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Help with A7 Off-camera Flash

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by astaireathon, Dec 31, 2014.

  1. astaireathon

    astaireathon TalkEmount Regular

    33
    Jul 13, 2013
    Pittsburgh
    Hi Everyone,

    I'm wondering if anyone here can answer this question for me, as I've been unable to find any specific discussion of it elsewhere. I have an A7, and I just got the new HVL F32M flash unit. It works wonderfully, etc. However, I also wanted to start using flash off-camera, so I got two Lumopro Universal hotshoe translators, the ones endorsed by the Strobist blog. I thought that with the A7's MI shoe, it could handle a manual center-pin firing, but the setup is not working. My question is: is it the camera or the flash? Do I need another hotshoe adapter, or do I need a different flash? Or is it something even simpler? I've linked to the equipment in question below, and thank you for any help you can offer! :)

    (Yes, it does say not compatible with Sony/Minolta, but I assumed that meant the old hot shoe, not the new MI one)

    http://mpex.com/lumo...slator-kit.html
     
  2. michelb

    michelb TalkEmount Regular

    196
    Oct 27, 2013
    Greater Montreal area in Quebec, Canada
    Michel Brien
    It clearly states on the website that this set-up is: Sony/Minolta NOT compatible.

    People have to understand that cameras/flashes/lenses are now all talking to one another now and trying to mix different brands together only results in disasters and non-working combinations.

    The MIS shoe is about 2 years old and very few compatible accessories are actually working with it.
    The microscopic contacts you see hidden at the front of your camera shoe (and on your flash foot ) are what is establishing the conversation between the camera and flash. If this conversation is not taking place due to absence of contacts from your adapters or damaged or shorted contacts, the camera does not even know there is a flash mounted up there.
    The lack of these contacts will prevent any automation from taking place. If your adapter has some metal touching these either at the camera or at the flash,then the language is broken and the camera and/or flash may even lock-up under certain circumstances. It could also be that the center contacts do not line-up properly and there is no trigger happening but if it did, it would be at full power only if you leave your settings as automatic.
    Previous Minolta / Sony accessories may be used but require recent adapters for the MIS shoe to operate properly

    The only wired combination that will work as of now is:
    Sony FA-CS1M adapter on camera and on the front connector plug in the following
    Sony FA-MC1AM cable plus optionally up to 3 FA-EC1AM cables to extend and extra 1 meter( 3ft) for each additional cable length. Minolta equivalents Cable CD and Cable EX respectively often available used.
    Sony FA-CS1M to mount the flash ( to mount on a stand or clamp, you can use the supplied foldable foot that should have a 1/4 inch screw-in hole)

    This set-up will keep all automation working (except AF illuminator )

    This will take you back about 160$ assuming a price of 50$ for each the adapters and 60$ for the first cable.


    I know little about the HVL-F32M since there is still no downloadable instructions and specs are incomplete on the Sony sites i looked at. I assume it is compatible with the Wireless (WL) protocol since it comes with a foldable foot to be used in WL. Other options could be:

    If they mention in the manual that is it compatible with Wireless flash function, adding a HVL-F20M, HVL-F43M or HVL-F60M ( either of the 3 mounted on camera ) would allow remote control of the 32M without cables and with all automations available.

    If they mention in the manual that is it compatible with the CONTROL Wireless flash function, it could then control when mounted on the camera the HVL-F43M or HVL-F60M (or another F32M should it be WL compatible which i am again not certain of) . It could also control in wireless some previous generation Minolta or Sony flashes ( Minolta 3600HSD, 5600HSD, Sony HVL-F36AM, F42AM, F43AM, F56AM, F58AM ) but these had the older Minolta / Sony Autolock shoe that is not compatible with the newer camera models unless you use the Sony ADP-MAA adapter.

    Just to give you a better understanding of the importance of these language issues, note that with adapted lenses like i see in your signature , some very expensive and capable wireless triggers ( Phottix Odin) DO NOT work on a properly adapted set-up A7/A7r/A7s with original Sony adapters. The absence of the lens language (focal length, distance focused etc) just prevents the triggers to do their job properly and always fire at the last power level the triggered flash was used at.
     
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  3. astaireathon

    astaireathon TalkEmount Regular

    33
    Jul 13, 2013
    Pittsburgh
    Thanks for your reply!

    Just to be clear again, I'm not expecting to retain TTL capability, but it's well documented that the MI shoe will work with any brand (well, lots anyway) of ISO 518 flashes in Manual mode, since you only need the center pin to tell the flash to fire. Which is why I'm assuming the issue with this particular setup is with the flash and not with the camera, and a non-proprietary manual flash may work. (There is no metal contact with the proprietary pins on either the camera or the flash).

    Also, as I said in my original post, the disclaimer clearly refers to the older Sony/Minolta shoe, right?

