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Sony HVLF43M High Power Flash with Quick Shift Bounce (Black)
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- High-power illumination
- Longer effective range of over 30 ft.Number of Flashes - Approx. 200 or more(alkaline batteries)
- The innovative "Quick Shift Bounce" system allows the HVL-F43M to orbit 90 degrees left and right, allowing you to maintain horizontal light distribution even when shooting vertically.
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|Item Dimensions||9.3 x 17.8 x 9.3 in||3.86 x 4.45 x 6.89 in||4.3 x 4.57 x 8.6 in||2.5 x 3.5 x 4.5 in||4.41 x 8.11 x 2.4 in||4.49 x 2.99 x 6.93 in|
The Sony HVL-F43M flash unit delivers flexible lighting control for photographers. The innovative "Quick Shift Bounce" system allows the flash to pivot 90 degrees left and right, and Wireless Ratio Control allows the wireless control of up to three groups of flashes with user-selected luminosity ratios.
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- Sony's unique swivel head design ("Quick Shift Bounce"), probably this flash unit's best feature, for changing bounce angles and easy switching to and from landscape and portrait shooting by a quick flick of the hand.. the F43M/AM is Sony's smallest flash unit with this feature, which makes it leagues better than the F20M/AM. Angles range from 8 to 150 degrees vertically and 90 degrees each side.
- Guide Number of 43, which is plenty powerful for bounce flash use for most uses. How powerful is this? Well with the camera set to ISO 100, it gave me overly-white (overexposed) shots until I had stopped down aperture to F/22, 1/250 sec. in my living room with a white ceiling. At full power, it can fire another in 2.9 seconds or pretty much without any delay for most power levels. I imagine a working professional may want more headroom (ex. with the larger F60M) for dealing with darker, higher ceilings.
- a built-in, pull-out wide angle diffuser and white bounce card- the diffuser is very handy for ensuring even bounce flash coverage with irregular ceilings during busy events like weddings and the bounce card can provide additional highlights to your subjects' eyes; these take up no additional space in your bag and I actually leave the STO-FEN Omni-Bounce OM-EW attachment at home most of the time.
- comes with a foldable stand and a cushioned zipper case (note the omission of the orange Alpha logo on both the case and flash head, as is the case with recent Sony camera products, which strangely makes the unit seem more premium)
- supports HSS (high-speed sync.)- basically allows shooting at shutter speeds beyond your camera's x-sync speed (1/250 on the A99, which is properly exposed with this flash, BTW) up towards your camera's fastest shutter speed (I've tested 1/8000 on the A99) and is very handy for overpowering ambient lighting
- can work wirelessly and be triggered by your camera's built-in flash, or in the case of full-frame cameras like the A99 with no included flash, can also be triggered by another external flash mounted on the camera. For my purposes, the F43M is on top of the A99 and the F43AM acts as the wireless flash- I tested firing a long wireless flash burst on high-speed drive (6fps) and both flash units worked in unison to get perfect flash exposures in wicked-fast wireless fashion all the way until the camera itself hit its (RAW) buffer limit. Sony's specs indicate the flash can work well up to continuous shooting of 10fps.
- can act as a flash controller for other wireless flashes and has ratio control for creative use
- TTL- and with the A99, so long as there is sufficient light and the flash is not wrongly bounced or blocked, it seems every shot is perfectly.. I mean PERFECTLY AND CONSISTENTLY exposed
- manual mode for the experts (I've never operated in a studio and my shooting style has not called for using manual, though I did test overheating this flash on manual mode..) and the ability to fire at a continuous strobe for multiple exposures in 1 shot (ex. total of 5 flashes, every half a second).
- has an effective and wide AF-assist beam. On the A99, which comes with a bright AF-assist for the center focusing points, I observed that sometimes it uses the A99's built-in AF-assist beam and other times the F43M's. I'm not sure what the logic is but locking focus in dark environments where phase-detect normally would struggle or a plain white wall works very well.
