Spend Your Money on Better Things. Sony HVL-F46RM Flash Review

Oof! Sony, what did you do? The world’s most innovative photography company made two flashes. Also being announced today is the Sony HVL-F60RM 2. Both flashes aren’t anything very special. Their biggest updates are the metering with skin tones, the ambient white balance, and build quality at the hot shoe foot. But otherwise, Sony shows that they’re really not trying very hard. Plus, the new Sony HVL-F46RM flash is $399.99. Dive in, and you’ll see why we think there are better options out there.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

If you didn’t read this review, that’s fine. The Sony HVL-F46RM is a flash that should’ve been released many years ago. We’re not sure who would buy it. For all intents and purposes, it’s a good flash. But it’s not exceptional for the price point. Also, for the money, there are arguably better flashes out there. Skip this one and just go for a Godox or Flashpoint option instead.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Stills turns on and off with the camera
  • Faster flash sync with the a1 is pretty awesome
  • Feels well built
  • Insanely easy to pair with the Sony wireless radio transmitter.
  • Can act as a commander to higher end flashes
  • Very fast recycle time
  • Good white balance performance, except when gelled.
  • Improved durability.
  • Only started to show signs of overheating after an hour of stroboscopic flash. But that’s not really an issue with flashes these days anyway.

Cons

  • Why is it still using Double A batteries? It’s 2021
  • Sony touts auto white balance accuracy that only first-party equipment can achieve. But I haven’t had that problem with other brands in years.
  • There is no point in using this this off-camera except if you’re indoors, at night, or have a lot of light control.
  • While the faster flash sync abilities with the Sony a1 are awesome, high speed sync is incredibly accessible these days without issue.
  • Slow flash duration
  • A touchscreen would’ve been a nice addition.
  • I don’t know why I’d buy this thing to use with a Sony a1. If I’m buying an A1 then I’m going to go for a higher end light. And if I’m going for a more affordable camera body, I’d use a more affordable flash. Alternatively, I’d go for a strobe or flash with more power and gladly pay more for it.
  • It’s $399.99. Why? Just get a Flashpoint Zoom Li-on X R2 TTL that will give you more power output for less money.
  • If you have an older Sony camera body, there’s no point in getting this.
  • It’s 2021 and Sony released a flash without a USB-C interface. Even a far cheaper Flashpoint flash has USB-C.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony HVL-F46RM ($399.99) with:

Innovations

The Sony HVL-F46RM works with the Sony system to get white balance right so you won’t need gels as often and unless you want to get creative. It also has better sealing at the hot shoe foot. But otherwise, this flash is really outdone by many other speedlights out there that are far cheaper.

Tech Specs

  • Guide number 46
  • Tied to camera interface’s face detection algorithms
  • Improved white balance
  • Up to 60 flashes at 10fps
  • 320 flashes
  • 2 second recycle time
  • Overheating protection
  • Improved seal at the hot shoe foot
  • $399.99

Ergonomics

The Sony HVL-F46RM is a flash that’s pretty small. Sony really talked about using it with the Sony a1 in their presentation. But I’m not sure I would.

From the front, it looks like any other Sony flash. There’s nothing too special about it. 

The Sony HVL-F46RM also doesn’t have the cobra head feature that Sony is really known for. Why? I’m honestly not sure.

The back of the Sony HVL-F46RM has a small window for the interface. There are buttons and dials, just like there are with most other flashes out there.

The Sony HVL-F46RM uses double A batteries. But why? In 2021, we’re a little shocked about that. Sure, they’re prevalent. But you should also be able to use a lithium ion battery that can charge via USB-C. But Sony doesn’t doa USB-C connection at all.

In fact, Sony does an old school USB connection here. It’s pretty frustrating to know this.

Build Quality

The Sony HVL-F46RM has improved build quality over previous flashes at the hot shoe foot. There’s extra rubber sealing here for sure. It’s fascinating for sure though; Sony’s presentation really talked about using the Sony HVL-F46RM with the Sony a1. But honestly, I don’t know why someone would bother to do this. If you’re going to spend Over $6,000 on a flash, you’re probably going to go for a Profoto flash then or a Flashpoint option. Either way, the Sony HVL-F46RM is built well and still better than Flashpoint’s options. Only at the hot shoe foot would I say it’s better than Profoto’s though.

Ease of Use

Luckily, Sony’s menu system with the Sony HVL-F46RM is very easy. It’s much unlike the menus on their cameras. 

For $399.99, and for something from Sony I was honestly expecting a lot more. But the Sony HVL-F46RM is really just mediocre at best. I used it various scenarios. First off, understand that it’s very weak. So it’s tougher to get a good shot for something like high speed sync or something like that. By that, I mean that you’ll have to edit for sure. Sony also really is pushing this at a1 users; but I’m not sure they’d use it. If you’re spending that much money on a camera, you’re just going to go for Profoto or Godox. 

What is really nice though is that it can act as a commander for higher end flashes.

I decided that I’d have some fun with this flash and shoot it in stroboscopic mode. For sure, I’d prefer to do this with strobes, but this isn’t bad per se.

Like with the Sony HVL-F60RM 2, it nails the white balance with skin tones. But other flashes also do a good job for what it’s worth. 

Everything that the Sony HVL-F46RM does, more affordable flashes can too. So I can’t really get behind this one.

Image Quality

As we’ve said with other flashes, it’s really hard to tell what flash shot an image. But we can pretty clearly tell when speedlights are used vs strobes without editing a photo. And also the case here. With that said, expect to do some editing for lighting balances. But the white balance will be just fine.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, the Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. You’re not showing what the product can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show off edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

Edited

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • White balance is a cool feature though I’d sometimes want the daylight pop of a flash to make a subject stand out
  • Weather resistance and durabiltiy.

Dislikes

  • Pretty much everything else.

Sony could’ve made a far better flash with the Sony HVL-F46RM, but they didn’t. As far as go, there’s nothing majorly innovative about this flash. Perhaps the best things are the hot shoe and the white balance. But I wouldn’t use this flash in inclement conditions, and I actually like the daylight balanced pop that a flash gives.

The Sony HVL-F46RM receives two out of five stars. Don’t bother getting one. Go for something more affordable instead.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.