Today we are going to be going over our ultimate Photoolex M500 review that we have decided after seeing a handful of people reaching out for advice on the m500 as well as what we feel is the best dirt cheap flash unit on the market. Covering the m500 allows us to answer both questions in one article while also providing us with something to link our readers to in the future when we see people looking for a dirt cheap flash unit.
Now, you have to keep in mind that this really is an entry level, no frills flash unit that has had a bunch of stuff cut out of it to keep its price tag as low as possible. On the flipside of this though, it does offer photographers and videographers a decent little flash unit considering its price tag that people can pick up without having to spend much money at all.
In addition to this, the Photoolex M500 has managed to establish itself as the best flash unit on the market at the sub $40 price point while also managed to earn and maintain an excellent reputation for itself. This is an excellent feat in our opinion as Photoolex is a relatively unknown brand in North America and Europe and the community seem to have initially had very low expectations for the flash that it was thankfully able to smash through and change peoples opinions of it quickly.
User Interface And Control System
As you would expect, Photoolex has had to cut back on a number of things on the M500 flash to keep its price tag as low as it is. The interface and control system is one of these areas and although the control system does have that cheap feel to it and the navigation menu is a little clunky, it does get the job done and gets the job done well.
Another hidden benefit of having such a basic control system, especially if this is your first ever flash unit, is that it is essentially a barebones system. Everything available on the menu is there for a reason that has a high chance of actually being needed by the user. This has resulted in a very easy to learn navigation menu that lets you rifle through the options very quickly to tweak the performance of the M500 as required without wasting any of your time.
Although the buttons have been made from a cheaper plastic than some of the other entry-level competing flash units, they are still very responsive in all fairness to them. In addition to this, if you are out and about in cold or wet conditions the buttons will still register any presses from your cold or wet fingertips without issue.
One thing that we feel that Photoolex has definatley done right on the M500 is to use a metal hot shoe mount for the mounting and unmounting of the flash from your camera. At this low price point in the market, there are a number of brands that have started to use plastic-based hot shoe mounts in an attempt to keep costs as low as possible.
These plastic based mounts are a total nightmare as they warp in shape easily and can end up jammed on your camera body and become a total nightmare to remove. Thankfully, Photoolex seem to have been fully aware of this and refused to use a cheap plastic mount on their M500 and stuck with a metal mount. This ensures that it will hold its shape and allow you to quickly and easily mount or unmount the flash as required from your camera without having to worry about it getting jammed in place.
Performance And Functionality
Another thing that Photoolex seem to have refused to sacrifice quality on in favor of keeping costs low is the performance that the M500 is able to provide its users. Being a sub $40 flash unit, the majority of the community will naturally expect a reduce amount of functionality but Photoolex has managed to load the M500 up with a ton of tech that allow it to compete with some flash units at higher price points in the market. We feel that this is why the flash has managed to quickly earn a great reputation for itself and smash all expectations that people initially had for the flash.
The flash unit supports a guide number of 35 (ISO 100/1m) while also fully supporting manual mode as well as slave one and slave two wireless trigger modes. The wireless functionality on the M500 is solid and that alone is a feature that sets it apart from most of the other sub $40 flash units on the market at the time of writing.
As you would expect from a flash unit this cheap, the recycle time is pre-set to 2.8 seconds but we feel that this should be able to meet the needs of almost everyone picking a flash unit up at this price point in the market. Keeping a pre-set recycle time on the M500 rather than providing a variable recycle time is an easy way to keep costs down as not only does it remove the need for the variable recycle time technology but also the heat dissipation tech that is needed at the super fast recycle times to prevent overheating.
The M500 also comes with its own power saving automatic shutdown function to help prolong your battery life too. Unlike the older generations of the super cheap flash units who power saving modes would randomly kick in and turn the flash units off even during use, the more modern technology like the one in the M500 is actually pretty decent. Not only does it do a good job of preserving your battery life but it also does a better job of working out when the flash is actually not being used rather than just powering down randomly.
Speaking of battery life, the number of flash activations per set of fully charged batteries seems to range from around 150 up to around 200. Keep in mind that this is going to depend on the quality of the batteries you use as well as the settings of the camera. For the best results, we would always recommend that you pick up a decent set of rechargeable batteries (Click here to check for product prices and availability).
