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Guest post: Fujifilm X Series with flash Part 1 – The EF-42 TTL Flashgun

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By Derek Clark

This is part one of a three part series on using flash the Fuji X Series. This part is a review of the EF-42 flash and this will be followed by “Part 2 : TTL Off Camera TTL” and then ending with “Part 3 : Using Multiple Flashes With Radio Triggers”.

I often get emails asking about using Flash with the Fuji X Series. Mostly the questions are about using TTL, Nikon or Canon Flashguns or the Nikon SU800 Commander with the X series. Another big question is – Can an off camera TTL cord be used and if so, which one? So I thought I’d take a fresh look at using Fuji X cameras with flash. My friend John a commercial photographer and he’s really tempted by the X-Pro1, but he uses flash most of the time and isn’t sure if the X system is up for it. I have a job at the end of this week that might need flash due to the time of day in January and a dark venue. There won’t be time to use one of my Nikon guns in manual mode with a radio trigger, so TTL will be a must. This all added up to a good excuse to pick up a Fuji EF-42 TTL Flash and give it a blast.

FUJIFILM EF-42 TTL FLASH
The EF-42 is basically a Sunpak PZ42X with a jacket on (the EF-20 is also a Sunpak model). It’s not as well made as a Nikon or Canon flash gun, but at half the price, it’s good enough. When you mount the flash on the camera and switch it on, autofocus won’t work until the flash charges and the Test/Charge light is illuminated and like a kettle boiling, it seems to take a long time when you’re watching it. But when it’s lit there’s no problem and everything works as it should after that. But I would rather take a shot without the flash firing than miss the shot as it could maybe be recovered in Lightroom with a bit of exposure and a possible conversion to black and white.

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Minimalist controls on the rear
Minimalist controls on the rear

The back panel on the EF-42 is minimalist compared to a Nikon or Canon unit, with buttons for Mode, Select, On/Off and Test. It’s certainly easy to understand how the controls work, which is a breath of fresh air if you have ever used an SB800 at any point. But it would be nice to have dedicated a couple of buttons for -EV & +EV, as there’s too many button presses to move up and then down EV. TTL works well and the handy pop-out wide angle lens is useful. I think it’s a bit mean not to include a dome diffuser or a foot/stand, but I picked up a diffuser from eBay and I had a spare Nikon foot. A Nikon SB600 Dome Diffuser will fit, but it’s very tight and once attached it would be a good idea to leave it in place. A soft case would also have been a welcome addition, but I have a solution for that in Part 2. The hotshoe mount at the bottom of the flash is plastic and looks cheap, plus a switch style lock would have been preferred over a screw down plate.

I would recommend buying a Dome diffuser as the bare flash can be a bit harsh. With the diffuser attached and the flash head tilted up you will get great soft and even light that can fill a small room without any problem. You can find a suitable diffuser on Ebay for very little money. There are even packs of three available (one white and two coloured) that allow balancing the colour of the light from the flash with the room (I prefer gels).

In conclusion, the EF-42 does the job well, but could be a bit better on the built quality front. I think if Fujifilm had made this flash from the ground up, it would have been a much higher quality unit. Now that the X Series lenses are plentiful (almost), it would be nice if Fuji could dedicate a little time to develop a flash system on a par with Nikon’s CLS system, but with built in radio instead of infrared and a dedicated commander unit that allows the user to set the power on multiple flashes without moving from camera position. A dedicated flash system is about the only thing the X Series is lacking now.

So that’s the EF-42. Stick it on the camera, set it to TTL and you’ll get a pretty decent job. But a flash on a camera hot shoe is not the best look for your pictures. The shots look flat, lifeless and can make ugly shadows in the background. So in Part 2 we will look at getting the flash off the camera using a TTL cord and what cord will work with the Fuji X range.

The EF-42 is available on Amazon UK for £155

About Derek

Derek Clark is an award winning Documentary Photographer and a member of The Kage Collective, an international group of documentary photographers that are committed to telling stories with a camera. To see more of his work you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter or you can  follow his blog.
This blog post was taken, with permission, from Derek’s blog. You can see the original post here.

X Marks The Spot: London, UK

One photographer, one Fujifilm X-series camera, a whole lot of great images

Rob MitchellX-series cameras are perfect for street photographers. Combining light weight and portability with fantastic performance and a great range of lenses makes them the perfect combination for shooting on the move. Rob Mitchell is a commercial photographer and X-Pro1 user based in Belgium, but he took these shots on a dedicated day of street photography in the Shoreditch area of London. Along with his friends, who were also shooting with X-series cameras, Rob used the X-Pro1 along with 18mm and 35mm lenses and most of his pictures were shot from the hip in a true documentary style. Continue reading to find out why the X-Pro1 was a perfect companion for a walk around London.

