Olympus FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Commander
Macro,  Photo Gear

Testing the Olympus FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Wireless Commander for Winter Macro Photography

Testing the Olympus FL-700WR Flash and Olympus FC-WR Wireless Commander for Winter Macro Photography

Using off camera flash can really help in lighting your outdoor macro photography subjects.  This is especially important in the winter when the skies can be cloudy and gray and there is less ambient light.

Off Camera Flash really Lit Up the Plant on a Cloudy Day
Off Camera Flash really Lit Up the Plant on a Cloudy Day

Olympus has introduced the FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Wireless commander.  The FL-700WR is the only Olympus flash that is currently capable of radio transmissions instead of line of sight infrared communications. The FL-700WR (in wireless radio mode) needs to be triggered by another FL-700WR or the FC-WR Commander.  Olympus also sells a Wireless Flash Receiver to convert other flash units to communicate via radio transmissions.

Using Wireless Radiowave Communication allows you to position the flash in any location for lighting your macro photography subject without having to be in the line of sight with the transmitter. Sunlight can also infrared signal but does not affect Radiowave communications.

Topaz Labs

Both the Olympus FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Commander are dust, splash, and freezeproof allowing you to shoot in the rain or snow.  This is a perfect complement to the weatherproof OM-D bodies and lenses.

The FC-WR Commander (or FL-700WR) can control an unlimited number of flash units in 3 different groups.  But we won’t be needing that for our winter macro photo walk.

Tree Bark, Light to Dark. Flash placed on the Left of the Subject
Tree Bark, Light to Dark. Flash placed on the Left of the Subject

Results

I’ve been using the FL-700WR flash and FC-WR Commander for about 6 months now and I decided to put it to the test for macro photography in winter conditions.  I went on a couple macro photography walks (about 7 hours total) to test the flash and commander.  The temperature was in the upper 20 / low 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a light snow fall.

Overall, I was happy with the results using the FL-700WR flash and FC-WR Commander on my winter macro photography walks.

I was able to take most of the shots handheld with the images turning out sharp as long as I kept the shutter speed at 1/60 of a second or higher.  Keep in mind that you will be shooting with one hand since you will be holding the flash and the diffuser in the other hand.

The ability to position the flash in different positions is important in correctly lighting the subject and I like not having to worry about line of site communications.

Snow Covered Beech Leaf
Snow Covered Beech Leaf

What I Like

  • Using the FC-WR Commander on top of my Olympus E-M1 Mark III camera made it convenient and quick to change the flash power for the FL-700WR flash.  I found that I was changing the flash power frequently as the lighting conditions varied for each macro subject.
  • Both the FL-700WR Flash and the FC-WR Commander are weatherproof which makes them perfect for shooting macro photography in the cold, snowy weather.
  • With the radio communications, you don’t have to worry about line of sight when placing the flash in position for lighting your subject.
  • Battery life – my longest macro photography hike was about 5 hours and the batteries in both the flash and commander still had power.
  • Weight – both the FL-700WR (10.69 oz / 303 g) and the FC-WR Commander (2.6 oz / 73 g) are fairly lightweight. I hiked 4.5 miles on one hike and over 2 miles on a second hike and didn’t have a problem with the gear.  Both of the above weights do not include the batteries.

What I Don’t Like

  • The dial on the commander is rather small and was difficult to change settings with gloves on in the cold.  I had to take my gloves off a few times to change the flash power.
  • There is no battery level gauge on the FL-700WR Flash.  The only battery indicator on the FL-700WR is when the LED flashes when it is just about out of power and time to change the batteries.
  • On several occasions, I kept the FL-700WR Flash in my jacket pocket while hiking.  When I took the flash out of my pocket to photograph a macro subject, it didn’t fire.  I had to turn the flash off then on again and it fired correctly.

How to Set up the FL-700WR and FC-WR

The Olympus FL-700WR uses 4 AA Batteries and the FC-WR Commander uses 2 AAA batteries.  I use Alkaline Rechargeable batteries and recharge them after every photography session. 

I also use a 9 x 7” softbox over the FL-700WR Flash to diffuse the light.

FL-700WR Flash Set Up
FL-700WR Flash Set Up

FL-700WR Flash Set Up

To communicate in Radiowave mode and for the FC-WR Commander to control the flash power:

  • Put the flash into RCV mode by pressing the Radio Communication Mode button.
  • Press the OK button when complete
  • Set the flash to the correct channel and group to receive communications by the Commander by using the Dial / Arrow Pad

Here is how to change the settings on the FL700-WR Flash:

  • Press OK to activate the navigation
  • Push Left or Right on the Dial to Navigate to the different settings (Group, Channel, Zoom)
  • Rotate the Dial to change the settings
  • Press OK when done
FC-WR Commander Set Up
FC-WR Commander Set Up

FC-WR Commander Set Up

  • Set the channel on the Commander is the same that is on the receiving flash
  • Press the right side of the Dial / Arrow Pad to navigate to the channel selection
  • Rotate the Dial to set the channel
  • Press OK to set the channel

Change the Flash Setting for the Group

  • Press the Button corresponding to the Group of your receiving flash (A, B, or C) 
  • Set the Mode (I use manual mode) and the flash power using the Dial / Arrow pad
  • Press OK when complete
OM-D Super Control Panel Set Up for Flash
OM-D Super Control Panel Set Up for Flash

Olympus OM-D Set Up

Ensure the flash mode is set to “Fill In” in the Super Control Panel.  Check out my blog on Olympus OM-D Macro Photography Settings and Tips for more information.

You should now be able to control the flash power using the FC-WR commander and the Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed using your Olympus OM-D camera.

Overall Impression

The FL-700WR Flash and FC-WR Wireless Commander are a great pair for outdoor macro photography allowing the flexibility of lighting the subject from different angles.  The weatherproofing of the units is also important when you are out photographing in inclement weather. 

This flash set up along with the OM-D E-M1 Mark III and 60mm f/2.8 macro lens are also light enough to take on long macro photography hikes.

Written by Martin Belan

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