A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?

Started Oct 25, 2011 | Discussions
Thomas Karlmann
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Wondering here about the time lag between pre-flash and flash for the A77 and newest Sony flash. Any Comments? Any chance of the preflash could cause eyeblinks? (Old Nikon D70(I think) was very poor there)

As far as your flash exposure test goes, I was wondering why you were asking on the forum? Why not use PS and just see how that white collar is exposed? I was thinking that perhaps that white collar looks as if it is DIRECTLY pointing back at the camera. I do not know how Sony is handling %'s of highlight glare.

I would try a subject with more white where some white was not perpendicular to the camera.
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laguire
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Just curious have you tried to see if theres a difference with the electronic 1st curtain on or off? cant think of a reason it should affect flash metering but trying to think of any other differences between the a55 and a77

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Gary Friedman
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to tom, Nov 3, 2011

Tom, the behavior you describe incredible. I wonder how the Maxxum 7 would know what kind of a portrait was being taken? (I guess it had to infer it from the 14 metering cells. It's not like today where the camera can analyze the entire image in live view.) Very impressive. What information would a lens need to give the camera that the camera couldn't figure out on its own? And again, why would a lens dictate whether HSS would work?

Your experiences open up a whole plethora of questions!!!

-GF

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Gary Friedman
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Thomas Karlmann, Nov 3, 2011

Thomas Karlmann wrote:

Any chance of the preflash could cause eyeblinks?

Of course! Everyone blinks when they see a flash. It's just that not everyone has the same reaction time.

I haven't had an opportunity to measure the time lapse between the pre-flash and the actual flash.

As far as your flash exposure test goes, I was wondering why you were asking on the forum?

I was asking to see if anyone else was having problems. From the limited responses I've read my conclusion is "most are not".

-GF

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Gary Friedman
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to laguire, Nov 3, 2011

laguire wrote:

Just curious have you tried to see if theres a difference with the electronic 1st curtain on or off?

I have. There isn't.

-GF

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tom
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Friedman wrote:

Tom, the behavior you describe incredible. I wonder how the Maxxum 7 would know what kind of a portrait was being taken? (I guess it had to infer it from the 14 metering cells. It's not like today where the camera can analyze the entire image in live view.) Very impressive. What information would a lens need to give the camera that the camera couldn't figure out on its own? And again, why would a lens dictate whether HSS would work?

Your experiences open up a whole plethora of questions!!!

-GF

Minolta was ahead of its time, just didn't let the world know.

The instructions for the Portrait card (for the "i", "xi", and 700si give a hint how that works. I've attached page 2 of the instruction sheet below.

Minolta a-mount cameras have been able to provide some information about subject distance and use it at least from the "i" series of cameras (there's a distance encoder in the camera on the focusing screw drive that works with older lenses, as well as the D system in newer lenses.) The cameras also know the focal length. Assuming the lens provides a pointer to the distance calibration vs screw turns (maybe from the lens ID) the camera can calculate subject magnification. Notice the first column below; it's subject magnification. Notice also the ranges of subject magnification. They don't have to be very precise (that's probably why Minolta couldn't just use "screw turns" for ADI flash and needed something more precise.)

The first set of numbers in the 3rd column are the aperture settings for the 85mm f/1.4 G lens. Notice that the lens doesn't open all the way until the portrait is a head and knees shot. I recall back in the old days people complaining that they couldn't use their brand new 85 f/1.4 for portraits like they wanted because so little was in focus for head shots at f/1.4. Based on the portrait card, Minolta would have said - "you're right".

Additionally, if you look at the note at the bottom of the sheet, it says you don't need the Portrait card for the xi and si cameras, because Portrait mode is built into Program mode (or Expert Program as Minolta called it back then.

According to the Minolta literature of the day, the "Expert Program" mode was one of the big features introduced in the "xi" cameras (i.e. their first 14 segment metering cameras.) (You may recall that "Expert Systems" were the big thing back then. Expert Program Mode used information from the different AF sensors and the 14 segment metering including magnification of subject, relative distance to background (from the other Af sensors & I think to the precision of "same as", "near", "not so near" and "off scale"), and the relative brightness from the 14 meter segments to analyze the scene and determine if it was portrait, landscape, 'snap shot' (auntie in front of St Peters) and chose the proper aperture v shutter speed composition for the scene.

