Multiple Wireless Flash

Using Alpha Wireless Flash – Multi Unit
by mohd sulhan

Here is a short write-up documenting a quick setup I did with the Alpha Wireless flash system. In this example, I have used multi-flash units to demonstrate the ease of use of the Alpha Wireless flashes system to help enable better lighting control. Here are the list of items used in this setup:

a) HVL-F58AM – Left fill
b) HVL-F42AM – Center top fill
c) HVL-F56AM – Right fill
d) Three flash stands
e) Three mini ball heads on the tripods – Mainly used for position flexibility.
f) Backdrop (Black)
g) Props – Fruit Bowl

It can be seen form the image of the setup below, that the lighting would be broken down into three light sources.

Fig. 1 -The Multi Flash Setup

The mini-ball head mounted on the light stands helps in the fine adjustments of the lighting position. I have deliberately faced the flash heads to a point where you could see the light as the sample shots were taken. This will give you a see the shadow details with respect to each lighting condition.

I really like the combo of these three flashes (from left, 58AM, 42AM, 56AM) . I personally prefer these from the 36AM as the 36AM don’t allow manual power control. In this setup the controller in this case is the on camera pop-up flash. So when all these setup was done, Its time to roll. I will touch on the setup and settings on the flashes in the next page.

The setup time for this one is about 10 minutes. If additional light modifiers (e.g Soft Boxes and bounce devices) were to be included in this setup, the setup time may have been longer. For this one, its just bare flash lighting on its own for the raw lighting.

To setup X number of flashes, is easy.  Just set the camera in the Wireless Mode and just fit the flashes powered on(I find this to be an elegent approach) into the shoe one by one.

So the Procedure goes like this:
– go to flash menu on camera -> (for A700/A900) select MENU->(TAB – Item 1:1) Flash Mode – Choose WIRELESS -> press “OK” -> Put Flash on camera flash shoe and remove flash and place off camera. The camera will automatically whisper to the flash to switch to wireless mode.

– Repeat this with the next flash: Put flash on shoe, take it off. The camera will automatically whisper to the flash to switch to wireless mode.. Until all flashes get to whispered.

– Then setup position.

When you are setting up Channels:
HVL-F42AM – Press HSS+Mode Button for about 3 secs. Then once the flash mode blinks, toggle the Channels 1~2 by pressing the Mode button.

HVL-F56AM – Press Mode Button and put camera to Manual. Press Select button for about 8 secs Custom Settings. Then once the flash WL Ch-1 appears, toggle the Channels 1~4 by pressing the “+/-” button. Once done exit by pressing the Mode Button.

HVL-F58AM – Press Fn button on the middle of the 4-way button for about 4 sec. Camera goes to Custom Settings showing CO1. Use right arrow on 4-way button to go to C02 which shows CH-1. Use Up/Down arrow to select CH1~4. Exit by pressing the Fn button again.

Now that we’re ready to shoot

Since this setup is using the Pop-up on the Alpha A700 DSLR, there is no commander to remotely change the flash power and operate the flash setup in RATIO WIRELESS FLASH. We’ll have to manually set the power on the flash heads. This is achieved by setting the flashes to MANUAL and then adjusts the power levels on each flashes. You acn leave it in TTL too if desired if you do not want to have full control of flash power

Similarly for the newly released HVL-F20AM,  when used on the A900,  the flash will only function as a trigger – no ration control by the triggering flash.

Adjusting power levels:
– On the HVL-F56AM – Press MODE till you see “M“anual. Then adjust the power by using the plus(+) and the Minus(-) buttons. Power adjustable from 1/1(Full) till 1/32(Lowest)

– On the HVL-F42AM – Press LEVEL till you see the desired power level adjustable from 1/1(Full) till 1/32(Lowest)

– On the HVL-F58AM – Press TTL/M button till you see “MANUAL”. Then adjust the power by using the Left Arrow and the right Arrow buttons on the 4-way controller. Power adjustable from 1/1(Full) till 1/32(Lowest)

I normally start at 1/32 power for all to check the shadow fill.

Next section we’ll look at the example variation of lighting combination that could be used to achieve different lighting effects.

Here are some of the lighting variations that one could start with as they explore the different lighting positions. the first image here shows the effects of turning all the lights at one go.

Naturally, the shadow effects are unbalanced even when all the flashes were set at 1/32 power. This due to the fact that the flashes are itself of different Guide Number(GN).

Fig. 2 – All three Lights ON at 1/32 Power

Now we’ll try out different combination of lights and see its effect. I started of with one single light source from the left. This gives us a very classical lighting effect. The shadows are very directional as there weren’t any diffusers used. Depending on the distance of the flash to the subject, a point to note is that, too close a flash (even at 1/32 power) to the subject might result it extreme highlights especially on glossy waxed surface. Therefore do be extra careful with the flash distance in you application.

Fig. 3  – Left Fill Only

Next: Multiple Wireless Flash (cont.)

  1. December 7, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    hi. Very help full. Ta.

  2. Michael
    August 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Any recommendations on wireless transmitters for radio use which allow for the use of HSS? Thanks…

    • alphastrobist
      August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      Hi Micheal,

      Personally, I have not used wireless radio transmitters with the Alpha Strobes. I believe there are a few third-party radio wireless solutions that is available out there. We normally use the High Speed Sync with the Alpha using the HVL-F20AM/HVL-F58AM. I have not got any news of Pocket wizards supporting the alpha strobes to this point of time – but circumstances may change in the future. Should we get hold of any such solutions, we will surely keep you updated.


  3. Michael
    August 29, 2010 at 3:36 am

    Thanks Sulhan… I use the pop-up on my alpha 700 with my 58 wireless but I’m not crazy about the added exposure of the pre-flash, especially when shooting at close proximity to my subjects. I know I’ll lose HSS, but Cyber Syncs may be an affordable option.

  4. zaman
    February 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    i have alpha 350……. wondering if i can use 3 flash(f58/f56/f42 combination) with ratio …….

  5. June 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Use Pocketwizard Plus II with my Alpha a350 and a900. Must set flash manually. Works great in bright sunshine and can fire up to 1600 feet away. Don’t think support for Sony DSLR is coming any time soon for TTL features from Pocketwizard, Radio Poppers or the like…they just don’t think there is a market I guess.

  6. Farshad Fesharaki
    March 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    What channels do you use? Do they all have to be on the same channel?

    • alphastrobist
      March 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Farshad,
      If you use the on board pop-up flash, then you will need to use channel 1 – default channel. The channels are meant for group triggering. If you use the HVL-F8AM or the HVL-F43AM as triggers, then you may utilize the multi-channle selective triggering.


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