Flash Brackets

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated May 13, 2017

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Part of the standard extreme macro toolkit, a macro flash bracket (also known as macro flash arms) is a handy accessory to have as it lets you hold your camera and a bit of an off camera flash at the same time, all in one package.

Flash macro brackets

Flash brackets. The decent solid old one is on the left, the rubbishy modern cheapo is on the right.

Unfortunately I've had bad experiences with some modern macro flash bracket purchases, so the one I now use is an old archaic one that weighs a ton, but it's made out of rock solid metal and the flash doesn't slip or budge an inch, ideal.

Most macro flash bracket brackets are quite simple: they screw in on the tripod screw under the camera and have an arm to the left with a flash mount that you can mount your flash on. You use a *TTL cord to connect the flash to the camera or you use a PC-Sync cord. PC-sync limits the flash functionality you can use to manual, you can't use *TTL on PC-sync.

Why a Flash Bracket?

There are several reasons for actually using a macro flash bracket: to gain off-centre light (usually a bit nicer than a flash mounted on the camera), and to protect the hotshoe of the camera itself.

Bad flash bracket from ebay

The inadequacies of a rubbish eBay macro flash arm. The hinge is flimsy so the flash wobbles, the tightening handle breaks quickly because you have to tighten it so much to get stability, and the glue seeps out under the rubber. Rubbish.

There are many instances where a camera's hotshoe has been damaged because a big flash sitting in it is either too heavy, or has been dropped. Also, a long lens casts a shadow of the flash is mounted on top and you're shooting close, and having the flash off to the side some distance on a bracket stops this problem.

Flash Brackets & Diffusion

Macro flash brackets also make it both easier to use diffusion and harder. Easier, because the diffusion can be placed close to what you intend to shoot rather than it being big and bulky, overhanging from a flash mounted on top. See for example a horizontally mounted flash using that idea. But it's also awkward: a flash on a bracket to the side with a big diffuser on it doesn't make for a compact package that you can manoeuvre into all angles and positions to get the shot you want. So there's an upside and downside.

I personally stopped using my flash bracket too much once I worked out a horizontal configuration for my flash, as the horizontal flash made my outdoor config nice and compact, and it meant I could get into all manner of spaces and places that I couldn't using a flash bracket.

Flash Brackets Connections

Something to bear in mind is that you will also need to still connect the camera to the flash. I used to use PC-Sync cords for this but unfortunately PC-Sync is a limited communication protocol that doesn't permit rear sync mode, so I now use a PTTL connection cord.

Flash Bracket Recommendations

Stay away from cheap eBay flash brackets: the one I purchased had a very thin almost bendy metal base and the vertical arm wobbled. The things to measure a decent flash arm on are how solid it is in terms of securing the flash at the angle and position you want it. The big old bulky made of steel flash arms maybe heavy, but in terms of performance, with a flash arm you Stay away from cheap eBay flash brackets want something that's as rigid as possible rather than pretty looking but wobbly flash arms. Old ones from many years ago are simply better made. The cheap circular ones and the ones made with spherical balls really don't work well unless you're only putting the smallest and lightest of flashes on there. You also have to be careful with brackets that mount the flash overhead leaning down because of the excessive pressure this puts on the flash hotshoe, which is often the first part to break with flash units.

That said, it is also desirable to keep a flash above a lens when the camera is in either landscape or portrait orientation, and because most older flash brackets cannot rotate the flash round the lens, they are thought of as having limited utility nowadays. Having said that it works for me, what can I say!

Stitz Brackets

Stitz bracket from ebay

Stitz flash bracket, solid as a rock and you can angle it too.

A nice solid old bracket to keep an eye out for is a Stitz Bracket. I was lucky enough to find one on Ebay for £5, but they're normally sold for anything up to £50. The Stitz bracket distinguishes itself with a rock-solid build, a moulded handgrip and handguard, a hotshoe with pc-sync connection and a rotating hinge which joins body bracket to handle. This hinge is really handy because it means you can angle your flash forward or down, and it locks and unlocks with a flip of a lever. It maybe 40 years old and made of hip 70s moulded plastic, but it's better than 90% of the flash brackets produced today. Sunpak, Vivitar, Leica, Hasselblad and Mamiya all made similar brackets. With flash brackets, the truth is that vintage is simply more reliable. And if you're left handed then Hasselblad even did a left handed flash bracket.

Comments (2)

Article: Flash Brackets
Harold Gough says...
My plastic-shoed tilting hotshoe adapter, which I use on my L-bracket, broke recently. I have replaced it with one of this type (mine is actually a ROWI). The sturdy metal shoe should last for years. The ball joint now allows the flash to be angled inwards while keeping the bracket base bar in full contact along the baseplate of the camera, rather than having to swivel it forwards, as previously.
25th August 2014 3:04pm
Harold Gough says...
I have bought some flash guns for dedicated use with my Olmypus m4/3 system. in particular with the EM-1. Some are radio-controlable, one is not.

For total flexibility, and for use with my E-P2 (no RC) I bought one of those coiled TTL leads which has one end with all the contacts on the bottom shoe (M), the other with all the contacts on the top shoe (F). This leaves the bottom shoe of the latter which has no contacts and is of plastic, with a central tripod screw socket.

It is this plastic one which needs to be checked on any purchased lead. I though the hot shoe (PC only, taped of) on my standard L-shaped bracket had opened up. This was surprising, as I have used it for many years with my legacy Olympus guns (fired via their own TTL cords). It seems that the spec on this plastic part is not good and it is loose in my bracket and in the bracket, for floor standing, which came with one of the flash guns.
1st May 2014 4:57pm
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