Review of the Moonlabs Tiny Flash (pre-production unit)
If you have been following this blog for some time or you are familiar with my Street Photography, you know I love using a flash when shooting. Especially during times before the COVID-19 lockdown(s), I would really enjoy walking about taking photos with a flash. The most important thing for me as a street photographer has always been manoeuvrability and portability, others might call it minimalism, and for that reason, I try to carry as few things as possible with me. My largest camera as of today is the Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the XF18mm attached to it, which lately has felt a bit too big for my needs, and my Ricoh GR, which is just perfect. Since I love working with flash, I also use similarly sized flashguns. Such as the Flash Q20 II or the all-time classic, but now discontinued Fujifilm EF-X20. What would be the point of carrying a flash that is bigger than my camera? For example, my old Yongnuo YN560II when paired with my Ricoh GR was just plain silly. It even felt silly mounted on my X-Pro1 and only looked size-appropriate on a DSLR.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Bertrand, the founder of Tiny Flash. I opened it up and read it, and to my surprise and excitement, I saw it was about a new pocket-sized flash that claimed it worked on any camera (analogue or digital)! I wrote back to Bertrand, expressing my excitement and desire to review his flash. After a few days, the prototype reached my door! Here are my thoughts about it.
The Moon Tiny Flash for street photography
I would like to stress that this review is from a completely personal point of view. Neither I nor any of the other Streethunters.net Editors are camera or camera accessory experts. We do not claim we are camera gurus and we do not have any affiliation with any camera or camera accessory brand. All gear that we have reviewed we have reviewed from the Street Photographer’s perspective only. In this post, you will read my personal opinion about the Moon Tiny Flash.
During the Moon Tiny Flash review, I will discuss the flashgun’s build quality, design, features, and size & portability.
The Tiny Flash feels sturdy enough in the hand. I think it can probably take a hit or two, although I can’t vouch for that. Even though I held it in my hands for a while studying it I can’t be sure what it is made of. The bottom part is plastic. The top part is made of some very light metal alloy or high-quality plastic. I can’t really tell, which isn’t a bad thing. It is that it has no sharp edges or any screws that stick out. It feels smooth and safe to the touch. It definitely doesn’t feel cheaply made. When holding it I feel like I am holding a good quality product.
The Moon Tiny Flash design is simple, minimal, elegant, and stylish. It is black, smooth, small and has only one button on it and one USB-C port. More on the port later. Because of its smooth edges, black colour, and minimalist design, it sits on your camera unobtrusively. It hardly adds any extra bulk to your setup. To turn it on or off, all you have to is to press the button for 2 seconds. A handy light will inform you that the flash is on.
When I slid it on my Ricoh GR, and later on my flash extension cord to make some off-camera shots, it fit perfectly with a smooth, soft click, locking into place firmly and not moving in the slightest.
I only found it a bit too tight for my X-Pro1’s hot shoe, so I didn’t force it because I didn’t want to damage it, or my camera. However, I placed it as gently as I could on it, just to get a sense of scale, and to see what it looked like and it looked great.
In my opinion, it is a very beautiful flashgun, very nicely designed.
Here is where things become interesting. The Moon Tiny Flash at first glance appeared to me it lacked in features. After a closer study of the manual, though, I found out it is not just an on/off, one intensity flashgun. Surely it is a very simple to use flash compared to other small flashes such as the EF-X20 or the Q20II and even more so when put against big professional flashguns, but it has a few hidden aces up its sleeve.
First, it works with both analogue and digital cameras. That is huge, especially for street photographers that use both film and digital and don’t want to own multiple flashguns.
Second, it only has one button, so it has a very shallow learning curve.
Third, it is equipped with a motion sensor, so each time you pick up your camera, the flash is ready to fire. I love this feature! They call Smart Power Management and in their words:
Traditional timers on a flash meant that your flash would power off without you realising, making you miss decisive shots. With Tiny Flash, a motion-sensing accelerometer coupled with an algorithm will detect your movements, and keep the flash ready-to-fire until you put your camera to rest. You won’t miss that precious street shot again.
