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Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Sony announces new flagship flash strobe
(Thursday, June 19, 2008 - 16:47 EDT)

Japan's Sony Corp. has today announced a new flash strobe that will assume the flagship position above the company's existing flash models when it starts shipping this September.

The Sony HVL-F58AM flash unit has a rather unusual tilt / swivel mechanism called the "Quick Shift Bounce" system, which could prove rather more versatile in use than competing products. Instead of the traditional rotation around the flash's vertical axis (as adopted in, for example, Canon's current top-of-the-line Speedlite 580EX II), Sony has instead chosen a mechanism that can swing the bulk of the flash's body 90 degrees to either side. Above this is a separate mechanism which allows the head of the flash to tilt vertically upwards, but with a rather greater range of motion than is ordinarily the case. Since the lower swivel doesn't allow the flash to face behind the photographer's head, the upper mechanism makes up for this by being able to tilt anywhere from 10 degrees downward, through the fully vertical (90 degrees upward) position to a limit of 150 degrees (ie. pointing back over the photographer's head at an angle 30 degrees above the horizontal).

It's not the easiest mechanism to explain (thankfully Sony's press photos below should clear up any confusion), but it provides a good range of motion and brings a couple of important benefits. Firstly, the LCD display on the flash's rear is positioned above the lower swivel mechanism, and hence when you turn the camera / flash combo on its side for portrait shooting with bounce flash from overhead - a pretty common shooting situation - the flash's LCD display is still the correct way up for easier reading.

The other advantage is again somewhat challenging to describe, but could prove even more important when you're using a bounce reflector such as Sto-fen's Omni-bounce, rather than bouncing the flash from a wall / ceiling. Imagine you want bounce flash with the camera held in portrait orientation, and the flash head aimed so that the bounced light comes from above the camera body. With a traditional tilt / swivel mechanism, the narrow side of the flash head is facing your subject, making it difficult to accurately aim the bounce reflector at your subject, and concentrating most of the light in a fairly narrow "beam". With Sony's design, the front (wider) surface of the flash can still face your subject in this orientation, making it easier to aim the bounced light (and ensuring a less concentrated, wider flash illumination).

There's a lot more to the Sony HVL-F58AM flash strobe than the snazzy new tilt / swivel mechanism, though. The Sony F58AM has ADI flash metering or manual flash strength control, both built-in slide-out bounce sheet and 16mm wide angle panels, six-step manual or automatic zoom from 24 to 105mm (automatically taking account of whether you're using a camera body with an APS-C or 35mm frame-sized sensor), a bundled mini-stand with tripod-mountability for off-camera flash, and the ability to function as a wireless master controlling the relative brightness of up to three groups of wireless slave flash strobes individually. There's also the ability for the flash to retrieve and take account of focus distance information from lenses equipped with distance encoders, as well as for the flash to provide color temperature information to the camera body for use in determining correct white balance. A modelling light function allows photographers to visualise their lighting setup before taking a shot, and a stroboscopic flash function allows the flash to fire multiple times during a single exposure.

The Sony HVL-F58AM has a guide number of 58 meters (ISO 100, 105mm lens), and a high-speed synchronization mode allows flash sync at shutter speeds from 1/500 to 1/4000 second. Recharging between flashes takes just five seconds (said to be 55% faster than the previous HVL-F56AM model), and Sony's press materials note that a quiet recycle charge function means that the characteristic flash "whine" is prevented. The built-in LCD display is some 13% larger than on the previous model, making it easier for the photographer to confirm flash setup.

Sony's HVL-F58AM flash unit will ship this September, with pricing expected to be in the region of US$500.

Sony HVL-F58AM
Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Material Poly-carbonate plastic
Operating Conditions
Operating Temperature (+32 to +104°F (+0 to +40°C)
Storage Temperature (-4 to +140°F (-20 to +60°C)
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
Battery Type AA Alkaline /AA Ni-MH - requires 4
Weight 15.6 oz (440 g)
Measurements (WHD) 3-1/8 x 4-7/8 x 4-1/4" (77 x 147 x 106 mm)
Supplied Accessories
Mini Stand
Color Black
UPC Code 027242730250
More Photos
Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!< a>
Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Sony's HVL-F58AM flash strobe mounted on the Alpha α-700 digital SLR. Courtesy of Sony, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!

Original Source Press Release:


SAN DIEGO, Jun. 19, 2008 – Sony is expanding its a (alpha) system of accessories to include the new HVL-F58AM flash unit with exceptional features for versatile and flexible external lighting control.

Quick Shift Bounce and Expanded Versatility
This new flash features a new and innovative Quick Shift Bounce system. It offers more creative ways to achieve lighting, flash and bounce angles you may not have been able to experience before.

The flash head can pivot 90 degrees left and right on a horizontal axis in addition to the conventional up and down vertical adjustment. With this system, the camera and flash unit can keep the same orientation regardless of portrait or landscape shooting. This gives a higher degree of flexibility when arranging the direction of light.

For example, you can take full advantage of the flash unit’s built-in bounce card even during portrait shots since the flash head can maintain the same orientation as it would in the landscape position.

Enhanced Operability and Ease-of-Use
A powerful performer, the HVL-F58AM flash unit features a maximum guide number of 58 at 105mm and ISO 100. It recycles (or recharges) in as little as five seconds, approximately 55% faster than the predecessor HVL-F56AM model, so you are ready to capture the next shot. And because it features a quiet recycle charge, there’s no whine to distract you from your subject.

It also has a large, easy-to-read LCD screen that is about 13% larger than its predecessor’s. Its intuitive control layout makes it easy to control flash functions and configure the settings based on your shooting needs.

Wireless Auto Flash Control
This new flash has wireless auto flash control so you can remove the flash unit from the camera and easily light subjects from different angles. Photographers can create soft shadows to add depth to their images and avoid the strong shadows and hot spots that can occur with front lighting.  The HVL-F58AM flash unit can also control the ratio of lighting from several off-camera flash units.

Up to three groups of flashes can be set up for optimal, complete control of lighting via a wireless connection. Flash output ratios can be adjusted automatically without having to do tedious exposure calculations. Additionally, you can fire a modeling flash to preview flash effects before taking the picture. Even with multiple units, the modeling flash fires according to the flash ratio you have set.

Advanced Features for Optimal DSLR Performance
One of the flash’s most advanced features is its sophisticated zoom control that automatically optimizes illumination angles that are suitable for either APS-C size or 35mm full frame sensors. This control reduces light “fall-off” at the periphery of images.

It also has an advanced white balance compensation system that gathers color temperature information, complimenting the white balance information reading of the camera.  This achieves more accurate results when the main unit is in auto white balance mode.

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, and a supplied mini-stand for greater wireless freedom.

Price and Availability
The HVL-F58AM flash unit will ship in September for about $500 at sonystyle.com, Sony Style® retail stores (www.sonystyle.com/retail), military base exchanges, and authorized dealers nationwide. Pre-orders begin online on Jun. 20 at www.sonystyle.com.

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