Taking photos of my brother’s wedding for one morning, I did not feel tired in our hand after holding the total equipments (total weight about 1 kg)for some time. My equipments and settings are as follows:
Camera: Leica M9
Lens: Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 with hood
Camera exposure mode: Aperture priority
Flash: SF 24D with wide-angle diffuser
Flash Mode: TTL/GNC
Aperture normally used: f4.0-8.0
According to the instruction booklet the guide number of the SF 24D at ISO 100 (in m/ft) is 20/65, with wide-angle diffuser 14/46, with telephoto diffuser 24/78. Since the normal ISO of M9 is 160, you probably need to decrease the light if used in manual. Many thanks to this online flash guide, it mentions that doubling the ISO setting, say from 100 to 200 increases the guide number by a factor of 1.4x and by quadrupling the ISO, such as from 100 to 400, doubles the guide number. The guide number thus makes sense in calculating the distance from the flash to the subject as the Leica SF 24D has no bounce feature. The guide number of this flash is small but it is sufficient to take photos in a small party at a close range. On page 58 of the instruction booklet, it says the maximum distance can be obtained at ISO 800 with aperture set at f2.8. Do read this page when you want to get the best exposure. You still need to understand how to set the aperture right.
Setting the flash mode to TTL/GNC and manually selecting the aperture, I let the camera take control of the exposure when I focused on the composition. Most of the photos were correctly exposed. In this respect I would say the sensor at the front of the flash worked excellently most of the time. The wide-angle diffuser also worked exactly as it claims. Of course you cannot deny the fact that there were dark corners because of the light coverage. I have tried other times using the smallest aperture f22 and got insufficient exposure because it can only light up a distance of 1.7m at ISO400.
Many people have denounced this flash because its battery is not available easily everywhere such as supermarkets. But I have bought many spare batteries for just direct cheap HK$12 (AU$1.5) each in Ap Lei Street, Hong Kong.These lithium batteries typed CR123A (Panasonic brand) are actually quite long lasting. The recycling time is approximately 1-5 seconds. I did not find I had to wait for too long between intervals.
To me, there are not many alternatives. The Leica SF 58 flash unit is double the price of the SF 24D and is bigger. Of course you expect more automatic control and bigger guide number. Metz has offered a solution of their mecablitz 45 CL-4 digital Kit or mecablitz 76 MZ-5 digital. But I know its exposure is manual rather than automatic. There is no third party flashgun mounted directly on the hot shoe of the M9.
I apologise for not posting any of the shots here prior to obtaining any permission from the newly weds. But I admit that the Leica SF 24D is a great companion in many occasions such as a small party or travel.