When Canon and Olympus were experimenting with live view on their cameras in the mid-2000s, it seems almost comical now that they didn’t think to record video with the feature that already existed on their cameras. History is repeating itself, but this time with the lowly pop-up flash.
It’s a humble feature on many cameras that can do so much more.
In the rush to eliminate built-in flashes on many bodies for seemingly no reason (come on, the Nikon D700 was a full frame camera that seemed to handle this just fine, but most newer cameras can't?), it seems like many manufacturers are forgetting why they are there in the first place. It’s not to light your subject, at least in most cases. Instead, the pop-up flash exists to trigger other flashes, be it through proprietary technology such as Nikon’s Creative Lighting System or through simple optical triggering on an external flash, either way requiring a direct line of site rather than more flexible radio signals. I can appreciate that this might be news to some.
But despite the sporadic appearance of pop-up flashes on new camera models, none of the major manufacturers have taken this to the next logical level: The inclusion of built-in radio flash capabilities. It seems like many took initial steps to include optical triggering options into their cameras, but radio flash still seems to be MIA within a camera body.
Certainly, manufacturers have built out robust flash systems, such as Canon’s RT series of Speedlites or Nikon’s SB-5000. However, to use each of these systems requires a trigger of some sort (such as the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter, which sits in the hot shoe) to attach to your camera. How awesome would it be to save the batteries (and the extra point of failure) to have to use a separate unit? This would also lead to less confusion about whether to use the menus on the camera or the unit as well.
It’s possible that to build this feature in could cause compliance headaches with different communications regulations in different countries, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense, since this is already an issue with wireless and GPS functionality in cameras. In the case of Canon, for instance, the manufacturer handles this by shipping Wi-Fi and non Wi-Fi versions based on region, and the same approach could be applied with this technology. It’s also possible that it’s a money maker for companies to sell triggers as separate units rather than building it into the camera, but I know that I’d certainly pay a little extra if it meant I didn’t have to lug around something extra. If nothing else, building in this kind of support would be an even more compelling reason to purchase first-party flash units instead of exploring third party radio systems. I’ve ended up using Pocket Wizards, Yongnuos and Cactus to accomplish the same thing that could easily be built into the camera by the manufacturer to keep me from straying.
If not built-in radio flash, how about at least a flash that can flip up to bounce of a ceiling? Panasonic seems to have unintentionally done this in some cameras like the Lumix GX85, where you can hold the flash upwards with a finger, but it’s something that’s still left out of the DSLR world. Anything to make the pop-up flash a little more useful, right?
It seems like manufacturers are not really interested in showing the pop-up flash any love, as it has remained neglected as radio technology moves on.
Do you shoot with wireless flash? Is this something you’d like to see in a camera?