I was inspired to write this article (it is not a review) thanks to frequently asked questions such as what external flash system with Fuji I use and how do I deal with triggering of remote flashes.
Whom is this article intended for?
Photographers shooting with Fuji and trying to sort out:
– what external flash they should purchase,
– what remote trigger system for external flashes to choose if they wish to use it for their artwork.
From the very beginning I've been shooting weddings, working with flashes is integral part of my workflow. I've tried a lot of stuff and to be honest I consider the current kit I have as an ideal solution without any awkward compromises. Before writing in details how I currently perceive it, it will be in place to clarify what I use the external flashes for.
Whom and how do I photograph?
I am a reportage and wedding photographer who also photographs portraits every now and then. I rarely use external flash set up on my camera. It is because Fuji cameras excellently deal with high ISO. What's more, I always prefer the light available if the situation and ISO enables it. I far more frequently shoot with remote flash system either during study portrait session or at night during weddings. It is because I try to depict dramatic atmosphere in the scene with the help of flashes. Even though this is not natural, it is far more exciting work with light and I simply enjoy it. :) Check yourselves what these small gadgets can do.
Promotional pictures of the fabulous band Bůhví.
An example of use of remote trigger system for external flashes when there is insufficient light in the interior.
Use of remote trigger system for the flash during evening outdoor portrait photographing session.
What have I used so far for shooting with flash?
I fully transferred to the Fuji system almost three years ago. Since then, I've managed to photograph to my sheer satisfaction over 100 weddings. What I struggled with from the very beginning were flashes. In this aspect, Fuji literarily missed the boat. At the time of my transfer there were original flashes from Fuji and even though I tried all of them, I had a joy from them always just twice – when buying them and later when selling them. Either the material used was a sort of dismal and ergonomics was terrible (in case of EF-42), low-capacity AAA batteries (in case of EF-20 and EF-X20) were used or the price was exaggerated (EF-X500). Needless to say that there was not any integrated remote trigger system (this is not applicable for EF-X500, which has optical trigger system which is, however, absolutely insufficient for me).
The outcome was that I took with me (just in case) Nissin i40 which I used not more than three times, though. This tiny little flash is excellent help due to its compactness and sufficient performance. In addition, it has high-quality form and has almost trivially simple control system (it has the same circular buttons as Fuji) – it is simply Japanese quality and a good deal.
Remote trigger system
Regarding the remote trigger system supporting Fuji, first of all, I discovered Chinese Cactus with a flash (RF60) with integrated receiver. Thanks to it you can comfortably control performance of the flash (you don't need to do a sort of "site tour" to check all the flashes due to settings of performance of the flash any more) straight with a flash trigger (V6). It could even work as a receiver when it was set up under the flash made by another manufacturer (at that time it was Canon, Nikon and Pentax – today it is also Nissin with the flash trigger V6). Nevertheless, I reckon Cactus was the first system working with Fuji. Later, external flash Yongnuo (YN560-III) with the flash trigger (YN560-TX) appeared for Fuji which, comparing to Cactus V6, cannot work with flashes of different brands. I have never tried out Yongnuo, though. Although Cactus was expensive, processing quality was rather average (what else to expect from a Chinese product...), ergonomics borderline (I still had to change the performance of the flash on the flash trigger with my forehead) but there was not any better option.
What do I require from the flash?
– Balance of quality and price or in other words I do not have money to buy cheap stuff that would fall apart soon and I would have to buy more expensive and more quality version anyway,
– Versatility or in other words I want to get one flash with double use (on the camera and outside it),
– Compactness or in other words I want to have all in one bag,
– Functionality or in other words functions such as TTL (and HSS) are handy every now and then,
– Simplicity or in other words it should be very easy peasy stuff for use.
What flash system am I currently using?
Due to the fact that I was satisfied user of Nissin i40, I couldn't wait for the moment when the system Air 1 would be released also for Fuji. (By the way, Nissin supports also platforms such as Canon, Nikon or Sony.) It was released for Fuji at the end of 2016 and right now I can say with a relief that I am extraordinarily satisfied. It is because the system Air 1 and the flash Nissin i60a have met all the above-mentioned points.
Why am I so satisfied with the current solution?
I have currently in my bag two flashes i60a and one flash trigger Air 1 (so far I had to wear my flashes not in the bag but in the case with statives). Whenever I need the external flash, i60a is fully sufficient (according to papers it is even more efficient than EF-X500). And now we are coming to the key point – I can comfortably remotely trigger these flashes and it can even do remote TTL (it's a great news for flash lazy bums or beginners!). It is not able to do HSS with the current firmware i60a but I have information from the Czech distributors that Fuji released to Nissin necessary code lines so that this function (useless function for me, though) is available in the next version of the flash firmware. The most important is that the system Air 1 can be easily paired as well as subsequently controlled.
Now let's move to a bit critical view of Nissin:
– I hoped that i60a will be just a new i40 with a receiver. It is not like that cause it's bigger. Check yourselves the picture below. You pay for higher performance and desirable integrated radio receiver and I understand it, though,
– The flash trigger Air 1 is charged with AAA batteries. When it is discharged, there is not any control signalling that the trigger just turned off,
– It does not have 3/8 thread thanks to which the flash can be mounted to the tripod (it's sometimes handy, Cactus used to have it),
– It does not have micro USB for firmware update - update can be done only in the service and maintenance centre which is, on the other hand, very helpful),
– So far it does not have HSS which should be according to the service and maintenance centre a matter of one or two months (let's see :-).
From the left to the right: Nissin i40, Nissin i60a, Cactus RF60 (view from back).
From the left to the right: Nissin i40, Nissin i60a, Cactus RF60 (view from side).
From the left to the right: Nissin Air 1, Cactus V6 (view from above).
What do I recommend?
All in all, if you look for the system for the external flash and you want the balance of price/practicability/compactness, then I would recommend Nissin i40.
Nissin i60a on Fuji XPro2.
Nissin i60a on a light tripod.
Nissin Air 1 on Fuji XPro2.
Actually, both options are solutions without any compromise.
P.S.: To my great satisfaction, I place flashes on the light tripods Manfrotto Nano with the smart rack Manfrotto Blitzneiger. I charge batteries Eneloop Pro (which have never let me down) in the charger and diagnostic station FK Technics IPC-1L.