REAL High Speed Sync Flash with the Fujifilm X100s

Modern digital cameras come with so many great features and generally inadequate manuals, making it difficult sometimes to really understand all of those features and how they can interact to produce great images.  And the Fujifilm X100s is no different … Except there is help available.  Tony Phillips at The Friedman Archives has written an extensive and comprehensive book to cover all of those features in detail.  Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1 in “The Complete Guide to the X100s” by Tony Phillips.

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LEAF SHUTTER 

In the introduction to this book I told you I loved this feature.  For one, they are deadly silent – a pretty good feature for street and documentary photography.  More importantly, they allow the camera to sync with flash at much higher shutter speeds than a focal plane shutter can, entirely changing your ability to compete with ambient light.
FLASH – Real High Shutter Speed Flash Sync
Landscape photographers talk about the golden hour.  The hour around dawn, or dusk when light takes on an almost magical quality.  Paradoxically cameras are optimized for “normal” daylight, and yet images taken under those kinds of hard-light conditions seldom seem as wonderful as their counterparts shot in the golden hour (or under the influence of a photographer with a keen eye for light and the knowledge of how to achieve it from their equipment).
Until now, that is. The leaf shutter lens in your X100S will change your ability to compete with ambient light.  Add the in-built ND filter to the mix, and an external accessory flash or two, and you’ll find yourself balancing flash with daylight to achieve the most wonderful light in outdoor situations.
It’s all about light ratios in relationship to ambient light. The type of real high speed sync (RHSS) available with a leaf shutter is not at all like high speed sync (HSS) as you may know it.  There are limitations placed on flash power delivered using HSS, brought about by the way the flash power is output (pulsed) during the period in which the shutter is open.  These limitations not only do not apply with a leaf shutter and RHSS, you actually get more punch from your flash unit than you would if it were attached to a regular focal plane shutter camera.  This is a pretty big topic, and I discuss it in much more detail starting on page 367.  In the meantime, feel free to dial up your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second, and head outdoors for some shooting.

Want shallow depth of field with that?  Turn on the ND filter! Figure 1-42 demonstrates how this all comes together.  The high shutter speed (1/1000th) cuts ambient light giving me rich colours in the sky and trees.  The ND filter means I can shoot wide open (f|2 in this case) so only the cluster of roses in the foreground is in focus.  Add in the EF-X20 flash for some fill, and you produce a pleasing result in awkward lighting conditions.
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So, for more great tips and techniques (almost 500 pages worth) head over to The Friedman Archives and check out Tony’s great book that can transform your understanding of the X100s and help you get great images from your camera.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that I have also written for The Friedman Archives. I co-authored the book about the Sony Nex-6 and helped Gary Friedman with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 book.

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Using the Bracket Pro App with Sony’s Nex-6, 5R, and 5T

The original version of this post has been getting lots of attention, lately, so I decided to update it with the full information from my ebook (coauthored with Gary Friedman) about the Sony Nex-6/5R/5T.  The book is available at The Friedman Archives.  (If you’re not shooting one of these three cameras, then you’ll still find books about virtually every Sony Alpha and Nex camera produced in the last few years.)

This is actually quite an unusual camera application.  For years, we’ve had the capability to automatically bracket exposure in our cameras, and initially, this was designed (in the days of film) to help make sure we got a correct exposure since changes were much more difficult (impossible with color slides) to make after the fact.  Not like today’s digital files that give us much more latitude to make corrections.  Then, just a few years ago, HDR (high dynamic range) became popular and we began to demand that our cameras give us at least 3 bracketed images and up to +/- 3.0 EV between each image.
Now, with “Bracket Pro”, bracketing takes on a whole new meaning: the camera keeps the exposure for each image the same, but changes either shutter speed, aperture, focus distance, or flash on/off.  In the case of shutter, aperture, or focus, the camera shoots three images with different settings.  With flash bracketing, it shoots two images: one with flash off and one with flash on.

Let me reiterate … this is not an HDR function, and the camera saves all of the images for you, with no in-camera merging.

