x100: Can you see a theme?

Regular readers will see that the last few days, I have been shooting with, and talking about, the Fujicolor x100 camera that I carry:

Fuji X100 (Photo: Michael Willems)

The theme has been: given the right light (e.g. flash!) and the right techniques, you can take professional pictures with it that are as good as those taken with an SLR. This is almost straight out of camera (a crop and a few dust spots removed):

Now while I am not recommending product shoots with the x100, this goes to show it can be as good as an SLR.

But now let’s take it a step farther. It can be better.

Yes, better. And here’s how:

I just took that picture at 200 ISO, f/8, 1/1000 sec. That makes for that nice, dark sky.

Wait. Did he just say 1/1000 sec, one thousandth of a second? That is impossible since the flash sync speed of 1/250 second limits the shutter speed you can set the camera to when using a flash. Right??

Wrong. The x100 has a leaf shutter. And it allows flash up to 1/1000 second. And as said, that is why that sky is so wonderfully dark. It is in fact noon and it looks bright to my eyes. But 1/1000 sec makes it dark. Two stops darker than my other cameras could have done!

But he could have done that with aperture, with a higher f-number. Or with an ND filter.

Nope. If I had, I would have run out of flash power. The flash needs to get through that filter, or through  that small aperture, and it is not bright enough at higher apertures, especially when a modifier is being used.

So the x100 may be small, but it can do things my $8,000 1Dx cannot do. Just saying!



I like crisp images, like this one I just took of one of my toys:

You see, here’s my floor, with that toy, using available light:

Nothing wrong with that, but I prefer more crisp sharpness, more contrast. Like the sharpness flash gives you:

I took that picture purely to illustrate how to take this picture, Namely, with a Fujifilm x100 camera (which has an APS-C sensor) with a Pocketwizard on the flash hotshoe and “external flash” enabled. The camera was set to 200 ISO, f/8, 1/125 second: standard studio settings. Two flashes, one on the right at 1/16 power; one on the left at 1/4 power, fitted with a 1/4″ Honlphoto grid:

When you click through to view these at full size, they are good.

View that full size and a few things may occur to you. Like “remove dust with brush and blower before taking any close-up flash shots”. And “a small camera, like the Fujifilm x100, can make excellent, sharp, crisp photos when you use it well”. But especially: “flash is one way to make photos crisp, both in reality and in perception”. Reality, since the flash lasts only 1/1000 sec at full power, and therefore 1/4000 sec at quarter power”; hence, there will be no motion blur. And perception, because exposing to the right (i.e. brightly) and with lots of contrast makes things crisp.

Look at this image full size:

There you have it: sharpness. just one more advantage of using flash.



For the making of this kind of wizard, I need another type of wizard.

Namely, Pocketwizards. This is manual flash, fired by Pocketwizard radio triggers. I used a key light (camera left), a fill and rim light (right), a background light (gelled, background left), and a fourth flash, a gelled flash behind the skull. Four flashes, fired by five Pocketwizards.

“I don’t have that kind of money, to buy five radio triggers”, I hear some of you say. “I am going to just use wireless TTL, my camera’s built-in system (Canon e-TTL, Ninon i-TTL/CLS, etc)”.

Let’s have a look. 5 Triggers can cost up to $500. Wireless TTL is included in your Nikon or Canon (or Sony, etc) system, so costs nothing. Easy decision. Of course TTL is cheaper. Right?

All I need for the cheap “TTL solution” is four flashes by Canon or Nikon. Or, if I have a pro camera that does not contain a pop-up flash, five flashes by Canon or Nikon. One needs to be a 580EX/600EX (Canon) or SB800/900/910 (Nikon). Total cost? Between $1500 and $2500. Peanuts.

And for the expensive Pocketwizard solution, I need five expensive triggers; say $500. And then five “any type” flashes: any brand, any type as long as they use a standard hotshoe or an x-type connector, and they can fire manually at a power level of my choosing, and I can disable any auto-switchoff timeout. These flashes can be as little as under $100. And I only need four at most. Say, $400, then. And perhaps cables from Flashzebra dot com, another $100. So the total cost can be as low as $1000.

Wait. The cheap solution is $1500-$2000, and the expensive solution costs $1000? Perhaps things aren’t so simple after all. Just sayin’.

Yes, using radio triggers can be cheaper because you do not need your brand’s TTL flashes. Whatever brand you use, the remote flashes can be new or old and can be made by Canon, Nikon, Vivitar, Olympus, one of the Chinese, Taiwanese, or Korean clone makers: don’t care.  And that can save you a lot of money.


Check out my e-books on http://learning.photography/collections/books and learn everything I know. Taught in a logical fashion, these extensive e-books (PDFs with 100-200 pages each) will help you get up to scratch quickly with all the latest techniques. And when combined with a few hours’ private coaching, in person or via Google Hangouts, you have no idea of the places you’ll go. You’ll be a pro!

Multiple OCF’s today

OCF = Off-Camera Flash. And OCF is the name of the game. Why? Because off camera flash gives you control over light direction. And you can have fun, like here, in today’s shoot:

(1/125 sec, 200 ISO, f/8)

The yellow flash fires into the camera, This works fine with some lenses, but not with others. If you get a  lot of flare when trying this, try another lens, use the lens hood, and remove any protective lens filters.

This yellow flash and the purple flash are speedlights fitted with Honl photo grids and gels. The main light was a beauty dish on our left; fill light was a softbox on our right, feathered forward. As hair light, a snooted light on our left behind, aimed forward (not visible). So:

The speedlights and one strobe were fired using Pocketwizards; the other two strobes with their light-sensing cells.

The moral: try and have some fun with your speedlights and strobes.


Easy does it

“Convenience” is one of the things that drive me. I want my life to be easy. That is why I use speedlights when I can, for example. So when I shoot, I often use this:

That is an off-camera flash on a light stand with a bracket, a shoot-through (or shoot into) umbrella, and a Flashzebra cable that connects the Pocketwizard to the flash.

Look carefully and you can see all the individual components:

The charm is  that you can leave it all connected so it effectively becomes on integral unit. An easy-to-fold up unit: