12.18.2016

I finally found a cost effective speedlight that works as a dedicated, TTL flash for current Sony cameras.

I've owned lots of different "on camera" flashes and flash "systems" over the past few years. I even wrote a boot about them back in 2007. I had things pretty well figured out when I was using Nikon Speedlights with Nikon cameras but I never really got the hang of using dedicated flashes with any of the mirrorless cameras I have owned...until now. The issue in the past always revolved around getting consistent exposures in TTL. I can get all the consistency I want if I shoot in manual mode settings but nearly every third party flash I've tried with Sonys denies me the use of HSS (high speed sync) and good, repeatable results with automatic flash metering.

When I owned the a99 and the a77 cameras I went ahead and purchased their top of the line flash only to have it repeatedly shut down after 15 or 20 leisurely paced pops due to an overly cautious heat/panic threshold setting. It made the flash useless for event work or social documentation.

I've tested some of the newer Sony flashes but just didn't want to bite the bullet at the prices being asked and risk yet another sissy flash that can't be used for real work.

I did a recent event using only manual flashes on camera and we (the camera, flash and I) nailed about 490 out of 520 exposures. The remaining 30 could be saved with judicious use of post processing. But I had to think about exposure all evening and it made my brain tired. It made me long for the bomb proof flash systems we enjoyed in the heyday of the Nikon F5 film cameras. The mental sweat of a long, flash-ridden event pushed me to do some research.

I found the Godox Ring 860ii flash and an identical unit under another brand called, Neewer. Since the specs, battery, charger and appearance were identical I saved about $40 by ordering the Neewer version.
Why did I buy this? Well, it has a healthy guide number but it also has two features that I am delighted with. First, it has a whopping big Lithium Ion battery that charges quickly in a very nice charger, clicks into place in the side of the flash and provides about 600 full power flashes with one charge. Buy an extra battery just for peace of mind and you are ready to shoot all day long. Even if you are a promiscuous shooter like me. Charge time is something like 2 hours.

The second feature that makes me smile is that the flash incorporates the new multifunction flash foot that interfaces with the same multifunction flash shoe found on all the newer Sony cameras. It is compatible with all six Sony cameras that I own. The flash provides full TTL automation and it also provides HSS for syncing out in the sun. Going a step further, you get a simple optical slave capability, built in. Set the camera to S1 or S2 and you are ready to use this flash as a slave with ANY other flash.
It also can be used as a master flash to trigger other flashes in it's family.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating so the day I got it I charged the battery, tossed the flash on top of an A7Rii, set it to TTL and started going around the house scaring Studio Dog by shooting everything in sight. Every exposure was on the money. Right on the money.

For about one third the cost of a comparably capable Sony model I now have the rock solid flash performance, in full auto, that I've been looking for in the Sony system. Every camera flash I own now is some new brand built in China. Not that the Sony flashes aren't built in China as well. All the flashes have two features that allow me to use them as a system in the same way we used to use our monolights and "pack and head" systems. One feature is the power ratio control. I can dial the power on any of six flashes from full to at least 1/64th power.  I can also set every flash to optical slave and use them together regardless of which radio trigger they want to answer to. It makes for a highly portable and mostly interchangeable system.

So many Sony peripherals are priced insanely. It's nice to find options that do a great job at much lower prices. I am happy with my purchase and recommend these flashes to other Sony shooters.









9 comments:

Dr. Singer said...

These alt-Sony products have been around for some time, but I think the real benefit is that they are finally not priced like the exotic and temperamental flash heads that bear the Sony name or like Phottix's elaborate wifi trigger system. I still have two Sony/Minolta models: (HVL-43M and Minolta 5600 HS(D)) that work on the old Maxxum iISO hotshoe, just for the HSS capability. Only the 43M will shut down unexpectedly and is easily fooled in TTL mode, esp. if bounced or there is a mirrored surface somewhere in the frame. Give me a HSS-caable wifi transceiver any day over yet another flash head that still uses the Sony optical system.

Michael Matthews said...

Sounds good. How about an experience-based report after six months or so of frequent use? Scratch that. Make it a year. Your extensive use of continuous lighting makes it unlikely to get that much steady use in a few months' time. Which brings up another question: have you made much use of the inexpensive bulb style LED light featured recently? I'm getting itchy to replace the inadequate, cheap spiral fluourescent bulb setup I bought several years ago but almost never use. Every time I turn them on one of the bulbs undergoes another color shift.

Mohammad Shafik said...

Hi Kirk,

I had my A7II for around 2 years now, and I have been looking for a TTL flash forever. I bit the bullet three months ago and bought the Godox version but with a normal AA batteries since I have a zillion Eneloops always ready and charged.

I was lured in by the reviews, the guide number, the full swivel head in both directions, the large dot matrix display and same control interface as the Canon 600EX-RT I had before, and more importantly, the full remote radio TTL operation. I bought the flash + trigger combo and they work incredibly well. The small trigger looks quite smart and is very straight forward to operate and it gives me remote TTL operation for my flash. Brilliant when shooting indoors and need to place the flash in a more strategic place away from the camera. And you know what? They are much more accurate than Olympus's TTL calculations. My only complaint would be a stiff head when swiveling. I have to hold the flash body with one hand while swiveling in fear of putting force on the plastic hotshoe. Best value for money.

