Ulanzi enters the flash market with a $30 speedlight
Ulanzi has decided to step into the camera flash market with the Ulanzi F12 Mini Camera Flash Speedlite (buy here). The universal flash works with Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Olympus or anything else that has a standard hotshoe.
As a manual flash, there are not TTL or High Speed Sync capabilities. But could you really expect those in a $30 flash? It does have some modern tech, though, such as a built-in lithium-ion battery with USB-C charging.
Ulanzi F12 – Pocket-sized speedlight
The Ulanzi F12 is about as compact as it gets. As you can see from the photo above, it’s small enough to slip into a shirt pocket. Being small, it has a rather modest guide number of 12, although Ulanzi doesn’t seem to have stated the ISO and aperture this was measured at. I’m assuming it’s also measured in feet, not metres.
As an inexpensive flash, it lacks many features people want these days, such as TTL metering and High Speed Sync. It should sync all the way up to 1/250th, or whatever the maximum speed is for your camera.
About as basic as it gets
It has a basic set of controls on the back. You’ve got a physical on/off switch, as well as a “mode” button and +/- buttons to adjust your power. A pilot light tells you when your recycle time has completed, and it’s back up to full charge.
Speaking of recycle time, Ulanzi says it’s between 1-7 seconds depending on your power level. At full power, that’s a pretty lengthy recycle time. You’re not going to be using this for fast action. That being said, with its low power output, even if the recycle were instant, you probably wouldn’t use it for fast action anyway.
Built-in 1,200mAh battery
The Ulanzi F12’s built-in 1,200mAh 3.7v (4.44Wh) lithium-ion battery. Ulanzi says it takes around two and a half hours to fully charge, but doesn’t say how long it will last.
For comparison, the Godox V860 III (buy here) comes with a 3,00mAh 7.4v battery (21.6Wh) and offers 480 full power flashes on a full charge. The V860 III has a guide number of 196.9ft at ISO 100 and f/2.8 (zoomed to the 200mm position).
Now, Godox is definitely maximising the guide number here to make it sound better than it really is (and it’s actually pretty good), but I’d guess that the Ulanzi doesn’t manage to hit that many flashes on a full charge, despite the big power discrepancy.
Power is in % not stops
This one’s an interesting decision. Instead of measuring power output in stops, it measures it as a percentage. At full power, it’s 100%. To drop it down one stop, you’re manually dropping it down to 50%. Another stop, you’re dropping it to 25%.
I don’t know if the display supports decimals, but 1/8th power would be 12.5%. 1/16th would be 6.25%, 1/32 would be 3.125%. If you want 1/3rd or 1/2 stop increments, you’ll have to figure out the percentages yourself.
I wouldn’t want to have to mash the down button a bunch of times to go from full power to half power, but maybe that’s just me. It’s an interesting design decision that could probably be solved in firmware quite easily. So, maybe this might change in the future.
But, again, for a $30 flash, I think we can forgive a little weirdness. I expect this may be quite popular amongst beginners due to the price, but I’d probably still suggest saving a little more and getting the Godox TT600 (buy here) unless you really need something as small as the Ulanzi F12.
Price and Availability
The Ulanzi F12 speedlight is available to buy now from the Ulanzi website for $29.95. It’s not popped up at B&H or Amazon yet, but I expect we probably won’t have too long to wait.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.