A Handle On The Whole Business – Or The Return Of The Hammerhead Flash

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One of the most reassuring combinations of equipment in the days of film photography used to be the Leica M2, a 50mm Summicron lens, and a Metz 45 CT-1 flash. Fill the flash with batteries and the camera with FP4 or Plus-X and you could be sure of getting a saleable picture. The flash worked every time, the camera worked every time, and the film worked every time. Would that our digital age were so simple.

One of the other attractions of the Metz flash was that it was a big sturdy thing that you could grasp with your left hand. The metal bracket and the tough unit meant that you could safely wave the M2 around one-handed with no fear of ever dropping it.

Other people used smaller flashes and strange little aluminium L-brackets to try to do the same thing but there was never the same power or security. And that is why Metz 45’s are still seen at events today. The bigger 60 CT units have mostly fallen by the wayside as they needed specialised wet batteries.

Now that I am shooting with cameras that somewhat emulate the Leica M2 ( in the current case a Fujifilm X-Pro1 ) I wondered if I could get back to the security of the 45 CT1 or 45 CL1 of the past. I dug ’em out of storage. and experimented. Yes, you can.

The Fujifilm camera has a PC socket at the LHS. It perfectly balances the light. and the light in turn fires perfectly in the Thyrister-controlled mode as it did before. There is no TTL, but if I was used to balancing main and fill before, it is no different with the Metz. I even have the luxury of fine-tuning the white balance of the camera to match the tube.

Only bite is the battery-hunger of the 45 Ct unit. I feed it with a Quantum battery – in itself a relic – but the years have taken a toll on the Quantum and there is only about 2/3 of the total capacity left. I am still going to see if it will be suitable for a night-time shoot.

You are never discrete with a Metz 45- particularly if there is a Tele-Vorsatz on the front of it. Like Weegee you get in and get out smartly and run for it while the victims stumble about blindly. The results are best suited for exposition rather than subtle mood.

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