HVL-F20AM Flash Test II – Night Fill-in

HVL-F20AM Flash Test II – Out door use for Night Fill In on A900 (One of the cameras without In-build pop up flash)

The HVL-F20AM is a nifty little flash that have the right combination of power and portability for some types of shots. The low Guide Number of this flash just dos the job of really “minute” fill in for some of my night portrait jobs.

I’ve recently put the HVL-F20am through a series of night Wedding Photography here in Melbourne. Combining low light landscape “Extended Exposure” + Flash fill in for the subject, the low power of the HVL-F20AM gets the fill in done perfectly to void some of the problems that might have come from higher powered flashes. Some key points for the shot that I took:

  • Avoid Blown Out Bride’s Wedding Gown/Dress
  • Avoid Over Fill of foreground – too much light to pull the mood of “seclude”-ness away
  • Not too large lighting radius (I want it small)

Sample image 1

Shot info – ISO: 250, Av: f2.8, Tv:1/4 sec, Focal length: 16mm

The setup was fairly simple with exposure priority given to the background with a slightly long exposure and a fill to the wedding couples done with the HVL-F20AM.
Setup Info & workflow:

  • This shot was a 1/4 seconds at 16mm with aperture of f2.8 shot – camera mounted on tripod.
  • No ND grad filters were used due to presence of subject.
  • Fill in with HVL-F20AM pointing up for bounce + with aid of TWIP BOUNCE (with WHITE SURFACE).
  • The original shot was intentionally underexposed by about 1/2 a stop (I could have used a higher ISO for the shot but I prefer the response at ISO 250 in this case)
  • Using Photoshop ->Duplicate Layers, Layers (Option)->Screen (Minor Post processing to personal liking)
  • Below is the placement of the setup with respect to the subject –


It is great to be able to use this little bounce-capable flash for this purpose.  The small guide number helped in preventing over blown hot spots while using large aperture for the shot.  It come out to be really handy for use with the A900 in my case.  Not only it could be used on the fly for more creative wireless flashing feat, well for the simplest of it usage, I guess this flash has found a permanent place in the camera bag.

  1. uly
    April 3, 2010 at 4:38 am

    nice info sir, i hope you can share more mostly to the newbies like me, to inspire us in photography.

  2. mohd iqbar
    May 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    saya beginner. A350. saya apa kelebihan f20am dgn 42amndari segi teknik pencahayaan. mana satu patut saya beli?

    • alphastrobist
      June 9, 2010 at 9:30 am

      Question translated, “….I’m a beginner. Using A350. What is the difference between HVL-F20AM and the HVL-F42AM in terms of the illumination. Which one should I buy?”.

      Answer (English): The HVL-F20AM is a small flash which was designed to accompany the DSLR bodies. Its guide number is slightly higher than most of the A series bodies pop-up flash. Also, its made for users of the A850 and the A900 bodies – which does not have any on board flash.
      The A350’s pop-up flash has a Guide Number (GN) 12 meters or 39 feet at ISO 100. The HVL-F20AM has a Guide Number of 20 – measured with reference to field of view of a 50mm lens . If a wide-angle lens wider than then 50mm focal length field of view is used, there may be drop-off on the edges in terms of illumination given the same scene taken from the same position.

      The HVL-F20AM also doubles up as a wireless flash controller for the A850 and the A900 bodies. I personally use the HVL-F20AM for indoor shoot often and the power is usually good for of an average sized home. However, due to the use of AAA size battery, battery life may be a problem for long duration shoot. Therefore, its really depends on what you need the flash for, its a good flash to have standing by and to be carried along for travel. I have this flash as my part of my wireless gear in case if the HVL-F58AM needs to be fully deployed on wireless too remotely. If you have the A350 which already have the pop-up flash – do spent a little more to get the HVL-F42AM – as the pop-up flash itself can be used as the flash controller.

      You can start exploring the wireless flash world!!! Have fun.


  3. jong
    June 30, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I have a a350 and hvl-42am and i tried it wireless and it work okey but i love to have like four hvl-42am needed like in the ballroom shoot in every corners would it be possible that will work with four strobes and a pop up flash as a controller?

    • alphastrobist
      June 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      Hi Jong,

      Thank you for dropping in this question. Great that you manage to get the wireless working and experience the convenience of using the alpha flash wirelessly. Your idea of having four lights ready in all four corners of a room is actually very straightforward given the right setup. Based on your description, you have only your pop up flash as the controller. You may run into insufficient flash power to trigger the other strobes wirelessly if the ball room is too large ballroom – camera position to the corner of the ball room.

      If your intention is to use the flash as a backlight to lightup the rear part of your composition – with respect to where you are facing, then it might still be alright (provided the camera to lights distance fall within the trigger zone). Multiple triggering is easily achieved by overlapping zones as illustrated in the simple diagram below. The wireless flashes would probably be with diffusers on and pointing upwards.

      ballroom light

      The Setup Above:
      – 04 x HVL-F42AM
      – 04 x light stand
      – 04 x flash shoe stand from the HVL-F42AM set
      – 04 x mini ball-head to adjust light angles (Optional)

      If the room is large , then the only option is to use a larger flash like the HVL-F58AM to be the commander. One thing to note for a ballroom setup, there might be mixed lighting – warm down lights etc. If you have flash at all four corners, and functioning as the back fill light then do watch out for mixed light effects skin tones.

      One avenue to try out is using Slow Sync with a single HVL-F42AM if you are on a tight budget to see how the rear section could be lighted up with the available ambient light. Do share your experiences here. Have a great soot and Happy trying!!


