requirement of good TTL behavior and offers adequate power for bouncing off standard-height ceilings when working at reasonable apertures and moderate ISOs.