Nissin firmware update for Fujifilm users: wireless HSS made easy

Until recently, Fujifilm users with Nissin speedlights could do:

  • off-camera radio-triggered TTL, with the Air 1 commander unit and a compatible speedlight (Di700 or i60A)
  • on-camera (or off-camera with a cable) High Speed Sync flash photography (Fujifilm calls that mode FP, but it’s exactly the same)


However, Fujifilm users with Nissin flashes could not do radio-triggered HSS. This has now been resolved with the latest firmware update that Nissin has been rolling out: Fujifilm users (X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX…) have now access to radio-controlled off-camera TTL HSS flash with Nissin.

The bad news if you already own an Air 1 commander and Nissin speedlights is that you cannot update these firmwares yourself, so you need to send your units back to Nissin for them to perform the update. However, if you are buying them now, chances are that the units on sale have already been updated. I bought my Air 1 commander and a i60A speedlight this week-end, and both were already rocking the updated Firmware for Fujifilm users, but make sure to check with your retailer beforehand.

My previous wireless flash system with my Fujifilm cameras

35292351220_a3b3456d42_oUntil I got the Nissin flash system, I was using a Yongnuo YN560-III with a couple of RF603C-II transceivers (no TTL, no HSS).

The pros of my Yongnuo system were:

  • Very affordable
  • Small transceivers
  • Easy to use

The cons:

  • Nearby photographers with Yongnuo triggers would trigger my flash when shooting
  • Bulky speedlight compared to my limited needs in terms of flash specs
  • Had to walk to the speedlight to change the flash power levels
  • It worked great for some time… and then suddenly stopped working, apart from the stroboscopic mode, which I never use 😦

Given the last point, I was in need of a new flash system. What I was looking for:

  • Radio-triggered
  • Can adjust the flash power (either in manual or TTL mode, don’t really care about TTL or not) directly from the commander unit
  • Can do HSS
  • A guide number of 50 or more
  • Reliable
  • Simple (no need for stroboscopic mode for example…)
  • Compact
  • Reasonable price
  • Will not die of a premature death like my Yongnuo…

Obviously there are more advanced Yongnuo products including radio triggers + flashes, but since I was not impressed by the durability of my previous Yongnuo experience, I wanted to explore new options.

What about the Fuji EF-X500?

Being invested in the Fujifilm X-Mount system, it would be logical to consider the EF-X500, which finally made it to the market after a bumpy development road between Metz (who is doing this flash despite of it being ultimately branded Fujifilm) filing for insolvency and overheating issues of the early design.

However the EF-X500 does not make it for me. In the absence of a remote trigger being developed and released at the same time, you need to buy 2 EF-X500’s in order to trigger one remotely (the other bulky unit being mounted on top of your camera), so the entry cost is already 2 times the cost of one speedlight. Moreover, the trigger is optical and not radio, so you need “line of sight” between the commander flash on top of your camera and the receiver flash. You might think it’s not a big deal, but a lot of time when you light up a scene, you will be looking for ways to do so while hiding the flash behind some elements of the scene or walls, hence breaking the “line of sight”.

The one small advantage that the EF-X500 gets is that the flash has a light that can be used to assist the AF in the dark. Other brands also have this AF-assist light on their flash units, but Fujifilm is currently preventing them from being used.

The Nissin flash system

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While I also considered options such as Cactus or Godox, I decided to go with Nissin, because it is a Japanese company (while the other 2 are from Hong Kong and Shenzhen), hoping for better quality control, but more importantly for good local support if needed after my Yongnuo experience. In fact, the shop where I bought my Air 1 and i60A has very close ties to Nissin, as Nissin has shot test images in this shop’s studio, and their stock was already upgraded to the newest firmware for Fujifilm users.

In any case, please note that I never used any Cactus or Godox products, so I can’t speak to their quality and they could very well be awesome products. I am just sharing my personal decision process.

Di700 or i60A?

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If you decide to go Nissin and buy an Air 1 commander, the first question to ask yourself is should you get the Di700 or i60A flash (the i40A does not have a radio receiver to pair it with the Air 1 commander)?

While slightly less powerful than the i60A (GN54 vs GN60), the Di700 is more than powerful enough for my and most people’s need, costs less than the i60A (especially if you get it in bundle with the Air 1), but has the same radio transmission system… and also a super cute and stylish screen with bright color icons. I think it is great value.

However, it is markedly bigger than the i60A, and for me having a flash small enough that I will be carrying it in my bag – rather than leaving it gathering dust in a closet -, was a very important factor, which is why I personally went with the i60A. Also, the Di700 has a weird compartment supposed to make loading the 4 AA batteries easier, but it just looks more cumbersome to me.

