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Sony HVL-F56AM flash quick review

 

JUNE2011/f56ambox.jpg
Contents of box, velcro on flash head not included.
JUNE2011/f56ambk.jpg
LCD lit up, showing some available settings
JUNE2011/sonyf56lcd.JPG
Display items possible on LCD

 

 

Specifications and general information.

 

Model

Sony HVL-F56AM  Discontinued in mid 2008.

Price

MSRP $399 at introduction, $449 when replaced.

Tested on

Sony A580, Sony A700, Sony A900.

In the box

Flash, stand, vinyl pouch and instructions.

Build quality

Very good all around.

Hotshoe style

Sony proprietary type 

Guide number

56 (184') ISO 100, @85mm zoom position, and 44 (144') at 50mm zoom.

Guide number accuracy

Maximum output seems similar to other models with same rating.

Stated color temperature

Not stated.

LCD monitor

LCD.  1.9" x .9" (49mm x 23mm).  Has low battery indicator, zoom length with wide panel down indicator, power levels, HSS, bounce, wireless channels, and auto levels, see image above.

Lights and switches

Flash charge light, display light, mode, select, + or -, zoom, on-off, test, selector switch for modeling, multi flash, single and hold positions.

Power source

4 AA, 1.5V

Recycle time

About 6 sec at 1/1. Half-power (1/2) is instantaneous to about 1 sec depending on zoom setting, quarter (1/4) power is instantaneous for 2-3 pops.  Rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries used.

Flash duration rating

No info.

Power saving function

Yes, 4min, 15min, 60min and none.  Wireless flash mode power save can be set to 60min or none.

Adjustable power levels

Six full levels only; Auto, 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32.

Wide angle diffuser type

Built-in, pulls out and down, covers 17mm, (11mm APS-C) and shows on display when attached (Wide).

Bounce card or reflector plate

Not included.

Bounce positions

45°, 60°, 75°, and 90°.

Swivel positions

Right, 30°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°, - Left, 30°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°, and downwards 10°.

Zoom positions

Auto, wide (17mm), 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 85mm.

Zoom type

Internal, and fully automatic in auto mode.

Auto format zoom

Yes, the flash knows what focal length the lens is at, either full frame or APS-C format, but it doesn't always choose the appropriate APS-C focal length for some reason.

AF assist beam

Yes, red, works properly.

Custom functions

The following settings may be customized.  Wireless CH1-4.  Time to power save-4min, 15min, 60min, none.  Time to power save when using wireless flash; 60min/none.  Recording modes in which manual flash may be set.  Feet or meters on LCD.

Connections

Sony off-camera cable and Sony external battery adapter connector.

White balance info

No.

Modeling flash

Yes.

Multi-flash emission

Yes, customizable.

High speed sync

Yes, Sony claims up to 1/12000, although Sony doesn't have any cameras yet with a 1/12000 shutter speed, that's a carry-over from 1990s Minolta Maxxum (Dynax) 9 series film cameras.  Reality suggests HSS is available up to the maximum shutter speed of the camera.

Wireless ability

Yes.

Sony ADI support

Yes.

Red eye reduction

Not supported by Sony.

Dimensions

3.0"W x 6.9H x 2.4D   76mm x 175mm x 62mm   Maximum length 6.9" (175mm) including shoe mount.  Length and depth measured with flash flat.

Weight

13.0oz (369g) without batteries, 17.0oz (481g) with batteries.

Operating temp

0°-40°C,  32°-104°F

Quirks

Works great with Radiopoppers™ triggers, without the set-up hassle of the Sony HVL-F42AM flash.
 
Has 'Ratio 2:1' flash indicator but this function isn't available, it's a carry-over from Minolta film cameras.
 
Flash will fire even if it isn't charged sufficiently, so check the charge indicator before shooting, otherwise you may wind up with the wrong exposure.  It does this so you won't miss a shot waiting for the flash to fully charge.

Notes

Can be custom set for full manual use in all recording modes, even "auto."  Flash is automatically turned off when camera power is turned off, then back on if flash is still switched on. 
 
Compatible with Sony's newest control flashes.

Good for

everything.

Not good for

A very small negative would be the 6 second full recharge rate, but that can be shortened with better batteries or an external battery pack.

Recommended?

Highly recommended, but not available new.  Replaced with HVL-F58AM in late 2008.