As I described earlier it worked at least fairly well. As to why some brand lenses don't work the same - maybe its the fact that they don't use Minolta/Sony provided Lens ID numbers that point to the correct calibration tables, and the camera switches to a default mode where for example, Program just uses the earlier program mode of the "i" cameras setting the shutter speed program line based on 1/FL? (Just a guess)

I always found the Mind of Minolta pretty interesting. I would have loved to have had the original (English translation) design documents.

By the way, I don't know how Sony changed the programming in P-mode when they switched to the 40 segment meter or to the LV metering, and haven't gotten around to testing it.

tom

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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to tom, Nov 3, 2011

tom wrote:

So you had HSS turned off. That makes sense then. Have you tried the same shots with HSS on? That would let you use a wider aperture (if that's what you want) and a faster shutter speed. It also has the mixed advantage of reducing flash power (only an advantage because you indicated that you thought the A77 couldn't power down the flash enough -- HSS would definitely power it down.)

tom

Yes I have observed that HSS powers down the flash, so that is why I don't want to use it. Frankly, I'm not sure what HSS is good for. Strobe flash is high enough speed all by itself, without any need for a high shutter speed, so what - ideally speaking - is it needed for?

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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: More flash tests with A700, A900
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Friedman wrote:

I remember the 7D was notorious for never wanting to blow out anything... resulting in pictures whose gamma curve always had to be tweaked.

The man with the glasses shots (actually, ALL of the shots) were taken with the flash pointing UP and a bounce card attached. This means ADI could not have been employed even if it had been enabled (since the camera can't know anything about the light path.) So yeah, these shots ALL surprised me. Glad I was able to find a quick fix before the day was up.

Of course I must defer to you and Tom, but it seems to me that ADI can't know that you have tilted the gun upward and put a reflector on it. And what's up with everyone tilting their flashes up and sideways all the time? Why not just put a diffuser on? I understand bounce flash, but you were outdoors in this series.

Anyway, ADI - it just attempts to use the flash to subject distance, as measured by the focus, to calculate the flash brightness so that on the dance floor you won't blow out your subject that is surrounded by black backgrounds. It doesn't know if you have tilted, gelled, or reflected your flash, so I assume if you employ ADI with anything except direct flash it will underexpose to whatever extent you have reduced the actual direct light.

I realize that you said you were NOT using ADI, but I am just checking my knowledge of it against you and Tom. And thanks Tom for letting us in on the ADI secrets in a previous post. Gary, you and David Busch and whoever else writes these aftermarket books about various cameras need to include a lot more advanced info like this discussion we have been having about how the flash works and what you can do about it. Some of this automation is getting downright silly in confusing everyone rather than "helping" amateurs get better results from the equipment. The manuals are written in baby talk, so now no one knows what the hell is going on.

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Kilrah
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Gary Eickmeier, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

I'm not sure what HSS is good for. Strobe flash is high enough speed all by itself, without any need for a high shutter speed, so what - ideally speaking - is it needed for?

To use fill flash with high ambient light. You can be outside in the sun, backlit, want to use F4 for DOF reasons (leading to fast SS), and add some flash to fill in...

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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to tom, Nov 3, 2011

This is quite incredible. How about the A+ mode of at least my a35, and I presume the a77 too, in which it goes automatically into not only aperture and shutter and flash and WB, but also chooses the scene mode that you should want if you knew what you were doing?
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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Friedman wrote:

I was asking to see if anyone else was having problems. From the limited responses I've read my conclusion is "most are not".

-GF

Wrong. I certainly have more questions than answers, but I am so iggerant at this point that I still don't know what questions to ask. Your posts are helping me formulate them.

As for "limited responses," I think this has been one helluva active thread and we have learned a lot. Keep it up.

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Papasha
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Tom - fascinating at its best
In reply to tom, Nov 3, 2011

Thanks for posting! Boy, do I miss the ‘Minds of Minolta’…Incredible innovation and photographer-friendly thinking… I still have my first 7000i and 7Xi in perfect order – what pieces of engineering and such refinement!

tom wrote:

Gary Friedman wrote:

Tom, the behavior you describe incredible. I wonder how the Maxxum 7 would know what kind of a portrait was being taken? (I guess it had to infer it from the 14 metering cells. It's not like today where the camera can analyze the entire image in live view.) Very impressive. What information would a lens need to give the camera that the camera couldn't figure out on its own? And again, why would a lens dictate whether HSS would work?

