We have had heard this flash for months. We had known what can this flash do. We had seen the leak picture of this flash before it was launched, a typical Sony style of telling people what is their next product. And finally it was launched on, without much of us knowing about it, last week.
I have not favour in this flash since the beginning. It's just an F56 replacement model with a tilted head and grouping WL capability. The fact is, the WL grouping is only usable with Sony latest flash the F42s and F58s with A900, which I don't have and the A700. However, I have a lovely wife. She made this F58 as my birthday present. My birthday falls on the 5th of October, and this present had came to me much earlier. Well, rejecting it is not a wise move, so, I've learn to accept it as part of my gear. :p
So, here is it, my very own review of F58. You may get to know more depth review about F58 performance in Albert's blog. Hence I wouldn't touch much on the flash performance.
Let's talk about the size. How much bigger is this 58 compare to the rest of Sony flashes ? I don't have a F56 with me, hence I can't compare it with 56; instead I compare it with my 42 and 36.
Yes, it look LOT bigger than the 42 and the 36. Look at the size of the supplied mini flash stand !
And the control panel is SUPER complicated if compare to the 42 and 36. However, the Fn button and the navi key in the 58 is kinda cool. I like that design actually.
One thing I do find this 58 has two similarities with 36: both do not have the lock key to swivel the head, and both 58 and 36 coudn't swivel 90 deg horizontally to left and right. To do this for the 58, simply turn its cobra head to the left or right while swivel its head at the 90 deg vertically. Then we have a left bounce or right bounce flash head instead turning the flash head like the 42s and 56s.
The weight wise, of course the 58 is the heaviest among compare to the 42 and 36.
To the left is the weight of 58 without batteries, and with batteries on right.
It weight less than 700g for a 58 with batteries.
Of course the 42 is lighter.
And the 36 is the lightest amongst the Sony flashes.
Worth to mention about the pouch that come together with this new flash. Although it is not a leather pouch as it was for the 42s and 36s, but it's more practical in use.
The size of the pouch is big to compensate the big size of the 58. It has a belt bracing which fit well in a belt as shown in the photo below:
The mini flash stand that specially design for the 58 is cool. It's super big if compare with the current design !
Don't you think the new flash stand look like a Romulan Warbird ? And the smaller flash stand look like the smaller class Romulan warship ! LOL
Ok, let's talk about the WL function of this flash. The 58 do offer grouping flash control. However, it's only usable on the current A700 body and "the supported camera", which is the Sony FF A900. With the A700 body, this flash could offer a two grouping flash ratio with the 42s and the 58s only. The 58 has to be mounted on the A700 body to enable the grouping thingy.
Although this flash offer as a WL commander for all Sony Flashes, but it's only for the "supported camera" only. When mounted on an A700 body, it can only be the commander for the 42s and the 58s only. Let me show you what it meant.
The picture below shows two 42s were on light stand, and a F36 was place in the middle. The 58 was mounted on my A700, and turn as the controller/commander WL mode.
Both F42s were triggered, but the 36 is not.
The photo below shows the 58 as a controller and an on-axis flash and at the same time trigger the 42s off camera. But the 36 was not triggered.
This function is good to where the on-board F58 act as the on-axis fill with 2 F42s act as rim flashes.
And the last photo shows the 58, the 42s and the 36 were triggered WL-ly from the on-board flash of A700.
Of course this can happen. Hey, this 58 is a Sony flash. It MUST understand the WL command language from the Sony DSLR body. Does this 58 communicate with the rest of the body ? Not sure. I think it can, since my A700 can command the 56 and even the older Minolta 5600 HS(D) flash.
So, is it a good flash ? Well, this is a replacement for the 56, and at the cheaper price than the 56. The RRP for the is RM 1499, in fact the street price is at RM 1,200.00. Value for money for what this flash can offer.
But if you are in budget, the 42 is a better option. The 42 offers manual power control and WL as well, and it has GN of 42 and it's just a slight lower GN than the 58.
Will this 58 works in the A100/A200/A300/A350? Unfortunately not all functions are usable in these body. The obvious one is the WL grouping function. I still not understand why Sony didn't design the flash in such a way that it could group ALL Sony flashes, instead limit to the 42s and the 58s only? Well, I'm hoping there will be upcoming body firmware that enable ALL Sony bodies to use this great grouping WL function of the 58.
Finally, the flash sound from this 58 is cool ! The sound is pretty futuritic when the 58 flashes. It's nothing I've heard so far, not even in my old 5600 and the current 42 and 36. Those who own it would notice it.
My conclusion is short. The F58 is value for money, and yet it has some room for improvement. The rotary head is cool ! But if you want a left bounce or right bounce under landscape orientation, the twisted head may cause some un-balance to my camera. The build in white card reflector is normal in my opinion. This option had been included in almost all non-Sony flashes. Sony should include this add-on into the 42 already. So far, I haven't test out 58's power consumption, but I had predict this would be a batteries eater.
Update : Link to my very own Ratio Flash with F58 and F42.