The 58 AF-2 is the latest = current model in the professional series of flash units from German manufacturer Metz. It was announced in August 2010 and replaces the ’58 AF-1 digital’ introduced back in 2006.
Improvements over the precursor “AF-1″ include a metal flash foot with quick lock mechanism instead of the traditional plastic locking wheel and plastic flash foot, an extended wide angle coverage down to 12mm and a non-TTL optical slave mode.
Improvements over 58 AF-1
Metz also claims an improved construction and flash tube design but some actual users (see here for example) still tend to call the Metz “a bit delicate” and I would agree that the construction is maybe a tad behind the Canon or Nikon pro-level standards (i.e. the Canon 580 / Nikon SB-900).
But with a high guide number, wireless master mode and external power socket the 58 AF-2 is undoubtedly a professional tool, and that is also reflected in the purchase price of $400 (as of October 2011; check amazon, eBay or adorama).
That’s certainly not cheap but still around $50-$100 less than what you pay for the Canon 580EX II or Nikon SB-900 respectively. Another factor is that both SB-900 as well as the 580EX II not only have strengths but also their weak spots – e.g. thermal cutoff for the former or the ease-of-use in the Canon case. Can the 58 AF-2 compete on the feature front against the camera manufacturers’ speedlites?
Let’s start with some features unique to the Metz – neither Canon nor Nikon have this:
- The Metz features a 2nd flash tube on the front side of the body. This feature is useful for indirect flash, e.g. bouncing the main flash off the ceiling. This technique of ‘bouncing’ softens the illumination to avoid the ‘flat’ look but tends to produce dark eyes (raccoon eyes) due to the high angle – the light simply can’t fully reach into the eye sockets. The 2nd direct flash lets you open these shadows and gives a nice catch light.
- The battery warning indicator shows up when power starts running low, and not only after power ran out as for the Nikon and Canon flashes. This gives you a chance to put in new batteries before you run dry.
- Manual mode down to 1/256 while both Canon and Nikon have 1/128 as the minimum step. Can be interesting for macro photography.
- Finally there’s the additional ‘extended zoom’ mode where the flash keeps a wider beam than in regular zoom to help against light falloff in the corners. Less light loss means less vignetting effect in the picture (extended zoom is not to be confused with “sensor size zoom’ which is also available on the Metz).
- 2nd reflector
- optical slave mode
- recycling “beep”
- 1/256 minimum power in manual mode
- multi-step battery warning
- ‘extended zoom’ mode
- 2nd reflector
- 1/256 minimum power in manual mode
- backwards compatible with analog TTL and D-TTL
- multi-step battery warning
- ‘extended zoom’ mode
- feature set very close to camera manufacturers’ flagship models
- master mode, dedicated slave mode, built-in optical slave
- high guide number
- unique 2nd flash reflector for fill flash
- no PC sync
- not the fastest recycling flash on the market
- wireless master mode does not work in HSS / FP Sync mode
Metz 58 AF-2 vs Canon
In terms of power there’s no real real difference between Canon and Metz: They both come with GN 36 / 35 at 35mm wide angle and 58 / 58 at the tele end. The Metz 58 AF-2 is also fully integrated into the Canon E-TTL II flash exposure protocol and can be controlled from the camera menu system.
It has all high-end TTL features such as modeling light, sensor size zoom and so forth, although it must be noted that its wireless master mode does not support HSS as I verified with my own unit – The Canon 580 doesn’t know that limitation (neither does the Nissin Di866 in the new Mark II version).
But there are also some differences between the 2 units. For some strange reason there is no PC sync socket installed on the Metz. It also lacks the weather sealed foot (a controversial feature of the 580 as it tends to cause contact problems with the accessory shoe).
The third Canon advantage is a 360 degree swivel flash head whereas the Metz has a range from -180 to +120 degrees so it can’t do the full circle. Overall, the Canon appears also more sturdy and rugged compared to the Metz. Finally, the ‘quick ratio’ wireless feature of the Canon is also not present at Metz (you can achieve the same results by manually adjusting flash exposure compensation or manual output, but it’s not as convenient).
Advantage 58 AF-2 vs 580EX II
One of the Metz 58 advantages is an additional optical slave sensor mode (in addition to the E-TTL II wireless mode) allowing to trigger the Metz with another light source. It’s a so-called “digital slave” or “pre-flash suppression” slave mode in the ETTL version of the 58 AF-2. It’s therefore not working with simple, non-digital studio flash or a manual flash – you wonder a bit where the point is; a simple optical slave mode would be more useful.
Apart from the other factors mentioned above such as 1/256 min power, extended zoom mode, 2nd reflector etc. the last noteworthy treat is the optional acoustic recycling signal or “beep” which is missing at Canon. I learned to appreciate the acoustic signal on Nikon’s and later also Yongnuo flashes and like them a lot as an additional check.
