Review: Metz 64 AF-1 Flash (Sony Alpha E)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (1 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

Editor’s Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we called the flash the 54 AF-1. It is indeed the 64 AF-1. We apologize for this mistake.

Metz believes that the future of the flash is very…touchy. To be specific, we’re talking about a touch screen. So when the 64 AF-1 was shown to us around Photokina 2014, we were quite intrigued. The flashes are available for Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony and the Micro Four Thirds world. It tries to be futuristic with its massive touch LCD screen. Metz has been long known in the industry for having a more affordable alternative to the camera manufacturers, but in recent years they’ve stepped back to Phottix, Lumopro and Yongnuo.

The Metz 64 AF-1 otherwise is like many flashes on the market: it can rotate around and tilt its head. Unlike Sony’s flashes, the 64 AF-1 isn’t a cobra head design. But like many of Sony’s flashes, some of the settings can be controlled via the camera thanks to its interactions from the multi-interface shoe. This means that it will work with the NEX 6, A7, A7s, A7r, A7 Mk II, A99, A77, A77 Mk II and a couple of others.

The flash is also one of the first designed for the new Sony shoe since the company introduced it a couple of years ago. While it’s a good first attempt, it fails in certain aspects.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (8 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

Pros

– Powerful light output

– Fairly compact

– Pretty simple to use

– Wish that the main screen displayed much more information

– Screen can sometimes be tough to interact with

– Not bad overall for $249

Cons

– Eats batteries faster than three hungry kids in HSS mode

– Touchscreen reduces battery life overall

– Loudest, longest recycle timer sound

– Going through menu after menu isn’t the simplest thing to do when shooting events

Gear Used

We tested the Metz 64 AF-1 flash with the Sony A7 and A7 Mk II.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing.

Mount Shoe
Guide No. 209.97′ (64 m) ISO100 at 200 mm position
Exposure Control Manual/TTL
Vari-Power Manual: 1/1 – 1/256
TTL Dedication Yes
Bounce Head Yes, -9° to +90°
Swivel Head Yes, 300°
Coverage 24 mm – 200 mm
Zoom Head Full frame: 24 mm – 200 mm
Off Camera Terminal PC
Flash-ready Indicator Yes
Power Source 4x AA Alkaline, Lithium, Rechargeable Ni-MH Batteries
Dimensions (WxHxD) 3.1 x 5.8 x 4.4″ / 7.9 x 14.7 x 11.2 cm
Weight 1.97 lb / 895 g

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (2 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

The Metz 64 AF-1 is a flash that in many ways looks like a normal flash but totally isn’t due to its massive touch LCD screen. But from the front, it looks like a typical flash that any manufacturer may release with an infrared sensor on the front. The flash also has an LED light that can be used for video, but to be honest we never used it.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (3 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

The head has a deployable wide angle diffuser and a builtin bounce card–just like many other flashes out there. In this aspect, Metz isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (4 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

Where this flash partially makes a difference has to do with the ports available. It has one sync port and a USB port on the side. The USB port door closes itself–which is a nice touch in terms of weather sealing.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (5 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

What makes this flash so unconventional is its massive touch LCD screen on the back. It is flanked by three buttons–but otherwise you’ll be pressing this screen to make a lot of magic happen.

Build Quality

The Metz 64 AF-1 isn’t build shoddily at all, but we’ve felt more durable designs from Phottix, Lumopro and others. It’s a slight step above Yongnuo; that’s totally for sure.

The flash is mostly dominated by the LCD screen with a couple of buttons and a few ports, but we couldn’t get over just how weird it felt at times. The reason for this is because we’re much more used to conventional flashes with many more buttons.

If touchscreens are your jam, then you’ll want to spread the 64 AF-1 all over your morning toast. Unfortunately, it isn’t our cup of tea just yet and feels a bit awkward.

Ease of Use

Sony 16-35mm f4 A7 Mk II  1/40th ISO 800 at F4

Sony 16-35mm f4 A7 Mk II 1/40th ISO 800 at F4. Flash bounced above and behind

Despite how awkward the flash feels at times, navigation of the menu system and inputting settings is very simple with the exception of the screen sometimes not responding to the touch of my fingers. Certain functions can be accessed with the press of the side buttons.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (6 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

Still though, Metz needs to be applauded for their emphasis on the simplicity of the menus–many camera manufacturers can indeed learn from them on this aspect.

What I don’t like though is having to navigate menus to get to something like exposure compensation. It’s much faster to do it with a button press and a dial turn. This can be a major drag when it comes to shooting events.

Image Quality

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce. Shot as a high speed sync test.

The Metz 64 AF-1 can help your camera get a much better exposure when needed. It is a fully TTL flash with the new Sony multi-interface shoe and therefore also works with many of the latest camera offerings.

While the image quality is certainly quite nice, we didn’t feel that it gives off some of that extra punch that Phottix, Lumopro and Nissin tend to render. Even when working with the exposure compensation, we weren’t able to get the results that we quite wanted. But that doesn’t mean that the image quality is at all terrible.

Typically, the best image quality comes from flashes placed off camera but in this case we couldn’t exactly do that and still get TTL transmission. Additionally, setting the flash manually is quite tedious to do.

We believe that the best use for the 64 AF-1 is for event photography where the flash needs to be in the hot shoe. But even then, the battery life can be depleted a bit quicker than normal due to the LCD screen.

Still though, we’re pretty pumped at the fact that a TTL flash system that is affordable can deliver results like this with the new Sony cameras. It’s a great first attempt, but we think that the image quality could have benefited from more of a silver and reflective interior inside of the flash head to add extra punch to a scene.

What we were most surprised by is how surprisingly well the TTL abilities work when the flash is pointed directly at a subject. At no time was the flash output too harsh, and this absolutely amazed us because every other system is very harsh.

What’s also very nice is how the flash output works with Sony’s colors. It seems to just blend right in the same way that Sony’s flashes do. With Phottix, it tends to do a better job than Canon’s own flashes with their system but at times conflicts with the color that Canon’s own flashes may put out.

However, Metz would benefit greatly from creating a flash like the Adorama Flashpoint Streaklight 180. The image quality would be even better then.

Extra Sample Images

Model: Asta Perdes

Model: Asta Peredes

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (7 of 7)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (1 of 7)ISO 5001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (6 of 7)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (5 of 7)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (3 of 7)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz MB-64 AF review Sony (2 of 7)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Likes

– Metz is trying to be innovative and different

– Adequate light output

Dislikes

– Feels like a product that was rushed

– The whole touch screen thing isn’t working when it comes to quick access to settings

– Eats batteries

The Metz 64 AF-1 isn’t a bad flash at all. The company should be applauded for trying something new, but the flash needs more work. The interface and menus are simplistic, but getting to the settings that you need right now isn’t the simplest thing to do. It’s a nice flash for the enthusiast, but not the pro.

three-Phoblographer-Star-rating

We award the Metz 51 AF-1 three out of five stars. Want one? B&H Photo currently has them for $249 at the moment of publishing this article.

Recommended Cameras

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Metz flash product photos (9 of 10)ISO 6401-50 sec at f - 4.0

Sony A7: The middle ground between detail and high ISO output will give you the best results with a flash like this. The flash is also perfectly balanced for the camera body.