Most photographers won't use the built-in manual or through-the-lens flash features on their cameras alone due to under or overexposure in their photographs. The solution for this is to use external flash equipment. However, the Sony brand external flashes can get pretty pricey. With a better price for similar quality, third-party external tools like Nikon Flash are the way to go.
Because Sony cameras have a uniquely designed hot shoe, Nikon flash equipment is not compatible with your Sony gear. However, if you have a hot shoe adapter specifically for converting the Sony interface to your Nikon flash, then you can use it. You can also alter your camera's hot shoe to be compatible with the Nikon flash.
Read on to find out the difference between built-in flash features on cameras and external flash equipment, as well as a comparison in price and quality for Sony and Nikon external flashes.
How to Use a Nikon Flash on a Sony Camera Without an Adapter
Suppose you have a specific Nikon external flash equipment that doesn't have a readily available adapter converter for your Sony camera. In that case, there is still a way for you to attach it to your camera by altering the hot shoe. This method does not affect the camera's warranty.
- Use sandpaper on the left and right side rails between it and the springs to rid them of any painting done by the manufacturer.
- Use a thin, flat tool like a pocketknife or a flat-head screwdriver to slightly and gently pry the spring up.
- Mount your Nikon flash equipment to your camera and set it to manual mode, and test it to see if the flash fires when you take a picture.
This method should work, but if for some reason it doesn't, then you may not be able to use the equipment with your camera.
Weaknesses in Built-in Flash Features
If you take a close-up photo in the dark with the built-in flash on your Sony camera, the image will likely be overexposed; a white light surrounding the subject will stand out with too-bright highlights, and you will not be able to see the dark background.
If you take a distanced photo in the dark with only the built-in flash on your Sony camera, the image will then be underexposed because the light will not fully reach the subject. A shadow will veil the model, making it hard to see them against the dark background.
With the manual flash setting on your Sony camera, you have to keep adjusting and taking practice shots to find your photo's desired exposure. It is hard to capture an in-the-moment image when using manual flash because you have to know the exact distance from your camera to the subject for the right flash ratio between every shoot.
The through-the-lens flash setting on your Sony camera can detect the distance to measure the power of light it needs to use. However, depending on surrounding lighting and whether the subject is bright or dark, the power can be too low or high.
Why External Flash Equipment Is Better
Because of all of the faults of built-in flash features, external flash equipment is better for making your photos look more professional. External flashes like the Nikon provide better characteristics than the one built into your camera.
Some features external flash equipment has that a built-in flash doesn't:
- A more powerful light. When using external flash equipment, its powerful light can illuminate not just the subject but the entire background going as far back as 20 feet or more, so your full image will have natural and even lighting to capture all the details.
- A directable light source. External flash equipment like the Nikon SB-600 can be rotated at different angles so the light can bounce off of the ceiling or walls rather than the light source being just front and center.
- A wider angle of coverage. Instead of only providing direct angles as built-in flash does, external flash equipment offers a wider angle to brighten the whole image.
Sony External Flash Features
The Sony F60M External Flash's features include:
- Wireless Flash Control. This external flash can be used on-camera or off-camera with a remote control so you can fire the flash when needed.
- High-Speed Sync. This feature can be fine-tuned with the camera's shutter speed to create a blurred background while the subject remains focused.
- Rotating Mechanism. This flash's head can be turned left and right up to 90 degrees and tilt 150 degrees up and 10 degrees down.
- Illumination Distance of 15 Meters. This external flash reaches up to 15 meters, or 49.2 feet, so the photo's subject will be illuminated from long distances.
- Built-In Wide Panel. The wide panel feature on this external flash makes it easier to illuminate more of the background and the subject.
- Easy to Carry. This external flash equipment is 3 1/4 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 4 1/8 inches deep. The piece without batteries weighs 15.9 oz, so it's light and easy to carry around.
- Dust and Moisture Resistant. The joints of this external flash are uniquely designed to keep dust and moisture out when working outdoors.
The price of a Sony F60M Flash is $697.95, and other external flash equipment from this brand can even cost up to $1000 or more.
Nikon External Flash Features
The Nikon SB-600 Speedlight's features include:
- Wireless Operation. Like the Sony F60M, this external flash can be controlled on-camera or off-camera by a remote as a wireless light source.
- High-Speed Sync. This flash includes the high-speed sync option to make the background blurred or create broken effects with focused subjects like its competition.
- Rotating Mechanism. Compared to the Sony flash, this flash can rotate up to 270 degrees and tilt 90 degrees for more variety in bounce flashes.
- Illumination Distance of 20 Meters. This external flash will brighten the photo's subject up to 20 meters, or 65.6 feet, with a longer illumination distance than the Sony flash.
- Built-In Wide Panel. Like the Sony F60M, this external flash has a built-in wide panel, so the subject and photo background will also be illuminated.
- Portable Size. At 2.7 inches wide, 4.9 inches high, and 3.5 inches deep, this external flash is much smaller than the Sony flash and only weighs 10.6 oz without batteries. It is portable and conveniently sized.
- Flash Color Accuracy. Unlike the Sony external flash, the Nikon SB-600 has flash color accuracy, so your photos will not be overexposed or washed out but have natural lighting.
Compared to the Sony external flash equipment, the Nikon SB-600 costs $390 with just an additional $16.99 for the Hot Shoe Converter, making the total cost $406.99. That is a $290.96 difference for a similar, if not better, quality of photography.
Lighting Techniques for Flash Equipment
When using external flash equipment, there are techniques that you can use only available to external flashes rather than built-in camera flashes because they can be attached to your Sony camera or used on a stand.
Using high-speed sync with your external flash equipment syncs your Sony camera's shutter to the moment that your Nikon flash's light disperses. This technique keeps the photo's subject in full focus while the background is blurred.
Low-speed sync is a lighting technique that captures a photo at the last second of the Nikon flash's light, so the photo's subject, as well as the background, will be illuminated and correctly exposed. Both Sony and Nikon external flashes have this setting, but for a lower price and a longer illumination distance, the Nikon flash is of better use for this technique.
The ceiling bounce lighting technique is when you can direct your flash equipment's head up while either attached to your camera or on a stand to diffuse the light for a more natural light source. The Nikon SB-600 Speedlight has more rotation and tilt range than the Sony Flash, so you have more variety for creating light sources.
The wall bounce lighting technique is when you direct your Nikon flash equipment's head toward any surrounding wall to diffuse the light and create a light source on only one side of the model. This technique brings out the contours of the model's face with soft shadows.
Wanting more professional-looking photos is hard without gouging your pockets by spending up to $1000 on the Sony brand external flashes. Finding a way to use a cheaper yet more useful alternative like the Nikon flash on your Sony camera is the better bet, at least to start anyway.