Your experiences open up a whole plethora of questions!!!

-GF

Minolta was ahead of its time, just didn't let the world know.

The instructions for the Portrait card (for the "i", "xi", and 700si give a hint how that works. I've attached page 2 of the instruction sheet below.

Minolta a-mount cameras have been able to provide some information about subject distance and use it at least from the "i" series of cameras (there's a distance encoder in the camera on the focusing screw drive that works with older lenses, as well as the D system in newer lenses.) The cameras also know the focal length. Assuming the lens provides a pointer to the distance calibration vs screw turns (maybe from the lens ID) the camera can calculate subject magnification. Notice the first column below; it's subject magnification. Notice also the ranges of subject magnification. They don't have to be very precise (that's probably why Minolta couldn't just use "screw turns" for ADI flash and needed something more precise.)

The first set of numbers in the 3rd column are the aperture settings for the 85mm f/1.4 G lens. Notice that the lens doesn't open all the way until the portrait is a head and knees shot. I recall back in the old days people complaining that they couldn't use their brand new 85 f/1.4 for portraits like they wanted because so little was in focus for head shots at f/1.4. Based on the portrait card, Minolta would have said - "you're right".

Additionally, if you look at the note at the bottom of the sheet, it says you don't need the Portrait card for the xi and si cameras, because Portrait mode is built into Program mode (or Expert Program as Minolta called it back then.

According to the Minolta literature of the day, the "Expert Program" mode was one of the big features introduced in the "xi" cameras (i.e. their first 14 segment metering cameras.) (You may recall that "Expert Systems" were the big thing back then. Expert Program Mode used information from the different AF sensors and the 14 segment metering including magnification of subject, relative distance to background (from the other Af sensors & I think to the precision of "same as", "near", "not so near" and "off scale"), and the relative brightness from the 14 meter segments to analyze the scene and determine if it was portrait, landscape, 'snap shot' (auntie in front of St Peters) and chose the proper aperture v shutter speed composition for the scene.

As I described earlier it worked at least fairly well. As to why some brand lenses don't work the same - maybe its the fact that they don't use Minolta/Sony provided Lens ID numbers that point to the correct calibration tables, and the camera switches to a default mode where for example, Program just uses the earlier program mode of the "i" cameras setting the shutter speed program line based on 1/FL? (Just a guess)

I always found the Mind of Minolta pretty interesting. I would have loved to have had the original (English translation) design documents.

By the way, I don't know how Sony changed the programming in P-mode when they switched to the 40 segment meter or to the LV metering, and haven't gotten around to testing it.

tom

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Mark VB
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Re: More flash tests with A700, A900
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Friedman wrote:

I remember the 7D was notorious for never wanting to blow out anything... resulting in pictures whose gamma curve always had to be tweaked.

The 7D had a much worse problem that resulted in completely blown out photos all too frequently when shooting with diffusers or other light modifiers. Based on discussions with Phil Bradon who described how the pre-flash metering worked in the 7D (a series of very weak rapid pulses for each of the metering cells, which the diffuser/light modifier made even weaker), I believe the problem occurred when the camera was unable to read the pre-flash properly and thus believed that it needed to put out a full power burst. The only way I found to deal with this was to keep stopping the lens down until I got a "decent" exposure, but of course the "moment" I might have been trying to capture was gone by then. Flash exposures on the 7D were horribly inconsistent, which caused problems when photographing weddings and similar events.

The A100 and A700 seemed to eliminate the overexposure problem, but the A700 introduced a new problem, which was severe underexposure when there is a smallish part of the scene that is white or light toned, as though the camera was trying to avoid having any area blown out, but which then resulted in severe underexposure (don't know if the A100 did this as I did not use it long enough to determine). It also seemed to be biased towards underexposure (as discussed earlier in this thread). This problem carried through to the A900. Based on my limited experience with the A77, I don't think it has that problem, but it obviously has some other issues as we are now discussing.

I'll also note that I would expect the flash metering to behave differently in different shooting modes (e.g., A, S, M, P, etc.). I think this is particularly true in P mode where the camera is determining everything related to exposure. It also is likely to vary based on the overall tonality of a scene, and where in the scene those tones show up. It is just going to take some time and shooting experience with the camera to figure out how the flash metering operates in different situations (pretty much as we have to do with any new camera).

