Three days ago, Sony released firmware v1.02 update for the A99. The update officially adds support for the SAL50F14Z lens, and improves some aspect of video that I don’t personally care about. What I do care about, a lot, is that the update also reduces a problem with the A99’s built-in, optically-triggered wireless flash.
Built-in, optically-triggered wireless flash works by triggering remote, off-camera flashes with an pre-flash from the flash on the camera itself. Another way to do the same thing is to use radio triggers. But radio triggers are expensive and you have to go to the trouble of attaching them to your flash units. The optical system is attractive because it’s basically free — it’s built into the camera and the flash units — and it generally works pretty well.
Except that it didn’t work so well on the Sony A99 when it was first released late last year. You’d press the shutter, the flash on your camera would fire the triggering burst, and a beat later, the off-camera flashes would fire while the shutter was opening. The delay was small but distinctly noticeable. You can see it demonstrated by Gary Friedman in a video review he made of the A99. Fast forward to 2:15, which is where he’s demonstrating the delay in the original A99.
Well, the v1.02 update doesn’t eliminate the problem, but it does reduce it. Here’s a quick video showing the delay now. I have followed Friedman’s approach by showing how the A850 works first, then switching to the A99. The A850’s response sounds like a single plikx. The A99’s sounds like a quick two-syllable ker-plikx. If you want to jump over the A850 examples to the first examples from the A99, go to 1:05.