EF-X500 Overview by Max De Martino

 

As a portrait and wedding photographer, to use artificial light means to recreate "my" light in all weather conditions regardless of the time that I shoot.

Since my full introduction to the X System three years ago, this approach to lighting only had one flaw: the lack of a “serious professional flash". The cameras are great with excellent colors and a fabulous complexion and the lenses are of top production quality.

Concerning the flash, as soon as I switched to the X System and became one of the first X-Photographers in Italy, I began to tap into my contacts in Japan. I needed a powerful flash with a good guide number, a short recycling time, and especially manageable in High-Speed Sync/FP so as to take over the "traditional" 1/250 sync flash time for the X-Pro2.

When, in January 2016, I was invited to Japan with two other Italian X-Photographer colleagues to celebrate five years of the X Series, I was happy to see that finally the coveted professional flash was presented. The construction was solid and the product was beautiful. So there was only a high standard to be expected. A few weeks ago, the wait was over with a package that contained three EF-X500s to be tested and in addition to this first presentation there would be four other articles to come in the coming months.

The first thing that strikes you is the construction of the EF-X500: a sense of great sturdiness and materials that they call the cover of the X Series cameras. Therefore, high-quality plastics and a rubberized material in a leather design such as on the X-T and the X- Pro Series. Another point I want to highlight is what signals the EF-X500 as weather resistant - that is resistant to rain and dust - making it the perfect companion for the new X-T2 and X-Pro2, and also for X-T1. The flash is designed to have a low center of gravity. The four AA batteries are at the bottom so you can make sure that there are no imbalances with very light cameras such as a X Series mirrorless cameras.

From a technical standpoint, the features are these:

  • Maximum guide number of approx. 50 (ISO100・m) / 164 (ISO100·ft)*
  • Zooming the illumination angle for the focal lengths of 24mm - 105mm**, and covering the illumination angle of around 20mm** when the wide panel is used
  • Flash head that can be tilted up by 90 degrees, down by 10 degrees, to the left by 135 degrees and to the right by 180 degrees for bouncing light
  • Equipped with LED video light that can also be used as AF assist light and catchlight
  • Registers up to ten combinations of various settings. Advance registration of specific shooting conditions makes it easy to activate the setting quickly when required.

* At illumination angle for the focal length of 105mm (35mm format equivalent)
** 35mm format equivalent

Another thing I expected, working mostly with off-camera flashes, was the ability to control the power of the remote flash, both in TTL when I have no time to think and in manual when instead I am searching for perfection in fully controllable situations.

 


Speaking of recycling time, the EF-X500 responds quickly, aligning itself with the best products of other manufacturers, with a time of 2.5 seconds at full power. And can also connect an external battery pack that uses 8 AA batteries (EF-BP1) that should further shorten the recycling time - I have not got to try it yet.

At the front of the flash, it has a frame that can be removed to mount the wide-angle diffuser or an IR filter (optional) that lets you shoot while controlling other flashes even with very close subjects without the light of the master flash being seen. In this way, the flash dimensions remain unchanged.

 

A very interesting aspect of the new flash is the presence of a large powered LED despite the size. This allows you to work with the flash using the autofocus even in total darkness or to have an idea of the effect that the flash will have like a "modeling light" or given the video features of X-Pro2 and X-T2 the LED can be used as an excellent light both on and off camera because you can choose to leave it switched on.

I used EF-X500s (some pre-production models) for a few weeks with a firmware in testing and you will find the results in some future articles. For now I leave you with the first test shots. See you soon!

Special Thanks to:
-Armando and Erika, of the B&B Fior of Vigo di Fassa, for being my models for a few hours
-My wife Federica: she -and Brando in the belly- are the models behind the frosted glass
-Arianna Drago, wonderful model and creator of her beautiful costumes
-The colleague and great X-Photographer Pierluigi Orler and his beautiful wife Giovanna, that agreed to have a romantic shot in front of their beloved mountains in Val di Fassa
-Junio and Alessandra @Intermodo Studio.

About the author

Max De Martino professionally deals with images since 1990, as live image director for the projection on maxi-screen during the European tour of the italian singer Eros Ramazzotti.
He was cameraman during interviews with Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and afterwards he dealt with video direction during the tours of Pino Daniele, Antonello Venditti and Vasco Rossi.
As web pioneer he followed in 1996 the internet column of the Apple review "Applicando". For almost ten years he coordinated a company with 120 shops as Sales Manager.
He has been photographing for 26 years. He worked for press campaigns such as Fastweb and Pininfarina and shot several portraits of italian and foreign authors. His photos have been chosen to illustrate several reviews and books of important writers such as Wilbur Smith. He is a member of the Association for Professional Photographers "Tau Visual" and shares its code of conduct and behavioural mood. He works in and outside Italy dealing with private and foreign clients interacting with them with a fluent English.
He created and has been coordinating for 14 years the website devoted to Tiziano Terzani and in 2006 edited the book "Dentro di noi, parlano i lettori di Tiziano Terzani" published by Tea, Longanesi Group. He collaborates with several NGOs like Bambini Nel Deserto and L'Albero Della Vita and holds base and advanced photography courses. One of the projects that satisfied him more, was a course held for old people between 75 and 94 years of age. Thanks to this work he received the patronage from Regione Lombardia, from the Provincia di Milano and from all the interested districts and six exhibitions have been set up.
As soon as he can he catches a train or an airplane, takes his bicycle, his car or his old motorcycle BMW GS and travels. He visited 27 countries and in June 2008 he was the first western photographer having a solo exhibition in Iraq, Kurdistan Region. Later on the exhibition "No Ears" has been given to the University of Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan Capital), where it is still exposed.

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