Last, it has a USB-C charging socket that doubles for USB-C to PC connectivity as well for older cameras made before the 70s. If you are wondering where you can find such a cord, it is included in the box!
These cool little features make the Tiny Flash mighty attractive, although I missed manual flash intensity controls. However, I understand that by adding a dial such as the one on the EF-X20 would add to its size and weight and defeat its primary purpose. The reason for getting this flash is for its minimalistic style, size, and portability that is explained more in the next section of this review. But a flashgun in reality doesn’t “need” intensity control. Sure, it makes the photographer’s life easier, but it is not mandatory for a flash. All you have to do is use your camera’s aperture and ISO controls to control the Tiny Flash’s light. If you are confused and don’t understand how you can control a single intensity flash, then just check out the table below that can also be found on the Moon Labs website.
Size & Portability
This is where this flash “shines”! I can’t stress how TINY the Tiny Flash is compared to all other flashguns on the market. Even the smaller ones such as the Flash Q20 II or the Fujifilm EF-X20.
It is so small and light you can’t feel it on your camera. You can hardly notice it, especially on cameras with larger bodies. The pre-production unit I had weighed 46gr and fit effortlessly in my jeans pockets. And when it came to charging it, all I had to do was stick it in my iPhone’s charger, or my girlfriend’s Android phone charger. I even tried it on my MacBook Air charger for a few minutes out of curiosity, and it worked. So, as far as Size & Portability in flashes go, the Tiny Flash is the King. It is incomparable to anything else, that is how portable this little flash is. Excellent.
Although the Tiny Flash is small and minimalistic it performs quite well. With a recharging time of 4”(final product will recharge faster according to Moon Labs) and a bright flash, it performs fine in both dim and bright light situations and is great a filling in shadowy areas. It can easily be used in backlit compositions and of course in any other low light condition.
Because it has the motion-sensing accelerometer coupled with an algorithm that detects your movements, you will never accidentally take a “dark” photo. In the box, the manufacturer claims that you can get at least 50 bursts on one charge. That might not sound like a lot, but if you take into account the fact that you can charge it on the go, this isn’t such an issue. Battery life could have been better, but the flash fires all the time at full power, so in that respect 50 shots are ok. Also, I really hope to see those faster recharging times in the final product. Until then, I will rate it accordingly.
The Tiny Flash by Moon Labs is the truly compact flash
If you are a Flash Street Photographer such as myself or even a street photographer that wants to dabble in the art of artificial light in the streets but needs something unobtrusive, light, and small, then this is the flashgun for you. The Tiny Flash is so little and weightless you can’t feel it on your camera. Even though I tested a pre-production unit I have fallen in love. According to Bertrand, this unit is one stop down compared to the actual production units that will soon be available. Currently, Moon Labs has launched 1 funding campaign on Indiegogo. Let’s hope they meet their campaign needs and we get to see this little gem on our cameras soon! If you feel like helping Bertrand and his team releasing the Tiny Flash, you can visit the Tiny Flash Indiegogo campaign.
I wish I knew how much this flash will cost. I hope it can challenge the other small flashes on the market by not being too expensive. But that is to be seen!
If you want to know more about the flash, just ask me in the comments. Also, if you feel I haven’t touched upon something that I should have, please let me know. If you want to follow up on the progress of the Tiny Flash project, you can follow Moon Labs on their Instagram account at @moonlabs.photo.
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!
I can’t quite understand if the flash can be controlled from the machine, I mean to lower the power of the flash or synchronize to the second curtain without touching iso.
The flash isn’t controlled by the camera or by itself. It has one intensity. What is it that you are trying to achieve? Do you want to lower the effect of the flash on your photos?
I wanted the flash to be able to fill in with people without having to play with the distances / objectives, you can’t always have everything …