Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash

Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash with Wireless Ratio Control and Quick Shift Bounce for Sony Alpha Digital SLR – Product Description:

Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash The Sony HVL-F58AM Flash Unit delivers flexible lighting control for α (alpha) DSLR photographers. The innovative new “Quick Shift Bounce” system allows the flash to pivot 90 degrees left and right to maintain a proper lighting position, even when shooting vertically. The HVL-F58AM can also wirelessly control up to three groups of flashes, and Wireless Ratio Control allows users to specify luminosity ratios for each group. Additionally, the HVL-F58AM features an effective range of more than 45 feet (14.5m) and a fast, 5 second recharge time. A built-in wide panel and bounce sheet provide an even greater degree of creative control.

Product Features :

  • High-power Guide Number 58 external flash
  • Effective range greater than 45 feet (14.5m)
  • “Quick Shift Bounce” for lighting freedom
  • Wireless operation featuring Wireless Ratio Control
  • Fast 5-second recharging time w/ quiet recycle charge

Sony HVL-F58AM High-Power Digital Camera Flash – Review:

THE BEST FLASH FOR YOUR SONY DSLR/DSLT. PERIOD!

The Sony HVL-F58AM is the best flash for your Alpha camera, be it DSLR or DSLT. Period. There is no contest about it.

In this review, I will state my experience using this flash and list down all the bells and whistles this flash offers plus any notes of use you need to know. It will be long, but hopefully I will answer all your questions about this flash.

Here we go:

The first question of anyone considering this flash is: “Is it worth 400-500 bucks?” Yes, it is. This flash will give you much more flexibility than any other flash you can mount on your Alpha camera for several reasons.

This flash has a Guidance Number of 58 at 105mm at ISO 100. For those of you that don’t know what this means, it means that having a focal length of 105mm, an ISO 100, this flash will cover 58 meters. This is a VERY powerful flash, compare it against the built in flashes in DSLRs and they range between 10 and 12 GN, which is good and better than nothing when you need more light, but you won’t be able to reach very far with it. Now you see why everyone else is raving about this flash in their reviews here. Using a GN 58 flash against a GN 10-12 one, which one would you pick?

The major selling point Sony uses for this flash is the Quick Shift Bounce technology, which allows you to move the flash’s head left and right from 0 to 90 degrees quickly. Have you ever shot vertically with a normal flash that will just tilt upwards maybe to 90 degrees or 120? Some of them let you swivel the head on its own axis, but you can’t move the head and set it like if you were shooting horizontally. This flash let’s you do that. Why is this important? Because it allows you to have even light horizontally or vertically. If you shoot vertically with a normal flash, it will illuminate your subject from the side, not from the front, and this may cause exposure problems in your photos. With this flash you just pull or push the head to the desired position and you got the same lightning in any position you’re shooting at. Simple but above all, quick.

This flash allows you to tilt the head to bounce the light off the ceiling or a wall. If the 0 degrees position is the flash head looking straight forward, it goes up to 45, 60, 75, 90, 120 and 150 degrees. At 120 and 150 degrees the flash is looking backwards, that means AT YOU, so be careful to not fire the flash while you’re looking ahead or you can damage your vision. Duck or keep looking through the viewfinder. In case you wonder, the use of the 120 and 150 degrees tilt is to bounce the flash off a wall behind you (assuming it’s close and bright enough) if the roof is too far. Trust me, it’s better to have the option than not having it. Just be careful about it in order to avoid any damage to your eyes, the light discharge from this flash is really intense, not to mention hot.

The F58AM flash has an in built wide panel difusser and a bounce sheet. The wide panel diffuser is to help the flash illuminate evenly the scene you’re shooting when using a wide angle lens (18mm or shorter) otherwise the left and right sides may come out dark. The bounce sheet is used when you need to bounce the flash but there is no roof or wall nearby, so it gets you out of the jam, it also creates a highlight on your subject’s eyes if you fancy that. These two accesories come out both at the same time when you pull them, but you can use them independently, you just push back into the flash the one you won’t use.

