Hands-on with Sony's wireless flash system, arriving in August
Sony's wireless radio flash trigger system, introduced back in March, is headed to retailers this August. The system is comprised of a 'commander' (FA-WRC1M) and a receiver (FA-WRR1). There can be up to 5 groups, each of which can contain 15 flashes. A standard sync port on the receiver allows for control of studio strobes with ease, though of course you'll lose TTL capabilities. High Speed Sync (HSS) is also supported. The system has a maximum range of 30m/98ft, and the commander unit sports a large LCD with an intuitive user interface.
What we like
At a recent shooting event in San Diego, CA, I got some brief hands-on time with the new transmitters and receivers, and was pleased with how intuitive the user interface was (not something you can always take for granted with flash systems). For the shot below, I used E-TTL with three flashes (groups) - one (A) at camera right for some harsh side-lighting, one (B) front left of model Eliza as the key, and one (C) directly in front of her for a tiny bit of balance to the overall light. I dialed in my exposure manually to ensure ambient was drowned out, then varied the ratios of groups A, B, and C on the transmitter's LCD with ease until I got the lighting just as I wanted it. Essentially, it all worked just as I'd expect it to. Adjust flash ratios, groups, Manual power, Flash Exposure Compensation are all very intuitive and direct. Furthermore, the option of triggering studio probes was very handy. Studio shooters: rejoice.
What we're less pleased with
If you're an event shooter, I was less pleased with the lack of an AF assist beam on the transmitter. This speaks to a larger problem with Sony mirrorless: no Sony E-mount camera will trigger any off-camera AF assist beam. Red/IR AF assist beams are a boon to any event photographer; for example, I rely on it for fast AF at dim wedding receptions, where all my flashes are off-camera for dramatic lighting. In such scenarios, AF assist beams on transmitters allow the camera's AF system to focus in near-darkness, obviating the need for a heavy flash on-camera. Sony's continued lack of any support of off-camera assist beams on transmitters or flashes is unfortunate, given Sony's desire for acceptance by pros, and considering that in our own lab tests, Sony's a7R II and a6300 focus incredibly well with red/IR assist beams triggered by Canon/Nikon systems (contrary to the belief of many that on-sensor phase-detect AF systems can't 'see' these beams).
While one can fault both Canon and Nikon for similar oversights in their latest radio triggered flash systems, we find the omission increasingly unforgivable given that 3rd party options like Phottix and Yongnuo do offer AF assist beams on their radio triggers. Yet while these 3rd party options do at least work on Canon and Nikon DSLRs, they fail entirely to trigger AF beams on Sony FE cameras, due to Sony's continued lack of support of AF assist beams (save for the largely useless one built into the camera).
We're hopeful that this is something Sony will address in the future. It's by no means a deal-breaker though for what appears to be a very capable radio trigger system that should find a way into your kit if you shoot with Sony flashes.
Both the commander and receiver will be available in August at $350 and $200, respectively.
Pricing and Availability – New FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS G Master lens. Teleconverters and Wireless Lighting Control System
Today, Sony has also released pricing and ship timing for the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS G Master lens, 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters plus their new wireless lighting control system. All products were introduced earlier this year.
One of the most eagerly anticipated lenses of the year, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS G Master lens takes its place as the flagship telephoto zoom in the Sony lens lineup. Featuring built in Optical Stead Shot (OSS) and a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture across the zoom range, the lens will be an ideal fit for nature, sports, travel, fashion, beauty and wedding photographers. This lens will ship this July for a retail price of $2,500 US and $3,300 CA.
Designed exclusively to fit the 70-200mm F2.8 G Master lens, the new 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters (models SEL14TC and SEL20TC) will both be sold for the same retail price of about $550 US and $700 CA, and will ship this July.
The versatile new wireless flash and control system – comprised of the FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander and the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver – was designed to meet the growing demands of professional Sony photographers. With a maximum range of 30m (approx. 98 feet) and the ability to control a maximum of 15 separate flash units in 5 different groups, it offers a flexible wireless flash shooting experience with exceptional performance.
The FA-WRC1M commander will be sold for about $350 US and $480 CA. The FA-WRR1 receiver will be sold for about $200 US and $280 CA. Both products will ship this August.
The new lenses, teleconverters and wireless lighting system will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.
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