So, what’s the big deal?  Well, let’s take a look at each of these four functions and talk about what they can do for you.  But first, if you are not intimately familiar with shutter speed and aperture, and how they relate to each other, depth of field, and exposure, then please do a quick review.
These are all easy to invoke by selecting: Menu → Application → Bracket Pro → (and then either) BRK Tv, BRK Av, BRK FOCUS, or BRK (flash symbol).  Most likely, the first thing you will see is a warning.  For instance, if you are in Program Mode and select BRK Av (aperture bracketing), the camera screen will say “Unavailable in this shooting mode” and that it will automatically switch to Aperture Priority while in BRK Av.  So just select “OK” and keep going.  The display and controls for BRK Av and BRK Tv are very similar.
With Tv (shutter) or Av (aperture) bracketing, you can modify the size of the steps with the Control Wheel from 0.3 to 3.0 (Av) and 0.3 to 5.0 (Tv).  In these two bracketing modes, the Control Dial functions as it would in either Aperture or Shutter Priority by changing that setting.  In Flash Bracketing, the Control Dial and Wheel do nothing, and in Focus Bracketing, the Control Wheel selects between 3 distance settings from Narrow to Wide, while the Control Dial operates according to whatever camera Mode you are in.
Shutter Speed Bracketing
Sometimes, we want to freeze action … like in sports, when we try to catch athletes in action but still show them in sharp crisp detail, with no blur from their motion.  On the other hand, there are times that we prefer to blur the motion, like when shooting a busy street at night or the flowing water of a waterfall.  There, we typically go for a slow shutter speed to show the movement of the cars by blurring their lights into streaks.
Sometimes, we’re just not sure what might work best and may not have the luxury to stick around and take multiple shots.  So, set the Bracket Pro app to Shutter Bracketing.  The first thing to understand is that this app requires Shutter Priority, so you will set the primary shutter speed with the Control Dial and use the Control Wheel to select the range of f/stops between each shot.  Here, what you need to know is that the NEX-5R will automatically put the camera in Shutter Priority regardless of your set mode, BUT the NEX-6 will just tell you to switch to Shutter Priority (a function of having a physical mode dial as opposed to the “soft” mode dial on the 5R.)
I also recommend setting ISO to Auto unless you need a specific ISO for the planned photo.  The reason is that when you take the shot the camera will use the shutter speeds as set by you and then attempt to get correct exposures by varying the aperture and ISO, IF in Auto.  So this just allows you to use a wider range of shutter speeds and still get correct exposures.
So, once you’ve got Bracket Pro running and you’ve selected Tv, you are presented with a screen that can be confusing at first.  Refer now to the photo at the top, the first screen after selecting Tv. On the left you see the three shutter speeds, with #1 showing your primary shutter speed selected by the Control Dial.  On the right is the range, and in this case it is set to 2.0.  And there in the lower middle is “The Graph”.  Across the bottom (left to right), you’ll see the complete range of available shutter speeds and the left side represents apertures from wide open (bottom) to the smallest available (top).  The orange rectangle seems to reflect the available range of exposures.  As you adjust the primary (#1) shutter speed with the Control Dial, the orange square moves left and right accordingly.  The width of the orange square corresponds to the selected range.
Now, the important part.  To insure that all three exposures are correct, you must adjust the settings so that points #3 and #2 do not touch the top and bottom edges of the orange square.  If #3 goes to the top, then that image will be over-exposed, and if #2 touches the bottom, that image will be under-exposed.  This happens because you are asking the camera to exceed the available ranges of aperture and ISO.
So, you’re all set up.  All that’s left is to compose the shot and press the shutter button.  The camera will fire off three shots, varying the shutter speeds according to your settings, while “attempting” to correctly expose by also changing the aperture and ISO as necessary.
The downside with Shutter Bracketing is due to those changing apertures and ISO settings.  For instance, if you’re going for a shallow depth of field, it may not be there in all three shots.  Likewise, using Auto ISO you may end up with one or more images with unacceptable noise levels.  Those are just some of the tradeoffs to keep in mind when using this function.
Aperture Bracketing
This function operates almost identically to Shutter Speed Bracketing with one obvious difference – it brackets the aperture to give you different depths of field in each of three images.  It also attempts to maintain a proper exposure for all three images and is thus not suitable for HDR work.
Focus Bracketing
This is the part of this app that makes the least sense to me.  The available adjustments are very vague (Wide, Narrow, or something in between) and the results were consistently unpredictable, at least for me.
Generally, it takes one image at your selected focus point, another at some “other” focus point, and then an image that is completely defocused.  (Frankly, I get plenty of poorly focused images without this kind of help.☺)
I called Sony technical support about this one, and they weren’t much help either.  Although, that was where I found out about why one of the images was never in focus … by design!
Flash Bracketing

This very simply takes two images, one with flash and one without flash.  Once selected, you only have to be sure to either pop-up the flash (on the NEX-6) or attach an external flash and turn it on.

Wireless Flash with Your Sony Nex-7 – using the Pop-Up!

The Sony Nex cameras are known for their excellent wireless flash capability.  But did you know you could make it work with the built-in Pop-Up flash?

The “normal” way to do wireless is to use at least two external Sony flashes like the older HVL-F20AM ($128) as a trigger and the new HVL-F43M ($398) as a slave. (I still haven’t seen anything to indicate that the new HVL-F20M can function as a wireless trigger.)  So there you are $526 into it … a bit expensive for my blood.