  4. August 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I have 2 pieces HVL58AM Sony flashes and a Sony F20AM pieces.
    I have no problem to get lightning to work with the Sony F20AM.
    Has also a Sony HVL56AM and may I not to work with Sony F20AM.
    Is it possible that it does not work or do I do wrong?
    Grateful for answers


    • alphastrobist
      August 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Bengt,

      Looks like you’ve got yourself a great setup there to experiment with. Based on your description, you do have either the A900 or A850 as you are using the HVL-F20AM. The only option you have if using the A900/A850 to fire the HVL-F56AM is to use the HVL-F58AM. Using the HVL-F58AM, you would need the HVL-F58AM set to the right mode (CTRL 2) to fire the HVL-F56AM.

      Available with only the HVL-F58AM mounted on A900:
      2) CTRL 2 – Accessible via: Fn|CTRL|CH_03 – CTRL 2
      Noted on the Display as:
      Supports the following Flashes :
      HVL-F42AM, HVL-F58AM, HVL-F36AM, HVL-F56AM

      Based on this information, I believe that the HVL-F20AM by default (Looks like its operating in the CTRL 1 MODE) on its own may not be able to control the older flashes – HVLF36AM, HVLF56AM.
      Do get back to me if there are any queries on the above info.


      • Mike
        March 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

        I use the KM 5600 flash with the HVL 20 as the trigger for the A850. It works fine.
        I’m using a 3 flash system ( 4 counting the trigger ), KM 5600, Sony HVL-42 and HVL-58 all triggered with the HVL-20.
        To minimize the lighting effect of the HVL-20 I set it to bounce and wrap folded wax paper over it and hold it on with a rubber band.
        Sulhan, thanks for this very useful information.


      • alphastrobist
        March 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

        Hi Mike,

        Thank you for sharing your setup info. In some instance, I even use the tissue paper which I can grab hold of nearby if I really need a solution fast.
        Surely, the Sony HVL-F20AM may be seen as a “small boy”. But in our setup, this “small boy” has been one of the key equipment for our mobile studio services.
        Shooting people, products, cars, foods etc…

        The Sony HVL-F20AM does the simplest job of triggering its other larger family members without any misfires.


  5. Charlie Jennings
    November 19, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Do you know if this flash would be compatible with the Konica Minolta Dimage A200?
    I’ve searched but can’t find any info and the Sony customer service guys haven’t got back to me.

    Many Thanks


    • alphastrobist
      November 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      Hi Charlie,
      I believe the HVL-F20AM should be compatible – as it to just behave as a pop-up and fire flash. But for its original intent to be a controller to fire other flashes in wireless mode maybe not.
      I would suggest that you visit any of the nearest photo stores or any sony/alpha users nearby you(through forums or facebook) and test the flash with your camera on site.


  6. Layman
    March 3, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Thanks for great info! Really appreciate

  7. Drew
    April 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm


    I have an HVL-F20 and HVL-F42. Can I use a remote trigger/receiver combo with the F20? eg F20 in stand alone mode like I use the F42. Would like to use all my pieces (F20 for side fill) before I invest in a F58 for example.

    Thanks in advance and thank you sooo much for producing such a great resources for the alpha community!

    • alphastrobist
      April 16, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Hi Drew,
      Thank you for visiting Alphastrobist. Based on my understanding of your email, you are trying to use the F20 off-camera and triggered wirelessly. Unfortunately, you can’t fire the F20AM wirelessly like you do with the on board flash or the F20AM if mounted on the camera. Therefore, the HVL-F20 AM would solely be useful as a controller or only have the HVL-F42AM as the remote flash. As you can see the F20AM is a purpose built flash for cameras that does not have on-board flash and also as a small+slightly higher power flash than the on board flashes of most of the pop-up flashes.

      Have fun trying…


  8. Rafael
    July 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Works on NEX-7 as wireless trigger for HVL-F43AM ??? All functions are working .. HSS, TTL, etc ? I need to buy any adapter to use on NEX-7 ??

    • alphastrobist
      July 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Hi there,
      The NEX-7 requires a triggering commander like the HVL-F20AM, HVL-F43AM or the HVL-F58AM for it to trigger any external supported flash on wireless. The pop-up flash on its own is not able to trigger the external flash wirelessly.

      The minimal I would think is to have the HVL-F20AM as a trigger. It might be the size of the strobe capacitor in the NEX-7 that might be the limiting factor to support wireless triggering on its own.


  9. tishan d
    July 20, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Dear sir i have a a 290 and i want to know weather hvl-f20am is compatible with it. Also i want to know weather this speed light could be defused

    • alphastrobist
      July 20, 2012 at 5:06 am

      RyHi Shan, thank you for your inquiry. Yes the HVL-F20AM is compatible with the A290. It has a build diffuser. Also two modes, front and upwards bounce flashing mode. You can further diffuse by means of attaching frosted material if you want try diffuse it further. Watch out for loss of power when you have the light diffused. Light source to subject distance must be taken into consideration.

      Hope this helps.

  10. tishan d
    July 20, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Thankyou sir got a good idea by reading your reviews . I want to know wether this could be used wireless with the 299

    • alphastrobist
      July 20, 2012 at 9:03 am

      Hi Shan,

      The Sony HVL-F20AM can’t be used wirelessly as a wireless flash with the pop-up flash of the A290 as the trigger.
      It can be mounted on the A290 to be a more powerful flash alternative and a trigger for wireless flash.


  11. tishan d
    July 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Dear sir can you gind me a place to buy this in chennai

  1. March 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm

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