Metz 58 AF-2 Preview

The 58 AF-2 is the latest model in the professional series of flash units from German manufacturer Metz. It was announced together with its smaller brother 50 AF-1 in August 2010 and replaces the ’58 AF-1 digital’ introduced back in 2006. It’s clearly evolution rather than revolution as can be seen from the product shots already. Hint: The new AF-2 is in the first picture.

Metz 58 AF-2 vs Nikon Canon 58 AF-1Metz 58 AF-1 vs 58 AF-2

Improvements over 58 AF-1

The Metz press release claims these as the main improvements over the precursor (specs of the 58 AF-1 in parenthesis):

  • flash foot made of metal (plastic)
  • shoe mount lock lever (locking wheel)
  • revised motor zoom mode
  • improved high performance flash tube
  • optical slave trigger (only E-TTL/i-TTL optical trigger)
  • wide angle coverage down to 12mm (18mm)

Despite the ‘improved flash tube’ the guide number stays the same – it’s 58 (meters) at the maximum zoom reflector setting of 105mm. The 58 AF-1 model has a GN of 35 at the reflector position of 35mm, this will be the same for the AF-2 I assume.

The one other difference that can be seen from the published specs is a slightly faster recycle time (1/2 second lower) – Metz speaks about “up to 4.5 seconds” rather than “up to 5 seconds” as for the AF-1. This is certainly the recycle time with the slowest battery type = alkaline batteries. Expect the flash to be much faster with NiMH and even faster with the optional power pack P76.

58 AF-2 compared with Canon 580EX II

In terms of power you won’t find a real difference between the Canon and the Metz. They feature GN 36 / 35 at 35mm wide angle and 58 at the tele end. Both are integrated into the Canon E-TTL system, and both are also very well usable in manual mode. Finally, there is an “A” mode = auto mode on both units.

But there are also some differences between the 2. There is no sensor size adjustment on the new Metz which is the biggest surprise for me – a useful feature as it gives you more juice with APS-C bodies like the 7D from Canon or Nikon’s D300s. There is also no PC synch socket, a feature demanded by professionals (see photo for synch terminal of the 580EX II).

Canon 580EX II View from Side with PC-Port

On the other side the Metz has a 2nd reflector for catch light setting and 2mm more coverage at the wide angle end. And there is an optical slave sensor that works independently of E-TTL encoded master signals so can be used with studio flash or the Nikon system or any other brand type light source.

Advantage 580EX II

  • sensor size adjustment
  • 360 degrees swivel (vs 300 degrees)
  • weather sealed foot
  • PC synch socket

Advantage Metz

  • 2nd reflector
  • 12mm coverage with wide angle panel (vs 14mm)
  • 9 step manual power adjustment down to 1/256
  • optical slave trigger (other than wireless TTL)

58 AF-2 compared with Nikon SB-900

Let’s have a look now at the specs of the big Nikon speedlight. Again, both SB-900 and 58 AF-2 are powerful units with a comparable guide number of 34 / 35 at the 35mm wide angle setting and 56 / 58 at maximum zoom. They do also both function as master or slave in Nikon’s advanced wireless system and support advanced features such as high speed synch, stroboscopic mode or modeling light.

SB-900 Front with PC Port Power Pack Socket

However there are also a number of differences, e.g. does the Metz not support the sensor size detection system which is imo the biggest drawback, maybe together with the missing PC synch socket. On the other side you get a second flash reflector on the Metz and a greater backwards compatibility.

Advantage 58 AF-2

  • 2nd reflector
  • support for (the old) D-TTL
  • 9 step manual power adjustment down to 1/256

Advantage SB-900

  • sensor size adjustment
  • automatic color gel detection
  • more zoom at tele end
  • 360 degrees swivel (vs 300 degrees)
  • PC synch socket
  • optional weather protection
  • adjustable illumination patterns

58 AF-2 vs. 58 AF-1

The following table lists the main specs of the old 58 AF-1 and the new 58 AF-2 side by side. Go to the speedlights comparison page for a table with Metz 58 AF-2 vs. Nikon SB-900 or Metz 58 AF-2 vs. Canon 580EX II. Or dozens of other combinations of models.

$model = "'58 AF-1 digital'";
$model2 = "'58 AF-2 digital'";
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include (ABSPATH . 'wp-includes/SpeedlightsFullSpecsDoubleTable.php');
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Summary

As said in the beginning the new Metz is an enhanced version of the 58 AF-1, not a completely new design. Which means it will be a very reliable and high quality unit. But it means also that the next round of innovation in flash photography will come from other sides. I’m thinking of an integrated radio triggering system for example or things like built-in color gels.

Apart from the 2nd reflector it does not feature anything truly important to differentiate from the Canon or Nikon offers. In terms of pure specs it can’t keep up with the Nikon in fact while looking a bit better in the Canon comparison. But with a recommended price of 399 EUR it’s not a bargain exactly which won’t make it easier to compete.

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