72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
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This review is from: Sony HVL-F43AM Sony Alpha System HVL-F43AM Flash Unit for Alpha DSLR (Electronics)First of all, this is my first external flash purchase, though I had been looking at the previous generation F42 flash and the flagship F58 for my Sony A55. I was holding out for this unit's release before I got a flash. The F58 is highly-regarded, though it is a chunky and heavy unit- something I wasn't looking forward to for my relatively small camera. The F42 seemed like the right size, though it was missing the "Quick Shift Bounce" system that the F58, and now this new F43 flash has. That basically allows you to operate the camera in vertical mode while still having the flash bounce off the ceiling. I thought it was just a Sony gimmick, but it's something that really works well. From what I've read, Canon and Nikon have no similar flash feature. For as much as Sony cameras get wrongly bashed by fans of the other brands, the same people will envy this flash.
It also comes with a built-in wide angle screen (sort of diffuser), apparently for super wide lenses, and a bounce sheet. I have not had the chance to use a 3rd-party diffuser on this flash yet since I can't be sure what product works with it right now. For wireless shooting, it comes with a foldable mini-stand, which also serves as the tripod mount. It also came with a good quality protective case for the flash unit with the alpha logo (though I don't use it because I stow the flash in a Crumpler bag).
Because of all the new tech that the A55 camera has, I was expecting this flash to be some clunky and dated photography tool by comparison. Instead I'm amazed at how this flash operates and how it integrates with the camera. It manages to take crisp and properly-exposed photos at the right white balance with minimal tweaking.
Setting up wireless flash was surprisingly easy. After it's set up, the camera knows when the flash is mounted and when detached, it's automatically set to wireless mode. It will operate the external flash when the built-in pop-up flash is used (which serves as the wireless trigger through infrared signals)- in a few conditions, there can be some pre-flash artifact from the camera's pop-up flash that shows in the final image, but a certain Gary Friedman says you can use an exposed film strip to block the visible light. Wireless flash use is lots of fun.
It supports high-speed sync (HSS) flash, which from what I've read allows you to use very wide apertures and fast shutter speeds to get a nice depth-of-field effect with flash! When shot this way and when bounced, it doesn't look like harsh flash lighting was used at all. The flash also has many more advanced features (ex. wireless ratio control, manual mode), but I'm not familiar enough with using them.
When it's on the hotshoe of the camera, it's very capable of firing fast- my A55 is usually set to continuous shooting at 6fps, and the flash doesn't seem to slow down the camera at all! I didn't even know it was capable of this even after playing with the unit for some time until a friend took pictures of me in burst mode and I saw the flash going off very fast like it had an electrical problem! I reviewed all the pictures taken and all of them were also properly exposed and sharp. From what I've experienced, it's not capable of this rapid shooting in wireless mode, probably because of the slower flash rate of the built-in camera flash. For those not familiar with external flashes, this one also has an infrared illuminator that allows fast autofocusing in pitch black when the flash is mounted. I even tried this with the not-for-low-light Sony 18-250mm zoom lens and got very good focus and a very good picture with the flash.
My only complaint really is that it still uses AA batteries. OK, this is completely my opinion as I'm sure professionals may want the option to get replacement batteries in the field, but Sony being the proprietary company that they are, they should have seized the chance for the good of humanity to use their InfoLithium battery packs in this thing (the F43 seemed to be made for their compact SLT line anyway!) to get it even smaller and lighter. I would have gladly bought more of those and be able to put it into my camera or the flash when they ran low. That would make for a very compact set-up! Alright I'm just being silly. I bought rechargeable NIMH AA's (Sony Cycle Energy) for these and like it very much (great, fast charger). I'm sure Eneloop batteries would work great too.
In short, if you have a Sony camera and don't need the extra flash output of the F58, and are looking for a flash, definitely get this.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 24, 2011 12:22:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 24, 2011 12:24:53 AM PDT
Diego Raigoza Nuñez says:
Thank you for your review Jake.