Using the Nissin Air 1 commander + i60A speedlight with the Fujifilm X-T2

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Pairing the commander unit with the flash

Pairing the Air 1 commander with an i60A flash is very easy as long as you know the secret handshake:

  • Hold simultaneously the Lock button and Power button on the flash unit for 3 sec until you hear the beeping sound
  • Hold simultaneously the S button and Power button on the Air 1 commander for 3 sec until the screen is flashing

Pairing

That’s all there is to it, the pairing is done. The beeping of the flash unit and the flashing of the commander unit will then stop.

What is HSS?

In standard mode (not HSS), the flash fires one flash of light, so you can choose between front curtain sync (the flash fires immediately after the shutter opens) or rear curtain sync (the flash waits before firing just before the second curtain is about to start closing).

If the shutter speed is to fast (faster than 1/250th of a second in the case of the X-T2), the second curtain has already started to close when that flash of lights happens, creating a black band at the bottom or top of the picture (depending on your sync mode). In HSS mode however, the speedlight does not fire just one single flash of light, but simulates some sort of almost continuous lighting to avoid the black band by firing several very fast bursts of lights close to each other.

While HSS will enable you to use a fast shutter speed with your flash, it will also take a much bigger toll on your flash as you are asking your speedlight to fire several bursts in super quick succession, while pushing the power up for the same exposure as with a standard speed sync. With great power comes great responsibility, I guess (or something like that).

Fujifilm camera settings for HSS


To enable HSS on your Fujifilm camera:

  • Press the Menu button, go into the flash setting tab and select the flash function setting submenu
  • Move the cursor to the sync setting, and set the value to FP

That’s all for there is to it, so if you are using a fast shutter speed with your flash and getting a black band, make sure you have selected the setting above.

What does this look like in real life?

You want to use a wide aperture for shallow depth-of-field during sunset?

First, meter for a good exposure of the sky. In this example, the X-T2 gave me 1/8000th of a sec at ISO 200 and f1.4.

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This will likely leave the subject completely underexposed, as in the example above, hence the need to bring in a flash. The shutter speed being faster than 1/250th of a sec, HSS comes to the rescue.

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Another example, again the X-T2 reading of the sky gives me 1/8000th of a sec at ISO 200 and f1.4:

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Adding the flash in HSS mode:

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All these images are JPEGs straight out of the camera. Setting up the flash exposure was very easy. I paired the commander and the flash unit, put the flash where I wanted the light to come from, and then I just used the wheel on the commander to dial the flash power up or down. Since this was in HSS mode, I had to use the flash at almost full power.

Keep in mind though, it’s not because Fujifilm cameras can now handle wireless HSS with Nissin that you should always be using it. If I had wanted more depth-of-field, I could have stoped down my aperture, leading to a slower shutter speed that does not require HSS. For example, 1/60th of a sec at ISO 200 and f16, + flash at a lower power setting than previously:

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So far, very sweet. I was mainly looking for something simple but that works consistently, and I think this is exactly what Nissin has delivered. Next step, I am taking the Air 1 commander and i60A flash unit to the studio, but that’s a story for another post 😉

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I got printed in 3D by the Fujifilm GFX 50S

As I wrote in my previous article, it has been a very busy weekend, shooting Kyoto’s maikos and geikos on Saturday, and Tokyo’s geishas on Sunday (see my Twitter feed for previews).

Nonetheless, I rushed to Yokohama on Sunday afternoon, for a speedy visit of the CP+ 2017 before the show’s end. Don’t hold your breath, but probably more on that later. Anyway, the good news is that opposite to Fujikina last January, it was this time allowed to to record samples on your own memory card. Yeah!

CP+ 2017

The first lens I tried on the GFX 50S was the GF63mmF2.8, but the models working on the Fuji stage were too far for my liking to use this focal range (50mm in 35mm equivalent). So I asked the Fujifilm employee who was helping me to take my own portrait instead:

My portrait taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50S + GF63mmF2.8

This shot was taken at ISO 6,400. Obviously the lighting was horrible, which emphasizes even more the fact that I am no model, but at least you see me “pop” against the blurry background, which gives the 3D feel to the image. And I confirm Japanese people pronounce it “bokeeeeeeeeh!!” and not “boka” 😉

Thanks again to all the people working on Fujifilm’s booth at CP+ 2017 for their patience with me and support! Can’t say the same with all camera manufacturers…

More to come…

Must-read articles from the archives if you are new to the Fujifilm X-Series

So, with the Fujifilm now officially released, you have decided to take a leap of faith and jump into the X-Series, and you slowly start to realize that you leaving your DSLR at home more and more often. While mirrorless cameras have been trying to catch up with DSLRs in terms of performances, there is still a lot to get used in terms of interface, including some benefits: for example, thanks to the electronic viewfinder that you can magnify, you don’t need to afraid of using manual anymore… As Todd would say, hooray! Anyway, here is a list of my previous articles/videos that you might find useful if you are new to the X-Series:

  • Manual focus tutorial

  • How to use the Fujifilm remote app on your phone

  • Why you should use a UHS-II SD card rather than UHS-I with the cameras that are compatible

  • Take a look at the Instax Printer SP-2

As always, stay tune for more 😉

Product shots of the Fujifilm X-T2 and the X-Series family (and a few sample shots)

After 2 months of intense hype, the X-T2 has now officially joined the Fujifilm X-Series family on the 8th of September, as it finally shipped across the globe. I received mine on Thursday, along with its battery grip. I won’t do any unboxing video this time, as there are already plenty to be found on the net. I will also take the required time to put the X-T2 through its paces, especially the new autofocus system (rethought algorithms + Canon-like customizable settings), so I will not rush any review. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the X-T2 (mine), which kept a similar design as its predecessor, although just a tiny tiny bit fatter. Anyways, I still would like to share some pictures OF the X-T2 along with its siblings, because it still looks gorgeous. So, without further ado, here is… the Fuji X-T2!

 

And the battery grip (or Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XT2 as Fujifilm calls it) that comes back on steroids:

  • 2 extra battery slots instead of 1 (for a total of 3 batteries including the one in the X-T2)
  • can be used to charge 2 batteries at the same time thanks to the AC adapter that comes with it in the box
  • includes a headphone jack for video shooting
  • has its own AF joystick for shooting vertically
  • also improves the grip when shooting horizontally

When compared to the X-T1, you can see that the X-T2 is a little bit bigger, although the difference is barely visible. The main difference in design visible from the front is the taller ISO and shutter speed dials:

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Comparing the X-T1 and X-T2’s grips, the size difference is more obvious given the additional functionalities of the XT2’s grip:

However, the X-T2 (without battery grip) still feels more compact than the other X-Series camera sharing the same sensor and image processor, the X-PRO2:

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And here are the first few sample images I took with the X-T2 (JPEGs from the camera with the Velvia film simulation):

Fujifilm X-T2: The Good, The Hype and The Rant

Disclaimer: apart from the pictures of the X-T2, all the pictures in this blog post were taken with the X-Pro2, which remains a wonderful camera despite of all the hype you can read about other models 🙂

In my review of the X-Pro2, I concluded that if you could live without the hybrid viewfinder of the X-Pro2, then the X-T2 was probably worth the wait. This was before the official reveal of the specifications of the X-T2 on the 7th of July.

The Good

X-Pro2 or X-T2? That is not the question

The official specifications of the X-T2 have only reinforced this idea, as, on paper, choosing the X-T2 seems like a no-brainer. You get the same sensor and processor as in the X-Pro2, but with a few additional perks including:

  • Bigger and brighter electronic viewfinder, with less blackout periods between shots when shooting in continuous mode
  • Refined autofocus algorithms (coming to the X-Pro2 in October via firmware update), with customizable AF-C settings (think Canon autofocus menus) to better adapt to the situation (NOT included in the X-Pro2 firmware update at the time of writing this article)
  • Video mode: 4K video recording up to 10min in-body (30min with the battery grip), with a “standard” 3.5mm mic jack (vs a 2.5mm jack on the X-Pro2), although you unfortunately will need the battery grip to get a headphone jack
  • 2 UHS-II SD memory card slots, compared to 1 UHS-II + 1 UHS-I slot on the X-Pro2 (not a biggie for me as I am mostly using the second slot for JPEGs backups in RAW+JPEG mode, so don’t really need the UHS-II speed on the second slot)
  • Last but not least, a cheaper price than the X-Pro2

On top of that, you get the differences in design between the X-T series vs X-Pro series, which to my personal taste are positive points for the X-T1/X-T2:

  • Mode selection dial, instead of a “Drive” sub-menu. Whith the X-T2, the mode dial includes this time around a much needed position for the Video mode. Why there was none on the X-T1 is a mystery, as if you were not shooting stills in 16:9 JPEGs you could not frame your video properly before pressing the record button…
  • Articulated screen. Why the X-Pro2’s screen is not at least a minimum articulated to facilitate shooting from the hip is another great mystery…

The one (and only) reason that would make you want the X-Pro2 over the X-T2 is the hybrid viewfinder. If this is something that you really want, then the X-Pro2 was designed just for you! If you can leave without it, then getting the X-T2 is a no-brainer in my opinion.

The Hype

While Fujifilm has made (much needed but still relatively) fast improvements in its camera lineup, the company has also up its game in terms of marketing, especially on social networks. Via the Fujifilm X-Photographers programme, Fujifilm has quickly caught with other brands in building a group of talented photographers who became the best ambassadors of the brand.

