There are, and have been, many electronic flash units built for subminiature cameras. But the compatibility is somewhat complex.
Many other subminis were designed and built before electonic flash even existed and cannot be used with any unit. If your submini lacks a PC contact or hot shoe, you are out of luck when it comes to flash photography.
There have been a variety of flash setups on those cameras that use flash photography. Some cameras were designed to use flash bulbs, others electronic flash. There were many kinds of flash bulbs and different types of electronic flash units, just to complicate things. This is where the owner's manual for your camera will be very informative.
Some subminis, like the Agat 18, only have a hot shoe for flash use without a PC connector. With these cameras you'll need a flash with a hot shoe.
Some cameras have a PC connector. Some of these have a hot shoe, some a cold shoe, and some no shoe at all -- some subminis, like the Ricoh Auto Half and Olympus Pen D series, sold an accessory flash shoe that screwed into the tripod socket.
Many submini cameras had flashes that were specially-built, compact units that will only work with a particular camera. For example, Pentax made a couple of flash units for its Pentax 110. But the Pentax 110 can not use a standard flash. Nor can the flash units for the Pentax 110 be used with other cameras.
The older subminis could only use flash bulbs. Depending on how the flash was synchronized with the shutter you may or may not be able to use an electroinc flash with these cameras -- assuming you can cannect an electronic flash. The problem is that flash bulbs have a very long "flash", while electronic flash units have a very short "flash". A camera designed to use bulbs will ignite the bulb BEFORE the shutter actually opens so that the light from the bulb will be at its brightest when the shutter opens. If an electronic flash is used with these units, the "flash" will be over by the time the shutter opens, becasue the duration of the electronic flash is so short. Flash bulbs are still being made, despite many rumors. If you spend a good portion of your life rummaging through discard bins at camera stores for those long-lost bulbs, you are in luck. Cress Photo has assembled a substantial inventory of every type of flash bulb ever produced. The company can supply technical information on usage, and supply customer' requirements worldwide.
Contact Cress Photo at
Wayne, NJ 07474
or phone (973)-694-1280 or use their web site at http://www.flashbulbs.com
Some subminis, like the Minolta MGS could use magi-cubes. Some, like the MGS, needed an adapter to do this. Many 110 cameras had the feature built-in. Other cameras had a shoe for the popular flip-flash. While it is difficult to find magi-cubes or the flip-flash today, there were electronic flash units designed to fit into the magi-cube and flip-flash shoes. For example, the Kodak Ektron II could be used instead of a flip-flash. The Kalimar (K-471, K-412 and K-418) Strobe A Ef units, Tiffen Pocket strobe (234 and 560), Soligor X-110, ITT Magicflash, Hanimex WS, Foto 2001 and Unitron flashes came in models that could fit in the magic-cube or flip-flash sockets. These units were small and weighed about 4 ounces -- perfect for subminis. They took two AA batteries and provided about 100 flashes. Recycling time was 5 to 10 seconds and they could be used up to about 12 feet, depending on the film speed. Hunt around camera shops and shows for these little wonders. You'll be able to get them for next to nothing. Soligor also made a Pocket Flash adapter, so you can add a hot shoe to your 110 and add any flash. But be careful. Even if one of these adapters or flashes fits on your camera it may not work correctly with your shutter. The only way to know for sure is to test it out yourself.
Vivitar, Zykkor and others made very compact standard electronic flashes that are perfect for submini use. Vivitar, in the 1970's and 80's, made models such as the 45, 50 and 55. Zykkor made the 200 Ultra compact, which is about the same size as a Minolta 16 model I or II, folded up. Alfon made the tiny Gk-235, Chinon the Auto 480, Sunpak the Auto 121S, Popular the 16C, Quantary the Q-15, Rokinon the 26A, and Soligor the MK-3AES. All of these units weighed less than 4 ounces. So you have quite a selection to meet your needs. Other, similar models are still sold today by Porter's and other large camera stores. One thing to keep in mind is that the smallest units are not only lower in power, but lacking in features. For example, the Vivitar 50 has a guide number of 44 (ISO 100 in feet). In other words at f4.0 your subject better not be more than 11 feet from the camera. In addition, it is completely manual and will operate only on a hot shoe. In short, it's small, but it's low on power, and may not work on your submini. So decide what features you'll need (or want) and accept the increase in size. There's no free lunch.
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