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Mark VB
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Thomas Karlmann, Nov 3, 2011

Thomas Karlmann wrote:

Wondering here about the time lag between pre-flash and flash for the A77 and newest Sony flash. Any Comments? Any chance of the preflash could cause eyeblinks? (Old Nikon D70(I think) was very poor there)

The lag time seems shorter, at least based on one particular person I recently photographed at an event for whom it is/was near impossible to get her with her eyes fully open. Both she and I were surprised that shots with the A77 and F58 flash did have her eyes fully open (not that she knew or cared what the camera was, just that her eyes were open).

I think all pre-flashes cause eyeblinks among subjects. It's more a question of the time between the pre-flash and main flash as to how many people are caught blinking.

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Mark VB
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Gary Friedman, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Friedman wrote:

Tom, the behavior you describe incredible. I wonder how the Maxxum 7 would know what kind of a portrait was being taken? (I guess it had to infer it from the 14 metering cells. It's not like today where the camera can analyze the entire image in live view.) Very impressive. What information would a lens need to give the camera that the camera couldn't figure out on its own? And again, why would a lens dictate whether HSS would work?

Your experiences open up a whole plethora of questions!!!

Lens in use and distance to the subject. Clearly there was communication between camera and lens going back before digital (e.g., focal length info for old, pre-digital Minolta lenses shows up in the exif info). ADI lenses introduced additional information used for flash metering. As we all know (or most of us), Sigma has not fully licensed all technology for the Alpha mount, which is why you get incorrect exif information when using Sigma lenses, and why some lenses need to get re-chipped to work properly on newer bodies. My guess is the "miscommunication" between a Sigma lens and the camera body could result in the situation described, particularly since it apparently did/does.

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Mark VB
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Gary Eickmeier, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

tom wrote:

So you had HSS turned off. That makes sense then. Have you tried the same shots with HSS on? That would let you use a wider aperture (if that's what you want) and a faster shutter speed. It also has the mixed advantage of reducing flash power (only an advantage because you indicated that you thought the A77 couldn't power down the flash enough -- HSS would definitely power it down.)

tom

Yes I have observed that HSS powers down the flash, so that is why I don't want to use it. Frankly, I'm not sure what HSS is good for. Strobe flash is high enough speed all by itself, without any need for a high shutter speed, so what - ideally speaking - is it needed for?

Fill flash in bright conditions. For example, an outdoor portrait with the subject backlit and a bright background. I also was using it this past summer while photographing birds in Costa Rica in daylight. You are not trying to provide a full exposure with the flash, just fill in or "lift" the shadows.

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Mark VB
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Re: More flash tests with A700, A900
In reply to Gary Eickmeier, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

Gary Friedman wrote:

I remember the 7D was notorious for never wanting to blow out anything... resulting in pictures whose gamma curve always had to be tweaked.

The man with the glasses shots (actually, ALL of the shots) were taken with the flash pointing UP and a bounce card attached. This means ADI could not have been employed even if it had been enabled (since the camera can't know anything about the light path.) So yeah, these shots ALL surprised me. Glad I was able to find a quick fix before the day was up.

Of course I must defer to you and Tom, but it seems to me that ADI can't know that you have tilted the gun upward and put a reflector on it. And what's up with everyone tilting their flashes up and sideways all the time? Why not just put a diffuser on? I understand bounce flash, but you were outdoors in this series.

The flash "knows" that it is no longer pointing straight ahead and communicates this with the camera. ADI only works if the flash is pointed straight at the subject with no modifiers (e.g., diffusers) attached. This also happens to be the worst kind of light to use for most subjects (harsh and unflattering).

The smaller the light source relative to the subject, the harsher the light. The idea of pointing the flash up or to the side is to provide a larger/broader source of the light illuminating a subject (e.g., a ceiling or sidewall), and to change the directionality of the light from straight ahead. Most diffusers for flashes are still relatively small light sources, particularly as you move further from the subject, and still are providing light from straight ahead (i.e., it has no directionality which creates dimensionality on the subject - highlights and shadows). Sometimes, there is no alternative to using a diffuser (e.g., outdoors with no nearby surfaces to bounce flash), but when shooting indoors there frequently are better alternatives.

