Using Multiple Flashes

Wired Flash

There are several ways to use multiple flashes connected by wire.

You can use a dedicated flash on the camera. The flash unit must have a flash cable socket. You can then connect a cable CD/FA-MC1AM to this flash and plug the other end into another flash unit with a flash cable socket. If the second flash doesn't have that socket, you can use a OS-1100/FA-CS1AM (iISO socket) or FA-CS1M (Multi-Interface socket) with that flash.

With such a flash system, both flashes fire and are controlled by the body. You can set a ratio between the two flashes.

Another possible setup is to connect the cable OC-1100/FA-CC1AM (iISO shoe) or FA-CS1M with Cable CD/Sony FA-MC1AM (Multi-Interface shoe) to the camera and plug the other end into a Triple Connector TC-1000/FA-TC1AM. This is a small box that distributes the signal to three flashes. You can then connect flashes to the TC-1000/FA-TC1AM using the cable EX/FA-EC1AM. The flashes must have either a built-in socket for the cable or you have to use a OS-1100/FA-CS1AM (iISO shoe) or FA-CS1M (Multi-Interface shoe). Again, all flashes fire, controlled by the body. You can set a ratio between the flashes.

You can also daisy-chain flashes by using OS-1100's on flashes that also have a built-in socket. You use a OC-1100/FA-CC1AM to connect the camera with the OS-1100/FA-CS1AM of the first flash, and then you use cables CD/FA-MC1AM to connect the flash with its built-in socket with the OS-1100/FA-CS1AM of the next flash, and so on.

With a Multi-Interface shoe system you use a FA-CS1M on the camera. The first flash can be attached on the top of this connector. Then you use a Minolta Cable CD/Sony FA-MC1AM to connect this first FA-CS1M with the next flash. To add another flash you can again attach a FA-CS1M to the last flash in the chain, and use another cable to extend the chain to the next flash.

Wireless Flash

Minolta's wireless flash system also allows to use multiple flashes. You can use an unlimited number of remote flashes in wireless mode. They will all fire when triggered by the built-in flash, by the Minolta Wireless Flash Controller or by a suitable flash mounted on the camera (not all flash units can act as a wireless flash controller, see table, and digital cameras can not use an external flash as a controller at all).

By default the controlling flash contributes little to no light to the exposure. However, you can use ratio flash with some bodies. In this mode the controlling flash contributes 1/3 of the light, and all remote flashes together contribute 2/3 of the light.

When using the Minolta Wireless Flash Controller and multiple remote flashes, you can also set a 1:2 ratio between two remote flash groups. The flash group providing the 1/3 must consist of flashes 5400xi, 5400HS or 5600HS(D).

Sony has updated the system with the HVL-F58AM. It (and the HVL-F43AM) can be used as a controller on the α700 and α900 to control remote HVL-F58AM, HVL-F43AM and HVL-F42AM units. These flashes can be assigned to three groups (HVL-F42AM are always in the first remote group), and you can set a ratio between these groups and the controller, e. g. 1:4:16 for groups 1, 2 and 3 respectively. There is also a backward-compatible controller mode. With that you can control also older units from a α900, with up to 2 groups and ratio control.

Using wireless flash is more flexible than the wire system. You can place the remote flashes almost anywhere without having to worry about cable length etc. You are, however, limited to a shutter speed of 1/60 or 1/45 with older cameras and flashes.

The camera body can emit a test flash that triggers another test flash from the remote flashes after some delay. This way you can test the connection between the controller and the remote flashes. The remote flashes must be able to “see” the control pulses of the controller either directly or indirectly.

The Sony FA-WRC1M controller also allows to control multiple remote flashes. The Sony FA-WRR1 must be used as receiver with the flashes.

The current Minolta AF/Sony Alpha flash system has grown quite complex, and it is not very well covered in the manuals. That's because this would involve to cover some very basic concepts, and there are many combinations of cameras and flash units with different capabilities that would have to be documented. What I try here is to explain how the Minolta flash system works in detail. This compendium assumes that you have some basic knowledge of photography, ie. you know that an aperture is and you know how a shutter works. Sony has taken over further development of the Minolta A mount (now Sony Alpha mount) and has also kept the Minolta AF flash system with their new DSLRs. When this compedium says "Minolta", the same is true for "Sony Alpha", too, except when noted otherwise.