    Anyway, I guess I'm out of my depth here. Thanks for the info.
     
  4. michelb

    michelb TalkEmount Regular

    196
    Oct 27, 2013
    Greater Montreal area in Quebec, Canada
    Michel Brien
    Just found the manual at Sony Europe

    It can be used in WL mode BOTH as remote unit or as Control Unit but only on channel 1.
    They also only mention A-Mount cameras as compatible ( it's a shame they did not explain the differences with E-mount cameras that have built-in flashes that will not work with this unit as a remote)

    Looking at your story, my guess ( and it is just a guess at this time) is that:

    Like the HVL-F20M and AM units, this unit is probably more of a Stroboscopic Lighting Unit ( My naming: SLU ) rather than an actual flash. Another fellow is having issues with a Nissin i40 / Yongnou triggers that could be a similarly working unit ?
    Let me explain that with HVL-F20M and AM models, if they are installed on "dumb" triggers, they do not work at all. If used on "intelligent" triggers (Phottix Odin ), they do work but if i set the Odin in Manual mode, the flash does work but a flash meter ( and i tried 4 different ones) either gets no reading or a very weak reading that is not even close to the light emitted by the unit as there is no pre flash as in TTL in this mode.

    My findings are that these units are probably emitting pulses of light that add up to provide total exposure rather than a single big burst of light like traditional flash units. Triggers or cables connected to the camera are only sending a single " open circuit/ closed circuit " signal and this would cause the SLU not to react.
    The fact that they can do WL control attests to this capability since the stroboscopic effect is what allows WL to take place.

    Sony probably played tricks on us by making these units that can only be used on dedicated cameras as they emit a pulse of short light bursts rather than a single flash.

    As soon as it becomes available in Canada, i will probably get one to test ut stores here still don't know much about this unit
     
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  5. astaireathon

    astaireathon TalkEmount Regular

    33
    Jul 13, 2013
    Pittsburgh
    That does indeed sound like the issue (the 32m not functioning without an intelligent trigger.) I'll be curious about your tests with the unit when it arrives in Canada--it does at least seem to fill a void that fits nicely in size with the A7 range between the 20 and 43 as an on-camera unit. I'll have to experiment with a dedicated manual flash unit to see if that resolves anything.

    Thanks for taking the time to look into this for me, I do appreciate your expertise!
     
  6. michelb

    michelb TalkEmount Regular

    196
    Oct 27, 2013
    Greater Montreal area in Quebec, Canada
    Michel Brien
    They are finally listed at some local camera stores here up in the cold but none available yet.
    One store lists it at 252,99 and another at 299,99 Cdn $ of course. HVL-F20M is around 199$ here
    However a more powerful, full featured HVL-F43M is also listed on special at 319,99$

    Considering the small price difference, and the relatively large power difference and extra features, the 43 looks like a better deal at these prices.

    After peeking through the manual, here are a couple of things i noted

    Guide numbers for full frame ( F32M /F43M):
    @ 15mm: 9,5 / 15
    @ 24mm: 19,5 / 23
    @ 28mm: NA but estimated around 20.5 / 24 ( Are these specs unpublished for the 32 because there is no intermediate position ? All previous flashes that i know did have continuous positioning )
    @ 35mm: NA but estimated around 22 / 25( Are these specs unpublished for the 32 because there is no intermediate position ? All previous flashes that i know did have continuous positioning )
    @ 50mm: 24 / 30
    @ 70mm: 27.5 / 35
    @ 105mm: 31.5 / 43

    This flash is a little more powerful than the HVL-F20M since the 20 has guide no of 20 at tele (50mm) position and only GN 14 at regular position (27mm for Full frame ).
    When looking at flash power i usually look at the 35mm setting since most old time flash models were limited to 35 mm.
    Built-in flashes from the DSLR era were actually of GN 12 for a coverage of 24mm in ill frame so the 20 is not much better than a DSLR iil-in flash. The new built-in flashes on NEX and ILCE cameras are a joke with their GN of 6-7 and don not have the capability to control remote flashes in the traditional Sony/Minolta WL mode.

    It has HSS and can be used as WL remote so this unit has some extra features over the 20 that makes it more appealing since the price difference is not that large between the 20 and 32 ( at least here in Canada).
    In WL , it does not support or control ratio lighting
    The fact it uses only 2 AA batteries make it lighter but change of batteries will be more frequent and recycling time may be longer as batteries lose their charge.
     
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  7. stephen431

    stephen431 TalkEmount Regular

    112
    May 2, 2014
    My understanding is that the Sony brand MIS flashes can only function in TTL mode. They can't operate as a manual flash. It requires optical triggering or a TTL radio trigger, which there are none yet for the MIS shoe.
     
