Studio cameras

Professional studio portrait cameras have to be the most expensive models. That’s just a given.


Oh wait. No… they do not need to be the most expensive. I have taken many studio shots with Digital Rebels and a 50mm f/1.8 lens (go get one if you do not yet own one).

Today I took a studio shot of my friend and student Paul M. Rather than using my 1Ds Mark III, I used the little Fuji X100 with its fixed 35mm equivalent lens – and got this:

Fuji X100 Portrait of Paul M (Photo: Michael Willems)

This was made to show the effect of one flash and showing no ambient light. i.e. a setting which ensures that the flash does all the work. To do this I simply:

  1. Set the camera to manual, 1/125th second, f/5.6, 200 ISO. (take a test shot: it should look dark. If not, check that your auto ISO is disabled).
  2. Turned on the “external flash enabled” setting in the X100’s menu (you need to do that, or the hotshoe will be inactive).
  3. Connected a radio sender to the camera’s hotshoe, in order to fire a battery-operated Elinchrom portable strobe in a small softbox .
  4. Fired a test flash while holding the meter to where the person would be, then set the flash power level until the peter read f/5.6.

That was all. A professional quality studio shot with a point-and-shoot.  Yes, true, it is not any point, and shoot, but still. And of course a simple SLR would have done too.

Is it sharp? Sure it is. Here’s a true size part of the picture, pixel for pixel:

(To see the true sharpness, click, then view it at true size)

X100 owners: remember to turn on the “external flash” setting, as described above. Also, remember to turn it off again when you are done – with this setting enabled, the camera refuses to go slower than 1/30th second in Aperture mode or Program mode. (if that is documented I am not sure where – but it is a sensible setting I suppose -as long as you know about it).

Note, finally, that this was a JPG straight out of the camera – yes a JPG, with the camera using standard settings. No extra sharpening was applied – all just standard settings.

So yes, if the lens focal length suits the portrait you are shooting, you can certainly use a small camera for studio work.


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