Something we missed: Olympus flash with LED lamp

The new Olympus FL-600R is a flagship speedlight for Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras.

Olympus FL600R

While the majority of people (including us) focus on what Canon and Nikon are doing, the other camera brands are busy working on the sidelines, bringing out nifty new stuff. Olympus have released the FL-600R, a speedlight designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds. It has TTL, commander mode and a built-in LED lamp. It was originally announced alongside the OM-D EM-5 mirrorless camera.

Olympus FL600R

Manufacturers seem keen to find a way to reconcile speedlights and LED lights “for video”, as if some photographers would be taken so much by surprise by a video opportunity that they wouldn’t have time to put a proper LED lamp on their camera. On the other hand, having a modelling lamp that doesn’t drain the batteries as quickly as “modelling flashes” can be a good thing.

This is the first flash from Olympus to have a built-in LED lamp. Other examples of this format are the Canon 320EX and Polaroid Dua Flash, as well as the Dot Line hybrid LED panel. The FL-600R’s LED, which consumes one Watt of power, also works as the speedlight’s autofocus-assist illuminator. It has a very narrow beam of only 30°.

Other specifications include:

  • Guide number of 36 at Iso 100
  • Wireless commander, with four channels and four groups
  • Swivels 180° left and 90° right; tilts 90° up and 7° down.
  • Recycle time of 2.0-2.5 seconds
  • FP mode allowing operation above X-Sync

Olympus FL600R

If you don’t know about Olympus’s wireless flash system, it seems pretty decent, especially on Micro Four Thirds. Cameras that you might not think too advanced, such as the Pen Lite, Pen E-P3 and OM-D E-M5, have full wireless command capabilities that make the nerfed transmitter on the Canon EOS 600D look bad. Using the pop-up flash (E-PL series, EP-3) or clip-on unit (Pen Lite, OM-D) Olympus Micro Four Thirds users can control four different channels and four groups of flashes.

Olympus Micro Four Thirds wireless control
The OM-D E-M5’s FL-LM2 clip-on flash can act as a wireless commander

The FL-600R can act as a slave as can the FL-36R, FL-50R or the tiny FL-300R. Pro tip: look for the “R” in the name. If you need more range or flash power from your on-camera unit then the first three will act as commanders too. At the time of writing we don’t know of any radio-based TTL systems for Olympus.

Though putting a huge flash unit on top of a mirrorless camera can be unwieldy, the FL-600R is smaller than you might think. The Mecablitz 50 AF-1, which otherwise has similar features, dwarfs the FL-600R in sheer size.

In stock now, you can buy the Olympus FL-600R for $299 in the USA or for £299 in the UK. More details can be found on the Olympus web site.

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