Flash units provide photographers with improved lighting and well-balanced exposures. Olympus' popular flash systems the FL-36 and FL-36R are both hot-shoe flashes for use with Olympus film and digital SLRs. There is only one key feature separating the two, and it makes the FL-36R the more professional model aimed at studio photographers.
Both flash units attach to the camera via the hot shoe adaptor on the bottom of the flash. Through the lens (TTL) metering is featured on both, which provides accurate light metering and greatly improves the behaviour of the flash compared to non-TTL flash units. As both the FL-36 and FL-36R have rotating, swivelling heads, they are both able to bounce the flash in another direction for diffused, less harsh lighting. There are also "wide cards" attached to the top of each flash in order to increase the spread of the flash when using a wide-angle lens.
The FL-36R has one main feature not present on the FL-36: wireless operation. Using a compatible Olympus digital SLR, wireless operation is available within three groups of flash units. This gives the photographer complete control over multiple flash units, without the need for purchasing extra equipment such as a commander unit. There are four wireless channels to choose from in case of interference. The FL-36R is 260g (9.1 oz), slightly lighter than the FL-36, which is 270g (9.5 oz). The former is also slightly shorter, but deeper in dimensions.
The wireless operation provided by the FL-36R is suitable mainly for professionals, though amateur enthusiasts will find the feature just as useful for remote lighting situations. The ability to command multiple units gives studio photographers the ability to soften shadows with a secondary, softer flash to provide bright and pristine exposures. There are two cameras compatible with this wireless connectivity: the Olympus E-3 and E-420.
As of May 2010, the FL-36R is cheaper than its older counterpart on the internet at £130. On the same retailer's website, the FL-36 is listed for £155. High street retailers may follow a different price plan altogether, so it is important to search for the best deal. As the flash units are virtually identical apart from the wireless capabilities, at current prices the newer model provides better value for the money and more features.
The FL-36R flash unit comes with a flash stand, which allows the photographer to position the flash in an upright position for wireless operation. As wireless is not a feature on the FL-36, this is not included. Both units also include a soft carry case. Olympus have also produced the FLRA-1, a reflector adaptor which attaches to the end of the flash and bounces light both upwards and downwards eliminating shadows. Olympus claim the adaptor "allows photographers to take advantage of bounce lighting more often and in a wide range of situations."