Now I have 5 full sized electronic flashes (Yongnuo 560IIIs + the Godox) which all of which have optical slaves and radio triggering and two radio triggers (Yongnuo 560TX + the Godox) plus 4 rogue Yongnuo radio triggers that can operate any other hotshoe flashes for the same price of one Canon high-end flash.

Kirk Tuck said...

Word.

Peter said...

With all this talk recently on lights and modifiers, I detect a need for new books on how to use the latest inexpensive gear to best effect. I have the older books, and for me, an amateur who only occasionally uses lights, they were very helpful. I even get good shots of my family who were very cooperative, as soon as they realized they were getting pictures they liked out of the exercise.

I was watching an interview with Denzel Washington on the new film he is directing and appearing in, when they cut away to a shot of the filming in progress – it was a street scene, and showed a cherry picker reaching up two stories of a building and holding a horizontal scrim about 20 feet on each side! Made me laugh (and think of VSL).

Peter Wright

Michael Nathaniel Meyer said...

I've been using a couple of the all manual versions of that flash. Whether on camera for events or off camera in conjunction with my pack and head strobes, they have generally worked well. The lithium batteries last seemingly forever and are the main selling point for me--no more AAs. I did a job in Seoul last month and packed just a pair of these flashes--when I do similar projects for this client here in NYC it's usually with the pack and head kit. I'll be curious how you find the TTL performs--I would love a TTL version for Fuji. I'm tempted to have one modified with an old Lumedyne head replacing the zooming flashtube.

OTOH, the AD180 from Godox (mine was the Calumet version), was the least reliable piece of kit I've ever owned. Scratch that, second most unreliable--my much loved but rarely relied upon Fuji GS645 was less reliable. Usually once burned twice shy, but I'm glad I took the gamble on the v850.

James Bullock said...

Dear Mr. Tuck, First of all let me say at the outset that I am grateful for all the work you put into this blog. I have been following you for a number of years now and have found most all of the information you share to be very useful ( i.e. your thoughts on gear, your "process" for "doing photography", marketing, tips for heathy living, etc.) but there is an issue with your post on 18 Dec that I would like clarification on. I am specifically referring to your recommendation of the Neewer flash unit. I too had searched high and low for a TTL solution for my A7Sii which btw I have found to work surprisingly well for still photo applications. Anyway I learned about the Godox system first and when you mentioned that you passed on it for the Neewer branded version and saved some coin in the process, I was all over it. Also the description of spot on exposure performance while following studio dog around had me sold. Now before hitting the buy button in my Amazon cart, I tried (without luck) to find out if the link you provided to the Neewer flash unit did indeed take the same battery as seen in the photo attached to the post in which you recommended the it. All caught up in the excitement of TTL and not being able to find a single picture showing the compartment of the battery door open on the flash I went ahead and clicked BUY anyway. Well now imagine my surprise once I received the flash, tore it from its housing, flung open the battery door and saw those four wretched, cylindrical holes proving once and for all that it only takes double A's!!! There were a number of really nice accessories in the package but alas, no Lithium Ion battery, no charger and for that matter, no chamber on the flash in which to put one in. So what gives? Respectfully yours, JB

Kirk Tuck said...

Totally baffled. Send it back. Get the one with the lithium. If my link was wrong I sincerely apologize. This is the exact link for the Sony model with the lithium battery: https://www.amazon.com/Neewer-Wireless-Speedlite-NW860IIS-replacement/dp/B01GRXV9J4/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1482773277&sr=1-1&keywords=Neewer+NW860iiS&linkCode=ll1&tag=thev0c1-20&linkId=7893e37018e95bf63d267463b67a7830

The model number is NW860iiS. The price on Amazon seems to vary daily. Not sure how I messed up the original link. Many apologies. I'd blame it on Amazon but it's really just an example of my fallibility. Thank goodness Amazon is great about returns!!!

James Bullock said...

Not sure which is worse.....a suspect link or learning that one of my favorite bloggers is human. Apology accepted. A friend of mine is thinking about taking the kit off my hands. If he doesn't bite it's going back to Amazon for sure. FYI (and others who care) Adorama has their own Flashpoint branded version of the Neewer/Godox TTL Sony speedlight that accepts a single Lithium Ion battery (cost is $179). I ordered one and a transmitter today since I already have one of their flashpoint monolights that I am really happy with. BTW, the husky roller bag was/is a great recommendation. I take it on every job.....photo or video. The stitched pockets along the inside are a perfect fit for my dual set of sennheiser wireless mic systems. http://www.adorama.com/fplfsmzl2so.html?gclid=Cj0KEQiAnIPDBRC7t5zJs4uQu5UBEiQA7u5Ne1i8y7Cq2B9G3XGg1ymJiVDnh77_amSQMHsyeoALHWIaAoQa8P8HAQ

http://www.adorama.com/fprrr2ts.html