Yoshizen's Blog

Handmade Flash System (1) — Flash with Umbrella

Among my flash system, this is the one I’ve been using the most.

Most (not exactly all) of the photos of table-top shot kind in this blog such as

cooking samples has been photographed using this flash system.

And some party shot such as Capricorn Party was shot by this as well.

Flash with Umbrella(001A)A09A9677

The base of this system is an Agfa 383CS flash-light (but actually it was made by Japanese Nisshin)

which takes SCA300 camera interface adapter (so, I used to use the adapter for Nikon, Canon, Contax

etc etc. for TTL compatible type, AF compatible type etc etc.) though, as the camera evolved so rapidly

and their control system became too complicated, hence, those system became obsolete in mid 80s.

—– still, this flash itself has External Auto as well, and of cause the full out-put manual and minimal

(somewhat 1/20th) for rapid fire.    And on top of this, it got additional front flash to give

“Catch-light in Eyes” when used with bounce-light !

The rotating head has rotating diffuser as well which spread the light coverage from 35mm lens to

24mm lens. —– Almost everything what most of the user needs.

(As far as I know, this is the most well thought-out flash, ever made.

And after nearly 30 years use, it is still in full working order = its reliability is remarkable ! )

Flash with Ambrella(3)346-001

But, unless the subjects are more than 5m away, to take picture with a straight

flash-light mounted on camera —– is what I don’t do.    If a light was placed next to

the eyes, similar to Head-lamp, there will be no shadow on the subject.

It is the most unnatural lighting. —– For the most of the subject I needed to work with,

(think, a portrait kind in an interview situation, or to capture a dining scene in a restaurant) is

about 1~2m distance.    Other shot such as whole room, restaurant, shop etc will be covered by

another more powerful flash(s) or even studio type flash-light placed somewhere in the side.

Therefore, to photograph the subject in talking-distance, I modified my flash-light

to take an umbrella reflector.

Flash with Umbrella(01A)355-001

Thence, I could create a photo, looks more natural 45 degree lighting, top lighting etc

with just a swing of my hand —– it’s mean, to operate the camera by right hand only = (before

camera was fully automatised with Auto-focus, it was a bit of special skill. —- think about, such as

Pentax 6×7 or Hasselbrad in one-hand operation with almost studio quality lighting, without the

cost of assistant. 😀 —– and that was how I nearly monopolized Japanese business here.   😉 )

Flas with Umbrella(2B)359-001

The modification of the flash-light was just done by a simple cut and put-together

aluminium piece kind of work which you can see from the photos.

—– May be the most peculiar part must be the Umbrella.

This is the umbrella only one in the world = specially hand made by a craftsman who has been

making studio flash umbrella for such as Kishin Shinoyama etc.     The craftsman had happened to

have his family business, selling and repairing the umbrella in Roppongi of  Tokyo, where many

photo-studio situated.     Since the photographer who brought back an umbrella from the west asked

him to repair or even to make the same, he became the only Craftsman catering those needs in Tokyo.

For him, my requirement to make such small (diameter 50cm) umbrella was, of cause first ever

funny request.    Nevertheless, I got the one what I wanted = literally pocket size Umbrella.  😀

(You may find 70cm size which is using child umbrella frame) —– (In fact, I’ve experimented to

make small one, such as using only half of collapsible umbrella or toy umbrella etc.)

—– the reason is obvious, if you got to move around with umbrella, it catch or hit anything =

the smaller the better though, if it is too small, it wouldn’t work as a diffuser.

The size has to be the same size of the spread of light from flash in its distance. )


Most of the Umbrella adopter for a small Flash, fix the umbrella  facing straight to the flash.

My design aiming the flash from the bottom, hence some light escape from the umbrella still,

the light intensity is only 2 F-stop drop.  Considering the diffused ligh covering

almost Fish-eye lens, the efficiency is not too bad at all !

(In fact the escaped light is bounced back from the ceiling, also contribute some good effect  🙂 )


With the age of very advanced DSLR, which got ISO speed even 25,000,  it is easy to produce

the photo only with available light and it looks natural of cause.  But in the other hand the skill

to manipulate the image, intentionally hide something in the dark, kind is all left to

the after process of PS.  Though the trouble is, PS often looks too unnatural.

Resorting natural light still end-up unnatural image is not very funny. 😀

Because of the shadow, we know the significance and the meaning of the Light.



3 Responses

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  1. elenacaravela said, on July 7, 2013 at 21:26

    You are so very clever Yoshi!

    • yoshizen said, on July 7, 2013 at 21:45

      Thank you Elena.
      May be not a matter of cleverness. I’m not sitting idol.
      Needs is the Mother of invention. 😉
      (Flash system stories will continue to show even more amazing creation.)

  2. Heavy Assignment | Yoshizen's Blog said, on July 13, 2013 at 12:43

    […] I mentioned my “One hand Shooting” somebody accused me saying that […]

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