Rui-chan Miko Cosplay

This is a brilliant marketing technique, because it means that during the (long) time between the X-T2 announcement and the actual release of the camera, the Internet buzz around the camera will be filled by people who:

  •  are not professional reviewers: they write about their personal experience with the camera but can’t draw any comparison with a wide variety of competitors
  • have a relationship with Fujifilm that would not be appropriate for a reviewer
  • even when forgetting about this relationship, they are a biased sample: they are Fujifilm users, which means they have already chosen Fujifilm over other brands for personal taste/reasons (well, of course anyone’s opinion on anything will be biased, but in this case Fujifilm selects them for their bias)
  • write all these previews and stories for free! What more could you ask for?

The downside of this strategy is that if you overdo it you can inflate a hype bubble – with the winds of “fastest auto-focus ever” and “finally better than DSLRs” – that could eventually backfire when the final product gets released, and the embargo on REAL reviews gets lifted. In my opinion we are getting close to the over saturation with he X-T2, I feel like they gave a pre-production version of this camera to way more people than they had ever done. You would think it is already out (fun fact: my X-E1 review is the most read article on my blog, because most of the photographers we hear praising Fuji today would not care to write about it at the time – with the exception of the few ones who jump into the boat from the start with the clunky X100). I do read all those previews, not because I want to hear how much better the ***insert any new camera here*** is, but I actually appreciate many of the X-Photographers for their personality (always nice and welcoming when you I met them despite of tight schedules) and their outstanding work. I would not love them less if they were not shooting Fuji.

But irrelevant to how much sympathy I have for them, their daily job is to produce beautiful pictures and not to review cameras (they will be the first ones to acknowledge that themselves when they write a preview). Consumers deserve real reviews to make an informed decision, and for their protection I would always call for professional and balanced reviews to be available earlier since the camera is already available for pre-order. Remember that when the X-T1 it had mushy buttons that had to be changed on the next batch of production. Something that you could (only?) read here before the release of the camera (and real reviews), amidst a sea of X-Photographers praising the X-T1 as a DSLR-killer (hum, sounds familiar).

Potential buyers who are being enticed by the HEAVY focus being put on the video capabilities of the X-T2 have nothing to lose waiting for real world balanced reviews to be out. No, the camera is not going to be out of stock forever if you don’t preorder. The video quality of the X-T2 might be awesome. I have no idea. But given the sub-par quality of the X-T1, there is no reason to blindly believe Fujifilm when they say they have suddenly  found the magic formula for video with the X-T2. Until the final camera is in the hand of independant reviewers, caution is advised.

Rui-chan

The Rant

Again, I love the work of X-Photographers, I am just saying that consumers need to take a precautionary pinch of salt against the hype, and keep their expectations realistic. However, there is one thing that drives me crazy: reading interviews explaining that this camera did not get this feature available on another camera because the photographers using this camera told Fujifilm that street photographers don’t use this or that while this camera is targeting them… and then couple years later when this feature finally makes it on the successor of this camera the SAME people will write posts on how much this is fantastic!

This idea that you can put photographers in hermetic silos depending on what they shoot is plain stupid. If your camera designer does not want to put an articulated screen on the X-Pro series for design/cost reasons, obviously don’t put one. But if you are not doing it based on the fact  the tiny sample of street photographers you talk to never shot on a camera with one, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons: if they don’t want to move their screen, they can just leave it the way it is! Meanwhile different people could use the option extensively.

The current example of that is the lack of a touchscreen on the X-T2. Brainstorming meeting in Fuji HQ with a small sample of X-Photographers:
– Shall we put a touchscreen in the X-T2? 
– Nah, touchscreens are for amateurs and we are so scared that we could change a setting with our nose touching the screen that we cannot be bothered to turn the option off for ourselves while letting it available for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Fast forward to 2018, the X-T3 will come out with a touchscreen and the same people will start their previews on their blogs by saying how the touchscreen is a revolution and so intuitive because we have been using smartphones for 10 years…

Just a bit more patience

Anyway, in a week from now the wait will be over and the hype will slow down. The X-T2 will be shipping to my home. I have been using the X-Series for many years now, so my expectations are based on the previous products I have used. I am not expecting a game changer, a DSLR-killer, the fastest auto-focus in the world, etc… No camera is perfect, and spoiler alert the X-T2 won’t be. Just a camera… Find a brand/system that you like, whichever is good for you, so that you can only focus on what really matters. Shoot portraits, shoot landscapes, document your travels… Just focus on enjoying whatever camera you have and on having fun with it. Well, until it is time to fancy on the X-T3, and round and round we go 😉

Shiba Aura