Until we get the ability to accurately control devices with the power of our brains, it seems like the touchscreen display will be the interface of choice for gadget-makers. Touchscreens continue to be added to devices which have previously made do with humble physical buttons, like the external flash, which recently joined the touchscreen fold with the launch of the Metz 52 AF-1.
The standout feature of the Metz mecablitz 52 AF-1 is unquestionably the square touchscreen display on the rear which allows users to control settings in a manner more like that which they've become accustomed to in the age of smartphones and tablets. A grid layout menu makes it easy to switch modes or change settings, and the screen is illuminated for use in darker situations.
While the touchscreen is no high-resolution color display, it does have a couple of nice features, like rotating menus 90° when attached to a camera held in portrait orientation – meaning they are still easy to read. However, whether photographers will find this easier than physical buttons (which can be felt without having to move your head away from the viewfinder) is yet to be seen.
In terms of the more traditional external flash features, the Metz 52 AF-1 boasts a bounce/swivel head which can move 90° upwards and swivel 300°, it also has a flip-out reflector card and a diffuser. A USB interface also means that firmware updates can be downloaded from the internet and installed on the flash.
Flash output has a guide number of 52 meters (170 ft) at ISO 100 and with the zoom head at the 105mm position. The Metz 52 AF-1 is also said to be good for 240 full flashes (with 4 x AA NiMH rechargeable batteries) and have a flash delay of 0.1 – 3.5 seconds. Manual flash mode offers 22 partial lighting levels while there's also modeling light for checking shadows.
As is typical with Metz, there are various versions which support the flash lighting technology from different camera manufacturers, and the 52 AF-1 digital offers E-TTL and E-TTL II flash mode for Canon, i-TTL/i-TTL-BL flash mode for Nikon, P-TTL for Pentax, four thirds TTL mode for Olympus/Panasonic/Leica and ADI flash mode for Sony.
Pricing and availability has not yet been announced.