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Thread: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Hello everyone. I'm so glad I came across this forum as a result of enrolling in my online photography course. It is truly awesome so many thanks to all who have contributed! As a beginner in photography I want to purchase an external flash for my Sony A580 camera and a second lens ( a good portrait lens). i need some professional advice as I don't want to waste money on something that isn't going to help. If you could post a reply I would appreciate it. Many thanks

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Tony

    Welcome to CiC. I'm glad that you're finding the site useful.

    I'll let the Sony users come in with suggestions for answers to your questions.

    I've just bought my first flash unit (Canon) and am on a very steep learning curve
    Last edited by Donald; 25th January 2011 at 09:04 AM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    I'll let the Sony users come in with suggestions for answers to your questions.
    Non-Sony users with third party portrait lenses available in a Sony mount might also be able to help, but that's not me ...
    Similarly any third party flash/strobe users with a Sony interface option?

    Hi Tony,

    It may help above mentioned people if you let us know if that is a crop factor, or full frame, camera?

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...

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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Well, not many other current makes use Sony mount afaik... (it's the same as the last Minolta mount though).

    Flashes: I've got a Sony flash (F42AM) which gives me out of the box wireless off-camera use (on a A330). It also has a head with horizontal and vertical movement. It is supposed to support high-speed sync and automatic adjustment of the output (not tested enough to be sure about that, but first impressions look good). There is a more powerful version with otherwise comparable characteristics. I haven't found many 3rd party flashes that are compatible with Sony bodies.

    As for lenses: it would help to know what you have already. I have a 70-300 sigma apo dg zoom, the AF of which packed in a month ago (apparently the lens construction can't handle the torque provided by the in-camera AF motor...). Except for that, I was quite happy with it. I also have a 90mm Tamrom macro lens, (another christmas present ) which looks like it might also make a good portrait lens.

    Regards,
    remco

    Disclaimer: I'm in no way a professional photographer... just one of the rare Sony users here

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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    I have been doing some research on Sony flash units for a friend. Although I have not used any Sony units, the Sony HVL-F42AM flash seems like a great compromise between price and capability. It has many capabilities I like in my flash units: including both tilt and rotate capability for bounce and High Speed Sync (HSS) for shooting with higher shutter speeds along with slave capability when you are shooting with a Sony HVL-F58AM. Sony distributes a higher power and more expensive flash, the HVL-F58AM along with a less expensive flash, HVLF20AM, which seems like a replacement for the built-in flash unit. I didn't go too deeply into researching the HVLF20AM but, it seems like this unit's capabilities are akin to the Canon 270EX. There is however a major improvement over the Canon 270EX. You can use this flash as a trigger for other Sony units. I dearly wish that Canon had included trigger and/or slave capability in their 270EX.

    I recommended to my friend that she get the HVL-F42AM unit because it is a fully capable unit at a decent price. I am certainly not an expert in these matters since I just did some online research but it seems to me that I might class the HVL-F42AM along with the Canon 430EX (series), the HVL-F58AM along with the 580EX (series) and the HVLF20AM along with the 270EX. Of course there are some feature differences between the Sony and Canon flashes.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 25th January 2011 at 04:14 PM.

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Many thanks for the helpful input Richard. I'll look into your suggestions. Thanks again!

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Thanks Remco for the help. I appreciate it!

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Thanks for the reply Dave. The Sony A580 is an APS-C sensor camera and being a newbie I assume the "C" stands for crop and not full frame. From what I can gather a "full-frame" is a camera that has a sensor that is actually the size of a piece of 35mm film? Not sure about the advantages of full-frame versus crop but I'll assume a full-frame boils down to more real-estate for the sensor technology to do it thing? Many thanks for an AWESOME forum. I really enjoy the tutorials and helpfulness of others. I'm also looking to mentor with a professional photographer out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I really want to learn and get good advice on how to better my craft from the get go so if you know anyone who has a helpful spirit and is really good at what they do I would appreciate any leads you could provide. Many thanks again!

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Hi Donald,
    Thanks for the welcome and I really enjoy this forum. Many thanks for the referrals to Sony users. I'm very excited about the prospects of all that I can learn from this forum. Many thanks again!

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    John C's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Tony,
    Welcome to CiC. Glad to see another Sony owner. I use a Sony A350 and my wife uses an A550 and between use, we have accumulated a variety of lenses. You said that you were mostly interested in a second lens with portrait capability. Generally with the APS-C sensor you should be looking at focal lengths in the range of 50mm to 100mm. If you obtained the kit lens with your camera, then you should have an 18-55mm lens, which is a relatively inexpensive but adequate lens and the long end of that zoom range can be used for portraits.
    If you want to use a wide aperture to help separate your subject from the background with a narrow depth of field, then you might want to consider the 50mm DT f/1.8 SAM lens which is relatively inexpensive ($150 US) but you wont gain any focal length over the lens you (I assume) already have. If money is no object, Sony sells a high-quality purpose-built portrait lens - the Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 (about $1,300). They also have the much less expensive ($250) but still good quality 85mm F/2.8 SAM, which is also right in the middle of the portrait range. Of the lenses I have, the inexpensive 55-200mm f/4-5.6 ($250) which is a surprisingly sharp lens but has a plastic mount and lighter duty build. I frequently use my Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ($750), which has extremely good performance through the full range (unusual for a 5X zoom). The 50mm f/2.8 ($450) or 100mm f/2.8 macro ($650) lenses are both very sharp and portrait capable. The 100mm especially is versatile since its a macro that doubles as a telephoto. So you can see there are a lot of choices and I haven't even mentioned the wide range of lenses made for Sony Alpha cameras by Sigma and Tamron.
    All of the Sony lenses will work on your camera. The choice of lens comes down to the type of photography that you will be doing and how much you want to spend. You generally get what you pay for. With more money comes better build quality, sharpness in the corners, wider apertures. Here is a link to a site with some very good lens reviews:

    http://kurtmunger.com/index.html

    Regarding flash, I cant help much because all I have is a Metz ringflash that I use for macro photos. One nice thing is all of the Alphas come standard with the wireless system.

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    insidescoop's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner wanting advice on an external flash unit and a second lens

    Thanks so much John! So much good information here. This forum absolutely ROCKS! Wonderful administrators and so many helpful users. It's good to meet a fellow Sony user so please keep in touch. I'm just starting on my photography journey but I am already learning so much and this forum has become an extremely valuable tool. If you're ever out San Francisco way let me know and we'll go out and shoot some pics. My wife and I know the area very well. Thanks again!

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