However, one thing that has always amazed me is when people are aiming their flash head up, or using diffusers that spread the light in many directions and rely on light bouncing off nearby surfaces to provide the softening effect (e.g., Omnibounce, Gary Fong Lightspheres), when there is nothing to bounce the light off. In those situations most of the power of the flash is wasted for all the light that is going away from the subject. There are bounce cards, such as from Lumiquest, which do bounce most of the light towards the subject, which can have a softening effect because they provide a larger light source than the flash head itself.

Anyway, ADI - it just attempts to use the flash to subject distance, as measured by the focus, to calculate the flash brightness so that on the dance floor you won't blow out your subject that is surrounded by black backgrounds. It doesn't know if you have tilted, gelled, or reflected your flash, so I assume if you employ ADI with anything except direct flash it will underexpose to whatever extent you have reduced the actual direct light.

The flash communicates with the camera to tell the camera when not to use ADI (i.e., bounce flash). What the flash and camera can't know, however, is if you have attached a diffuser to the flash and it is pointed straight at the subject. In that case, ADI will fail and probably result in worse exposures. Personally, I never use ADI because I never use direct, unmodified flash.

I realize that you said you were NOT using ADI, but I am just checking my knowledge of it against you and Tom. And thanks Tom for letting us in on the ADI secrets in a previous post. Gary, you and David Busch and whoever else writes these aftermarket books about various cameras need to include a lot more advanced info like this discussion we have been having about how the flash works and what you can do about it. Some of this automation is getting downright silly in confusing everyone rather than "helping" amateurs get better results from the equipment. The manuals are written in baby talk, so now no one knows what the hell is going on.

Flash photography could just be the most confusing and difficult to understand aspect of photography. At least that's my experience talking with various photographers, and watching how many photographers use flash.

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Mark VB
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Mark VB, Nov 3, 2011

Mark VB wrote:

Gary Friedman wrote:

Tom, the behavior you describe incredible. I wonder how the Maxxum 7 would know what kind of a portrait was being taken? (I guess it had to infer it from the 14 metering cells. It's not like today where the camera can analyze the entire image in live view.) Very impressive. What information would a lens need to give the camera that the camera couldn't figure out on its own? And again, why would a lens dictate whether HSS would work?

Your experiences open up a whole plethora of questions!!!

Lens in use and distance to the subject. Clearly there was communication between camera and lens going back before digital (e.g., focal length info for old, pre-digital Minolta lenses shows up in the exif info). ADI lenses introduced additional information used for flash metering. As we all know (or most of us), Sigma has not fully licensed all technology for the Alpha mount, which is why you get incorrect exif information when using Sigma lenses, and why some lenses need to get re-chipped to work properly on newer bodies. My guess is the "miscommunication" between a Sigma lens and the camera body could result in the situation described, particularly since it apparently did/does.

Tom obviously provided a far more detailed response than my short blurb. I had not read Tom's post when I wrote my reply.

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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: Gary and Gary I wonder what is wrong
In reply to Gary Eickmeier, Nov 3, 2011

Gary Eickmeier wrote:

If you are asking me, I was using the Sony 70 - 250 zoom (haven't got it on me right at the moment for a better description) in the A priority mode with HSS turned off. I presumed that you have to turn it on yourself if you want to use it. But I just changed the ISO to make the 1/160th work out. Or increased the aperture, or both.

Correction: I just picked up the lens to examine it - it is a Sigma 70 - 300 APO DG. It has a Macro switch on it too, which I have not tried much. Anyway, no, not a Sony lens.

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Gary Eickmeier
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Re: A77 flash exposure accuracy - anyone else experiencing this?
In reply to Mark VB, Nov 3, 2011

Mark VB wrote:

I think all pre-flashes cause eyeblinks among subjects. It's more a question of the time between the pre-flash and main flash as to how many people are caught blinking.

Once again pardon my ignorance in this brave new flash world, but I have never been briefed on why a modern TTL flash system needs pre-flash to determine exposure. My older, thryristor based flash systems flashed only once, and determined exposure by controlling flash duration DURING the one and only flash. Incredible as it seems, it turned the flash on, read how much light was coming back toward the sensor, and when there was enough for good exposure it turned it off! I always thought TTL would work the same way, only more accurately, but it certainly does not. Pre-flash causes all kinds of new problems. Has someone outsmarted themselves here?

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