58 AF-2 compared with Nikon
Let’s have a look now at the specs of the big speedlight from Nikon. 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 – the Metz is even a tad stronger as can be seen from the data, although that’s not by a lot.
They do also both function as master flash (not 100% sure about the master functionality (or lack thereof) in HSS mode for the Nikon version, I have the Canon version here only). Both can be used as wireless slave in Nikon’s advanced wireless system AWL also.
The light sensor of the SB-900 has shown exceptional range in the Speedlights.net tests (with a maximum range of 46 meters) and it’s yet to be proven that Metz can compete – but maybe it does (Metz has installed the sensor in a better location than on the precursor “AF-1″); I just have not tested it yet.
Advantage 58 AF-2 vs SB-900
2nd reflector and 1/256 speak for the 58 AF-2; but that’s about it when it comes to advantages for the Metz – apart from the non-issue with thermal cutoff or “fat flash foot” grievances with early SB-900′s.
Things are a bit different when you shoot analog film; in that case the SB-900 won’t work with your cam (except F6); only Metz flashes are backwards compatible with old Nikon bodies from before 2004 (first gen digital SLR models and all analog camera bodies except the aforementioned Nikon F6).
But for the users of modern cameras the SB-900 has a pretty long list of arguments on its side: faster recycling, triple beam AF assist, wider zoom range, more direct keys e.g. for wireless mode, PC sync, adjustable illumination patterns, automatic color filter detection, full 360 degree swivel, and more standard accessories (including a higher quality soft case).
Metz 58 AF-2 Alternatives
Alternatives to the 58 AF-2 include the SB-900 and SB-800 from Nikon, or the 580EX and 580EX II from Canon, depending on which camp you’re in. Due to the fact that the face-lift was minor you might also find the Metz 58 AF-1 a good choice at a lower price point.
You find even more pro flash alternatives at Sigma (EF-610 DG Super or the precursor EF-530 DG Super) and Nissin (Di866 Mark II or the precursor Di866 which can be seen in the center of the above picture).
58 AF-2 Highlights
What it’s not
Compatible Camera Bodies
The following table gives an overview of camera compatibility in the Canon and Nikon systems. If in doubt visit the flash compatibility page at Metz.de.
|Canon compatibility||Nikon compatibility|
|The 58 AF-2 can be used with all digital SLR cameras from Canon in ETTL mode for first gen camera bodies and ETTL(II) with the current models. Depending on your camera you might need to update the firmware of the flash (T3i users had to do this, for example). Thanks to the built-in USB port it’s something you can easily do at home so no need to send it in or go to a store.
The wireless E-TTL slave feature requires an EOS body with built-in commander flash such as the Canon 600D or the Canon 7D, an external speedlite commander Canon ST-E2 or the Yongnuo ST-E2 clone, or another digital TTL speedlite with master mode.
|When it comes to Nikon camera bodies the Metz, with the 3 TTL modes film-base TTL, D-TTL, and the current i-TTL and i-TTL BL, can be used with any DSLR ever made and even film-based camera bodies.
The wireless i-TTL slave feature requires a Nikon “D” body with built-in commander flash such as the D70 / D80 / D90 / D7000 (among others), the external commander SU-800 or another digital TTL speedlite with master mode.
Speedlights.net In-Depth Review
Metz mecablitz 58 AF-2 Tech Specs Table
The tech specs table shows the performance data for the 58 AF-2.
|Model||58 AF-2 digital|
|Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
|Guide number test result||?|
|Manual power settings||1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 – 1/128 – 1/256|
|Flash duration (full power)||1/125|
|Recycle time spec
(at full power)
|5 sec alkaline, 5 sec NiMH|
|Recycle time test result||?|
|Flash foot material, type||metal, standard ISO|
|PC Sync Port||no|
|Other Trigger||wireless TTL slave sensor|
|Trigger Voltage||safe (not tested)|
|Standby Mode||10 min, but 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 / yes|
|LCD Display||yes (dot matrix)|
|Batteries Used||4 x AA|
|External Power Source||Power Pack P76|
|D-TTL||yes (Nikon version)|
|i-TTL||yes (Nikon version)|
|CLS Wireless Slave||yes (Nikon version)|
|CLS Wireless Master||yes (Nikon version)|
|E-TTL(II)||yes (Canon version)|
|E-TTL(II) wireless slave||yes (Canon version)|
|E-TTL(II) wireless master||yes (Canon version)|
|Other Flash Modes|
|AF Assist Light||yes (dual beam)|
|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|
Where to buy the 58 AF-2 flash from Metz
Check also the prices on eBay where you don’t only find the current 58 AF-2 but also the previous model 58 AF-1 and other flashes.