Minolta Program 5400HS review - Photo Jottings

Minolta Program 5400HS review

This is a quick review of the Minolta Program 5400HS flash unit that first came out in 1993.  It was Minolta’s top-line flash at the time, until about 2000 when it was replaced by the Minolta 5600HS.

In the box you get the Flash, a fabric case, an MS-2 mini stand, and a 52 page printed manual.  A separate bounce attachment is available.  Apparently there is no wide angle diffuser for this flash because there were no ultra wide angle lenses at the time.

Build quality is very good, similar to newer factory flashes from Minolta and Sony etc.

The feature set is great.  It has exceptional power, about the same as top line flash units of today.  There is an off camera cord connection, and an external battery pack plug.  Works properly with Radiopoppers triggers.

Has the Minolta/Sony proprietary hotshoe, so you’ll need an adapter for wireless radio triggers.

Setting the power level is very easy, just push the TTL-M button, top left, once for each full stop.  The sequence is; TTL, 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and then it turns over to TTL etc, you can only go forwards.  Unfortunately, there are no options for half or full stop settings.

The zoom length can be changed by pressing the zoom button, the sequence is 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 85mm, and 105mm, forwards only.

The flash head has no lock, which is great; and the detents are solid and will not allow the head to move unintentionally.

This is a great high power flash for people on a budget.  Again, it has a plug for an external battery pack to make recharging very quick, (for an old flash design); it takes about 3 seconds to recharge for full power with this battery pack.  It also has modeling flash for checking shadows, or for some creative imaging.  If you’re thinking of starting out in interior photography, especially Real Estate, this is one of the very best flashes for the money.

I did not check the program features as I don’t have an appropriate camera for this older flash.  I’d say it will be mostly if not all manual control on newer Sony cameras.  However, the slightly newer Sony HVL-F56AM is very similar, and works well in auto mode on older Sony cameras with the proprietary shoe.

The flash pictures below show the port and connector without covers, but I’d guess they came with covers when new.  There is velcro on the flash for using gels, I was too lazy to take it off when photographing it for the review.

Product shots.  Velcro not included.

Flash specs.

Flash Model Minolta Program 5400 HS.
Owner’s manual Printed, 52 pages.
Price Street price approximately US $50 on eBay at the time of this review.
Tested on Sony A77.
In the box Flash, Fabric flash case, mini stand and printed manual.
Build quality Very good.
Weather sealing None.
Hotshoe style Minolta/Sony proprietary.
Guide number Listed as 54m at 105mm.
Guide number accuracy Seems right.
Stated color temperature Not stated, but the same as other Minolta/Sony flashes.
LCD monitor 1.95″ x 7/8″ or 50mm x 22mm. Green back lite; stays on for about 15 sec after adjustments. Awful LCD and green back light.  The text is too small, and the light is not sufficient to help out.
Lights and switches A red ‘lightning bolt’ ready lite on the back, see product picture back.
Power source 4 AA batteries.
Recycle time Manual states around 10 seconds with nickel cad batteries, but with Sanyo eneloops 2000mAh I’m getting around 8 seconds between full power pops. 1/2 power pops take about 2 seconds to recycle, slowing to about 5 sec. 1/4 power is instantaneous for about 3 pops, then slows to about 3 sec.
Flash duration rating 1/50,000-1/600 sec.
Power saving function Yes, sleeps automatically after 4 minutes of non use, and shuts down 1 hour in wireless/remote flash mode.  Not user adjustable.
Adjustable power levels Yes, 1/1 through 1/32 in full stop increments, not adjustable for half or full stops. It wraps around past the end on both power and zoom.
Wide angle diffuser type None
Bounce card and reflector plate Optional accessory
Bounce positions 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°.
Swivel positions 270° total. Clockwise: 30°, 60°, 75°, 90°, counter clockwise adds 120°, 150°, 180°.
Zoom Positions 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 80mm and 105mm.
Zoom type Motorized, internal.
Auto format zoom No. You must calculate the crop factor of your sensor, 2.0x Micro Four thirds, 1.5x Sony Pentax Nikon, or 1.6 Canon to get the right coverage.
AF assist beam Yes, but may not work with newer Sony cameras.
Custom functions Meters or feet adjustable inside battery compartment.
Connections Hotshoe, port for external battery pack, and off-camera flash cord.
White balance info No
Modeling flash Yes
Multi-flash emission Yes
High speed sync Yes, with certain cameras.
Wireless ability Same as other Minolta/Sony flashes
Red eye reduction No
Dimensions 7.1″ long, 2.1″ deep, and about 3″ wide. 182mm long, 53mm deep, and 77mm wide.
Weight 14.5oz (412g) empty, or 18.4oz or (523g) with batteries.
Operating temp Below 122° F or 50° C.  Above 14° or -10° C.
Quirks Awful LCD quality, and the back light is worthless.  Battery door is not attached, so don’t lose it when changing batteries.
Notes May or may not have all the features available for newer cameras.
Good for Manual flash control freaks on a budget, like interior photographers.
Not good for People wanting automated features.
Recommended Highly recommended for people wanting an inexpensive, high powered flash unit for manual use.


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