  8. astaireathon

    astaireathon TalkEmount Regular

    33
    Jul 13, 2013
    Pittsburgh
    Well, I picked up a LumoPro LP180, a true manual flash, and it works beautifully with the universal translators to remotely fire. (Actually, the flash itself has a 1/8" input, so I only need one of the translators and an auxiliary cable). So indeed, it was the Sony flash that was not responding to the manual setup.

    Michel, I do believe you are right that the Sony does not function like a true flash, as comparing it to the clearly single-firing LumoPro, the Sony does indeed seem to fire multiple bursts all the time.

    I'll keep the 32, as it's a great size for the A7, and will be useful for TTL on-camera needs like indoor events, and as a wireless trigger. But the LumoPro has a max guide number of 110, so it's a much more powerful unit.

    Stephen, the Sony flashes can function manually on Sony cameras, but if you mean they can't act as manual units for other hotshoes, then I believe you're right on.

    Thanks again everyone for your help--live and learn!
     
  9. michelb

    michelb TalkEmount Regular

    196
    Oct 27, 2013
    Greater Montreal area in Quebec, Canada
    Michel Brien
    Still no news of when HFL-F32M will be available in Canada

    I thought of something you may want to try since some flashes are more fussy of how they are connected than others. Older Sony HVL-F42AM was one of them. Maybe HVL-F32M has similar communications behaviour.

    I am assuming you want to use the F32M in Manual Mode through this adapter you bought.

    1) Place flash ON camera and with both camera and flash powered on, set the modes on your flash: manual, (M i guess), power level and zoom coverage you intend to use.
    2) Press the shutter button lightly to ensure camera is focusing ( it is also communicating with the flash at this point and it kind of wakes it up)
    3) Without powering camera or flash off ( keep everything powered), remove flash from camera hot shoe.
    4) Install flash on your adapter and place the other end of the adapter cable on the camera shoe.
    5) See if it now works.

    If it does work, after this set-up, you should be able to change power level and zoom coverage without having to re-install the flash on camera. Only if you change mode back to TTL, may cause the flash to lose communication again.
     
  10. DigitalD

    DigitalD TalkEmount Veteran

    352
    Mar 2, 2014
    Miami
    David K Fonseca
    Hey guys, Im interested in this discussion but a little confused. I was looking at the HVL F32M because on B&H it clearly states that its compatible with the A7 and supports wireless control. So I was assuming that I could trigger this flash automagically off the A7 or now my A7II and in TTL for that matter? Whats the story? How can I get wireless control over this flash if I choose to buy it? Thanks in advance!
     
  11. michelb

    michelb TalkEmount Regular

    196
    Oct 27, 2013
    Greater Montreal area in Quebec, Canada
    Michel Brien
    On all NEX and ILCE cameras (even those with a built-in flash) you need 2 flash units to start any WL. Too bad, all previous Sony/Minolta cameras with WL capability could use their built-in flash to achieve this.

    To control WL remote flashes you need an on camera flash which can be any of the following: HVL-F20M, F32M, F43M or F60M ( or with a Sony ADP-MAA adapter: Sony HVL-F20AM, F43AM or F58AM ). Some Metz and a couple of other off-brands may work but compatibility may be limited to today and when you change, the system may not work. By buying a Sony set-up, things that work today, should also work tomorrow. Any off-brand may become incompatible when they release the A7 version 10 in 2020.

    As wireless remote flashes you need: HVL-F32M, F43M, F60M, or any of the older Sony Alpha F36AM, F42AM, F43AM, F56AM, F58AM or Minolta 3600HSD or 5600HSD. Note the F42AM has to be connected directly on camera first to work properly so you would also need an adapter (Sony ADP-MAA)

    All of these will have all the features they were born with. Some have ratio control and some don't some have 2 or 4 WL flash channels, some have group capability, some have limited Manual control and power levels. Up to you to decide what you want to do before purchasing any.
     
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  12. ryanlio

    ryanlio TalkEmount Regular

    26
    Mar 13, 2014
    Pixel kings for sony works. You will need one Ada-maa at the receiver flash end.
     
  13. DigitalD

    DigitalD TalkEmount Veteran

    352
    Mar 2, 2014
    Miami
    David K Fonseca
    Great info and much appreciated! This would have taken me several days to research :D
     
  14. stephen431

    stephen431 TalkEmount Regular

    112
    May 2, 2014
    Yeah, from what I understand, Sony flashes are looking for a signal on the TTL pin when you trigger from the hotshoe, even if the flash is in "manual" mode. Thats why there's an issue when you try to use radio triggers, but not when you trigger optically.

    Some guy wrote an article online about how Sony's flashes operate differently from other brand flashes. That their flashes always operate like TTL flashes, even when the camera is not in TTL mode. I'll see if I can find it.