Metz 50 AF-1 Speedlite Flash

The Metz 50 AF-1 is the current mid-range flash in the Metz lineup and and available as a dedicated flash for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax or Four Thirds.

Metz 50 AF-1 flash unitAt a price of about $230 (as of August 2011; check amazon, eBay or adorama) the 50 AF-1 flash a lower priced alternative to the Canon 430EX II or the SB-700 from Nikon.

$230 is still not quite cheap, especially when you compare with other third party flashes like a Nissin Di622-II ($170) or the Yongnuo YN-565 ($180), but the Metz 50 AF-1 comes with an extremely competitive feature set and has a level of digital TTL support that neither of the two others can fully compete with.

It’s an upgraded 48 AF-1, improved with a metal flash foot design, very slightly higher guide number at the 105mm setting (hence the ’50′ in the model name instead of the ’48′ that was used for the precursor flash) and better wide angle coverage down to 12mm – more evolution than a revolutionary new product.


Improvements over Metz 48 AF-1

  • metal flash foot
  • slightly higher guide number at 105mm tele
  • 12mm coverage with wide-panel flipped down
  • optical slave mode as standard feature
    •  

The optical slave mode (with different functionality depending on the camera version, see further below) is a default feature now – but owners of the Metz 48 AF-1 can add the same functionality through a software update using the built-in USB port – a feature that’s also present on the new flash.

The ability to update the firmware gives peace of mind for future camera generations, especially when it comes to Canon camera bodies. If the flash should not be compatible anymore, you can count on Metz to provide a software update for their customer base. Here’s the link to the Metz flash firmware update page.

The 50 AF-1 is on par with the Canon and Nikon flashes with regards to digital TTL support: you find all the latest bells and whistles such as high speed sync (even in wireless mode), automatic sensor size detection, modeling light, a fully fledged wireless slave mode with free choice of channel and group.

Metz 50 AF-1 vs Canon

320EX under review in Mode M at min powerJust like a 430EX II or the 320EX the Metz can also be adjusted through the camera menu – which is a relevant factor for Canon users.

Both Canon and Metz are not the leading speedlites when it comes to their ease-of-use. Both units have relatively few and relatively small buttons. The Canon’s buttons are especially tiny, but the ones on the Metz are not huge either, and feel a bit too soft for my taste.

The layout with limited controls means the user is required to go deep into the on-screen menus and sub-menus for adjustments such as the activation of slave mode.

Metz 50 AF-1 user interface and buttonsThese limitations make flash adjustment through the camera menu system more appealing – you can set the 50 AF-1 faster, and with less cryptic info and symbols, by using the camera back panel screen.

The 50 AF-1 from Metz surpasses the Canon 430 mark II speedlite in terms of maximum power at tele zoom settings: it has guide number 50 (meters) at 105mm, whereas the Canon’s spec state only GN 43. The Canon – which is part of the Speedlights.net collection – however has been measured at GN 48.5 in the test, so don’t expect much difference in reality (assuming the Metz 50 AF-1 is close to its spec in testing, which was observed for the precursor Metz 48 AF-1).


Advantage Metz 50 AF-1 over Canon 430EX II

  • higher guide number at tele
  • optical slave mode
  • 12mm wide angle coverage
  • 300 degree swivel, close-up tilt position
  • built-in bounce card
    •  

Other differentiators for the Metz 50 AF-1 include its optical slave mode (with pre-flash suppression in the Canon version of the flash), which the 430 is missing, and that the 50 AF-1 zoom had rotates 300 degrees – 30 deg more than what the Canon model allows. Smaller advantages are a 12mm wide angle coverage, a bounce card, -7 degree negative tilt, and minimum power down to 1/128.

On the other side, the Canon has faster full power recycling and a slightly higher standard wide angle guide number (31 at 35mm versus 29 as for the Metz).

