Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Carry On: Sunpak 120J

2011 © Brian Adams

The Sunpak 120J is another wonderful, albeit discontinued, flash I own. When I bought my 120J in 2006, the price was reasonable ($160), but these days I can't believe how much people are willing to pay for them (usually over $300). The 120J is an amazing flash, but at this point if I wanted another and couldn't find a good deal, I would save up for a Qflash.

When I was first getting into lighting and developed a respectable reserve of Vivitar 283 flashes and accessories, I found myself wanting more, but I didn't want to buy studio strobes--they're to heavy for the type of photography I do. So I started looking at photography lighting books, and in one book I found a portrait of a girl lit with every type of light source. My two favorite portraits of the girl were lit with a soft box (I had one of those already) and a bare bulb flash. I was shocked to see that the girl's skin tones were nearly perfect, and from a bare bulb no less. I began researching bare bulb flashes and found the Sunpak 120J.

The 120J is capable of firing up to 100 feet at 100 ISO and recycles in 1.5 seconds, so for my intents and purposes, it's perfect. Sunpak originally sold the flash with a battery pack that outputs at least 150 full power bursts, for which I use four AA batteries. Someday I intend to pick up a Quantum Turbo battery for the 120J and Vivitar 283, but for now I am satisfied with the AA set-up.

Chimera and Quantum both offer great accessories for the 120J. A few years ago, I picked up a Chimera speed ring that attaches to the front of the flash, making is easy to attach any Chimera soft box quickly. There is no hot shoe on the flash, which means that you have to plug in to the camera with a household PC cord, but the nice thing about not having a hot shoe is that you can mount the flash to any light stand or tripod.

As you can see in the photo above, my Sunpak 120J has been through it, or so to speak. It has never let me down, which is why I carry it on. And on. And on.

To see what some other photogs are doing with the 120J, check out my 120J Flickr group.

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