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Sinister Purpose Jul 4, 2004 6:20 PM

I'm having trouble justifying a hundred dollars for the HVL-FSL1B external slave flash. I'm looking at some other brands, but it ocurred to me that the Sonyjustmight pre-flash with the on-camera strobe. That could help with the metering or something. I notice in the EXIF information that it says "return light not detected" or "return light detected."I presumethatlight to be from the pre-flash strobe.

Anyway, I'm not sure how you could tell, it happens so fast. The only way I could tell for sure on the camera is by pointing the camcorder at it and examining the captured frames. In five adjacent frames at ~30 fps, the flash went on, off, off,on, off.

Cybershot455 Jul 5, 2004 1:57 AM


I had one of these on test for a couple of daysthe other week, to use with my P12 and P52.

Like you I struggled to justify the usual prices...about £100 on the hight street or £80+ postage from an online discount supplier. Then I noticed an Amazon Marketplace seller with them at £49 so I ordered one.

I thought it a lovely neat unit, fitting closely to the rounded end of the P-series. Actually made the camera easier to hold as well.

I had to return it however as the one supplied was actually a Japan market version HVL-FSL1 (note no A or B suffix) which was made for the pre-2002 Cybershots and the mounting bracket wouldn'tfit the tripod socket on my P52.

Did loads of trials with it on the P12 though and the improvement in images was dramatic. The flash really punched into the corners of an average living room compared with the camera flash that would leave them dark and prone to noise.

The Sony flash is designed to ignore the camera pre-flash and anti red-eye strobe if you have that on. It has a threshold level (not adjustable)in the way it detects the bright camera flash on the subject,and below that it doesn't fire.

This gives rise to the main problem of this doesn't fire in higher light levels where the contrast between subject light and camera flash is low. It can't be used at all for outdoor daylight fill-in flash, even in a brightly lit room at night itmight not fire. Again if there are no good surfaces to reflect the camera flash it doesn't fire.

Having said all that I would have kept it at the price had it fitted both cameras. I am unsure now as to getting another genuine UK typeHVL-FSL1A/B at the £80 or looking at an aftermarket flash.

Some of them have a switched or learning mode that means they will detect the pre-flash/red-eye and ignore it, but then fire every time on the main flash regardless of reflected camera flash levels.

But none of them are as neat and well fitting as the Sony one!

Hope that helps.


Sinister Purpose Jul 5, 2004 9:27 AM

Ah, so no pre-flash-- I thought that might be the case.The shape does appear to matchthe curved edge of the P-series cameras, butwe have the W1! It's funny, but in the accessory catalog, they don't actually show the W1 mounted to it, but they do show it being used (handheld) for outdoor fill-flash. It's interesting that it didn't always fire reliably for you.

I do like the three power levels on the Sony unit, but I am now seriously considering a different brand. Steve has reviewed some accessory flashes in the past, but none lately, it seems. It's too bad the W1 doesn't at least have a PC sync port to fire a flash. Searching Amazon and camera stores for "slave flash" was very fruitful.

I have had some better luck indoors by manually setting a higher ISO speed in P mode. It's strange, but the camera seems touse the same aperture and shutter speed settings regardless of ISO speed.The foreground looks the same (not washed out) but the background is brighter, but there is a bit more noise. I find thatto bemore acceptable than the very dark background. I recall that we had this problem with the Olympus Stylus 35mm camera indoors as well, but changing to faster film made the skin tones too light.

When you start attaching all kinds of accessories to make it work the way you want, suddenly the W1 is not so compact anymore...

Cybershot455 Jul 5, 2004 10:17 AM

I'd be really interested to know what you have found out about alternatives. I'm wondering about the Vivitar DF120...... see

Whatever I don't reallywant a flash that is bigger than my camera! I mean anything that gives about as much again as the camera is a great help, particularly if it spreads a bit as well as having a long range.

I'm puzzled by Sony showing their flash for daylight fill-in, I don't think it fired once with me in such a circumstance...and it does warn in the instruction book that will be the case.


Sinister Purpose Jul 7, 2004 9:03 PM

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Cybershot455 wrote:

I'd be really interested to know what you have found out about alternatives. I'm wondering about the Vivitar DF120......

It looks decent, and it doesn't shut itself off after three minutes like the DF200. I have attached a picture of the DF120 on the bracket, taken from the Vivitar product catalog. It doesn't have three power settings like the Sony, and I can't find if there's a switch on the back to select the preflash delay. The DF200 allows you to select one, two, or it will learn, but it forgets when you turn it off. I see the AAA batteries as a weakness. Five seconds to recycle? Is that with brand new batteries? Replace them when it takes thirty seconds?