430EX II af assist beamThe biggest advantage however is the dual-beam AF-LED that provides a better coverage of the camera’s AF sensors at the frame borders – the Metz 50 AF-1 has only a single-beam AF-assist (dual-beam is reserved to the pro model 58 AF-2), but it comes with a projected grid pattern which means the camera can find correct focus even when contrast is missing.

A full comparison table for Metz 50 AF-1 versus Canon 430EX II can be found here: Metz 50 AF-1 vs 430EX II features. Here’s also a comp table for 50 AF-1 versus 48 AF-1, the previous model.

Metz 50 AF-1 vs Nikon

Here’s how the Metz 50 AF-1 compares to the SB-700, the current mid-range flash from Nikon (at around $330 the Nikon is relatively high priced in comparison, and also considerably more expensive than its own precursor SB-600 that was phased out in 2010):

Advantage Metz 50 AF-1 over Nikon SB-700

  • slightly higher guide number at wide angle
  • clearly higher guide number at tele (50 versus 38)
  • analog TTL support
  • first gen D-TTL support
    •  

The Metz 50 AF-1 has slightly more power at 35mm (GN 29 vs GN28) and clearly more bang at the tele position with GN 50 at 105mm for the Metz versus only GN 38 at 120mm for the speedlight from Nikon – but that’s about it with superior features unless you’re shooting analog film: the 50 AF-1 supports the film-based TTL mode whereas Nikon dropped all backwards compatibility with their latest model generation.

If that’s not important to you then the real appeal of this Metz flash is the pricing: the 50 AF-1 is $100 cheaper than the Nikon flash.

Nikon SB700 with wireless LED lightsBut on the other side there are a number of features where the Nikon looks stronger, listed here according to my personal ranking: (1) the Metz 50 AF-1 is not as easy to use with the very menu-heavy use concept; (2) it has only a single-LED AF assist light, and (3) the full power recycling time is slower.

There are more factors pro Nikon, e.g. complete standard accessories (soft bag, stand, diffuser, color filters), full 360 degree swivel flash head, or the better display.

The biggest difference between the 2 speedlites however is that the SB-700 can act as a wireless master in Nikon’s optical flash control system AWL as part of the creative lighting system (CLS). The Metz 50 AF-1, on the other side, works only as a wireless slave. The Metz is absolutely on class standard with this feature set – mid-range flashes don’t have a master mode usually; it’s only the SB-700 that was breaking the rule for the first time.

Go here for the Metz 50 AF-1 vs Nikon SB-700 feature comparison table.

Alternatives

In the $200 price range you find some other speedlites with the highly useful dedicated wireless slave mode: there’s the Nissin Di-622 II for example, and there’s the new YN-565 from Chinese Yongnuo, as well as the 44 AF-1, also from Metz. Another option is the Metz 48 AF-1, still available new at some places but not necessarily cheaper than the 50 AF-1.

If the wireless slave mode is not important to you there’s even more choice – check the “flash for Canon” and “flash for Nikon” recommendation lists to see all relevant options.

If you think about going pro have a look at the Metz 58 AF-2, the Sigma EF-610 DG Super, or the Nissin Di866 / Nissin Di866-II as alternatives to the 580EX II from Canon and Nikon’s SB-900.

Metz 50 AF-1 Highlights

  • feature set on par with Canon and almost on par with Nikon flashes, including HSS, sensor size zoom, modeling light etc
  • compatible with latest gen flash exposure protocols: E-TTL II, i-TTL BL
  • as powerful as 430EX II, stronger than SB-700
  • about $100 cheaper than Canon / Nikon competitors
  • dedicated remote slave mode with wireless HSS
  • good build quality, metal flash foot

 

50 AF-1: What it’s not

  • no master mode – unlike Nikon SB-700
  • simpler AF-assist – single-LED design (but with pattern)
  • doesn’t come with any accessories, not even a bag or a stand

 

Compatible Camera Bodies

The Metz 50 AF-1 flash is available in dedicated versions for Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic/Leica, Pentax and Sony. The table gives an overview of camera compatibility for the Canon and Nikon models.
 

