Last week, reader Tony Bombardo contacted me regarding Sony’s high-end electronic flash unit, the HVL-F56AM. Or should I say former high-end flash unit…as of this writing the HVL-F56AM is missing in action at the Sony Style website. Under flashes and lights, you find the HVL-F36AM and the new HVL-F42AM units, but the F56AM is no where to be found.
So what’s happening with the HVL-F56AM? I know it was listed on Sony Style a couple of days before, because I was ordering some accessories and it was there as big as life. Now it’s gone.
Well, almost gone.. I found that if your order a dSLR, the HVL-F56AM still shows up as an available accessory. I’m not sure if you can actually order the unit, but as of yesterday, if you were buying a camera it was still listed. I also found that if you click on the specs for the F42AM, you can find a sidebar link to the F56AM. That link indicates it is in stock for shipment. The HVL-56AM does not appear in the list under the flashes and lights category.
Sony hasn’t said the HVL-F56AM has been discontinued. So what happened to it? The brand new HVL-F42AM offers most of the features of the HVL-F56AM, and is priced at $299. The HVL-F56AM’s most recent list price was $449.
I don’t have any hard information from Sony, but if I had to guess there are two things going on here. First, the HVL-F42AM offers almost the same features at $150 less. Admittedly, the HVL-F56AM has a guide number of 56, while the HVL-F42AM has a lower guide number of 46. The HVL-F42AM is more or less equal to the HVL-F56AM in most other respects. I suppose that 14 guide units might be worth $150 is some cases, but for most people the HVL-F42AM will appear to a be a better value.
The second aspect is that Sony has indicated that there will be a flagship flash unit to accompany the new flagship dSLR. I don’t have specs on the yet to be announced Alpha flagship flash, but I have to believe a electronic flash unit billed s the flagship will have to be superior to all current Sony and Minolta electronic flash units.
At the same time, how much higher could Sony price the flagship flash? It would have to be considerably higher than the HVL-F56AM at $449, otherwise who would buy the HVL-F56AM at the expense of the flagship? On the other hand, if they reduced the ticket on the HVL-F56AM, it would cut into sales of the HVL-F42AM and the HVL-F36AM.
So Sony (apparently) chose to axe the HVL-F56AM. Maybe sales of the more expensive unit were flat. Or maybe Sony needed the production facilities to start building the flagship flash.
Does this mean the flagship will be coming sooner than this fall? Or will the new flash unit be released before flagship dSLR? Since the the upcoming dSLR will be full frame, its possible the new flash will cover a wider angle, since one of the reasons for shooting with a full frame dSLR is the opportunity to shoot with a full complement of wide angle lenses,
Of course, this could be a simple mix-up. Someone at Sony redesigned the web page and happened to leave the F56AM off the main flashes and lights order page. Maybe Sony just had a temporary shortage of HVL-F56AM units and the F56AM will appear on Sony Style in the future.
On the other hand, if I really wanted a HVL-F56AM, I mean I really wanted one, I would start looking around to find a merchant that still has a new HVL-F56AM in stock.