MARKET STALL NEAR COVENT GARDEN

Lens: XF18mm F2 R Exposure: 1/30sec at F2, ISO 800
Lens: XF18mm F2 R
Exposure: 1/30sec at F2, ISO 800

“This was just a passing snapshot of the market stall. With the combination of low light and large contrast range, I didn’t expect for one moment that the X-Pro1 would deliver a good shot, but it did. This was taken at ISO 800 with the 18mm lens at its widest aperture of F2. This helped me to get a fast enough shutter speed to successfully hand-hold the shot, and the X-Trans sensor took care of the rest. A truly impressive result with digital noise virtually non-existent.”

MIND THE GAP

X-Pro1 - Lens: XF35mm F1.4 R Exposure: 1/900sec at F1.4, ISO 400
X-Pro1 – Lens: XF35mm F1.4 R
Exposure: 1/900sec at F1.4, ISO 400

“Anyone who has travelled on the London Underground will know that the ‘Mind the Gap’ slogan is everywhere. I don’t remember the exact station that it was taken, but it was on the way from Epping to Liverpool Street. This was a real shot from the hip, which the X-Pro1 is perfect at. The train pulled into the station and as the doors opened, I saw the opportunity to grab this image. Using the rear LCD, auto exposure and rapid focusing, I was able to compose and get this perfectly exposed image before the doors closed again. I don’t think I would have had the time to capture this with a DSLR.”

MAN ON PHONE

X-Pro1 - Lens: XF18mm F2 R Exposure:  1/500sec at F2, ISO 400
X-Pro1 – Lens: XF18mm F2 R
Exposure: 1/500sec at F2, ISO 400

“The X-Pro1 is very subtle in use, a DSLR is just too imposing and I simply wouldn’t have been able to get this shot. As I walked past this man in Shoreditch, I had the camera hanging over my shoulder, so I just held it in position and fired off this image without lifting it to my eye or looking through the viewfinder. Although the man is looking at me, I’m pretty sure he didn’t know he was having his picture taken. With the 18mm, you can easily approximate the focusing point and with such a large depth-of-field I could shoot at F2 and still be confident that almost all of the image would stay in sharp focus.”

THE ORANGE BUFFALO

X-Pro1 - Lens: XF18mm F2 R Exposure: 1/210sec at F2, ISO 400
X-Pro1 – Lens: XF18mm F2 R
Exposure: 1/210sec at F2, ISO 400

“Taken at the Truman Brewery car park in Shoreditch, this is a sort of mismatch of the US and London. An Airstream caravan, Chevy truck and Buffalo Wings stuck in a rather hip area of town with just the sole client. The four picnic tables would suggest it gets busy there – not at that moment though. What I’ve noticed with the X-series is that I experiment more; I feel less constrained and if I only have a 18mm lens on the camera I just work around that. I could say it’s almost like going back to the roots of innocent experimentation and the discovery of photography.”

PUSHCHAIR, ELDER STREET

X-Pro1 - Lens: XF18mm F2 R Exposure: 1/14sec at F2, ISO 200
X-Pro1 – Lens: XF18mm F2 R
Exposure: 1/14sec at F2, ISO 200

“Typically anonymous flats are made up of a pattern of window-door-window-door. I spotted this pushchair in front of one and thought that it broke up the pattern to give a glimpse into the lives of the people who live there. I love the Fujifilm image quality – the fact that I still own and use my old Fujifilm S3 Pro is testament to that fact. The X-Trans sensor in the X-Pro1 certainly hasn’t lost any of the quality of colour accuracy of that older DSLR – I’ve already used it on a couple of commercial projects.”

COFFEE SHOP WINDOW

X-Pro1 - Lens: XF35mm F1.4 R Exposure: 1/550sec at F1.4, ISO 200
X-Pro1 – Lens: XF35mm F1.4 R
Exposure: 1/550sec at F1.4, ISO 200

“This was shot from inside a coffee shop, overlooking Pancras road – I deliberately wanted to get an obscured portrait of someone sitting outside, complete with an iconic London symbol in the background. The X-Pro1’s metering and sensor have combined to get a great result here. With the large shadow area in the foreground, I expected the camera to overexpose the main subject, but it’s dealt with the contrast well and got detail in both the dark and light areas.”

About Robert

Robert Mitchell is a British commercial photographer based in Belgium. To see more of his work you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or follow his blog.

What to shoot now – A Winter Wonderland

Christmas may be over, but there are still plenty of subjects and techniques to keep you and your X-series camera busy.

footprints in snow and tree

Winter wonderland

The days may be shorter and the temperatures lower, but there’s no denying that the winter months are a very photogenic time of year. Hopefully, we’ll get a good fall of snow over the next few weeks, which means great photos are to be had.