Canon cameras Nikon cameras
compatible with
  • E-TTL II cameras: current Canon DSLR bodies and PowerShot models
  • E-TTL cameras: first generation DSLR and latest gen film-based EOS cameras
  • TTL cameras: older film-based bodies
compatible with
  • i-TTL cameras: current Nikon DSLR
  • D-TTL cameras: first gen Nikon DSLR, e.g. D100
  • TTL cameras: film-based Nikon camera bodies

 
For Canon, ETTL and ETTL (II) bodies can be used – this is the whole range of DSLR. The same holds true for the Nikon system: the 50 AF-1 is compatible with all current and recent Nikon bodies, from the professional series D3 down to the D3100.

It’s worth noting that I’m not aware of Metz flash incompatibilities at this point whereas some other 3rd party flashes do not work with all camera models (see e.g. the Yongnuo – Canon compatibility page). The USB port for firmware updates gives even more peace of mind.

Speedlights.net In-Depth Review of the 50 AF-1

Sign up to email updates, like Speedlights on Facebook, or follow Speedlights.net on twitter to be notified as soon as the in-depth review becomes available.

In the meantime, check the Metz 48 AF-1 in-depth review; the 50 AF-1 is a slightly face-lifted successor and very similar in most aspects.

Metz 50 AF-1 Tech Specs Table

The tech specs table shows the performance data for the 50 AF-1.
 

Model Information
Brand Metz
Model 50 AF-1
First introduction 2010
Successor none yet
Output Specs
Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
29
Guide number test result ?
Manual power settings 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 – 1/128
Flash duration (full power) 1/125 sec
Recycle time spec
(at full power)
3.5 sec with alkaline, 3.5 sec with NiMH
Recycle time test result ?
Triggering
Flash foot material, type metal, standard ISO
PC Sync Port no
Optical Slave yes
Other Trigger wireless TTL slave sensor
Trigger Voltage safe
Standby Mode 10 min, can be deactivated
Flash Head Features
Swivel -180 to +120 degrees
Tilt -7 to +90 degrees
Manual Zoom Head (12) 24 – 105
Auto Zoom (12) 24 – 105
Bounce card / 2nd reflector yes / no
LCD Display yes (segment type)
Power Supply
Batteries Used 4 x AA
External Power Source no
Nikon TTL
D-TTL yes (Nikon version)
i-TTL yes (Nikon version)
CLS Wireless Slave yes (Nikon version)
CLS Wireless Master no
Canon TTL
E-TTL(II) yes (Canon version)
E-TTL(II) wireless slave yes (Canon version)
E-TTL(II) wireless master no
Other Flash Modes
Stroboscopic Mode no
Auto Mode no
TTL Features
AF Assist Light yes
Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit -3 to +3 EV
Rear Curtain Synchronization yes
High Speed Synchronization yes
Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc) yes
Modeling Light yes

Where to buy the Metz 50 AF-1

Get your Metz flash from amazon, eBay or adorama. Your purchase helps to maintain and expand this website – thank you.

3 Responses to Metz 50 AF-1 Speedlite Flash

  1. Ronnie says:

    Thanks for the review, i appriciate all your work to build and run this site..

    I have a question btw, i use canon and i’like to buy a speedlights (at price around $200-250), i consider this speedlights as the modelling light at my concern, but i wanna know a bit deeper about the real GN, how accurate the TTL, and other critical point compare to canon model (430EX II)…

    At the price there is Metz 50 AF-1 Digital, Nissin Di866 MKII and Canon 430EX II on my list, which one the best to buy..

    Thank You…

  2. Fernando says:

    Great review!
    I have a question regarding the AF light assist. I’ve just bought a SB-700 and only one Led is turning on. Is this normal or should I return it?

    • Speedlights says:

      Hi Fernando: LED usage depends on the AF sensor that’s currently used. One LED covers the horizontal fields, the other the vertical ones. Switch to manual AF field selection and give it a try.

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