I recently supplemented my 6-year-old Sony Alpha-300 DSLR camera body with a mid-grade Sony A-77II SLT: a clever body that uses a fixed semi-reflective mirror instead of the moving mirror that dominated the field until the recent advent of mirrorless digital cameras. Though still stuck with the APS-C format this was an upgrade to a much more sensitive and higher resolution 24Mpx sensor (from the 300’s 10Mpx sensor). The other salient features are vastly improved auto-focus, imperceptible shutter lag, and a machine-gun fast 12fps continuous shooting rate.

The other upgrade I just made was to my lighting kit. Until now I have relied on natural light, reflectors, and a lone Sony 43GN speedlight. For this shoot I added two $60 Neewer TT 660 flashes, which despite their low price are fully featured for manual lighting and sport a Guide Number of 58. I also bought a cheap radio trigger system that is able to sync all three flashes up to 1/200s. The Neewers take two seconds for a full recharge from batteries, but dialing them back to 1/16 power they can keep up with full-speed shooting bursts.

For this shoot I relied almost entirely on the light from these three flashes on a 10′ x 6′ stage. At 1/4 power I could shoot 100 ISO f/6 at 1/200s. For the action sequences I had to reduce the flash power to keep up with the shooting rate, but that revealed another strength of the speedlights: lower power means faster discharge rates, so even leaving my shutter about 1/200s the effective exposure was in the neighborhood of a motion-freezing 1/1000s.

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