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When you first open the pouch the flash comes in (which is good quality) you will be pleasantly surprised! The flash, although incredibly plasticy, feels relatively sturdy! On inserting a set of batteries and pressing test, you will get a nice, high powered flash of light to greet you! I find the rear interface a little clunky at times but with a bit of work you can easily get great results! There is a small diffusion window that slides out above the actual light lens itself and this works adequately although I'm not sure what level of diffusion it is equivalent to. The flash head movement is firm and strong. On the horizontal axis, the head moves smoothly without being loose and on the vertical axis, it offers a reassuring level of resistance that doesn't hamper you as a user. My pet peeve which is applicable to all Sony hotshoe mount products is the utterly ridiculous Sony hotshoe mount but there is no way round this since Sony made their own standard. Overall I rate this flash highly, and if bounced off a surface, produces beautiful quality light.
There are many things that separate a professional photographer from an amateur photographer, there is usually a big difference in the equipment they will use, there is quite often a determination and the will to go the extra mile to get the best photo for the professional as they are being paid for their work, there is of course experience but over and above all of those is that a professional photographer like myself will understand light and know how to get the best from the light available or the light source they are going to use.
I own a few sets of studio lights and also several on camera speedlights for my Sony DSLR`s, I have a few non Sony brand ones that all have their own purpose and I have two Sony brand ones, the Sony HVL F42AM, which I have reviewed in the past and the Sony HVL-F58AM which I am reviewing today.
One rule for anyone taking photography serious is that light is everything! No matter how good the camera or the photographer using it, if the light is poor then you will get poor images. On camera flashes or built in flashes as they are commonly known offer a solution to low light situations but in truth they are as good as useless, the reason for this is that the straight on light that they offer is harsh, it takes colour out the skin and casts really dark shadows which offers very poor final images.
DSLR users can turn to flashes like this Sony HVL-F58AM to give them much better results than any built in flash ever could, still far from studio standard but a very good option for when studio lights just aren't an option.
The Sony HVL-F58AM is a very modern looking flashgun and a very powerful one with a maximum guide number of 58 at 105mm and ISO 100, there are many places you can look online for advice on guide numbers on these types of flashes but to keep things very simple, the higher the guide number the more light you get from the flash.
Although this flash offers a lot of options and adjustments to fine tune it to work exactly the way you want it to, they are kept simple with a very clear layout and it has TTL capabilities so it can just be turned on and allowed with only simple set up to get the light right every time on its own.
To quickly explain TTL it stands for through the lens and basically the flashgun uses what the camera sees through the lens to measure distance from the subject as well as available light then the flash will emit the exact amount of light needed to light the subject properly.
This flash unit can tilt up which allows you to bounce the flash off the ceiling and back onto your subject and it also turns both left and right allowing you to bounce off walls if the ceiling is too high. Bouncing light in this way causes it to become what we pro`s call diffused light, meaning it is no longer bright harsh white light and it doesn't cause dark shadows either because it is being spread around so much, the light reflected off the wall or ceiling on to your subject will be a much larger light source than the direct flash and will look much better in the final image.
If you are outdoors and there are no ceilings or walls to bounce your light off of then you can manually adjust the power by turning down the power in half stops allowing you to judge the light for yourself if you choose to and there is of course the option of fitting a Stofen diffuser to the flashgun which automatically gives you a softer light stopping red eye and bright spots in your image.
This flash is even powerful enough to be mounted on a light stand and used with bounce or shoot through umbrellas like a pro would do with proper studio lights, so you can have a studio light and a on camera flash gun without the huge cost of buying both. If you only shoot from a home studio like a lot of amateurs do or perhaps a custom built garage studio, then a couple of these flash guns could be all you will ever need to do great portrait or product photography.
The other huge benefit from using this flash as opposed to the built in flash is the recycle time, with the built in flash you are constantly waiting for it to recharge before you can shoot again but with this unit the recharge time is almost instant and you can even shot continuously at up to 5 frames per second for 40 shots without having to wait for the flash to become ready.
I have used this flash on professional shoots when I have been outdoors, I have used it for fill light and as my only light source and have sold the images taken with it so there is no need to worry about the result in using one of these, I have used it successfully with my top end Sony A900 as well as on my much less expensive A550 and have always been very impressed with the outcome.
This flash is only suitable for use with Sony DSLR`s so if you own a Canon or other brand of DSLR you need to look for the equivalent offering from the brand you own, some flashguns will work with other brands but the Sony hot-shoe connection is different so the Sony flash will fit only Sony and you almost always get better results from a dedicated flashgun anyway.
Stepping away from the excellent quality of the light that comes from this flashgun it can also be rated highly for its build quality and looks as well as its reliability, many people might baulk at the price of this, costing between 3 and 4 hundred pounds depending on where you purchase it from this is an expensive piece of kit but if you want quality photos using flash with your Sony DSLR then there is no better flash than this one.
The Sony HVL-F58AM also has an advanced white balance compensation system that gathers color temperature information, complimenting the white balance information reading of the camera, this is not available in the other Sony flash guns.
As well as working whilst connected to the hot shoe of a Sony DSLR this flash gun can also operate wirelessly using Sony`s own wireless setting which is built in to all their DSLR`s, the flash takes four AA batteries and will be able to take around 200 photos between charging or replacing the batteries, you will get much better recycle times and more flashes per set if you use rechargeable NIMH (nikel-metal hydride) batteries of 2500mAh or above.
Other features include: high-speed synchronization at shutter speeds of up to 1/4000 of a second, ADI flash metering, manual flash and zoom (six levels), multiple-flash, a built in wide panel and pull out white bounce card and a supplied mini-stand for greater wireless freedom.
All in all you may have to splash out some serious cash but you get a very serious and very high quality piece of equipment that has never let me down in nearly a year of very heavy use, a piece of equipment that I highly recommend to serious photographers shooting with Sony DSLR`s.
Flash Effective Range : GN58 = up to 58 meters (190 ft) at ISO100 with 105mm lens
Flash Mode(s) : Control: Bounce angles: Upward - 90 degrees; Downward - minus 10 degrees;; Left/ Right (Front/Back) - 180 degrees
Flash Modes : Automatic Light Control
Operating Temperature : (+32 to +104°F (+0 to +40°C)
Storage Temperature : (-4 to +140°F (-20 to +60°C)
Dimensions (Approx.) : (WHD) 3-1/8 x 4-7/8 x 4-1/4" (77 x 147 x 106 mm)
Thanks for reading.
The HVL-F58AM flash unit delivers flexible lighting control for a (alpha) DSLR photographers. The ''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 you to specify luminosity ratios for each group. Additionally, the HVL-F58AM features an effective range of more than 45 feet and a fast, five-second recharge time. A built-in wide panel and bounce sheet provide an even greater degree of creative control.