CononMark DD400S: the future for portable flash?

Lighting Rumours reviews the CononMark DD400S, a DC-only flash that takes universal batteries. Is it any good? And is it an example other manufacturers should follow?

CononMark DD400 front view

CononMark DD400 rear viewFeatures and controls

The CononMark DD400’s controls are so simple that I mastered them in two minutes even without a working screen or English instruction manual. Almost everything has its own dedicated button which is clearly labelled. While my own screen obviously didn’t work, the pictures I’ve seen suggest it’s pretty straightforward to use. There is a wide seven-stop power range but no partial stops: full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64 and that’s your lot. The rest of the features are fairly basic too. The modelling lamp and slave cell are on/off only – no proportional levels or pre-flash detection here.

Here’s a quick run-down of the back panel controls:

  • Power: switch the DD400 on and off
  • +/-: adjust flash intensity in whole stops
  • DC lamp: turn the modelling light on and off. Since the DD400 is always running on DC power you can use the lamp whenever you like.
  • Test
  • Cell: switch the optical slave on/off
  • Centre button: click once, press +/- to turn the ready beep on or off, then click again.

The business end of the flash features a 12V auto headlamp modelling light and a Perkin Elmer flash tube. I’d much rather they did without the built-in reflector as it compromises the “bare-tube effect” so needed by certain light modifiers. This and the Comet mount bayonet (big in Japan, unheard of in the UK) are probably the two biggest deal-breakers for me.

As the body is almost perfectly tubular, the light stand adapter is the only thing stopping the flash rolling away like a Pringles tube when you lay it down. The stand adapter is pretty average and could be improved, but isn’t likely to cause issue with a flash as lightweight as this one. When using umbrellas you won’t have any trouble hitting the power cable because the socket is offset.

The battery is a dream to carry as it’s so small and light. You could have this over your shoulder all day and forget about it. My sources tell me that the final kit may see the VRLA battery replaced with a 12V NiMH one that is even smaller and lighter. If you were hoping to weigh down the stand you’ll be disappointed – bring sandbags instead! As the batteries are non-proprietary you can easily buy and replace them yourself without paying a fortune. The terminals are wired up to the 3-pin connector and it’s plug-and-play from there.

David Selby
Based in Paris, France, David Selby is editor of Lighting Rumours, a part-time photographer and a quantitative analyst.