Rediscovering an old Suntax flash

A few years ago my grandfather presented me with a ‘Suntax 9800A’ flash for my old Canon film camera. It was fairly old and required manually setting the shutter-speed/aperture via the use of a chart on the back, but was nevertheless a massive upgrade from the on-camera flash and a generous gift. Unfortunately the time delay between taking and viewing film images meant I never fully got to grips with the unit, and it lay in a drawer for a few years.

I recently happened upon it while digging out A-Level certificates for my photography degree application, and took another look. I immediately spotted something I’d completely forgotten: it has an adjustable head. This means I can angle the flash upwards and bounce it off the ceiling, resulting in a completely different effect from the usual chav-in-the-headlights look of the on-camera flash. With a digital SLR I could see the results instantly, and after a few dozen experimental pictures I quickly realised what an excellent tool it is. I’m hoping it will improve images from parties, which usually turn out something like this:

Tamsin’s 22nd - Smaller

Which is passable for your average snap (even if the composition needs work), but I want more, dammit. People’s faces are flat and blasted with light, and it quickly falls into darkness at the back of the picture. A couple of weeks ago I took the Suntax along to a birthday party:

Teapot Nod Anansi Boy Nod Nobody wants to play

These aren’t posted as particularly great photos, but I think the lighting is softer and much more pleasing than before. I’m itching to try it out at a dance, although the ceilings tend to be high and the bounce technique may not work so well. I’ll have to pick up some kind of diffuser.

Unfortunately I’ve now lost the flash’s accompanying booklet, and am unable to remember what the white/blue/red setting on the front means. I’ll have to join a forum at some point and ask. I must also properly and belatedly thank my grandfather for the excellent gift!