Thursday, January 5, 2012

The ultimate Strobist flash: Metz 40MZ

Hello Strobists! Today I want to show you the flash head I consider the most appropriate for location work. It features manual control over 8 stops of flash power in 1/3rd steps and can be zoomed from 20 to 105mm (Ver.3 only) of flash spreading, which makes it uniquely versatile. It can read out today´s cameras´ TTL informations to work correctly in automatic mode and still features full manual control over its capabilities... the 


An interesting note first: Metz flashes are always adapted to the camera system via an interface called "SCA Adapter". The model of the adapter corresponds to the camera brand. There are sync-contact-only-SCAs that only feature the middle contact, but also a variety of Leica, Nikon, Canon and Minolta/Sony adapters. Some come with readout of TTL, some don't. For the 40MZ, there technically is no way of reading out today´s E-TTL II, but the flash DOES read out ISO, f-stop and lens data from a modern camera for use in automatic mode or calculation in manual mode when fitted with a SCA 3101 (Metz provides a list on which SCA adapter fits which camera model). ATTENTION STROBISTS: none of these SCA adapters has a PC terminal, they need to be triggered via the hot shoe contact!!

The 40MZ´s head can tilt up to 90 degrees in three steps. There is no arresting feature, so it cannot easily carry heavy light modifiers when tilted. The head might drop. It also tilts down some seven degrees and swivels 90° to the left (locking also at 45°) and 180° to the right (locking at 45 and 90°). There exists a slip-on diffusor, but I don´t know if it´s only produced off-brand. The lack of a tilt lock yet makes it much faster to swing around when changing camera orientation or light situation.

As mentioned before, the flash power can be reduced to 1/256th in 1/3rd stops, meaning 8 stops of dynamic range in total, 24 power settings (!) with almost instantaneous recycling times from 1/8th down. This makes it the ideal flash for off-camera strobist action. If I recall correctly, there are even 12 stops of range when used on-camera in automatic mode.

Every 40MZ has built-in autofocus support light (classic red on 40MZ-1).

The guide number is 40, BUT THIS IS FROM THE TIME BEFORE CHEATING! If you buy today´s "Speedlights" or "Speedlites", their great guide numbers of 55, 58 or even 60 are measured from the longest zoom position, where the flash power ist extremely concentrated. In early days, guide numbers were always stated at 50mm standard zoom setting. So it is with the 40MZ. At 105mm, the guide number is 50.

This machine can STROBE! You can adjust the number of flashes and the time in which they are to be fired. This gives you stroboscopic effects in a single picture.

This flash comes in three variations, 40MZ-1 to 40MZ-3. Versions 2 and 3 include an additional front-fixed flash (!!) in the foot. The light output is divided 85/15 between main and auxiliary head when activated (at the flick of a switch). Comes in handy when you want to illuminate the room by bouncing high over the ceiling or turn the main reflector into an umbrella with the aux head pointing at the subject. This support flash has slip-on ND plastic reducers hidden under the flash head! They reduce aux light power by 1 or 2 stops respectively.

Check it out... there are two ND plastic light reducers for the supplementary flash head. One is slipped on, the other is still in its place under the flash head (can be seen at the side that is slanted by 45° here). That´s analogue shit at its best!

There is a pull-out and slip-on wide-angle diffusor on some examples which enables light spreading for 20mm focal lengths. The 3 version can also zoom to 105mm instead of V1 and 2´s 85mm maximum.

There is a Ready-Sound (V2 and 3) that signalises acoustically that the flash is ready to go. It can be deactivated. There is also an alarm sound for automatic mode that rings when the flash didn´t get the right amount of light for the exposure.

Here you see the back, power turned off. The buttons are:
- display illumination
- f-stop adjustment (read out automatically for automatic mode with correct SCA adapter)
- remote switch (this flash can be triggered TTL-style with a special command module)
- "P" switch for power setting
- "ISO" adjustment  (read out automatically for automatic mode with correct SCA adapter)
- Ready tone adjustment (V2 and 3 only)
- "Prog" button for stored programs (you can store up to nine programs with every adjustable setting)
- zoom adjustment
- up right: "+" and "-" buttons for adjusting the preselected value
- ready lamp and test firing button
- mode switch A-M-Strobe-TTL and sometimes "EASY MODE" (screw this one)
- o.k. lamp for check of correct exposure in automatic mode
- power switch with energy-save-setting and keylock setting (and both-at-once-setting!)
below: the SCA adapter
- first- or second curtain-setting ("slow flash")
- coarse and fine power setting (+-3 stops and +-1/3stops)
- ATTL on/off (Canon specific!) some feature ETTL/ATTLm but still can´t read E-TTL. The flash doesn´t understand it.
On the left side of the device you can see the switch for the additional flash (on/off).

