Do I have to get a manual flash like a Metz 36 or Vivitar 285 if I want *one* thing?
I guess even the manual only flashes may have some trouble with certain brands depending on how the pin contacts are set up.
Do you have multiple camera brands?
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Triggers aren't really practical - the reason I want a 'one for all' is, in case it's not clear, I have a variety of cameras from different makers. I will *very* rarely need flash, but on those occasions I wanted something that I wouldn't have to buy four of, and moreover not get somewhere and realise I'd packed the wrong one. So I guess I could potentially live with the limitations of not having TTL control, but I wanted to double-check there wasn't anything I could buy which would switch between multiple makers. I know some have Nikon/Canon convertibility but since I don't have a Nikon, that makes it single-maker for me.
Since you have two Canons I'd get a Canon flash so you could at least some times have TTL functionality. If you're worried about the extra contacts get a non TTL flash I guess.
I'm not really qualified to say whether or not it's dangerous to your other cameras or the flash you get if you use it on a non-brand camera.
May I ask what's the draw of that Sony and the Fuji? I can see having a smaller camera P&S to carry around, but I wouldn't think you'd want to use (carry) anything but the internal flash in that case. Obviously Leica is a Leica. (though I don't see a flash on it). If you are making "serious" pictures, you'd want to get the flash off the camera anyway and if you aren't, use the one that's built in. (I know 2 of them don't have one) I'm not understanding your motives really, but I guess I don't have to.
My initial feeling now is that the 60D (i.e. the APS-C) might actually end up losing to the Fuji, which despite the somewhat smeary limitations of its compact sensor is a one-box wonder that's uber-easy to get my head around, and that the 60D overlaps the real-life utility point between the 5D and the HS20 in maybe a slightly redundant way.
And it's also not certain that I won't give another APS-C DSLR a try: I'm still really interested in the Sony SLT-A77, despite some problems being pointed at the 'megapixel war' nature of the new sensor.
I considered setting a fixed budget for all this and buying just one but eventually figured it was better if I actually got to try the cameras I was interested in, and sell the ones I feel don't need to keep fairly quickly. It's more an exercise so that I'm not feeling I made the wrong decision later on. Once I settle on a combo I intend to keep it for a fairly long time.
But yes, either way as the likely 'most proper camera' in the bunch it does in principle make sense to get a TTL flash for the Canon(s). The problem is that with the TTL flashes I've seen, performance on non-TTL (even if it was safe on non-Canon cameras) would be hampered over manual flashes due to the control panel based / automated operation - e.g. you're cycling thru menus when you can just pull out the zoom head on a manual flash and spin a couple of dials/switches for exposure controls. Ideally I just wanted to get one unit which I could use with anything, but it might be a pipedream too far. Maybe I'll have to buy a Canon flash and a manual.
I just don't want to be in the situation where I throw a camera and flash in the bag, get to the other end and find out I packed the wrong one.
As for 'use the built-in flash' well the rationale for a separate one is pretty obvious - I occasionally want to avoid the harsh light implications of this with a flash capable of bounce or a diffuser fitting, and obviously get more reach than a built-in. Since I'll never be in a studio situation an off-camera flash is simply out of the question.
I'm also thinking about getting a Litepanel which might be more versatile, if with less ultimate reach than flashes.