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After yesterday's experimentation with my old "computer" flash unit, someone on the dpreviews forums suggested that maybe I was getting bad exposures because the flash was a bit too slow for the D7100's 1/250 sync speed. So I set up a little still life to take some more test shots.
The sync speed wasn't the problem. But I did get very consistent results now. I think I need to shoot under some more varied circumstances to really get a handle on the flash unit's idiosyncrasies. But with the aperture opened up an extra stop the results weren't bad at all. These shots are straight out of the camera, save for resizing/cropping. (I had to apply auto levels on yesterday's test shots).
Click on the different links to see the same scene with the flash pointed directly at it, or titled up 30, 60 or 90 degrees. Straight on provides strong illumination, but it kills all the textures. Also, the beige-ish background is completely washed out. When tilted up, the light basically overshoots the scene, so it's not illuminated very well.
At 60°, all the light bounces off of the ceiling right above the subject, so it's illuminated from above. Last but not least, by aiming the flash straight up (90°), the light is quite diffuse and comes from both above and from the front, which is what I prefer here.