The display is super comprehensive. It shows everything you need to know. And it´s huge!

Metz flashes come cheap via ebay! Most units have been cared for exceptionally well. They take 4 AA batteries, just like any other flash.

Metz flashes are German-built and really tough. I´ve dropped some of mine a couple times, once from a two-meter high support. I had to push some of the plastic back into the fittings, but it still lives and throws light at things.

The 40MZ doesn´t produce a round light spot. It´s more like a wide oval. But that´s common among zoom head flashes.

The 100-Euro-Calumet plastic light modifier set will fit.
The Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid will fit (and work EXACTLY as promised! Nice!)

If you want to adapt this flash to some Bowens-Softbox-Speedring-Adapter or so, keep in mind that the 40MZ´s build is lower than the regular speedlight thing. You will need a thread adapter or two to raise it a little so it will fit through an adapter ring made for Canon or Nikon flashes. But then, it´s much more suitable for umbrella use. Tilting the head down by some degrees, it hits the exact middle of the umbrella.

SUMMARY: You get a hugely versatile flash head for real cheap. If the SCA adapter fits your camera and model, you get TTL-like features via automatic mode THAT ACTUALLY WORK while you still retain control over the power output. It is a dream to work with off- and on-camera. Since it was developed in a time between traditional flash work-only and super-modern TTL thingies-only, it marks the almost ideal design for both worlds (you do need to be a little quirky to show up with one of these). If you plan to get yourself one, don´t be shy to spend a hundred Euros/130 Dollars. It´s very rewarding to work with.

Don´t buy Chinese. You will lose your sync speed and have to go as slow as 1/160. You will not get a reliable unit that triggers every connected flash every time. Get at least a Hähnel Combi TF! It´s worth the extra money. The Hähnel doesn´t feature traditional PC connectors or -breakouts, but it will also work as a wireless remote camera trigger. It will trigger Nikon receivers from a Canon transmitter and vice versa, although only the hot shoe contact will work, still triggering any flash in the world.


  1. Thank you for that nice and uplifting comment! I Feel great now, whew!! I always hope to help others, especially in the strange field of abandoned equipment like this strobe here... it´s simply a forgotten thing, isn´t it?

  2. Uh ttphone? Naveed shaikh's comment is generic link spam. No connection to your blog post.

    That being said, I do appreciate my Metz 40MZ-3. At the same time, I find myself working not too rarely with a Regula Variant 740-2MFD instead. Much fewer controls and particularly much fewer power settings (5 instead of 24). But the amount of fiddling in the dark is less. For the Metz, I have an SCA3202 adapter (Olympus/Panasonic) that has a "slave" mode. Nice thing is that it is not confused by preflashes or red-eye removal. But it really only triggers from the built-in flash of the camera and ignores other flashes triggered by wireless. Which is of limited usefulness. In master mode, the SCA foot communicates ISO, aperture, zoom level, but no TTL for digital cameras (I think that the somewhat newer 40MZ-3i could work with some digital TTL form but only on Canon, with the 54MZ-4i likely being the only SCA-capable flash more generally useful for digital TTL).

  3. Hey David, thanks for your comment!
    Actually, there´s not too much "fiddling in the dark" with the Metz; actually you get used to counting the rubber buttons with your finger. You only need "light" (1st), "power" (4th) and "zoom" (last) and, of course, plus and minus.

    Forget about any TTL connectivity with those dinosaurs and today´s cameras. Miracle, though, that the Canon "TTL" foot can read aperture from the camera.

    Killer feature of the Metz is that the GN is measured at 50mm zoom, not at 135, 200 or whatever as is practice these days. It´s a true forty.

  4. Yes, guide number inflation is a nuisance. The Regula has its guide number of 40 at 35mm but it has no zoom head. There are various attachments available for both wide and long range but they are not commonly on offer and add considerably to the packing size, so this flash is best if the angle is not an issue, like when going through an umbrella.

    So the Metz is a somewhat better compromise of versatility and size. And on camera, while it does not do TTL for mine and dwarfs the camera, at least it follows the camera settings (ISO, aperture, zoom) as well as possible in automatic mode given the right SCA foot so you can use it in "brainless mode" too with a lot more reach and more natural light than the built-in flash. And its "crouch" places less of a leverage on the hot shoe than an upright flash of similar weight.