Well, I just discovered that the Nissin Di466 ($138.50 on Amazon) can function as a remote flash while using the Nex-7’s pop-up flash.  Very cool!  I actually got this flash to use with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and it is advertised to be compatible with Olympus and Panasonic Four Thirds cameras.  On those cameras it will also work “on camera” whereas with the Sony it will not.  Still, $140 for a wireless flash “system” sure sounds better than almost $530!  🙂

One caveat:  The Nissin will not work in TTL mode like this so you must shoot in manual flash.  The camera can be in any mode that will fire the pop-up flash, but you may need to adjust the Nissin’s output.

It’s so easy, too.  Just pop-up the camera’s flash, set the Nissin appropriately and fire away.  You don’t even need to change the flash mode to wireless (actually, it’s not even available).

I’ve had the Nissin Di466 for a few months and it has worked great.  It has simple controls and excellent recharge times with good batteries (4 AAs required).  There only four buttons and three indicator lights so it’s a piece of cake to use.  There’s an On/Off Button and the Pilot Button/Light which shows its “ready to fire” status and also doubles as a test flash button.  Then there’s an exposure compensation Rocker Switch which you use to either compensate exposure or set the manual exposure value.  The other tiny button lets you switch between Auto, Manual, and Slave (two modes, S1 and S2).  With the Nex-7, I use S1 so it knows to fire when it sees a flash and doesn’t try to communicate with the camera.

There is another advantage to using this flash for wireless … it fires almost instantaneously when you press the shutter button.  As good as Sony’s system is, there is one slight problem.  When using Sony flashes in a remote operation, there is a delay of approximately 1/2 to 1 full second from the time you press the shutter until the photo is actually taken.

Good results on a budget just aren’t all that hard to accomplish if you just look around a little bit and see what’s available.

Note:  This flash will probably fire wirelessly with just about any camera and flash.  I got it to fire by just using another flash (off camera) and doing a test fire and … boom … it fired!

As always, your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated and please feel free to “Fav”, “Tweet”, and “+1 or share” on Google+ or anywhere else.
     Thanks,
          Mike

Setting Up the NEX-7 – Revisited

I recently read somewhere, “Photography is a disease for which there is no known cure.” ( – Author Unknown)  I know I’m afflicted by it and I sure hope it isn’t fatal . . . . . aside from my wife wanting to kill me for exceeding my photography budget! 🙂 

A couple of days ago I “reacquired” the Sony NEX-7. There’s a lot to love there:  A beautiful, black, metal body; 24 Megapixel APS-C sensor; 10 frames-per-second; Terrific EVF (Electronic ViewFinder); and the Tri-Navi control system to give you almost instant access to many of the camera’s functions.  This camera is very customizable with several buttons that can be re-configured to setup this camera to work the way you work.

Many of you may not want your camera setup exactly like I do and that’s okay. We’re all individuals and approach photography with different goals and techniques.  In fact, my settings change from time to time as my current photographic emphasis changes.  But, if you’re new to the NEX-7 or maybe just struggling with the overwhelming customization options, maybe this will help. Here’s how I have mine setup, at least for now.

First, in the Main Menu, go to Setup and about halfway down you’ll find the Function Settings. These are the settings that are accessible using the Function Button (next to the shutter button) and adjustable with the two top Control Dials and the Control Wheel (Tri-Navi Controls).
  • Function Settings 1 > Focus Settings
  • Function Settings 2 > White Balance Settings
  • Function Settings 3 > Creative Style Settings
  • Function Settings 4 > Custom Settings
  • Custom Settings 1  > DRO/Auto HDR (Having Auto HDR and Quality in Custom Settings means they are both accessible at the same place. And since I often shoot in RAW, this makes it easy to quick change to JPEG when I want to use Auto HDR.)
  • Custom Settings 2  > Quality
  • Custom Settings 3  > Picture Effect
  • Function Settings Start > Previous (this just takes me back to whatever I had last changed)
Next, with Soft Key A, go back into the Setup Menu, and select Custom Key Settings. These will change the function of several of the buttons on the back of the camera.
  • AF/MF Button > AF/MF control
  • Right Key Setting > Flash Mode
  • Soft Key B Setting > Focus Settings
  • Soft Key C Setting > Shoot Mode
  • Custom Settings > N/A unless you set Soft Key C to Custom Settings, then you will have several choice to add, here.
With this configuration, I almost never need to go into the camera’s extensive menu system to make a change while I’m shooting, which is a big deal for me since I do tend to change settings quite often.  The possibilities are so varied, that you’ll probably need to do some experimenting with different combinations to find what works best for you, but maybe this guide can give you a place to start.

Please comment and share with us how you have your NEX-7 setup – and why – so we all have the chance to learn another way of doing things.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I worked with Gary Friedman (www.friedmanarchives.com) to produce a comprehensive manual about the new Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6.  You can find that eBook about the Nex-6 / 5R at www.FriedmanArchives.com , plus other books about all of the Nex models including the Nex-7, the RX100/M2 and most of the Sony Alpha models.