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Old Jun 13, 2010, 4:59 PM   #1
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Default A200, Which External Flash to Buy?

I have owned a Sony Alpha 200 camera for a little over 2 years now. I have never been overly impressed with the quality of the pictures taken with the built in flash so I purchased (and then returned) a Sony HVL-F20AM external flash. I used the flash to take pictures at our high school band's year-end banquet and I'd say about a third of the time the flash did not go off. I took about 175 pictures, starting out with a fresh set of Duracell Coppertop batteries, and even changed to a second fresh set half way through the event. I was wondering how much better the HVL-F42AM is and if it is worth the additional cost, or if anyone could recommend a non-Sony brand of external flash (hopefully at least as good as the F42AM and maybe even cheaper). I will mainly be taking pictures of events for our high school band; I.E. indoor pep band, marching band, banquets, etc. where it is very common to take 200 or more photos during a 2-3 hour event. I also wondered if people who took a lot of indoor pictures with external flashes would recommend a specific battery that had a lot of power and could last at least one event. Thanks, GF.
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Old Jun 14, 2010, 8:07 AM   #2
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Well... first of all, the HVL-F20AM is really not powerful enough for anything other than small rooms. It's Guide Number is only 20 (meters) at ISO 100.

To determine flash range, you need to divide the GN by the aperture (your f/stop setting).

So, if you were shooting at f/5.6, your flash range would only be about 3.6 meters at ISO 100. That's assuming a direct flash.

If you bounce it, flash range decreases substantially (because the light needs to travel to the ceiling and back down again, gets dispersed over a larger area). So, the only way to get more range is to increase ISO speed (each time you double the ISO speed, flash range increases by 1.4x).

For larger rooms, you'll want a more powerful flash.

As for batteries, you don't want to use Alkaline batteries in a high drain device like a flash. Go with High Capacity (>2000mAh) NiMH Rechargeables instead. Or, even better, I'd look at the new Sanyo Eneloops (as their lower internal resistance can help with flash recycle times).

Thomas Distributing is a good source for them:


Then, get a good charger to go with them.

The Sony HVL-F42AM would be a good choice (or the Sony HVL-F58AM if budget permits).

In a third party flash, I'd look at the Metz 48 AF-1 or even better, the Metz 58 AF-1.

These two flash models have USB upgradeable firmware. That way, their firmware can be updated to help with compatibility with new cameras.

A common issue with most third party flash models is that they will often have serious compatibility issues with newer digital cameras (because the flash manufacturers missed features when reverse engineering the protocols that the camera manufacturers included in their flashes and implement in newer cameras); and those Metz models have user installable firmware updates to address those types of issues. For example, you'll find the latest firmware for the Metz 48 AF-1 here:


You'll want to avoid most third party flash models, as many will have serious exposure problems and many of them will only fire at full power when used with a modern digital camera. Most don't support HSS (High Speed Sync, a.k.a., FP/Focal Plane Shutter Mode) either, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds than the camera's x-sync speed. Those two Metz models support HSS.
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Old Jun 14, 2010, 9:00 AM   #3
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If you're on a real tight budget, one flash that does seem to expose properly with current Sony dSLR models (from reports I've seen so far) is the Vivitar DF-383. I'd avoid their other models.

It's around $129 now at popular vendors. But, build quality and reliability seem to be a bit questionable from some reports (higher than average Out of the box failure rate). So, I'd get one from a vendor with a good return policy, in case you get a lemon.

It does not support High Speed Sync (limiting it's usefulness for fill flash outdoors at wider apertures), and does not support the wireless protocol used by Sony dSLR models.

But, for a cheap, on camera flash for use indoors, it seems to work much better than most.

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