Photography is all about the light.
If you can control the light, then you can really make your photographs look unique and more professional.
For portraits, product shots, weddings and many more styles, using only an external flash or combining it with natural light often results in amazing photographs.
But if you’ve ever looked at some Canon/Nikon/Your brand flashes, you’ve seen the high prices. If you’re not even certain that you’re going to use a flash that often, it’s probably not the smartest idea to spend $500 on a do-it-all flash.
Luckily there are plenty of cheap and great alternatives. They’re compatible with all biggest camera companies (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus etc.) and fit normally on the hot shoe mount on top of your camera.
In this guide we’ve selected the 3 best flashes under $100.
The Best Camera Flashes Under $100 in 2018
1. Neewer TT-560 Speedlite
Our most recommended flash, the Neewer TT560, also happens to be the best selling third-party flash.
It’s got all the useful features you need. Vertical rotation angle between 0-90 degrees, horizontal rotation angle between 0-270 degrees. Just like the ~8x+ more expensive flashes rotate.
The guide number is 38, and the flash power can be controlled manually (from 1/1 to 1/128 of full power). It is super affordable, but it can also be used as a slave flash and shuts off when it detects over heating.
It’s fully compatible with Canon, Nikon, Olympus and many other brands. The Guide Number of this Neewer flash is 38 which is a little bit less powerful than the flash below, but that’s still a lot of distance to cover (here’s a GN calculator and a video tutorial).
2. Altura I-TTL Flash Kit
The Altura I-TTL Flash Kit comes with a flash + wireless flash trigger set.
So besides being able to use the flash on your camera, you can connect the flash and your camera through a wireless trigger device and move the flash anywhere you want (up to 100 feet, but to be safe stay closer). You can always buy a flash alone and then purchase the trigger set separately, but for less than $80, getting these two together is a great deal. Most photographs look way better when the flash doesn’t fire directly in front of the subject, especially if you don’t have a softbox or a something.
It’s also got I-TTL technology, meaning it can calculate the power necessary for your current shot. Personally I prefer manually setting the power most of the time, but every situation is different.
Specification wise, it’s got TTL and Manual modes, can act as a slave, accepts 4xAA batteries like the 99% other flashes and recycles in 4 seconds or less. It’s got a rear LCD screen and a Guide Number 68, both big improvements over the flash above (although there’s not much need for a screen with the Neewer above).
3. Altura AP-UNV1 Speedlite
Same brand as above, but this time without the wireless triggers. The Altura AP-UNV1 Flash is not the same though, there’s no rear LCD screen and the Guide Number is 38, just like with the Neewer on top.
Features are almost the same too; S1 and S2 modes, Slave mode, no TTL so you always have to set the power manually. If that’s an issue to you, then the Altura above is a better choice. Personally though, I don’t recall using automatic flash that often anyways, usually you set the power and then stick to it for the majority of the time. You sooner or later get the feeling for how much you should set it to anyways, and it’s really quick.
Altura includes 4 x AA Polaroid batteries, a wireless remote shutter trigger (not flash trigger, but the one for taking pictures wirelessly) and a softbox flash diffussor. The latter is extremely handy if you want to use the flash directly in front of the subject, but want to make the light softer and create less harsh shadows.
3 Other Recommended Flash Accessories
You’ll need batteries anyways, and the two other accessories allow you to control the light even more.
1. Panasonic Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries
Flashes need 4xAA batteries to operate.
The best on the market are the Panasonic Eneloop Pro. They’re NiMh type with 2550mAh which is more than enough for many hours of flash use. The kit comes with Panasonic’s battery charger which we recommend because you can charge batteries individually (older, and some current versions only allow you to charge them in pairs or all together) and can be assured they’re 100% charged.
Besides arriving fully charged so you can instantly shoot with your flash, they also work in colder and lower temperatures. The batteries recharge in about 7 hours, which is why we recommend getting 8 instead of just 4 batteries, at least if you’re serious about flash photography or also want to use them for some other devices (remote, wireless keyboard etc.).
You definitely want to use NiMh batteries only, as they last much longer especially if you don’t use them for days (others get empty quickly), and the flash recycle time is quicker too.
2. Neewer Light Reflectors
Interested in doing portrait photography?
You’ll want a light reflector sooner or later, even if you don’t use a flash. The natural/flash light is sometimes everything you need, but there are often times where you want your subject to look warmer/colder, or to make the light look softer.
The Neewer 5-in1- Light Reflector comes with the only 5 colors you’ll ever need; 1. Silver for reflecting the light, 2. White for reflecting softer light, 3. Black for absorbing the light, 4. Gold for warm tones and 5. Translucent for shooting through.
Even if you don’t use the reflectors with a flash, you can bounce the natural light to make the lighting on your shots look much more professional.
3. Flash Softbox
The Altura Flash Softbox is small and simple to carry around. Direct flash usually results in harsh shadows and strong light, and by using a softbox attached on the flash you can make the overall light appear much softer as it gets diffused.
It fits on all flashes and feels solid. It’s got a velcro attachment and you simply put it around the flash. Perfect for indoor photography and darker places.