I think the Sony usesa CR123A battery, which is a 3v lithium. Maybe some NiMH AAA rechargables would be better, or at least cheaper. The Sony charger that came with the W1 has a couple slots for AAA.

You may get a little stand with the DF120, too. The picture is not good though on this eBay auction:

Sunpak makes a "Digital Camera Flash Enhancement Kit," shown in this eBay auction (but available elsewhereforless):

Itlooks big, but it does take two AA batteries...

Now I'm thinking that if you're some placewhere you're not the only one taking pictures, a slave flash might be, er,problematic.

Cybershot455 Jul 8, 2004 2:08 AM

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Thanks, interesting stuff.

I think that EBay description of its function is getting mixed up with the larger model flash. As far as I was aware the DF120 had a switch on the side that selects Test, Slave, Slave 1 with pre-flash or slave with 2 pre-flash. I don't think it learns itself at all.

For me this would be better because if it is designed to ignore the 1 or 2 pre-flashes then it can be made more sensitive to detecting the main flash.

I've attached an image belowI found of the outfit, I think you can see the switch and it does look to have several positions... we know they are not for power.

I'm OK with the single power level as a bit of "ice-cream tub" taped over the flash will soon cut down its output!

I thought the same about the slightly small amount of flashes from the battery, the Sony unit does over 200 on one battery. But, like you, I have the Sony charger with a position for 2 AAAs so they will be cheaper in the long run.

Another apparent advantage with the Vivitar is that is seems to mount to the camera in the swivel cradle that goes on the tripod socket bracket. That means you will be able to swivel and tilt for an element of bounce flash. The Sony flash fitted firmly to the side of the camera and just pointed forward.

Funny about the USA EBay price...$45 plus $20 shipping to the UK. So it will cost £35, or £57 if customs add taxes (likely in my experience).

It's well under £30 from a UK based supplier!

Given it's only 30% of the Sonyflash price I might have to order one later and test it for both of us!


Cybershot455 Jul 12, 2004 7:00 AM

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Well I decided on the smallest Vivitar digital slave, the DF120. Arrived today. Bargain price at about 25% of the Sony own model slave cost.

Ok so it's not quite as stylish but to me the results are just as good in terms of extra light indoors.

And there is one great advantage. Because you set a switch on the DF120 so it ignores the Sony single pre-flash the Vivitar is far more reliable in firing when ambient light is brighter. Remember the Sony slave has to ignore a certain level of light so it isn't triggered by the pre-flash or red-eye.

Of course you can't use the red-eye strobe with this Vivitar but to be honest that is no great loss.

Actually there is another advantage to the DF120. Its mounting arrangement allows tilt and swivel to bounce flash or reduce the direct output if it is a little too strong for the camera metering.

I'll post some sampleimages later...but here is one of the unit on my daughter's budget digicam. It would match the W1 better than the Sony unit as that's only made with a curved end to match the P series Cybershots.


sanityfallen Jul 20, 2004 3:52 AM

Hi. I too got the Vivitar DF120 flash slave today. The instructions were limited so there is a few things that I do not understand. What is the difference between the 3 different positions? And what will happen if there are many different flashes from different other cameras, is there a way to not accidentally let your flash be triggered? I am going to take it with my Casio Ex-P600 to my school formal :-)

Cybershot455 Jul 20, 2004 4:01 AM

Odd, the instructions in mine did explain everything quite well.

Position one is for the flash to fire with the first flash of the camera, for a camera with no pre-flash. Position two is for a camera with one pre-flash. Position three for a camera with two pre-flashes.

If you want to test the flash turn it to position one and let it charge, then back to test/off when it will flash.

There is no facility for this flash to work with multiple red-eye flash pulses.

Should you be unaware of how many pre-flashes your camera has put the Vivitar on a table facing the camera and take an image with the flash switched to each of its positions. The correct one is where your image shows the Vivitar flashing back at you.

I'm getting on with mine really well. Very near and great value.


sanityfallen Jul 20, 2004 7:03 AM

Hey David, thanks for your response :DWhat exactly does the pre flash do to the camera and unit and does it reset after the batteries have been taken out? Also is there a way to stop the unit from flashing when its switched to the test/off mode as I think it wastes battery? One more question :roll:Have you been around a lot of people that take pictures as well, if so does your flash unit constantly go off? Soz for all the questions and THANKS A BUNCH! :cool:

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