6.22.2013

A small victory against the engineering stupidity of the new Sony flash system. Dammit.

Some proprietary designs are just chicken poop.

Hey there! Do you own a Canon or Nikon camera and use it, along with the same brand's flash units to make lots and lots of flash lit images? Are you happy with the way your flash and camera work together? Can you use all the different radio triggers out there with a minimum of cussing and pulling your hair out??? If you answered "yes" then do yourself a big favor and don't switch to Sony's new a99, a58 or Nex 6, especially if you were also planning to buy the Sony HVL 60 flash unit. Uh Oh! is Kirk getting ready to dump his Sony cameras and look elsewhere?

Well, no. I think the a99 is the best camera I've shot with in the entire realm of digital but I think that whoever is in charge of the product category of Sony flashes should be required to come to the house of every system owner of cameras using the new flash interface (the one that should have a trigger contact right in the same place every other flash in the universe does) and personally retrofit their flashes with either a new shoe that makes the cameras work with my Flash Waves triggers or your Pocket Wizard triggers.  Now.

Here's my short list of Sony screw ups with flash: 1. I liked the old Minolta shoe and people made converters for them. It's bad marketing to have two concurrent shoe standards. Especially when neither one of them is "standard." 2. The new flashes (HVL 60) have put the firing pin for the flash at some random position where it fires almost no third party radio trigger. Work arounds include taking a hacksaw to your flash trigger. 3. I've tried to figure out the flash menu to be able to use the HVL 60 as a master (on camera) to trigger an HVL 58, and vice versa, with no luck whatsoever even though I've read every tutorial on the world wide web.  4. Sony doesn't make an off camera cord for their new flashes and cameras. And guess what? Neither does anyone else. It's simple, simple, simple engineering. Dear God, someone please step up and make a connection cord. And yes, I've finally found out that the newest $600 flash will shut down if you shoot it more than once or twice a minute.

My biggest desire was to be able either use my HVL 58 flash or my (new non-standard connection) HVL 60 on my very nice and tiny Flash Waves radio triggers. The trigger fits on the a99, the a58 etc. just fine, and it sees trigger current and triggers the sender. The problem is that the HVL 60 doesn't sit far enough in to the shoe on the receiver to make contact with the center pin. The problem with the HVL 58 is the none standard foot with NO center pin. I despaired. 

Now, most of the time I'm using the camera with the studio flashes and have no problem using the triggers for that. When I'm not using the studio flashes I'm probably using a fluorescent or an LED panel and those are so wonderful that no sync connection is even needed. But I'm doing a job out of town on Monday and I wanted to travel light, light like I did in the Nikon days when I'd stuff a bunch of SB-800's in a Airport Security case and pop a Nikon flash controller in the hot shoe and shoot all day. Four flashes, in umbrellas and never a misfire. Later I used Canon and I used them all in ratio'd manual with radio triggers and I was fine with that. I wanted to do the same thing here with the Sony gear. 

So, I sat in my studio with Gary Friedman's e-book and two $600 flashes and every adapter known to man except the ones I'd need to make my flashes work. But, ever optimistic, I saddled up and went up the road to Precision-Camera.com and started looking around. And then I found my work around. It's a small adapter that interfaces with the old Minolta style flash shoe on one side and gives you a dumb (but live and centered) center pin/standard flash foot on the other side. I bought two. One goes straight on the HVL 58's Minolta foot and when I attach it to the radio slave everything is jake. The "marvelous" new HVL 60 requires me to use two adapters. One converts the new non-standard standard shoe to the older totally non-standard Minolta foot type. The second one is the same adapter I talked about above which interfaces with the Minolta-type shoe interface and then gives me a standard flash foot with a centered firing contact on the other end. Now, with two cheap adapters cobbled together I can get fully manual flash out of my $600 flash. Amazingly droll. I could have done this much more elegantly 30 years ago with a Vivitar 283 flash. And those babies never shut down for heat unless they smoked and gave up the ghost permanently. 

I guess this kind of stupidity is what happens when a hapless giant blunders into the world of photography without a second thought for the professional who might want to use their stuff. Thank goodness for whatever enterprising manufacturer who decided to make and market a $10 device to save a $600 marketing nightmare. 

