For photographers who use the Elinchrom lighting system, one of the appealing parts of the kit has been the ability to take portable studio lights into the field, and do (more or less) whatever we could do indoors with them, out in the wild.
The Quadra / ELB battery powered system has been around for a while now - I started using it a few years ago with my Canon gear, but when I switched completely to Fujifilm’s X-Series cameras earlier this year, it limited a few of my options in terms of how I could trigger the lights. The high speed options went away - but as of now, late September 2018, they’ve released the Fuji version of that trigger; so naturally, I got in line to get my hands on one as soon as they arrived…
So, what does it do differently?
Long story short - cameras usually have a ‘sync speed’, the limit at which the flash hotshoe on the camera is capable of consistently synchronising the light with the shutter; beyond that, the shutter can block some of the light, leaving you with black bars at the bottom of the image file. Less than ideal.
Many flash manufacturers have found different ways around this, either by making the light strobe for a longer time (at a lower power) so the shutter can catch as much of it as possible, or using other technology to lift the possible shutter speeds available to the photographer.
Why does this matter? Well, when you’re out in the sunshine, if you’re limited to that lower sync speed, you don’t have so many options in terms of what you can capture. Basically, at a lower shutter speed, you have to either close down the lens to let less light in (using a higher f/stop), which changes the look of the image by creating more depth of field; or you have to put a filter on the front of your lens to darken the whole overall image (which can add colour casts to the image, depending on the filter quality), then turn up the power on your light to overcome that.
Ideally, high-speed sync or hi-sync allows you to overcome these limitations.
So, does it work…?
In fairness, I’ve only done the most rudimentary tests possible on my too-small balcony at home - but, have a look…
(You can click those images to see bigger versions, and hover over them for camera settings info.)
Now, it was late afternoon when I took these test shots - so the trees & sky behind are being hit with the full force of the sun; but because I’m able to sync at 1/8000th of a second, I can darken the ambient light, and use the Quadra system (with the Pro / S head - not even the HS dedicated high-speed version) to light my subject - who’s standing in complete shadow at this point.
What does that let me do? It means I can light the subject however I like - with soft boxes, umbrellas, grids, anything - and control the brightness and depth of field behind them, too.
How does that compare to using the standard, universal triggers that come in the kits? Here’s the difference: first, an image with no flash, so you can see how much I’m in shadow initially. Then, an image with hi-sync and the same exposure settings; and finally, an image without hi-sync, using a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second at f/11 - which, as you can see, makes the background much sharper and busier. You can practically read the signs on the pub over the way! (It’s not a bad pub; it just doesn’t add to the photo.)
So what do you need to do to get this working on your Fujifilm camera? From my testing so far, not a heck of a lot, actually!
The setup process was the following -
set the remote to the same frequency as your lights;
choose Scan on the remote to find your lighting kit;
set the Flash Function Sync Mode on your camera to FP (focal plane); and,
set your shutter speed to, well, whatever you want.
And that seems to be about it!
There are options for Over Drive Sync (ODS) Setup in the remote, but I’ve found they just bring on the dreaded black band in the images, so I’ve left that at zero currently and it seems to be working fine.
At the lowest power - using only the B channel on my Quadra kit, for example - I found there’s a distinct drop-off in power as the shutter crosses the frame; but from 2.0 up (using the A channel) that seems minimal, and can easily be corrected with the slightest of gradients in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.
Will it work with my lights? Helpfully, Elinchrom have a page that tells you which kits & heads are optimised for HS use here. But just to reiterate, the ones I’m using are the Pro / S-Heads on the Quadra RX Li-Ion system, which are only meant to be partially compatible - so it might be worth trying out what you have before you commit to getting an HS head, unless you really want to do a lot of this sort of thing.
I’m looking forward to playing with this more, now that I’ve got it up & running - and I’ll add new images, and update this post, as I find new ways of using it.
But in the meantime, if anyone’s wondering how to make it work on their Fujifilm camera, hopefully this will help.
[For more info on Hi-Sync, and using it with other cameras, there’s a great blog post here from Michael Clark, who created the sample images for Elinchrom when the system was first launched. So he must know a thing or two about it!]