- auto-zoom from 24mm to 105mm (and as wide as 15mm with the wide angle diffuser)
- test and modeling flash, which may be set to fire in a short burst
- it is weather-sealed, though I cannot validate this nor am I willing to test this in pouring rain. I can say the battery compartment has the proper seals and all buttons feel damped. Also the swivel action of the flash head feels very solid, even more so than the F43AM, though it could just be needing breaking-in.
- has a nice amber LCD backlight and matching amber LED flash-is-ready-to-fire indicator / test button.
- continues to use (boring old) AA batteries, granted most flashes in the market do and working pros may prefer this... I'm still looking forward to a flash unit with a lithium pack for a reduction in size and weight! Oh well, though I've been using and like the eneloop XX 2500mAh Typical / 2400 mAh Minimum, High Capacity, 4 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries.
So what's changed over the F43AM?
- a built-in LED light which the specs indicate are 400 lx at 0.5 m or 100 lx at 1 meter; you can adjust the power levels from 1 to 10 on the flash unit. The dimmest setting is not so bad for people in the vicinity (and is already much more bright than the an iPhone's LED flash), though at level 10, even people wearing sunglasses will be complaining- everyone else will be momentarily blinded, as this reviewer was when testing it. The LED light can be only be used independently of the main flash and is activated by a button on the side of the unit. It can be used without the flash unit being mounted on the camera, which expands its creative use. It can be used as solid-state lighting for taking pictures for when you don't want to strobe and becomes very useful for taking video. There is only a single bright LED but the reflector design works well and you end up with a very even spread of white light in a large egg shape. Video professionals may still want to opt for a dedicated LED panel with dozens or hundreds of LEDs for more power and a softer effect from a larger light source.
- flash exposure compensation is now featured prominently on the flash so you have direct access to it just by pressing the up and down keys, see it right on the flash unit's LCD, and not have to dive into a menu in the camera to change this- this was relatively quick with the A99's Function menu or Quick Navi interface, but this saves steps with the camera's buttons and joystick. This is a big usability plus especially during a busy shoot! Thanks to Gary Friedman's article about recent Sony Alphas dealing with flash exposure differently, I have FEC set to -0.7 EV most of the time for natural-looking exposures; I currently do this with FEC on the A99 permanently set to -0.7 EV and 0 EV on the F43M. Should I want to manipulate the FEC depending on the scene, I would just make adjustments on the flash unit.
- the new hotshoe mount is very nice. It's very firm and secure on both the camera shoe and the flash unit's stand and has a reassuring locking lever, which also employs 2 locking pins which stops any movement. To release the flash unit, a button on the lever needs to be depressed. One of the unfortunate changes Sony has made in the transition to the ISO hotshoe from its (much-loved by Sony users / hated by all others) auto-lock shoe was with the adapter that came included on its newer cameras and caused older flash units to slip off even with proper tightening because it did not have a locking pin. I've been dreading the F43AM on the adapter falling off with each outing and it hasn't been until this F43M that I no longer have to worry about that. The shoe is still made of plastic, though that has the upside of not damaging the camera hotshoe or flash should something cause heavy stress on this connector (ex. dropping the camera with flash mounted)- should it break, there are 4 screws to replace this part, in theory (I have not seen how much this part costs).
- the overall finish of the unit is less shiny than the F43AM, and has a fine sandpaper feel. It appears to show my oily fingerprints more. How's that for making your gear truly yours? (hah)
- the flash unit has increased in height slightly from the F43AM, though when mounted on the newer Sony cameras, it becomes much lower from not having to use the adapter. There is a much improved lower center of gravity with the F43M on the A99 than the long neck contraption that was the F43AM with adapter. (see my uploaded pictures for a comparison and how this flash looks atop the A99 with 24-70 Zeiss)
Differences with the F60M
- this unit's larger brother, the F60M had many reported issues of overheating, and only after a handful of near-full power flashes (granted GN60 is pretty powerful), when it would go to the bleachers for several minutes of cooling down. I wanted to like the F60M though this factor and the increased heft ultimately made me wait for a replacement for the F43AM. I wanted to make sure that this part of the Sony DNA (sorry, couldn't resist!) didn't trickle down to the F43M and so I test fired in manual mode- 1/1 full-power shots as fast as I could basically whenever the amber light lit, indicating the flash had recycled, approximately every 3 seconds until it overheated and it was able to do it straight for 36-38 full-power shots- for a total of around 2-3 minutes of flashing. Not bad and I don't see this ridiculous scenario happening in the real world!
