Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash review (full version)

Found in: ReviewsSpeedlightsMetz
Nov 18 2009
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Metz 58 AF-1 for Canon
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Content

Update: Metz 58 AF-1 is being replaced by Metz 58 AF-2

Metz 58 pros and cons are listed in the bullet point version of this review.

Intro

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 is the best dedicated digital flash made by Metz so far. It has an impressive set of features that includes second curtain synchronization, high speed sync, wireless functions, multi-zone auto-focus assist, etc.

The build quality is excellent. The body of the unit is not weather sealed, but the construction is very solid.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: front view Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: back view
Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: auto-focus assist beam Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: pins
Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: left Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: right

Start up time

The "cold start" (from OFF to ON) of Metz 58 takes about 2 seconds. This is long enough to disrupt your workflow. The "warm start" (from STAND BY to ON), however, is near instant and does not present a problem. Thus, if time is a factor on your assignment it's a good idea not to turn Metz 58 off, but keep it in a stand by mode.

Flash head

The flash head of Mecablitz 58 AF-1 turns 180 degrees to the left and 120 degrees to the right. From a flash unit of this class, we'd expect it to be 180 degrees both ways. This is not a major issue, but it's worth mentioning.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: head titled and rotated Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: tilt angles

Tilting of the flash head is possible from -7 to 90 degrees. The 7 degree down position is helpful when shooting up close.

The flash head locks tight in 0 degree position (forward), but it does not lock at any other tilt angles. This is convenient for quick angle adjustments (you don't have to press the lock button every time).

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: head release button Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: head release button depressed

Extended zoom

Extended zoom is a mode that sets the flash zoom one position back from the "normal" zoom position. For instance, if the lens is set to 50mm, Metz 58 AF-1 sets its zoom to 35mm when the extended zoom mode is enabled. This makes the light spread to the sides more and reflect off of walls and a ceiling, filling in the shadows created by the direct flash light. In our opinion, this may come in handy, but we don't see a great value in this mode.

Our Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash test demonstrates frame coverage delivered by this flash at each zoom level.

Fill light

Metz 58 AF-1 features a secondary reflector ("wink" light), which is not seen very often in today's flash guns. The secondary reflector creates a fill light while the main reflector is used for bouncing light off of a ceiling and walls. It does not support TTL mode, but its power can be controlled manually: full power, 1/2 power, or 1/4 power.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: secondary reflector

The fill light can be also created with the built-in white card when the flash head is set vertically. The catchlight card is kind of small comparing to other flash unit, but it does the job.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: catch light panel, wide angle panel

Beep function and silent operation

Like some other professional flash units, Mecablitz 58 AF-1 circuitry allows for silent recycling, which can be critical when you're shooting in an environment you don't want to disturb (during a wedding reception, for example). However, if silence is not your top priority, it's good to have an acoustic feedback from your flash. For that, Metz 58 AF-1 offers a "beep function" that can be turned on and off. When turned on, the flash produces various types of signals to indicate its readiness, successful or unsuccessful exposure, etc.

LCD screen, menus and controls

Metz 58 has a reasonably sized matrix-type display, which is not as contrasty as Canon units, for example, but is definitely readable and usable.

The menu system has seen some criticism over the past years. It does, indeed, require some getting used to and is not perfect, but we find that it's reasonably designed and handles all necessary tasks.

The four control buttons are multi-functional. They get assigned to different functions depending on the state the display is in. This makes it possible to handle many functions with just a few physical buttons. There is no need for "custom functions" that are typical for Canon or Nikon flashes, for example. The menus of Metz 58 AF-1 flash are capable of showing all necessary information about each function.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: Mode menu Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: Select menu
Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: ETTL mode Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: Auto mode
Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: Manual mode Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: Stroboscopic mode

The tactile feeling of the buttons is very good. They feel and work just right (see Canon 430EX II review).

It's worth mentioning that when you press any control button on Metz 58, the LCD screen lights up, but no changes are done to the current menu state. Only the second click is actually capable of adjusting the settings. This is a rather questionable approach. On the bright side, there is the fact that an accidental click of a button cannot mess your settings up. Also, the screen is always illuminated when you are adjusting any parameter. This is nice because you don't have to change your workflow in the dark. The downside is that it always takes an additional click to access the menus.

Batteries

A nice little features that is missing on many flashes today but present on Metz 58 is a low-battery indicator. Typically, having one is not critical, but on some jobs, it can be very beneficial to be able to tell the status of your batteries by simply looking at your display versus noticing that your flash starts taking longer to recharge.

The battery compartment door operates well. Design is simple, but the door locks securely and opens easily.

The battery contacts are marked, but it would be better to have a nice visual, like on Canon units.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: battery compartment door Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: battery contacts

Auto mode

Metz 58 AF-1 features an external metering sensor and, therefore, is capable of auto mode where flash is relying on its own light measurements without using TTL results from the camera. This can be useful when using optical triggers since the auto mode does not produce a pre-flash.

Our few tests showed that exposure in auto mode is as reliable as in TTL mode.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: external metering sensor Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: body

USB port

USB connectivity makes it possible to update Metz 58 firmware at home. So far, Metz released only one firmware update for Metz 58 AF-1 and Metz 48 AF-1, which is not critical, but introduces the support of the on-camera flash control. Nevertheless, being free from the necessity to send your flash to a service department to update the firmware is a very nice feature, and Metz was the first company that came up with it.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: USB port

Wireless capabilities

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 supports all wireless features of the modern flash systems. It can serve as a master control unit or be a slave triggered by other flashes. The wireless remote control sensor is nicely located on the top side of the body.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: wireless remote control sensor

To change wireless mode you have to go through the menus. Thus, it cannot be done instantly like with flashes featuring a dedicated wireless mode switch (Canon 580EX, for example). In some situations, this can be critical, but in most cases, this is not a problem. The two images below show sample screens in the master and slave modes.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: wireless master mode menu Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: wireless slave mode menu

Other notes

Metz 58 AF-1 is compatible with the Metz proprietary external battery pack. The power pack socket is protected with a door that always stays closed when the socket is not in use. There is a little spring there that shuts the door as soon as you disconnect the power pack. This reduces the chances of the contacts' damage.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: external power socket

The flash comes with a good quality protective carrying pouch and a light stand. The pouch has a loop that allows attaching it to a belt.

Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: pouch, front Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: pouch loop
Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: stand Metz Mecablitz 58 AF-1 flash: mounted on stand

Specification

Guide number (ISO 100, 105mm): 58 m (192 ft)
Modes: TTL, TTL-HSS, Manual, Manual-HSS, Auto, Stroboscopic
Manual partial light output: 1/1...1/256 light output in 1/3 increment
Recycling time (at full light output): about 5 seconds
Light coverage with the main reflector: from 24 mm (35 mm format)
Light coverage (wide-angle diffuser): from 18 mm (35 mm format)
Wireless capabilities: Master and Slave
Second curtain synchronization: Yes
Modeling light: Yes
Flash bracketing: Yes

For the summary of this article's content please refer to Metz 58 pros and cons review

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.





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