If you are involved in any type of videography work or you plan to get involved in vlogging then the Photoolex M500 also has a torch feature as shown in the image above. This can do a great job of providing a constant light source for your subject while capturing video footage. The torch beam is decent to around half a meter but keep in mind that it will drain your battery life quickly so only use it when needed.
As we touched on earlier the Photoolex M500 does support wireless connectivity, unlike many other entry level camera flashes. Although it is listed as being compatible with a number of different 2.4G Wireless Flash Triggers we would recommend that you use the Photoolex WFC-05 1/8000s 2.4G Wireless Flash Trigger (Click here to check for product prices and availability) with it as both products have been specifically designed to work together.
We would just like to end the functionality section of our review by quickly going over the officially supported camera bodies for this speedlite flash. That said, we have seen a number of reports from Sony, Fuji, and Panasonic users confirming they have been able to use the Photoolex M500 without issue. Anyway, the official supported camera bodies are:-
CANON – EOS 70D, 60D, SL1, Rebel T6i, T6s, T5i, T4i, T3i, T2i, T1i, T5, T3, XT, XSi, XSi
NIKON – P6000 P7000 P7100 P7700 P7800 COOLPIX A D40 D50 D60 D70 D80 D90 D3000 D3100 D3200 D3300 D5000 D5100 D5200 D5300 D7000 D7100 D200 D300 D600 D610 D700 D750 D800
The main way that Photoolex have managed to reduce their costs and ensure the M500 provides such a good level of performance is by cutting costs in the build quality and design of the unit. The plastic used in the body is decent quality but does have a slightly cheap feel to it and it does not feel very robust either. Even flash units doubt the price of the M500 coming in at the $80-$100 range seem much more robust than the M500.
That said though, with proper care during use we feel the flash unit will be able to take its share of knocks without breaking and end up lasting you a decent amount of time. In addition to this, the plastic is also pretty light weight in all fairness to it making it easier to keep mounted on your camera body of choice during use without your arms starting to ache.
Without a doubt, the main downside of the M500 is the battery housing shown in the image above. As you can see, Photoolex have gone with the 2 x 2 set up rather than the 1 x 4 set up. Due to the batteries being housed in a much closer vicinity to each other, heat transference when used over an extended period of time can become an issue.
A 2 x 2 battery set up is a nightmare to allow heat to dissipate compared to a 1 x 4 setup but if you are on a tight budget there is a simple workaround. Simply carry at least two sets of batteries with you and swap them out every fifteen to thirty minutes giving them a chance to cool down. This is an easy way to let the heat dissipate from the batteries and prevent it from building up in the flash housing.
That said, the M500 does come with an external power entry as shown in the image above. If you are looking to pick up a super cheap flash unit like the M500 though, chances are the method of swapping your batteries out at regular intervals will be a better option to minimize overheating as spending the additional money to get an external power pack for the M500 would put you in range of just buying the Neewer NW620 flash (Click here to check for product prices and availability) anyway and would be a better overall option.
As we mentioned earlier, the M500 comes with a metal hot shoe mount as shown in the image above. Our regular readers will know that we always recommend that our readers pickup camera accessories with a metal hot shoe mount over a plastic one as it will definatley help save you bother later down the line.
Question – Does the warranty cover overheating issues on the M500?
Answer – Yes, the warranty covers any problems due to overheating and you can get additional information by contacting Photoolexs support via e-mail [email protected].
Question – Can the Photoolex M500 be used as an off-camera flash unit and controlled wirelessly.
Answer – Yes, the M500 is commonly used as an off-camera flash and triggered via a wireless flash trigger.
Question – Is there a smartphone app available to remotely trigger the Photoolex M500?
Answer – No, at the time of writing, Photoolex does not have a smartphone app available.
That brings our Photoolex M500 review to an end and provided you have realistic expectations of performance for a flash unit in the sub $40 bracket we think that the M500 can make a great little camera flash. It has such a solid reputation within the community due to its performance and functionality setting it apart from the competing flash units at this price and at the time of writing, it has no real competition.
If you are brand new and just picking up your initial kit then the M500 can help improve your flash photography image quality and make a great addition to your camera accessories without you having to spend too much money.
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