This flash is heavy, compared against a Minolta 3500xi Program flash, the Minolta is paper weight and the F58 is a heavy weight boxing champion, even more when the 4 AA batteries it requires to function are inserted. I’ve read some reports that because of the weight of this flash, the accessory shoe in their cameras broke off, forcing them to send their cameras to a repair center for a new accessory shoe. So far, I haven’t had that problem with this flash, but I do tend to relieve the accessory shoe of the weight whenever I can. Examples: if I’m using this flash and I need to put the camera down for a moment, I remove the flash from the shoe and I let it sit there on its own, not mounted. If I’m using the Quick Shift Bounce, I hold the flash head or the flash body with my other hand if I don’t need it at the lens. So far I haven’t had a problem like that, but then again I do find it possible since the mounting foot of this flash is really small for the huge thing it carries. It’s a big flash. However, if you relieve the weight stress off the camera’s shoe, you shouldn’t have any problems.

When using this flash, your camera’s AF sensor (be it IR or the in-built flash) is overriden by the IR AF sensors of this flash, this is normal behavior in all flashes. Housed along with the AF sensors are the Wireless flash sensor and the wireless mode light (the one that tells you the flash is in Wireless mode).

This flash requires 4 AA batteries to operate. They can be alkaline or rechargeable. I suggest you use rechargeable batteries. Alkaline batteries require a bit longer for the flash to recycle them when firing and they are exhausted sooner than rechargeable ones (Alk: 100 repetitions or more – Rechargeable: 200 repetitions or more). Besides, alkaline batteries are usually thrown to the garbage when they are empty, which damages the environment and your health. I suggest you go with rechargeable batteries like the Sanyo Eneloop 8 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries. Always recycle alkaline and rechargeable batteries.

One hidden feature of this flash is that it automatically detects whether your camera has an APS-C or Full Frame sensor and adjusts accordingly. This is done to fire the proper amount of light for the selected focal length, since the real and effective focal lengths vary in APS-C sensors (in FF 50mmm are 75mmm in a APS-C sensor for example).

In the back of the flash you’ll find a screen to check status and shooting options. The buttons found are: Mode (to select wether the flash acts like a fill flash, wireless flash or you can “turn it off” without moving the switch or removing the flash from the camera, pretty handy if you need to switch from flash to no flash in an instant), TTL/M (to switch between Through The Lens metering or Manual metering) Zoom (to manually zoom the strobe to the desired focal length, although it automatically zooms in or out as you move your lens), there is a button to light the screen with a cinnabar orange color that has become a trademark of Alpha products, there is the Power button (to power on or off the flash), a translucid Test button (has multiple functions: it tells you when the flash is ready to fire by glowing orange, when you fire and the camera determines a correct exposure, the button glows green but the flash has to be attached to the camera for that to happen, finally it works as a modelling light; it fires a single burst of light for you to check where the light will fall and the shadows that will be created in case you want to fix that beforehand). Finally you have a Fn (Function, like the one in your camera) button that let’s you switch between having the flash work as a controller for other flashes, working wireless in the old wireless protocol or in the new one. It also let’s you access Custom functions such as whether to enable HSS shooting, power save modes for wireless and on-camera mode, the kind of burst you want the Test button to fire, if you want it to display meters or feet, if you want to switch between wireless channels (in case you’re working near another photographer also using wireless flashes). The Fn button has arrows around it to let you navigate through the menus.

One neat feature of this flash is that you can force the head down beyond the standard position to use it when you’re doing macro shooting. This comes in handy when you’re shooting small things with the flash mounted on the camera but the burst doesn’t cover all the subject, lowering the head a bit more may be the solution and this flash let’s you do that. If that won’t work, go wireless.

One of the best features of this flash is the Wireless mode. In this mode you can use the flash without having it mounted on the camera. It’s triggered by the in-built flash in your camera (if you’re using an A900/850, you need a Sony HVLF20AM TTL Digital Flash for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Cameras to trigger the F58). Wireless flash opens up a plethora of options to illuminate your subject, because now you can set the flash anywhere independently from where the camera is, as long as the flash can see the trigger burst from the in-built flash. You don’t have to worry about metering either, because the camera sends that information in the triggering burst and the flash receives it and adjusts accordingly. You can meter manually if you prefer and still trigger the flash wirelessly.

NOTE: Even though you need to raise the in-built flash or use the F20 flash to trigger a wireless flash, the burst emitted is not powerful enough to affect exposure on it’s own. If anything, it will yield an underexposed shot. When using wireless, the light that counts is the one coming from the flash in wireless mode, not the in-built flash. Unless you’re shooting REALLY close to something using a wide aperture, then the triggering burst will affect exposure, but that is very rare to happen. If it does happen, just cover the in-built flash with your hand or something else but make sure the burst can still be seen by the flash and that should be it.

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