- the F60M has probably the world's most user-friendly LCD with software that looks like it was built from the ground-up for it with graphical bars for flash exposure compensation and the LED light level which works well with its control wheel; unfortunately the F43M does not inherit this (and continues to use the directional arrows) and the LCD looks slightly revised (mainly with the addition of the FEC adjustment) from the F43AM's older, but still straightforward interface.
- the F60M's LED light is on the flash head which allows it to be tilted in all sorts of angles for creative use, whereas the F43M's LED light is fixed on the base. The F60M also has a snap-on diffuser and an amber-gelled attachment for the LED light, which the F43M doesn't have room for.
- the F60M is Sony's only current flash unit that can be attached with an external battery pack, which some wedding photographers consider a must-have.
- the F43M doesn't come with a STO-FEN-like diffuser nor does it come with an adapter for backwards-compatibility with older Sony cameras.
- unless the F60M I tried at Sony's booth at a B&H event was abused, this F43M feels much more solid and better built
Price-wise, it is a little on the high side. At $400, this is currently a bit more than the F43AM, which I thought was perfectly priced at around $300 when it was released. It's easy to justify this expense should you need a good bounce flash solution and know you would be using it often, however. Every serious shooter should have one for indoor photography. Acquiring a bright lens would get you more light, however gives you no control over how shadows are cast on your subjects and areas of focus (ex. needing F/5.6-8 so subjects are not blurred) will become much more limited. Also, as lighting and composition are the 2 main components of great photos, this is an outstanding tool for supplying most of the lighting portion.
In summary, unless you must have the F60M's features and aren't concerned of its overheating tendencies, and feel just as I do, that the benefits of this flash outweigh the size and weight advantage of the F20M/AM, I can wholeheartedly recommend the F43M for all Sony shooters with recent cameras (starting with the A99, A58, NEX6, RX100 II, RX1, etc.). The (Sony HVL-F43AM Sony Alpha System HVL-F43AM Flash Unit for Alpha DSLR)
remains a great choice for those with the auto-lock shoe, unless you have plans to acquire a newer Sony camera, in which case I would then get the F43M and Sony's ADP-AMA adapter. Sony appears to be committed to this new MIS interface across all their cameras and this update to the F43 has been done very well.
I haven't really used the LED movie light extensively yet because I'm not big on video but it seems a bit weak to do a lot. However, it has several levels and, if nothing else, it can be used as a decent flashlight.
So, my 5 stars are mainly for flash for stills. I do a little real estate photography and (with a diffuser) this gives me all the nice even light I need for small to large rooms. The adjust-ability of the head really helps with bouncing/diffusing the light exactly where I need it. I did a shoot a couple days ago and flashed (fill flash level) about 200 times. It recycles well (and quickly if you need it) and I had a fair amount of power left when I was finished (I use rechargeable batteries in it).
A little on people and kids: Great flash for that too. It meters well for fill and provides good lighting in a variety of settings (noting though that I always use a Graslon or Got Lux? diffuser, both of which I also recommend). Though it's probably more the camera, the TTL metering is accurate however I have this flash bouncing and diffusing. As I said, nice that they play well. Need a little fill when the sun is behind your model (or grandkids)? Great flash. Want nice faces and see a little of the scenery at night too? Use this flash and set the ole Sony on slow sync. Great results.
Need a very nice flash for your very nice Sony camera, especially with the new hotshoe? Don't hesitate. I'll be getting another when I can to use in a group as you can use 1 or 2 or more of these wirelessly with most Sonys. Not that this one can't do a room; I just want another to experiment with learning expanded lighting and group wireless techniques.