There will be times when you have to turn to your camera’s built-in flash to get the shot. The flash on the G12 is not extremely powerful, but with the camera’s advanced metering system it does a pretty good job of lighting up the night…or just filling in the shadows.
The controls for the built-in flash are accessible in two ways. I’ll cover the how first, and then shortly move on to the why.
Acc ess ing the Flash Control, the Fast and Easy Way
- Press the Flash button.
- Use the Control dial to select a flash setting. Depending on the current shooting mode, in addition to On and Off, you may see an icon for Auto or Slow Synchro.
- Press the Function/Set button to apply the setting.
Acc ess ing More Flash Controls
- Press the Flash button, and then press the Menu button to access the Built-in Flash Settings screen.
This menu is also accessible by first pressing the Menu button and then choosing Flash Control.
- Use the Control dial to select a flash setting.
- Press the Menu button to return to the shooting mode.
Auto vs. Manual Power Output
In most cases, the On setting is the same as saying the flash is set to Auto: The camera determines how much power to give the flash to control its brightness. However, as with so many features, you’re not locked into the automatic option. If you’re shooting in Manual (M) mode, you can choose three intensities for the flash. That option is also available when shooting in other modes.
Setting Auto or Manual Flash Mode
- Press the Flash button, or navigate to the Built-in Flash Settings screen using the menus as described earlier.
- Highlight the Flash Mode option. (Note that it doesn’t appear in the largely automatic Program mode.)
- Press the Left or Right button to switch between Auto and Manual.
- When Manual is enabled, the Flash Exp. Comp (exposure compensation) menu item becomes the Flash Output item; highlight it and use the Left or Right button to choose between Minimum, Medium, and Maximum.
- Press Menu to return to the shooting mode.
You can easily change the Flash Output setting later without navigating all the menus by pressing the Flash button and using the Front dial. Or, press the Function/Set button, highlight the Flash Output icon (fourth from the top), and use the Left or Right button to adjust the level.
The standard flash synchronization speed for your camera is between 1/60 and 1/2000 of a second. When you are working with the built-in flash using the Automatic modes, the camera typically uses a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The exception to this is when you use the Night Snapshot mode, which fires the flash with a slower shutter speed so that some of the ambient light has time to record in the image.
The real key to using the flash to get great pictures is to control the shutter speed. The goal is to balance the light from the flash with the existing light so that everything in the picture has an even illumination. Let’s take a look at the shutter speeds for the Creative modes.
Program (P): The shutter speed stays at 1/60 of a second, unless you’re shooting into a bright environment (or the meter is evaluating a bright area) that would normally require an aperture higher than f/8.
Shutter Priority (Tv): You can adjust the shutter speed to as fast as 1/2000 of a second all the way down to 15 seconds. (Actually, you can set the shutter speed to the camera’s maximum 1/4000 setting, but the shot uses a maximum speed of 1/2000.) The aperture adjusts accordingly, but typically at long exposures the lens will be set to its smallest aperture.
Aperture Priority (Av): The whole point of this setting is to allow you to use the aperture of your choice while still getting good flash exposures. With the flash turned on, the shutter speed adjusts from 1/2000 all the way down to 15 seconds, depending on the available light. As the aperture gets smaller, the shutter speeds get longer.
Manual (M): Manual mode works the same as Tv mode, with a range of 1/2000 down to 15 seconds. The difference, of course, is that you must manually set the f-stop.
Generally speaking, I like to have my Mode dial set to the Shutter Priority (Tv) mode when shooting pictures with flash. This enables me to balance the existing light with the flash, which sometimes requires longer shutter speeds.
If you have special metering needs, such as a background that is very light or dark, you might consider using the Flash Exposure (FE) Lock to meter off your subject and then recompose your image.
Using the FE Lock feature
- Point the camera at the area you want to base the flash exposure on. This is normally your subject.
- Press the * AE/FE Lock button (near the top right on the back of the camera) to obtain the exposure setting. The flash fires a small burst to evaluate the exposure, and you will see the AE/FE Lock symbol (*) along with the recommended exposure settings.
- Recompose the scene as you like, and press the shutter button to take the shot.
The FE Lock cancels after each exposure, so you have to repeat these steps each time you need to lock the flash exposure. (If you’re shooting several shots in that situation, make a note of the settings and switch to the Manual shooting mode.)
Using this metering mode might also require that you tweak the flash output by using the Flash Exposure Compensation feature. This is because the camera will be metering the entire scene to set the exposure, so you might want to add or subtract flash power to balance out the scene.