I'd like to comment on certain points you mentioned:
Regarding HSS: You won't be able to use this function with your flash if you haven't updated your A55 firmware. The A55 had a firmware problem that didn't enable HSS shooting with a flash whereas the A33 does. This has been fixed in the latest firmware, so I suggest you do the upgrade. You also get a few other goodies with it.
Regarding AA batteries: Sony would have heard a massive outcry from the userbase if they had decided to use propietary batteries on their flashes. Mostly because that really limits the choices of batteries you can use with the flash. While your idea is definetely a good one (that would have made the F58 flash a lot less smaller) it's not practical because AA batteries are sort of the de-facto standard to power a flash. I'm sure that if Canon or Nikon did this, they would be regarded as visionaries and pioneers but if Sony did it, then they don't have a clue about anything photography wise and they should sell the whole Alpha division to Sigma or Pentax...
Then there is the other side of the coin, using AA batteries allows you to use a plethora of options out there, including alkaline batteries. I know, alkaline batteries are the worst option to use with a flash (along the zinc rechargeable batteries, those fry the circuit boards) because they are exhausted rapidly BUT if you find yourself in the worst case scenario where all your rechargeable batteries are depleted and you still got a few shots to take, you can run to the store and buy a pack of alkalines and use them to get out of the jam. If the flashes used a propietary battery, you wouldn't be able to do this.
I seriously suggest you look into the Sanyo Eneloop batteries. While they may be a bit less powerful than the Sony ones, they will definetely last longer, they recharge a lot quicker and they come pre-charged. I've used Sony batteries for 8 years and while they got really powerful (2500 mAh) they all had the same problem: they didn't last a lot. I had to replace them within a year or less. I must have around 20 pairs of those in a drawer. The only others I've tried that work well enough are the Energizer batteries, but the Eneloops are a league above all those.
I seriously recommend not using a certain brand out there (can't remember the name, they have Wile E. Coyote on them) made out of zinc. They recharge even faster than the Eneloops and have lots of power BUT they will fry the circuit boards of the flash. I've seen a lot of reports from Nikon users using these on flagship flashes and they all had to send them to repair because the power running through the boards fried them. A repair of this kind is NOT cheap, on the whole contrary and sometimes the manufacturer won't perform it and just tell you to get a new unit.
I hope this info helps you.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2011 1:16:39 PM PDT
Linh Nguyen says:
Not to mention replacement LiIon batteries would be very expensive if you want high-capacity. AA batteries are easier to obtain and dirt cheap.
@Diego, I think you misunderstood the whole point of LSD rechargeable batteries. They don't last longer, they just don't discharge as fast. Not sure if they really recharge faster either. Sure you can use a fast charge cycle, but I don't recommend that.
Check this out for more accurate info: http://www.stefanv.com/electronics/sanyo_
But anyhow, this sounds like a great flash. I'll probably grab one when the NEX-7 comes out.
Posted on Dec 14, 2011 9:20:54 PM PST
D. F. Watt says:
Nice job with this review. I actually have the older HVL-42 and really appreciate it too. Wish it could shoot vertically in portrait but what an improvement from the stock flash - totally different shooting indoors with one of these.
Posted on Apr 26, 2013 8:56:56 PM PDT
RE: "The F42 seemed like the right size, though it was missing the "Quick Shift Bounce" system that the F58, and now this new F43 flash has. That basically allows you to operate the camera in vertical mode while still having the flash bounce off the ceiling. I thought it was just a Sony gimmick, but it's something that really works well. From what I've read, Canon and Nikon have no similar flash feature."
My Canon 580EZ that I purchased 8-10 years ago also has a reflector and diffuser built into the flash. In fact the Sony covers just a portion of the flash head with the accessories, whereas the Canon traverses the entire flash head.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2013 10:10:33 PM PDT
Jake Y. says:
I think you confused what I said with something else. The Quick Shift Bounce system is a way to change the flash head's direction and angle, and not at all related to the reflector or diffuser. If you look up images on the web of the Sony F43, F58, F60 flashes when the cobra head is moved side-to-side, I think you'll agree that no other manufacturer has this.
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