Like any time of year, taking good pictures in winter does involve some planning. If snow is forecast overnight, it could be worth an early start the following morning. If you’re lucky, it will be bright and sunny and you’ll get shots of the landscape before the snow starts to melt or gets covered in footprints. With this in mind, be sure to check the weather forecast the night before.

Make sure you charge up your batteries too, as cold weather can reduce battery performance. Likewise, we’d advise you to leave your camera (minus the battery) by the front door – this tends to be the coldest part of the house and makes it less likely for your gear to mist up due to a change in temperature when you get outside. Buying an extra battery would be a good idea, especially if you plan to be out and about for a while, plus be sure to pack a warm drink for yourself, in addition to making sure you have plenty of warm clothing. Oh, and make sure you put the battery back in the camera before you leave!

Once you’ve set foot outdoors, there will be plenty of photo opportunities to capture – these images above should give you some pointers. As well as going for the obvious landscape shots, look for more abstract images as well as close-up and detail pictures.

Most X-series cameras offer a preset Snow program mode, which should be your first port of call if you want to get great results quickly. To take more control, use exposure compensation to make sure the white snow comes out white. Select +1 in overcast conditions and +2 in sunny conditions to avoid underexposure.

While we’re sure you’ll make every effort to keep snow and moisture away from your X-series camera while you’re out, if it does get dropped in the white stuff or picks up moisture, place it in a plastic bag with a few sachets of silica gel when you get home. Put them in a warm (not hot) place for a day or two and it should clear up.

Shoot a 365 project

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Lots of photographers traditionally start a 365 project at this time of year. The premise is simple: take one picture a day for a whole year. It sounds simple enough, but it will give both you and your photography a real challenge. To add extra spice, you could insist on using just one feature, lens or function on your X-series camera!

Fun of the fair

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Funfairs spring up in towns during the festive period and you can use them to create eye-catching long exposure images. You’ll need a solid tripod and a low ISO (100 or 200), then select a long shutter speed of around four seconds and fire away. Alternatively, try your camera’s Night Portrait exposure mode and get a low light portrait.

Feathered friends

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In colder weather, food becomes more scarce for birds. Attract them to your garden by offering a regular supply of nuts, suet balls and fruit. They’ll keep coming back once they know food is on tap, giving you the chance to photograph them. The XF55-200mm or XC50-230mm lens would be perfect to get in close.

Church interiors

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Interiors of churches and cathedrals provide a plethora of photo opportunities. Head to one on an overcast day to avoid strong contrast between light and dark areas and try a range of shots including majestic wide-angle images. Set your X-series camera’s Dynamic Range to DR400 to maximise highlight and shadow detail.

Creative candles

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Warm up those winter shots with a candle. Whether on their own or in groups they make perfect subjects. Combined with a face, they make great portraits, too. Increase the ISO on your X-series camera to avoid the flash firing, which will spoil the effect of the ambient light. Leave the white-balance on Auto to retain a warming glow.

Guest post: Tips on candid photography at parties

Professional wedding photographer Kevin Mullins has a couple of tips for shooting candid photos of parties:

Kevin Mullins 1

Get In close… it is a party after all!
You don’t need to stand in the corner of a room with a 200mm lens to be unobtrusive. Get a short lens, get in close, mingle and be part of the environment you are shooting. You will get more natural and creative images without the subjects feeling.

Bide your time
The scene in front of you is the stage, and the characters are the actors. Let them act out the play naturally, wait, bide your time and the images will come. Don’t contrive or force the pictures.

“Auto” is your friend
Set your camera up so all you have to do is concentrate on the moment. I shoot parties in Aperture Priority Mode and with Auto-ISO set to 6,400 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 (you X-Pro1 users can’t complain about not having that after the firmware update on the 19th December!).

Pick a spot to manually focus on and wait for the action to come to you
Use Manual Focus if necessary when in a dark environment – focus on a spot on the floor or something with enough contrast and wait for the action to happen.

Kevin Mullins 2

Bring your own light
Use an external flash (I use the EF-X20) as the slave, hand hold it above your head and move around with freedom. You can direct the light so easily using this flash so when the light at the party does get too low it won’t stop you shooting away. The key thing is be in the mix, especially on the dance floor. Everyone will face in, and you need be on the dance floor getting those shots. You will find it difficult with a long zoom so stick with a 14, 18 or 23mm lens for optimum shooting. And Happy Christmas!

About Kevin

Kevin Mullins is an award winning UK Wedding Photographer specialising in the documentary style of wedding photography. To see more of his work you can follow him on Facebook or follow his blog.