Sony DSLR-A350 Review
Sony A350 Flash
The Sony A350 features a built-in, pop-up flash, which operates in either Auto, Fill-Flash, Slow-sync, Rear Sync, Wireless, and Flash-off modes. To release the flash from its compartment, press the button on the left side of the pentamirror housing. Close it again by pushing the flash head back down.
The Flash mode is changed from the Function screen. In Auto flash mode (available only in the camera's Auto or Scene Selection modes), the camera automatically determines when to fire the flash based on the existing lighting. In Fill-Flash mode, the flash fires with every exposure, regardless of lighting conditions. Slow-sync mode fires the flash for foreground fill exposure, while allowing the background to burn in. The Rear Flash Sync mode fires the flash at the end of the shutter time, rather than the beginning. If you have moving objects in the scene with lights, as with a car, this will produce a sharp image of your subject, with a "motion trail" following behind it when shooting at slower shutter speeds. The flash is off when it's closed.
The Wireless mode lets the Sony A350 work with compatible remote flash units with wireless capability, specifically the Sony HVL-F56AM and HVL-F36AM. Four separate control channels are available for wireless operation, to allow multiple photographers to work wirelessly in the same area without interfering with each other. You can only control the power to a single flash or group of flash units though: It's not possible to separately control the exposure for two or more groups of external flash units, as it is with the Canon (two groups of external units plus the camera's own flash) or Nikon (three groups plus the camera's flash) wireless systems.
A Red-Eye Reduction option is available through the Custom 1 menu. When Red-Eye reduction is enabled, the camera will fire a few low-power flash pulses before it actually snaps the picture, to make the pupils of your subjects' eyes contract.
The Sony A350 offers two methods of flash metering, set through the Record menu. Its default mode is called ADI, which stands for Advanced Distance Integration. In this mode, it bases its flash exposure on the lens aperture and distance feedback from the autofocus system, as well as on the light reflected back from a pre-flash. By determining how far away the target subject is, the camera knows how much flash power is required to illuminate it, and is less likely to be fooled by subjects that are unusually light or dark overall. Alternatively, the Pre-Flash TTL (through the lens) method bases the exposure determination solely on a small metering flash before the main exposure. Used in conjunction with the spot autofocus option mentioned earlier, the ADI flash metering should be more accurate with small subjects against a different colored background than the pre-flash method.
Flash exposure compensation can be set via the Camera 1 menu, measuring two stops lower or greater, in 1/3-stop increments.
The Sony A350's built-in flash has a Guide Number (GN) of 12 meters or 39 feet at ISO 100. Maximum sync speed is 1/160s. High Speed Sync (HSS) shooting with shutter speeds up to 1/4,000s is available with Sony HVL-F56AM, HVL-F42AM, and HVL-F36AM external flash units.
The Sony A350 also has a top-mounted hot shoe for attaching an external flash unit. The shoe design and contact arrangement are set up for Sony's and Minolta's own dedicated flash units.
Flash Test Results
Coverage and Range
Powerful flash at close range, with good coverage. Our standard shots required average exposure compensation.
Coverage. Flash coverage was uneven at wide-angle (18mm), but much more uniform at telephoto (70mm). In the Indoor test, the Sony A350's flash underexposed our subject a little at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get good results (perhaps slightly overexposed, but +0.7 EV was a bit too dim), which is about average for this shot. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. The Slow-Sync flash also required exposure compensation of +1.0 EV.
ISO 100 Range. At wide-angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained bright all the way out to a distance of 16 feet. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the target remained bright to about 14 feet, though it was slightly dimmer overall than the wide-angle shots.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The A350's built-in flash has a Guide Number (GN) of 12 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 11 feet at f/3.5 and 7 feet at f/5.6, the maximum aperture of of the kit zoom lens at wide angle and telephoto respectively. In the wide angle shot above, the Alpha 350 performs as Sony says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances. The telephoto shot was a little dimmer, as it was in our ISO 100 series, however this is probably due to differences in evaluative metering, not flash range. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.