Whenever a situation arises that requires on-camera flash, I immediately start thinking of ways to get that flash in a more interesting place than just stuck on the hotshoe over my lens. I’ve done everything from using flash brackets and grip sticks to just holding my speedlight out to the side and triggering it with my pop-up flash. But all these options were fairly clunky and required an expensive TTL cable if I didn’t have time to manually adjust my flash output.
Optex heard my pleas for a better option, and they responded by introducing the new TTL Flex Arm (distributed in Canada by Gentec International). This little device looks like the standard flexible mounts I use for holding flags or other lighting modifiers, but the difference is that on both ends it has standard shoe mounts and additional little contacts that allow you to use TTL flash metering (for Canon and Nikon systems)! Using this I can now easily elevate the flash well over my lens to soften the background shadow or swing the flash to the left or right, allowing for much more dimensionality in the image.
The great thing about the Optex TTL Flex Arm is that there is no time-consuming set-up involved. Just click the mount onto your shoe and the flash on top of that, bend the arm so your light is properly positioned, and away you go.
The arm is quite sturdy. I tested it with a Canon 600EX-RT, and the flash didn’t move at all as I was moving around to set up my next shot. It did feel like I was close to the edge of an acceptable load, though, so I would be careful if you use a heavier flash with larger modifiers, like a softbox or beauty dish.
The results from the Flex Arm were very consistent. I often worry about exposure being all over the map with third party TTL products, but the exposure was identical whether I had the flash right on the hotshoe or on the Flex Arm. The flash also fired consistently every single time I pressed the shutter.
One of the fun things with the Flex Arm is the ability to move the flash around quickly and see what creates the most pleasing image. I could see this being very useful for photographers just getting into flash photography, as you can shoot several images in a few seconds with the light in very different positions. Traditional flash brackets offer nowhere near this kind of speed and flexibility.
While the Flex Arm is designed for being used with speedlights, I can also see some interesting potential for using it with microphones and LED lighting. In the case of microphones, you could have the mic above your camera, angled slightly down, to reduce background noise. With a LED, I could very quickly move between a vast number of light positions in a couple seconds, allowing me to quickly find the right light placement. While it looks extremely simple, the Opted Black TTL Flex Arm is actually a very compelling little tool. I suspect event shooters and journalists might find this tool to be invaluable, and it’s definitely going to be in my bag whenever there’s a speedlight in there.
One small request though, Optex: Can we get these in some other mounts as well? This Sony shooter could sure use one…