Back in the day, this was one of the first third party flashes for the Sony Multi Interface Shoe (MIS) featuring High Speed Sync (HSS) and Through The Lens metering (TTL). The thing that attracted me to this flash is the price and ridiculously small design. You may upgrade to a Nissin Di700a or Phottix Mitros Plus system eventually for off camera flash work, but I do still find use for my Nissin i40.
Whats in the Box
Opening the box, the flash comes with a case containing a coldshoe mount in which the flash wobbles in, a carabineer which is is not to be used for climbing, and a flash diffusion cap. I recommend Panasonic or Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries, as they have become the industry standard for photographers and have been tested to yield the fastest recycle times.
The small size and weight is perfectly suited to the Sony mirrorless cameras. Something unusual about the flash is there is no rear screen. Instead, the flash power is controlled through rear dials, which extends battery life. Unfortunately, they are not backlit, so you can't see anything in the dark. The text also wears and can be scraped off over time.
Flash Zoom Functionality
The flash is zoomed by holding the power button for three seconds. One major annoyance for me is I can't manually zoom the flash in TTL or A (Automatic) mode. When pointed forward, the flash will zoom from 24mm-105mm depending on the focal lens of the lens used. This can be useful, however, since it can't be adjusted when pointing away from the subject when used TTL, it isn't a feature that for me has found much use. I seldom directly flash subjects in any case. One thing that amused me is it doesn't account for 35mm full frame vs crop sensor focal length conversions (e.g. 50mm on full frame camera is 35mm crop sensor equivalent field of view). This oversight is also seen on the Nissin Di700a, but not on the Phottix Mitros Plus. For more comparisons between the Di700a and the Phottix Mitros+, see my article: NISSIN DI700A WITH AIR 1 COMMANDER REVIEW (SONY) VS. PHOTTIX MITROS PLUS
In all other ways, the flash is cleverly designed. There is a 16mm (11mm APS-c equivalent) wide-angle diffuser incorporated into the flash head as well as a bounce card. The bounce card can be slid from the open and closed position and locks using magnets. Although clever, it can be a pain when using velcro, as taking a light modifier off can deploy the somewhat flimsy bounce card. Since the flash head is so small, it doesn't perfectly fit most softboxes and other modifiers like my Magmod flash grids and gels.
One thing I still miss on my i40 and is absent on the Nissin Di700a and Phottix Mitros+ flashes is the video light. Although made of two tiny LEDs, it has become useful to find my gear in the dark, to attain focus, to light wedding rings and even in prestigious restaurants where I wouldn't dare to flash.
Honestly, unlike most of my gear, I don't have much bad to say about this flash. However, I'll summarise the problems I have encountered in my use of this flash. Having read the manual, I noticed the flash is advertised to work in TTL with bracketing. Sadly, this function doesn't work. Although I wouldn't expect it from a flash this cheap, the flash isn't weather sealed. The flash doesn't fold flat, which can be a little awkward for storage. The flash doesn't feature a PC sync cord or external battery input. In addition, the flash is not as powerful as full sized flashes, making it more difficult to overpower the sun or shoot at lower ISOs Finally, the flash makes a very audible noise when fired at full power or in rapid succession (capacitor charging). The same is true of the Nissin d700a, but not the Phottix Mitros+ or other first party flashes. For many though, these gripes won't matter.
My final gripes have nothing to do with this particular flash, but all Sony mirrorless flashes. The hotshoe is plastic and doesn't fit well on anything but a Sony mirrorless camera hotshoe. It wobbles on the included flash bracket (which includes tripod mount) and pretty much all other accessories. In my experience, I have had one of these flashes snap at the hotshoe when a sideways force was imparted on the flash. Honestly it isn't as bad for this flash due to the smaller size, but it's a real worry for me when using larger flashes like the Nissin Di700a.
Another issue all Sony mirrorless flashes have is the focus assist light never works, The flash has one, yet the camera never tells it to fire. Instead, the camera uses its own focus assist light, which is always blocked by the lens and lens hood.
- Excellent power range (1/256-1/1)
- Video light with varying power
- Compact and light weight
- Zoom flashhead
- Fast refresh times with Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries (flash takes 4 AA) batteries).
- Great battery life due to no back LCD screen.
- Tilt head
- Optical slave mode
- Good full power output for the size
- HSS (high speed sync) up to 1/8000sec
- Supports rear, slow sync flash
- Bounce hard and diffuser
- Bracket shooting mode doesn't work
- No back LCD
- Flash does not have a locking pin so slips off wireless triggers or hotshot cords (still has solid attachment to camera).
- Irregular shape makes it difficult to attach soft boxes and other light modifiers.
- No PC sync port
- Doesn't fold flat for storage.
- Some of the paint on the back has been rubbed off.
- Can't see settings/controls in low light. Back panel is not illuminated.
- Zooms to only 105mm.
- Cannot manually set flash zoom in auto/TTL modes.
- No weather sealing.
- No way to wirelessly shoot using radio transmitters without adapters.
- Focus assist light defaults to use on camera focus assist light and not the flash focus assist light (probably not specific to this flash but to Sony mirrorless cameras).
- Clunky method of zooming the flash head.
- Ridiculous charging sound when fired at full power or in rapid succession
The Bottom Line
The Nissan i40 is a great travel and compact on camera TTL flash. Due to the lack of wireless triggering options it isn't great for off camera work. Overall, the Nissin i40 is great value for money.