HVL-F43AM – Physical & Handling

USER REVIEW – Sony HVL-F43AM – Newly released May 2011
by mohd sulhan

Physical & Handling
– How the flash felt in the hands

The HVL-F43AM is  the latest flash in the Alpha-Mount DSLR system line-up.  Here in this review, I compared the HVL-F43AM against the HVL-F58AM which is its larger sibling having very similar features – one of which, functioning as a wireless flash controller for the other flashes in the alpha mount system.

Physically, this flash is obviously smaller as compared to the higher powered HVL-F58AM.  The size of the flash sits perfectly between the Sony HVL-F58AM and the Sony HVL-F42AM.

Physical Size:

Fig. 1 – The three flashes side by side. Sony HVL-F58AM, HVL-F43AM & the HVL-F42AM

The HVL-F43AM fits comfortably in the palm, thanks to its significantly shorter and smaller overall size as compared to the HVL-F58AM.  Weighing in at approximately 340g without batteries, the HVL-F43AM weighs the same as its smaller guide number counterpart – the Sony HVL-F4AM.  As we can see below (Fig.2) the HVL-F43AM inherited the innovative Quick Bounce head design – first introduced in the HVL-F58AM.

Fig. 2 – The two very similar looking flash with the Quick Bounce head

The Quick Bounce head design allows the user to switch the head for bouncing the light off a ceiling in both the portrait and landscape orientation quickly without any interference of a locking feature nor any need for flash head twisting.  This feature is very useful during indoor events and the photographer needs to switch between group shot and portrait shots quickly.  I personally used it a lot in most of my photo taking.  The physical size of the flash itself is normally influenced by the large Strobe Capacitor and having a smaller guide number of 43, this has enabled the flash to be physically smaller proportionately in its overall design.

Fig. 3 – Side view comparison – Focus sensor position now at the top

The Sony HVL-F43AM as we can see from Fig. 3 above, resembles the larger HVL-F58AM in almost every part, except for the location of the Focus Assist sensor.   The focus assist sensor on the HVL-F43AM is located higher – on the top part of the lower section of the flash body.  This change might have been necessary due to space constraint internally in the flash body itself.  We’ll talk a little bit more on this new focus sensor position in the later section.

Fig. 4 – Shaving most of the height to reduce the size

The Sony HVL-F43AM is shorter by about 20mm as compared to the HVL-F58AM.  I personally can see this physical reduction advantage to be welcomed in the following areas:

  1. Reduction of size of flash which is useful when used in crowded area – the 20mm reduction is significant to keep the profile of the overall flash when its mounted onto a camera smaller.
  2. The flash can fit into a smaller storage area in a camera bag, jacket or pouch.
  3. Matching the size of smaller bodied camera models such as the Sony Alpha A33, A55

We’ll now look at the body layout and design of the flash in greater detail.

Body Design & Layout:

The Sony HVL-F43AM user interface panel looks very similar to the panel found on the HVL-F58AM.  The top movable head section as can be seen here in Fig. 5 shows great similarities to the HVL-F58AM.  A couple of obvious differences can be seen here especially the use of the new flick switch in place of the slider type On/Off switch found on earlier flash models.

Fig. 5 – Key differences as noted by A – LCD User interface and  B – Flick switch

External Power Pack Option & Flash Setup by cable

The Sony HVL-F43am does not have the connections for connecting an eternal battery power pack or flash cables for wired flash setup.   The connector ports found on the HVL-F58AM is not found on the HVL-F43AM as we can see in Fig. 6 below.  Certainly, Sony must have made the move to exclude these ports to keep the HVL-F43AM simple to suit the particular use model.  It would have been nice to have the flash being able to be supported by an external battery pack for extended shooting periods.

Fig. 6 – The ports on HVL-F58AM and no ports on the HVL-F43AM

We will look into greater detail the user interface of the back panel in the User interface section of this review.

Weather Sealing – Dust & Moisture

The Sony HVL-F43am now comes with a weather seal against dust and moisture for its battery compartment.  The battery compartment now has a rubberised edge capping O-ring seal design which conceals the battery compartment when the battery door is in its closed position.  This is a very welcoming feature when the flash is being mounted on the camera and the flash battery cover edges is facing straight upwards.  In cases where there might be light water droplets, the weather seal does play some role in keeping moisture at bay

Fig. 7 – Moisture and Dust seal on the battery compartment inner cover

Flash Head – Built-in Bounce card & Diffuser

Fig. 8 – Built-in Bounce Card and wide angle diffuser – HVL-F58AM(Left) & HVL-F43AM(Right)

The Sony HVL-F43AM comes with (A) the built-in bounce card and the (B) wide angle diffuser that keeps itself snuggly on the top part of the flash head. The bounce card is proportionally smaller compared to the one found on the Sony HVL-F58AM. The bounce card can be quickly deployed by sliding out the card and its bounce area adjustable by pushing the card back in as required.  The wide angle diffuser allows the flash to support wide angle  field of view of a 16mm lens.

One observation from the bounce card of the Sony HVL-F58AM is that the size is small and hence the proportion of bounce forward was not that obvious.  The bounce card of this size seems to be only good for subject that is close.  Therefore for the smaller HVL-F43AM, the smaller card size means less bounce too. Thus extra care and characterization would be required to understand how well and effective the bounce card on the HVL-F43Am performs.

In both cases, the bounce cards does introduce nice catch-light well when used carefully in portrait shoots. Next we will look at the user interface of this new flash.

Next: HVL-F43AM – User Interface

  1. July 8, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Very recently I purchased Sony’s HVL-F43AM for use with my Sony Alpha A65. First, up front, I have never used an external flash to date. I have tried to do all my photography without flash, thinking the internal flash is basically useless for most practical purposes. (Correct me if I am wrong.) My purpose for buying this flash is because recently I have been asked to do the photography for an upcoming wedding (like next Tuesday already) here in the outskirts of Tokyo. Having very little knowledge and experience using flash equipment I have some questions. They might be basic for most people but for myself with an upcoming wedding shoot, constructive ideas and feedback will be very informative and helpful toward this objective.

    My Equipment:
    Sony Alpha A65
    Sony HVL-F43AM
    Sony 18-55mm kit lens
    Tamron 18-270mm zoom lens
    Sony 35mm, f1.8 lens

    Received advice:
    * Shutter priority to 1/125
    * ISO = 800
    * Bounce Flash to ceiling. Use pop up white card to enhance eye twinkle (or something like that)
    * +/- Flash EV value adjusted as needed via Fn => Menu (right side)
    * 18-55mm lens, (effectively 27-82.5mm at 1.5x crop factor, 35mm equipment equivalent) use over other lenses I have (above)

    Other then that, I guess I bounce around like a jack rabbit making sure to get all the important shots. I will also be conscious to carry around extra 4-packs of my Sanyo Eneloop batteries.

    So, my question here is, in general, any thing I am missing, or something else I should be considering? I only have one main camera. I am thinking to also bring a tripod to mount my compact Sony HX30V from a stationary point to capture the wedding on video.

    I will surely appreciate any idea(s) that you may have to offer. Thanks.

    Jerry Suppan
    Tokyo, Japan

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