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Do All Flashes Work On Any Camera?

While it can be tempting to make a blanket statement and say that all cameras work on every flash, it’s not completely accurate.

Here’s a quick summary of the post:

There are some features that you can use and some that you can’t so overall, camera flashes are not universal.

So all flashes are not compatible with all cameras.

To know whether there is full compatibility (including automatic flash features), you need to check the pin layout and the product specifications of the flash unit.

But most of the time you’ll be able to use flash units interchangeably for manual flash features (the camera can tell the flash to fire but you need to manually do all the flash settings) – there are some exceptions to this though.

You’ll need to know whether there is a hot shoe mount and what type of hot shoe mount it is.

In this article, when we mention flashes we are talking about speedlights/speedlites like the following: 

Do All Flashes FIT All Cameras? 

Whether you are using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera the first thing to consider when using an off-camera flash is whether they physically fit on the camera itself.

The main thing for this is to know whether the camera has a hot shoe as this is how they mount and connect to cameras (this relates to any transmitters that you use with the flashes too). 

The hot-shoe is a metal mount with pins. It’s usually on the top of the camera body and it’s normally centered.

Luckily, nearly all modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a hot shoe mount which is universal so they slot into flashes quite easily.

Keep in mind I said ‘nearly all‘ as there are some exceptions.

The main exception to this is some Sony branded products since they’ve had some non-universal hot shoe mounts which can be a little bit awkward.

Do All Cameras WORK With All Hot Shoe Flashes? 

So now you know that most will fit on your camera if it has a hot shoe, but will it work effectively? 

Manual flash

When it comes to manual flash then you shouldn’t have a problem as the camera will communicate through the hot shoe with the flash to fire when the camera fires. 

For a lot of people, this is enough as they may prefer to manually set all of their flash settings anyways. 

So in this case you can use a Nikon flash with a Canon camera and not have any issues or vice versa.

You could also use popular third-party flashes such as those made by Yongnuo and Godox with your camera and use it perfectly fine. 

The exception is some Sony cameras that have a different hot shoe mount to most other cameras (Sony wanted to be awkward for some reason.)

So you can use most flashes with manual features on most cameras, but what automatic features are you missing?…

Automatic Features

While you will be able to trigger the flash whenever you take an exposure, you may be losing out on some features. 

TTL stands for ‘through the lens’ and it is likely you won’t be able to access these features if you are using a non-proprietary flash.

Although it could be a third-party flash which is specifically designed for that body in which case you should be fine.

For example, a Nikon flash on a Canon body would let you shoot with manual flash, but probably won’t allow you to use TTL features. 

On the other hand, a Yongnuo flash specifically made for Canon bodies should let you use TTL features on Canon DSLRs as Yongnuo makes specific off-camera flashes for different brands.

But that same Yongnuo flash for the Canon body may only have manual capabilities on a Nikon body.

Here are the features that you could potentially be missing out on:

  • High-speed sync (FP)
  • Flash exposure compensation
  • Commanding the flash settings through the camera menu
  • Flash exposure compensation
  • Wake up from sleep/standby
  • 2nd curtain flash
  • Auto-zooming the flash to match the focal length of the lens

As you can see there are quite a few things that can be lost by using a flash which isn’t designed for a certain camera.

Is My Flash Compatible With My Camera?

To know if a flash is compatible with your camera there are some key things to consider:

  • Number of pins
  • Pin layout
  • Product specification

If the number of pins and pin layout are the same you almost definitely can use the flash with your camera with manual features.

If the product specifications also say you can use additional automatic features (because the flash is designed for this), then you will also be able to access automatic flash features for your camera.

Number of Pins

The number of pins is one of the most important things. The number of pins on the flash should correspond to the number of contact points on the hot shoe of the camera.

Pin Layout

As well as the number of pins, you need to make sure that the pin layout corresponds to where the contacts are on the hot shoe of the camera.

Otherwise, the camera won’t be able to communicate with the flash properly.

Product Specification

Even if the flash is a third-party flash, third-party brands reverse engineer products from brands like Canon so that they can make flash units that can utilise all the features you would want.

For example, Yongnuo makes flashes designed for Canon DSLRs that can use automatic flash features as well as just the manual ‘flash firing’ feature.

Read the product spec of the third-party flash to see what camera brand it has been designed for and to see a full feature list of what it can do.

Can I Use Third Party Flash like Yongnuo/Godox Flash On Any Brand? E.g Canon, Nikon, Pentax.

While most cameras will have the same hot shoe fitting you may have some issues.

The main camera brand you may have issues with is Sony since they created hot shoes that did not follow the universal ISO hot shoe design that everybody else used. 

So if you want to use a Yongnuo or Godox (or any other third-party brand) you can comfortably use it with manual features on popular camera brands like Canon, Nikon and Pentax.

It’s mainly if you want to use automatic features that you need to look into product specifications and the pin layout in more detail.

Can I Use Canon Flashes On Nikon Cameras?

Just like third-party brands, you can comfortably use Canon flashes on other branded cameras like Nikon, Pentax or Fuji with manual features.

This works any way you arrange the flash/ camera brand. The main thing to check is that the hot shoe fitting is the same.

So you can use Canon flashes on Nikon cameras with manual flash settings.

You will not be able to use any of the ‘automatic’ flash features I mentioned earlier in this post (e.g. e-ttl, high-speed sync (FP), 2nd curtain flash etc.).

Can I Use Nikon Flashes On Canon Cameras?

Yes, Nikon flashes will work on Canon cameras but only with manual flash features.

So basically, all the camera can do is tell the flash to fire. You won’t be able to use ‘automatic’ flash features as I mentioned above.

This means you’ll have to manually dial in your flash settings like the flash power and flash zoom.

Are Third-Party Flashes Any Good? 

Some people will be purists and only ever use branded flashes that are the same brand as their cameras.

But this can be more expensive than using third-party brands, especially if you are just doing photography for fun.

In some cases, speedlights from third-party brands can end up being much cheaper than their Canon or Nikon counterparts.

While there may be some quality differences, a lot of people swear by these third-party branded flashes.

Even if there are some slight quality differences, for the price difference you can easily have a few spares or buy replacements and still have spent less money than if you bought a Canon or Nikon branded flash.

For the average user and even for pros, Yongnuo flashes are a great cost-effective solution to off-camera flash.

Of course, if you have the budget and like to rely on the main camera brands for peace of mind then go for it. 

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