I got myself the new Sony HVL-F20AM flash!
It’s a quickly-foldable flash that turns off when it is flipped down.
It also turns off the moment you start turning the flash downwards so you can’t use it at a halfway position.
It has a very nice, solid springy snappy feel. You will enjoy the tactile feedback from flipping it! I would say it feels 80% similiar to closing the HVL-F58AM flash stand. It has rubber padding on the front to prevent the A900’s prism head from marking the flash. 🙂
It takes 2 AAA batteries.
When mounted on the Sony Alpha 900 (or any Alpha without a pop-up flash, according to the manual), it can control the Sony F36AM, F56AM, F42AM, and F58AM. However, the F20AM cannot be used as an off-camera flash. This is the first Alpha flash that can’t.
The F20AM cannot control off-camera flashes when mounted on the A100/A200/A230/A300/A330/A350/A380/A700 as far as I know (and according to the manual) but I will update this post if I find that it actually can, tomorrow night…
Fortunately, the pop-up flash of the A100/A200/A230/A300/A330/A350/A380/A700 all can trigger off-camera flashes. So it’s not a functionality that is strongly needed on those cameras anyway!
Off-camera Group Ratios
The F20AM cannot set off-camera group ratios even on the A900 but that is fine by me – ratios would need a complex interface on the back of the flash, like the F58AM, since the Alpha flash ratios are set on the flash and not the body. It’s also meant to be simple to target the A230/A330/A380 market while throwing in a bonus for the A900 crowd.
Nikon has a SU-800 unit which mounts on their flash mount, and triggers off-camera flashes. Nikon also sells a SB-400 flash which is small and can be set to bounce mode.
Canon has a ST-E4 unit which mounts on their flash mount, and triggers off-camera flashes. Canon also sells a 270EX flash which is small and can be set to bounce mode.
However, this Sony HVL-F20AM combines both the trigger unit and small flash into one! If you wanted to use both the SB-800 and SB-400 flash at the same time, you could not! If you wanted to use both the ST-E4 and 270EX flash at the same time, you could not!
Here it is, compared to my Sunpak PF20XD for size. Longer, thinner, just as wide.
There are only 3 switches on the F20AM – the DIRECT/BOUNCE switch, the TELE/WIDE switch and the ON/OFF switch (which is the swivel point.)
Setting the DIRECT/BOUNCE switch to DIRECT sets the flash to point forward, while BOUNCE points it up 75 degrees.
Setting the TELE/WIDE switch to TELE sets the flash zoom head to 35mm APS-C/50mm full-frame, while WIDE pulls a diffuser in front of the flash head, effectively making it 18mm APS-C/27mm full-frame.
Interestingly, and very cleverly, Sony designed it so that when you’re in BOUNCE mode, and you set the TELE/WIDE switch to WIDE, the diffuser ‘skips’ past the flash zoom head so you cannot use BOUNCE and WIDE at the same time. In such a condition it would be the same as BOUNCE and TELE.
That said, you do not need to shoot BOUNCE and WIDE – when you bounce off a ceiling, the distance travelled makes the light spread out widely so it’s already pretty much WIDE. If you use the wide panel diffuser on your other flashes while bouncing the flash off the ceiling, you are just wasting a lot of flash power!
And now, I can finally use my F58AM off-camera on my A900 – previously, I’d have to mount the F58AM on the A900 in order to trigger off-camera flashes! Thank you Sony for saving some wireless functionality for the A900!