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Flash for food photography – review of Nissin Flash i60A and commander Air 1

Food photography with flash
Food photography with Nissin Flash i60A

Light is everything for a photographer, even in food photography! There is nothing worse than having distracting and hard shadows in a food picture nor one that have not enough light on the subject. Natural sunlight is indeed pure and appealing and if you manage to do your food photography while the sun is shining and there are no clouds, then go ahead! That’s what I’ve been doing until now, but frankly, it’s not easy to manage food photography depending on the hours of the sun. It’s both challenging and demanding. This has lead me into the quest for artificial light! I never thought I would use it and just seeing the set-up made me run away. However, Nissin has made it easy! I’ve been lucky to get to try not only one but two Speedlights from this Japanese brand and also an Air commander. The perfect flash-kit for food photography? You will know in this review! 

Nissin Flash i60A
Nissin Flash i60A

Nissin Flash i60A and Commander Air 1

I’ve always thought learning how to manage flashes would be a nightmare. But what do you not do for beautiful food photos?

After reading various reviews and tests on the web I stumbled over Nissin, a Japanese brand I had never heard of before but that caught my attention. Nissin is in fact a Japanese leading manufacturer of flash units and was founded already back in 1969. Their 60 years of experience in this market let me gain trust in their brand and products. For this review I got to try two different products, two flashes and one commander. Powerful AND compact, Nissin Flash i60A was made for mirrorless camera users who need powerful flashes but compact sizes in order to adapt to the lightweight of mirrorless cameras. Thanks to the Nissin Commander Air 1 you can control 3 groups of Nissin flashes, it comes with an LCD panel that is very inutiative to use.

The flashes are equipped with a Quick Release and a flash stand is included in the package. However you can easily attach them onto your tripod as well if you need your flash to be on a higher level. When I do food photography I usually don’t use the flash mounted on the camera however I tried it on as you can see in the photo below just to have a feeling how it felt having it attached. As the flash is compact and lightweight you can easily do your shooting attached to the camera if you prefer using front light. In this review I have used the flash as off-camera flashes. There is a softbox included in the package and also an integrated diffuser and reflector card on each flash.

Nissin Flash i60A on Nikon z6
Nissin Flash i60A on Nikon z6

Let’s have a look on the technical side of the Nissin Flash i60A and the Nissin Commander Air 1.

Nissin Flash i60A
Nissin Flash i60A

Nissin i60A

Technical specifications

TypeCompatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Four Thirds and Fujifilm Systems
Guide no. (at ISO 100)GN60 (at 200mm zoom head position)
Focal length coverage24-200mm (16mm when using built-in diffuser)
Power source4 AA-size batteries
Recycling time 0.1-5.5 seconds
Number of flashes (approx.)220-1500 flashes
LED video light operation time3.5 hours
Flash duration1/800- 1/20,000 second
Color temperature5,600K
Operation panelColor LCD with dial control
ModeAuto, Manual, SD, SF, Wireless with A, B, C & channel selection (2.4Ghz Nissin Air system & optical) (*4)
Dimensions112(H) x 73(W) x 98(D)mm/ 4.4(H) x 2.9(W) x 3.6(D) inches
Weight300g
Nissin Commander Air 1
Nissin Commander Air 1

Nissin Commander Air 1

TypeFor Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, (Micro) Four Thirds system
Wireless systemRadio category
Channel8 channels (channel setting in Air 1)
Flash GroupsA, B, C (3 Groups) (Group control and a specific group can stop transmitting)
Power Source2 x AAA batteries
Function modeTTL, Manual and Manual zoom
Continuous shooting speed10 shots/sec
Number of flashes per chargeApprox. 3,000 flashes
Transmission distantMax. 30m (Depending on the enviroment)
Manual zoomManual adjustment (24/ 35/ 50/ 70/ 85/ 105/ 135/ 200 mm)
Operation panelLED color panel and select dial
High-speed synchronization1/8,000 sec
Dimensions65(L) x 60 (W) x 50 (H)mm/ 2.6(L) x 2.4(W) x 2 (H) inch
Weight55g / 1.9oz (without batteries)
Nissin Flash i60A on Nikon z6
Nissin Flash i60A on Nikon z6

Pairing the Flash i60A with the commander Air 1

There is a manual, but you will barely need it. That is how simple the Nissin Flash i60A is to pair with the Nissin Commander Air 1.

