Polaroid bare-bulb flash appears, offering TTL for Canon and Nikon

The Polaroid PL-135 is an affordable AA-powered speedlight with a bare flash tube, available in the USA and UK.

Polaroid PL-135 Bare Bulb Flash

A flashgun has appeared called the Polaroid PL-135, a sub-$100 bare-bulb speedlight suitable for enthusiast photographers, available in the USA and UK.

It has the specifications of a typical aftermarket flash, but the flash tube protrudes from the head instead of sitting inside. This configuration allows for a “bare-bulb” effect, where the light is free to travel in all directions to fill a space, be it a room, a studio backdrop or a light-shaping tool such as a softbox. Think of it like the difference between a Maglite and a bare light bulb.

This new Polaroid PL-135 — a rebranded Triopo TR120 — is much cheaper than professional-grade bare-bulb equipment such as the Cheetah Light CL-180 or Quantum Qflash and, unlike those systems, runs on common AA batteries without needing a high voltage battery pack to operate. In fact, it is in some ways similar to the Sunpak 120J, a long-discontinued flashgun that still fetches high prices second-hand.

Two different models will be available — one for Canon and one for Nikon — supporting E-TTL and i-TTL automatic exposure control, respectively. There is also a manual power adjustment mode and a stroboscopic multi-flash feature. No high-speed sync (HSS), though.

Polaroid PL-135 Bare Bulb Flash

In the flash body is an autofocus-assist lamp and an optical slave sensor. The head can swivel horizontally 360° and tilt vertically 90°. An optional external power source may be connected for longer battery life and faster flash recycle times. There is a Prontor-Compur (PC) port and a metal hotshoe foot for synchronisation.

The PL-135 purportedly comes with a reflector and diffusion panel but it is not clear whether other light-shaping accessories will be available. Click the following listings for further information.

At the time of writing we haven’t seen any reference to the Polaroid PL-135 anywhere else, so caveat emptor. However, the UK listings are Fulfilled by Amazon so everything appears to be above board. We have contacted Polaroid for official confirmation and will update this article when they respond.

What do you think? Would you buy one?

David Selby
Based in the West Midlands, UK, David Selby is editor of Lighting Rumours, a part-time photographer and a statistics PhD student.
  • mikemike9

    “However, the UK listings are Fulfilled by Amazon so everything appears to be above board.”

    This written by someone who has never bought a Nikon battery on Amazon. Check out the reviews for the EN-EL3e sometime, or google for ‘amazon en-el3e fake’. Counterfeit and unauthorised merchandise really does, unfortunately make it into and out of Amazon’s warehouse.

    I know this with certainty; I bought a fulfilled-by-Amazon Nikon EN-EL3e that turned out to be an obvious fake. It wasn’t even outrageously cheap. Amazon, I must be clear, _always_ makes good on this and takes it seriously, but it’s hard to know how they can possibly stop this sort of thing happening. Having said that, the way Amazon allows (allowed, maybe; not checked recently) marketplace sellers to list equivalents for the official Amazon product means that dubious sellers can associate themselves with official listings quite easily.

    I hope that this listing is above board, because this is a great deal, but I’d advise everyone to take into account that ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ just means the product has been stocked in Amazon’s warehouse; it doesn’t mean Amazon sourced the product themselves.

    • Thanks for the heads-up.

      • mikemike9

        My late-night, tired-brain comment maybe read a bit critically so I amended its tone slightly – just want to say that I find this to be a really very useful blog, and long may you continue writing it.

  • mikemike9

    Mind you, B&H list a whole load of similarly cheap Polaroid flashes with Triopo-like details, though, so it’s presumably legit. (And Polaroid these days is little more than a brand holding company.)

    Odd that it turned up first in the Amazon marketplace though.

  • Mark

    If you read the specifications you will note that they reference zoom flash and also wireless trigger distances. It seems the specs were pasted from some other unit. I would wait to see a real unit before buying this pig in a poke.

  • Ranger 9

    I love the concept, but the idea of a bare-tube flash without wireless i-TTL/e-TTL support seems a bit pointless. The advantage of this type of flash is that it does a better job of filling modifiers efficiently, so you’d want to use it off-camera the vast majority of the time. I suppose a long TTL cable would be an option, but it still seems unnecessarily limiting.

    • As Paul says above, maybe it’ll work with some wireless TTL triggers though?

      • mikemike9

        That would make it a pretty huge bargain, and I’m not even a TTL person.

        I very nearly bought the Jinbei MF-100 but couldn’t quite justify it. I shall be watching for this review with some interest!

  • Paul

    Would you be able to adjust remotely with the yonugno 622c.

    • Interesting question. If we can get our hands on one then I’ll make sure we check to see if this works.

  • Terry Thomas Photos

    The problem with the name “Polaroid” is that it has been whored to death. Anyone who writes a check can bring a product to market with the name slapped on and there is no assurance of quality.

  • Adam

    And no pentax support. Good thing i normally set my flashes manually.

  • JCPhotoMedia.com

    I don’t understand why HSS is so hard for these companies to wrap their heads around. I’d also like to know how many w/s it is going to produce. TTL at 100-200 w/s with HSS and a bare bulb would sell like hotcakes….

  • Los Bandidos

    If possible, can you please do a more in depth review? Build quality, recycle times, power consumption, etc?

  • Jester

    For USD100 people are freaking out if it is a real Polaroid??? Come on! This is entry level product at entry level pricing. Buy 6 of these or one top of the line Nikon or Canon. They are throw away flashes. Use it until it dies. Might be only 2 months but if I can use for half a dozen paying shoots I am more than happy. When it dies just buy another. Sadly we will see reviews comparing this to Quantums stellar products. Just ignore them. Buy this and put on manual. Real professionals shoot manual anyway. TTL is inconsistent. I don’t know any pros other than the pseudo pro marketing guys with books and podcasts touting TTL as useful in our line.

    • Alex

      *cough* Joe McNally *cough*

  • qphotos

    Thanks for the review and sample pics. what kind of battery pack ur using with the pl-135. how are u mount the beauty dish to the pl-135?

  • TrP

    David Hobby has just given his input on Strobist, lol. He’s giving it a bad review, FWIW!

  • David K

    For any of those with a Nikon, I would like to know if the output is reliably controllable with I-TTL. What I like to do is set the manual output of the flash from my camera using the popup flash as controller. No more running back and forth to adjust output. I agree TTL is too much of a gamble.

    If that worked, I would definitely buy a few.

  • kwan

    Received mine this evening, need more time to play with it.
    Initial impression: build quality and workmanship is CHEAP. The reflector and diffuser cover is very prototype’ish, barely fit’s together. However all the control seems to be functioning. It has 5 modes: TTL/S1/S2/M/Multi. I played with the M mode, play around with diff power level, test fire with the pilot test button, seems to be working. LCD is easy to read and have clean and intuitive interface. However there’s a zoom indicator shown it’s set to 35mm, I can’t seems to find a way to change it, not sure why the zoom setting is there since it’s a bare bulb. I also played with S1 and so far it worked, I used the camera pops up flash to trigger the slave S1 and flash the fired no problem.
    overall the flash has a cheap quality feel to it, nevertheless the flash is functioning accordingly.

  • Los Bandidos

    Thanks for the info.

  • qphotos

    thanks. What dish? and size?

    • Simon

      Jeeze how many questions.. its a 15 inch white BD from ebay no clue who its from..

  • Manfred Sommerer

    does anyone know, where replacement bulbs are available? in Case there are some available?