Sony HVL-F56AM Flash Review - Photo Jottings

Sony HVL-F56AM Flash Review

Sony HVL-F56AM flash quick review

Contents of box, velcro on flash head not included.
LCD lit up, showing some available settings
Display items possible on LCD

Specifications and general information.

Sony HVL-F56AM  Discontinued in mid 2008.
MSRP $399 at introduction, $449 when replaced.
Tested on
Sony A580, Sony A700, Sony A900.
In the box
Flash, stand, vinyl pouch and instructions.
Build quality
Very good all around.
Hotshoe style
Sony proprietary type
Guide number
56 (184′) ISO 100, @85mm zoom position, and 44 (144′) at 50mm zoom.
Guide number accuracy
Maximum output seems similar to other models with same rating.
Stated color temperature
Not stated.
LCD monitor
LCD.  1.9″ x .9″ (49mm x 23mm).  Has low battery indicator, zoom length with wide panel down indicator, power levels, HSS, bounce, wireless channels, and auto levels, see image above.
Lights and switches
Flash charge light, display light, mode, select, + or -, zoom, on-off, test, selector switch for modeling, multi flash, single and hold positions.
Power source
4 AA, 1.5V
Recycle time
About 6 sec at 1/1. Half-power (1/2) is instantaneous to about 1 sec depending on zoom setting, quarter (1/4) power is instantaneous for 2-3 pops.  Rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries used.
Flash duration rating
No info.
Power saving function
Yes, 4min, 15min, 60min and none.  Wireless flash mode power save can be set to 60min or none.
Adjustable power levels
Six full levels only; Auto, 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32.
Wide angle diffuser type
Built-in, pulls out and down, covers 17mm, (11mm APS-C) and shows on display when attached (Wide).
Bounce card or reflector plate
Not included.
Bounce positions
45°, 60°, 75°, and 90°.
Swivel positions
Right, 30°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°, – Left, 30°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°, anddownwards 10°.
Zoom positions
Auto, wide (17mm), 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 85mm.
Zoom type
Internal, and fully automatic in auto mode.
Auto format zoom
Yes, the flash knows what focal length the lens is at, either full frame or APS-C format, but it doesn’t always choose the appropriate APS-C focal length for some reason.
AF assist beam
Yes, red, works properly.
Custom functions
The following settings may be customized.  Wireless CH1-4.  Time to power save-4min, 15min, 60min, none.  Time to power save when using wireless flash; 60min/none.  Recording modes in which manual flash may be set.  Feet or meters on LCD.
Sony off-camera cable and Sony external battery adapter connector.
White balance info
Modeling flash
Multi-flash emission
Yes, customizable.
High speed sync
Yes, Sony claims up to 1/12000, although Sony doesn’t have any cameras yet with a 1/12000 shutter speed, that’s a carry-over from 1990s Minolta Maxxum (Dynax) 9 series film cameras.  Reality suggests HSS is available up to the maximum shutter speed of the camera.
Wireless ability
Sony ADI support
Red eye reduction
Not supported by Sony.
3.0″W x 6.9H x 2.4D   76mm x 175mm x 62mm   Maximum length 6.9″ (175mm) including shoe mount.  Length and depth measured with flash flat.
13.0oz (369g) without batteries, 17.0oz (481g) with batteries.
Operating temp
0°-40°C,  32°-104°F
Works great with Radiopoppers™ triggers, without the set-up hassle of the Sony HVL-F42AMflash.
Has ‘Ratio 2:1‘ flash indicator but this function isn’t available, it’s a carry-over from Minolta film cameras.
Flash will fire even if it isn’t charged sufficiently, so check the charge indicator before shooting, otherwise you may wind up with the wrong exposure.  It does this so you won’t miss a shot waiting for the flash to fully charge.
Can be custom set for full manual use in all recording modes, even “auto.”  Flash is automatically turned off when camera power is turned off, then back on if flash is still switched on.
Compatible with Sony’s newest control flashes.
Good for
Not good for
A very small negative would be the 6 second full recharge rate, but that can be shortened with better batteries or an external battery pack.
Highly recommended, but not available new.  Replaced with HVL-F58AM in late 2008.


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