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Visual Echoes makes a slick, but odd looking devise that extends the working range of your accessory flash unit via a "Fresnel screen" placed at a fixed distance from the flash head.  Although the "Fresnel screen" is made from flimsy plastic, it really does work, but there are some limitations you should know about.  They recommend using the 50mm zoom setting on your flash unit, and a 300mm or longer lens.  In real testing, neither one of those recommendations resulted in maximum performance.

 

There are several sizes to choose from.  As it needs to be strapped down hard and aligned with the flash head fairly accurately, it's important to get one that fits your flash unit size.  In this test I used the FX-1/1B medium size because it fits the Sony HVL-F42AM.  If you have the larger Sony HVL-F56AM or F58AM, (or other brands) you need to get a larger size.

 

This product can be stored flat, and be put in a side slot on a camera bag. 

 

Oddly, the package and manual don't use the words "Better Beamer" anywhere, their term is always "flash X-tender."

 

Try the fresnel lens with a flash light instead of the camera flash, you can really see the difference as you point it around the room!

 

Warning: do not look back through the fresnel lens while busting a full power flash pop or it may be the last thing you ever see!

 
 
 

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Mounted on Sony HVL-F42AM
JUNE2011/vebbclosed.jpg
Very small, flat package, stores easily in camera bag pouch.
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Package contents


The top image shows the Better Beamer mounted on a Sony flash.
 
The second and third images show the package and contents.  The Fresnel lens has a pouch for storage.
 
All items (except the velcro straps) are plastic, including the Fresnel lens.
 
 
Bare flash image.
 

JUNE2011/bbflasonly.jpg
Flash zoomed to 105mm

 

This bare flash pattern comes from the Sony HVL-F42AM set at 105mm, from about 10' (3m).  The green tape line is 3' (1m) long.

 

 

Better Beamer pattern.

 

JUNE2011/bbpattern.jpg
Better Beamer with flash at 105mm

 

The next shot shows what the Better beamer with fresnel lens does.  You can see it really concentrates the light in a small area.  The pattern is odd looking, like an old slide projector, but not noticeable in real life.

 

 

Real use.

 

JUNE2011/bbflashonly70m.jpg
Flash only at 105mm and lens at 70mm

 

This shot uses the Sony HVL-F42AM set at full power and 105mm.  The house wall is about 60' (20m) away and the lens zoom length is 70mm, F/5.6. 

 

 

Results with Better Beamer.

 

JUNE2011/bbonly70m.jpg
Better Beamer and lens at 70mm

 

This image shows the pattern and intensity of the fresnel lens in action.  I used the 70mm focal length to see what the Better Beamer pattern looked like from a distance.  All flash and camera settings are the same for this shot.

 

 

300mm focal length.

 

JUNE2011/bbnofls300m.jpg
No flash, lens at 300mm

 

The image above uses no flash.  Distance is about 30' (10m).  The lens is at 300mm, F/5.6.   

 

 

Better Beamer results.

 

JUNE2011/bbonly300m.jpg
Better Beamer and lens at 300mm

 

This is what I'd call a 'negative' result from using the Better Beamer flash X-Tender.  The settings are the same as the non-flash shot.  This image is flat because using a flash at longer distances pointed directly at the subject is whipping out the shadows that give the image depth.  I've seen pictures from bird photographers that have the same flat look, I don't like it, but to each his own.

 

I guess the bottom line is; if you need extra light at longer distances than what a bare flash can provide, this device will do the job and would be worth having in your bag. 

 

I found the most light came from using the Sony HVL-F42AM 105mm flash zoom setting, the Better Beamer says to use 50mm.  Also, the company claim of 2-3 extra stops of exposure is not realistic from my use; I noticed about 1 stop in daylight during testing at various distances .  Maximum effective distance with my flash unit seemed to be about 100' (30m) in daylight.  I only used the Visual Echoes flash X-Tender on one flash unit, so your results may vary.

 

Check out the Visual Echoes Better Beamer Flash X-Tender from B&H Photo and help out the site!