  1. Attach the commander Air 1 on to your cameras hotshoe
  2. Turn on the flash i60A by pressing on the power button and the control wheel button simultaneously for about 3 seconds until you hear it beeping.
  3. Turn on the commander Air 1 by pressing on the power button and the S-button simultaneously for 3 seconds and you will hear that the flash will stop beeping when they have been paired.
  4. You are good to go!

Nissin Flash equipped with fill-in reflector, soft box and light diffusing panel

Nissin Flash i60A

The Nissin Flash i60A has an integrated fill-in reflector and a light diffusing panel and moreover it has a soft box you can attach to it as well. The fill-in reflector is useful if the subject is very close, then you simply drag out the fill-in reflector and turn the flash 90 degrees upwards. The light diffusing panel makes the lighter softer and is perfect for portrait photography. The soft box that you can attach to the flash head also softens the light and also reduces the hard shadows. To illustrate the functions of these extra accessories that are included with the Nissin Flash i60A I have taken some photos so you can see the differences.

Nissin Flash i60A

The photos above where taken :

  1. without flash
  2. with flash
  3. with light diffusing panel
  4. with a soft box
  5. with a light diffusing panel + soft box
  6. with a fill-in reflector

Benefits of using two flashes with food photography

How many flashes would you need for food photography? Everything depends on your personal taste and what can of the scene you wish to create. Personally, I prefer working with up to two flashes. One flash to use as backlight and the second to use as a sidelight. I think that’s one of the most flattering light you could add to the photo. But it all depends on the scene and mood you want to create. Sometimes I only use one flash. As you can see I have been experimenting using two flashes to photograph the cheesecakes you can see below. Just to give you an idea of the different scenarios.

In the set-up, I diffused both light sources with white sheets as I wanted the light to be distributed evenly on the subject. I also used a white foam board as a reflector to bounce back the sidelight.

Diffuser – purpose is to obtain a more flattering and soft light and to avoid hard shadows

Reflector – purpose is to bounce back the light, it fills up the shadow and also adds more light to the subject

Using flash without a diffuser can result in very harsh shadows as you can see in the photo above

In the photos below you’ll see the difference between using two flashes vs one flash and how adding a reflector can help filling the shadow. The two photos below shows a photo with two sidelights, one on left and one on right side. If you slide the slider you will see the result when using only one sidelight and the shadow that it leaves. The following photo shows how a foamboard can be used as a reflector to fill the shadow.

Thanks to a reflector, in this case I used a white foam board, you can fill in the hard shadow and bounce back the light on the subject. As you can see in the photo below the raspberries to the left are more defined and has more light and the hard shadow on the table has decreased in size and strength.

Set-up of the lights

2 flashes:

1 flash and reflector:

Below is another example of using two flashes. The set up is the following, one backlight and one sidelight in the right, diffusers in front of both lights and a reflector on the left side.

Below you’ll see the setup for the photos above with one backlight and one sidelight and a reflector:

Food photography with one flash

As mentioned above, two flashes can be very useful in food photography. But you could even use only one and thanks to reflectors create a beautiful light in the scene. To illustrate this, you will find a photo below where I aimed for a less lit up ambience in my photo, using only one flash, diffuser and a reflector.

The set-up for the photo with the fig: I put one side light in the right and one foam board on the left side to bounce back the light on the fig:

Conclusion

From have beeing a person who preferred the natural sunlight when doing food photography, I must admit that I rather choose the freedom of working any time of the day thanks to artificial light sources. Working in a small studio and also the fact that I wish to travel light when going to restaurants etc for photography assignments I have to say that the Nissin i60A flashes have fulfilled all my requirements. They are powerful and compact, the radio transmission is very reliable and the flashes are extremely easy to work with and thanks to them I have been able to produce photos with excellent results.

Before trying these flashes, the flash universe was a complete jungle for me. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on light equipment, but I didn’t want to compromise on the quality either. Nissin products has high quality and prices are mid-range. I can truly recommend these flashes and the commander, they are definitely an investment whether if you are new to food photography or want to upgrade your equipment.  

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    error: © Solli KANANI This photo is copyrighted by Solli KANANI. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.