Now forgive me for my tantrum but I'm off to immerse myself in Gary's instructions with both cameras and flashes in front of me on my desk. I'm practicing my boxing in case I ever see the day when I meet the Sony "flash team." But I'm sure, given the feedback Sony has no doubt gotten on these issues that the whole team is probably busy practicing to be more successful at their new jobs, which probably entails learning to ask, "Do you want fries with that?"

Final point: Every flash maker with a unit that retails for more than $400 should be required to put a standard PC socket somewhere on the flash unit. That would have solved half the problem right out of the box.... 

14 comments:

Joe Gilbert said...

BRAVO!

Mr said...

omg, i just went to try and get into some flash photography with an a99.. and stumbled into all kinds of DOOOOOM threads about it, and just gave up! glad you found something better than i stumbled upon! you need to work up a lil cheat sheet chart for all us poor sony suckers!

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to connect that very same Vivitar 283 to a NEX 7, on the off-chance I might need a flash again sometime. The hot-shoe adapter I just returned to Amazon doesn't even fit physically, but I have slave light units for my old off-camera flash units so I can get along without wireless. The whole mess does smack a bit of the traditional SONY method of trying to preempt a market with a proprietary design, something which has never previously worked to their advantage (memory stick, VCR tape, etc.). I would appreciate your giving us more details of your workaround.

Frank Grygier said...

Oly does not get enough credit for their flash system.

Frank Grygier said...

Oly does not get enough credit for their flash system.

Brad Calkins said...

When I switched from Canon to olympus I got one ttl flash from Oly, and then a bunch of $50 manual only flashes and some triggers. Best move I ever made as the manual set will work as-is with any brand (except Sony it sounds like!), and adjusting each flash is trivial with a pair of up/down buttons. They have an optical sync as well... I rarely ever got into multiple flashses with my ttl units from Canon as there are too many variables to get consistent results.

Sony definitely needs to provide some options to combine their own products in one system!

Vu Le, DDS said...

YongNuo 560 EX2's. (Arias calls them the "Kung Pao 560") $80 or less per flash, surprisingly well built. Standard shoe for any (non-Sony) camera. I prefer them over any speedlight I have used before or since. Works great with any shoe flash trigger, and has 2 optical slave modes. I've shot four light studio portraits with them no prob. For $600, you can have a McNally-like array of them.

Ray said...

How dare you sir! I'll have you know the Sony Flash Development team was recently awarded the prestigious Susan B. Anthony Excellence In Engineering award by the United States Treasury Department.

Paul said...

With an adapter stack like that you might need bigger umbrellas so you can still fire the flash into the umbrella :)
I've just entered the realm of strobist style shooting with a Canon and old Minolta flash. I needed an adapter for the Minolta flash which promptly started to separate into two parts (weight of the flash at an angle was too much for the cheap adapter) so you might also want to buy some super glue.

Jochen H. Schmidt said...

Hm... the Yongnuo RF602 radio triggers should work perfectly with the A99. They actually do with the NEX 6.

David S said...

i use paul c buff triggers on my nex6 with no problems

Camellia Photography said...

I'm shooting Weddings with A77 + HVL-60M.
There's no wedding where 60M wouldn't overheat after 30-40 shoots. Pathetic.
No matter if it's TTL, 1/1 or 1/8 power output. Once it overheat then it's hell... every few minutes it will keep overheating making 10-15 minutes brake between proper shoot. So so... I took Canon 580 ex II which was available during the last wedding and it was just working perfectly with my A77 without any overheat problem till the end.

Laura Harris said...

Imagine if you were new to the world of flash and was also trying to figure out how to make this so-called awesome F60 work with your new Sony A99. No sales rep could help me at any store. A Sony representative couldn't tell me what to purchase. I bought the Phottix trigger/receivers and have put them in a box and bought the Tiny Little Triggers and Receivers. Still learning, but I can get them to work. I wasted money on this F60. And, yes, when I have used the F60, it overheats.

Titan said...

Hi,

I know that this post is old, but anyway. I want to know which adapter did you use for minolta to real standard hot shoe?

I have a a77ii and a HVL-f42am flash with a ADP-MAA adapter. Just bought some generic radio transmitters, but cant trigger my flash using this set. When I shoot my camera the transmitter and the receiver work, but it don't trigger the flash. My suggestion is that the conector of ADP-MAA adapter is not centered on the receiver adapter.

Thank you!