Sunpak PZ40X II Power Zoom Digital Flash for all Nikon TTL, D-TTL, and i-TTL Cameras (Black)
Review by Ernest Lilley
Sunpak Electronics ISBN/ITEM#: B000C81ZWC
Date: 04 September 2008 List Price $269.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Sunpak's Product PDF / PopPhoto's Review (2005) / Show Official Info /
We recently had the chance to try out the Sunpak PZ40X II, introduced in 2006, and of which Popular Photography said, "Is there a more compact (or cuter) TTL flash than Sunpak's PZ40X II? If there is, we haven't seen it." Two years later, it turns out that they're still right, as I discovered when both my Nikon Speedlight SB-800s were in for repair, and I really needed more light than the (very useful) pop-up flash provided.One weakness of larger units is that they stick out further from the camera, leaving them prone to damage in crowded shooting environments. As I do a fair amount of event photography, those are the only environments I seem to use a flash in, and after several years of service I decided that my pair of SB-800s needed to be brought back to prime condition. This process took longer than I'd expected, so it wasn't surprising that I needed a flash before they came back. I considered the Nikon SB-800, a fine little unit with a very low profile and four-position tilt head, but ultimately decided to spend a few dollars more for the P240X II, which offers considerably more power, tilt angles, and, best of all, integrated control of its zoom head. You do have to make sure you buy the right flavor, as there are different models for Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras.
Pointed forward, the unit measures about 3" tall, just enough to keep its reflection from causing too much red-eye while keeping it low enough to keep from being banged around. The unit runs on a pair of AA batteries, and it's estimated to take about a hundred shots on a fresh pair of alkaline batteries. When I'm shooting on assignment, I only use Energizer e2 Lithium AA Batteries, 4-Pack and the pair I put in the unit showed no signs of slowing down well past 150 flashes. Cycle times aren't all that fast, though, even when your batteries are at their peak, For a full discharge I got a time of 10-12 seconds, though if you're not trying to illuminate a pitch black room you'll find that the flash recovers much, much faster. Using it to fill the light at a party or political speech watching event, I found that most shots recycled in a second or two. Not quite fast enough for burst mode, but very manageable.
I found the 130 guide number (ISO 100/feet) @ 80mm completely adequate for lighting interior rooms, and the zoom head faithfully working to match the camera's lens, at least within its range of 24-80mm. The minimum auto range for the unit is 4.9 feet, but I had no trouble shooting right down to my camera's minimum distance, well under two feet. The autofocus assist light is a help in low-light situations, and the display is well-lit and easy to read. The unit does an auto-shutdown after 5 minutes to keep you from running down the batteries, a nice touch.
If you do want to operate the flash in manual mode, it offers Power ratios of Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 so you can tweak the settings to your heart's content.
The flash comes with a foot stand for independent use as a slave, but that's its only accessory. There are a pair of depressions on the sides around the flash bulb which are clearly for a diffuser, but none is provided, which seems odd at the price. Something we'd like to see on later versions is a head that swivels from side to side, letting us control the flash in portrait format, which the PZ40X II doesn't currently do.
All in all, we found the PZ40X II to be either a good addition to a fully loaded photo bag or something to build on for photographers stepping up from on camera flashes for the first time.
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