21.11.2012 Yukio Uchida

EF-X20 Flash review by Yukio Uchida

Yukio Uchida

Born in Ryotsu City (currently Sado City), Niigata Prefecture. Began free-lance work after working as a civil servant. Built a reputation for monochrome snaps while shooting celebrities on the side. Shown at solo exhibitions at Nikon Salon, Fuji Photo Salon and other well-known galleries. Contributes articles to camera magazines and newspapers, and shares his experience as a teacher. Styles himself “the last liberal arts photographer”.
Books he has authored include: “Leica to Monokuro no Hibi” (Black-and-white days with Leica), “Itsumo Camera Ga” (The camera always…) and “THE FinePix X100 BOOK”.

1. Flash, as strong as artificial light
2. Flash, for more natural looking images
3. Flash, for more imaginative and creative shots
4. Flash, to control light using the Slave Mode function

1. Flash, as strong artificial light

Even with increased sensitivity within digital cameras, there are certain scenes you just cannot create without using a flash. The biggest benefit when using a flash is being able to control the amount of light the subject your shooting is exposed to. Unlike video, still photography, using flash, allows the photographer to be in complete control.
You could say that one third of your life is lived after dark. With a flash, the types of scenes and subjects you can shoot is really opened up. I clipped on the EF-X20 flash to X-Pro1 and started shooting. This flash seamlessly blends in with the design of the camera, and also has the quality you’d expect from the X series. The EF-X20 includes Fujifilm’s unique technology of flash illumination suppression (iFlash). This gives you just the right amount of light for the subject, even on auto flash. A good flash is one that offers subtle illumination.

The bright light given off by the flash makes the edges of your subject stand out Immediately gives impact. Any photo just “pops”.
Sometimes with shoe-mount flashes, it can makeyour photos appear washed out because they come near the optical axis of the lens. However, with EF-X20’s 1/3 EV step exposure setting dial, you can adjust to the right flash level with a dial. The dial makes it easy to use and lets you adjust it according to your preferences.

2. Flash, for more natural looking shots

Sometimes you just want to take a breathtaking shot of a scene, just as you see it, such as a nighttime city scene or low-light dusk shots.
However, when the brightness of the subject in the foreground differs to its background, matching the exposure to the background leaves your subject too bright and can look over exposed. If you flip the situation around it can result in the background appearing washed out. Both results are not what you’re looking for.
In this piece, I used a flash to bring out the colors of the father and daughter in the foreground while I matched the exposure to the sunset in the background.

Match the exposure to the background, while giving color to your subject in the foreground with the flash. This is a basic technique, but if it’s done properly, you can turn an ordinary photo into an extraordinary image.
The trick is balancing the illumination. You have to make adjustments by turning your EF-X20’s exposure setting dial. You want to get faint illumination that makes people question if you even used a flash.
Reduce the shutter speed to put add a blur on the background subjects. Or, use the light from the reflecting strip on a street sign… so many creatives ideas are opened up to you. Just because you’re shooting at night, that shouldn’t stop you from achieving some amazing images.

In this piece, the car is submerged in the neon lights of a popular bakery in Hawaii. I adjusted the flash illumination to bring out the colors of the neon sign, capturing the leaves above the sign, whilst at the same time not detracting from the car in the scene . About 1/4 gave me the optimal balance for this one.

(Left) Perfect result , (Center) Too bright , (Right) Slightly too dark X-Pro1& XF18mmF2 R: ISO800 (Left) F2 1/52 sec. (-1.33 EV), (Center) F2 1/60 sec. (-1.33 EV), (Right) F2 1/70 sec. (-1.33EV)

3. Flash, for even more beautiful images

It might look like an idyllic meadow somewhere in Europe, but it’s actually just a city park. For this piece, I used the flash to bring a real artistic touch to the photo.

With the setting sun and the gentle evening breeze, the mustard flowers slowly swayed. In order to offer a sense of movement to this photo I reduced the shutter speed. For the immediate foreground, I used my flash to make the flowers look still.
Though I matched exposure to the sunset, I used a -1 EV to increase the appearance of textures in the fading sunlight. I set the white balance to “SHADE” so the entire photo is enveloped in a warm amber glow. By changing the camera exposure, flash and white balance can help achieve breathtaking images.
Optical viewfinders, like those included in X-Pro1 and X100, are an enormous help when taking these types of photos. The image stays on your viewfinder, even after releasing the shutter. It’s easy to see how much light is on the subject you’re shooting, allowing you to frame, compose and take your perfect shot.

In this piece, I focused on the yellow petals, the indigo sky, and the outlines of the clouds floating by. I matched the exposure to the sky, and brought definition to the flowers with the flash. I set the white balance to “FLUORESCENT LIGHT 3” to bring out the magenta tones Which marry beautifully to the tones of the sky.
Obviously the amount of light from the flash fades the further you are away from the subject you’re shooting. It might help to imagine there are 3 layers. The 1st layer is the immediate foreground, and the flash is brightest. The 2nd layer is slightly dimmer. The 3rd layer is where the flash doesn’t reach to. For this photo, the 1st layer is the yellow flower. The 2nd layer is the flower with the delicate stem. The 3rd layer would be the sky.

You get the best results when you can hardly tell the flash is on. Find the best balance by taking a couple shots at different exposures and flash illuminations.

(left) Flash was too bright X-Pro1&XF18mmF2 R: F16 1/15 sec. (-1 EV) ISO200

4. Flash, controlling light via Slave Mode

I’m really pleased about EF-X20’sslave function feature. Here, I used it together with X100’s built-in flash. Since EF-X20 comes with a tripod screw adapter, you can use a tripod to stabilize your flash.
For this studio shot of flowers, I set EF-X20 to go off with the slave function at a 45º angle behind the flowers, in addition to the main flash from X100. The faint light from behind brought out the edges of the flowers and added texture to the petals.
By turning on X100’s ND filter, you can open up the diaphragm for an impressive flash photography that makes the best use of the blur.

X100: F2.8 1/30 sec. ISO200 What is the slave function? A technique that automatically uses a sub flash in response to the light from the camera's main flash

This shot was achieved by using the full range of lighting offered by the EF-X20 at (1/1 – 1/64) of the slave flash function and at a 1/64 setting. What I found really useful was the fact that the degree of light setting could be changed with the large dial on the top of the unit – easy to access and easy to change if needed.

Just be using the EF-X20 so many more shooting opportunities become available.
The design and quality which have become hallmarks of the X-Pro1 ande X100 are shared with the EF-X20.
Every detail has been considered.
By using the EF-X20 as part of your camera accessories kit will mean that you can exlore even more interesting and creative shooting opportunities. This is just a few examples of how the flash can work, but I’m sure you’ll be able to discover even more.