The Sony HVL-F60M is a flash that not only sparks a lot of light but also a lot of mixed feelings. Much of the flaming the F60M has received has been due to overheating and due to Sony’s new hot shoe foot. The overheating issue was resolved with the firmware update 1.1.
This beast of a flash features a very powerful output. Its interface is very intuitive and easy-going. You have lots of control over almost any parameter you can think of. The Cobra design and the quality of the build are satisfactory. When you hold the flash, it feels very good and even when tilting and panning the cobra head the flash still feels extremely secure.
The F60M is a GN60 flash. This indicates the distance from which an object can be properly illuminated. At 100 ISO, the distance is calculated as “Guide Number (GN) = distance (m) x aperture (f-number)”. So a subject 15 meters away will be properly illuminated with an aperture setting of f/4 (60 = 15 x 4). Another cool feature is a built-in video light. This is very useable, as it gives 1200 lux (measured at 0.5m) enabling the flash to illuminate at 2 meters distance at ISO 3200, f/5.6. Furthermore, the stroboscopic lighting lets the flash fire multiple times during a single exposure. This lets you capture stroboscopic images, freezing moving subjects several times in the same exposure.
The HVL-F60M features a High Speed Synchronization mode that enables the flash to sync with shutter speeds from 1/500 to 1/4000 of a second to catch fast-moving subjects. But only when the head points forward.
AWB, AFL and ADI
AWB compensation allows for more accurate white balance in flash photography. Colour temperature information is sent from the HVL-F60M to the camera, where it is incorporated into the camera’s white balance settings. AFL Adjustment automatically adjusts flash relative to focal length settings, from 24mm to 105mm. ADI metering lets the flash communicate effectively with lenses equipped with distance encoders, combining TTL flash metering with guide number control.
Wireless operation of the F60M.
I am using the F20M to communicate with my F60M because the Sony Alpha A99V does not have a built-in flash.
To trigger the flash using the built-in wireless system, you must do the following:
- Select the wireless option with the HVL F60M in the camera’s hot shoe. “Menu > Camera > Flash Mode > Wireless”
- Press the shutter release button halfway. This makes the camera communicate all the necessary settings to the flash.
- Remove the flash from the top of the camera. The large red light on the front of the flash should now be blinking, telling you that the camera was successfully set to wireless mode, and that the flash is fully charged and ready to fire.
- Attach your F20M. To test if communication is established between the master and slave, you can do a quick test by pressing the camera’s AEL button once. The master flash should emit a quick pulse, and with a short delay the slave should follow.
Using wireless will introduce a delay, but there is a way to overcome this. Enable FEL lock and the wireless shots after that have NO delay. Remember to unlock as the scene changes. To do this, press play or the same FEL button once to unlock. This way you can toggle the delay on and off. Though this is a workable solution, it is entirely unacceptable.
Another issue is that HHS can only be achieved when the flash is facing forward.
I dislike the infrared communication a lot while it is easy to get into a situation where transmission is partially blocked, which means that the flash sometimes will not fire. This limits my use of the flash. Soft boxes, umbrellas, beauty boxes or just positioning the flash at the wrong angle will case grief.
HVL-F60M new firmware 1.10
Today, all flashes are sold with firmware version 1.1 installed, but earlier F60Ms had the previous version of the firmware which allowed the flash to overheat easily. The new firmware changed the firing rate, and I have yet to experience any overheating. Unfortunately is there no other way to upgrade the firmware than to send the flash in for service. Sony did this for me free of charge but it took a disappointing 3 weeks to perform the service.
What I would like to see
I do not like the absence of ports for standard radio triggers. If you want, the flash to operate off-camera you will need to use Infrared control or some sort of hot shoe transmitter.
I would also like to see a much more professional service organisation backing Sony products. If I were a professional photographer, it would turn me away from Sony if my camera needed to be shipped to another country for cleaning rather than being cleaned on the spot.
Links and goodies
- Do visit Joerg haag’s blogpost on the F60M. It offers many of the same points as my article, but with a slightly different and interesting perspective to it.