Monday, March 30, 2015

Combining Nikon Capture NX-D with Photoshop for ultimate control of dynamic range

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a technique I sometimes use to achieve the most amount of dynamic range from a scene taken with a Nikon camera by processing the RAW images twice, once with Nikon's Capture NX-D software where I have access to Active D-Lighting controls, and also in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) where I have more experience and more tools to bring out the best in any image.

I rarely need to use this technique anymore because the native dynamic range of modern Nikon digital cameras is so extensive that a native RAW file is all that is needed to obtain a full tonal range of highlights and shadows. To perform this demonstration here I had to purposely take a photograph that would be pushing the range limits of the camera. That itself proved difficult to do. The Nikon cameras - in this case a D750 -- are just so good that, if the exposure is set to obtain detail in both highlights and shadows, there is enough information to deal with the file in regular post-processing.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go, and set up a scene with a model looking into an open refrigerator at night. Normally, I would light this with some small flash units hidden inside the refrigerator and balance this light with some exterior bounce lighting for the overall scene. For this demo, I decided to use only the single, normal bulb that is inside the refrigerator. The room was completely dark save for some very low ambient light coming from a distant window.

The photo below is the final image. It is a composite of two images -- one processed in NX-D to bring out the fullest dynamic range, and the other processed in ACR to achieve good contrast as befitting such an actual scene, while also maintaining some of the shadow and highlight detail. Frankly, I probably could have come very close to this final result using just ACR and Photoshop alone, a testament to the range of the Nikon camera sensor. Nonetheless, an image processed with this technique will have more of a three dimensional quality and more extensive detail in both highlight and shadow ranges, not dissimilar to a subtle use of HDR, but without the false look that HDR often imparts.

This is the final image combining both the Nikon Capture NX-D adjusted file and the Adobe ACR adjusted file with moderate Photoshop adjustments applied to the combination.

The photograph is lit entirely by the one, refrigerator bulb plus a very small amount of natural room light from a distant window. The intensity and color of the room light can be seen in the upper corners of the photo below. The light on the model's back is the refrigerator light being reflected back onto her from a nearby wall. Other than this, no other light or fill was used for the shot. The exposure was 1/15 second at f/5.6 and ISO of 640.

The original, unprocessed RAW file below has highlights that, while too bright, do contain detail. Same goes for the shadows. Without this detail nothing can be done to correct the image so proper exposure placement is important. To that end I bracket the shot.

This is the original RAW file right out of the camera exposed to preserve both highlight and shadow detail. 

Working in Capture NX-D I am only interested in bringing as much detail as I can to the overall image by using the Active-D feature. For this image I had Active-D set to high. I also tweaked some of the highlights and shadows with other controls. The final result from the NX-D process is an intentionally flat image with full detail.

In Capture NX-D I chose an Active D-Lighting level that brought out full detail. In this case it was set to "High". The resulting file is going to be flat, but that is compensated for later by combining this file with the ACR file later in Photoshop. I also made some adjustments to the exposure and highlight/shadow protection in NX-D. 

Working in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) I brought out the highlight detail as much as possible. On this image I intentionally leave the contrast high because I will need it later when the very flat NX-D image is merged with this file. Both images are output as 16-bit tif files to provide the most amount of working depth.

The photo on the left is the file after it has been treated in Capture NX-D. On the right is the file after treatment in Adobe Camera RAW. The next phase is to combine these two images in Photoshop and merge them together to obtain the best features of each. 

The ACR is brought into Photoshop first. Next the processed NX-D tif is put on top of the ACR file as a separate layer. Turning down the opacity of this layer determines how much of each file is included in the final combination. In this case, I used 33%. The ACR file is providing the contrast, and the NX-D file is providing extra detail to both the shadows and highlights. As can be seen in the Photoshop layer masks below some further tweaking was needed to combine the two images. A final curves layer was added as a subtle, final adjustment. You can see where I held back some of this adjustment from the brightest area of the refrigerator by painting black on the curves adjustment mask.

This shows the two image layers combined in Photoshop with a final curves adjustment on top. That is all that was needed to finally merge these two images into one.

The idea going into this scene was to obtain a final image that preserved the true feeling of late night kitchen light from a refrigerator without completely losing all the highlight and shadow detail. Having recourse to this post-processing technique combined with the already excellent dynamic range of Nikon cameras made the setup of the scene simple. All I needed was a tripod. The refrigerator bulb provided all the necessary lighting. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Working at f/2.8 with the Fuji 50-140mm lens in pre-dawn light

More than an hour to go before sunrise. A dreary day, dull blue cast to the cloudy sky, some lights still on in the city, reflections and shadows creating graphic compositions everywhere I looked. The day before I saw my Fuji 50-140mm zoom sitting on a shelf, unused for quite some time. I decided to give it a workout on my X-T1.

With the aperture opened at f/2.8 to provide selective focus between the light, shadows, and the city in the background, I set the ISO to 1600 and began shooting away, hand-held, at the forms emerging in the dim light. The high ISO produced a pleasing noise pattern similar to the look of film grain so I didn't attempt to eliminate it. Shooting through glass with reflections and using a long, hand-held lens resulted in a softness to the images that the grain effect seemed to counter-balance.

I usually keep my Fuji X-cameras set to record in both jpg and RAW and black and white. This allows me to judge the contrast with the monochrome image in the finder and provides a reference jpg for later processing of the RAW file. A blue cast to the dark, overcast light reminded me of some early gum bichromate prints I had seen so I kept a few of the images in color but muted them a bit in post to mimic the process.

At times the noise-grain effect coupled with the muted colors took on a look quite similar to Fresson prints. To my mind, Fuji X-cameras, prehaps due to the more random nature of their sensor pixels, produce an image look closer to that of  high grained film. 

One of the nice things about working with the Fuji 50-140mm lens is that, heavy at it is, it is still much more comfortable and manageable than a full frame DSLR equivalent zoom. I think I'll be using it a lot more now after this experience. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Legends: The Kodak Bantam Special -- an Art Deco masterpiece

The Kodak Bantam Special may be one of the most uniquely beautiful cameras of all time. It was produced by Kodak from 1936-1948, and had a stylish Art Deco design consisting of a black enamelled cast aluminium body. The modernist design was done by Walter Dorwin Teague, a noted industrial design pioneer going back to the 1930's. Teague designed the famous Sparton table radios, a revamp of the Texaco gas station and logo, TWA identity, early Polaroid cameras, to name a few.

Two Kodak Bantam Specials are shown here with a Weston Master light meter of the same era. 

The Bantam Special was a popular camera with many high end features, such as built-in, split-image rangefinder focusing. It used 828 roll film that was 35mm film without the dual sprockets so the image was larger at 28 x 40mm. This results in a 25% increase in negative size over 35mm -- quite considerable. Obtaining the film today is another matter. At the end of this article I provide a source for re-rolled 828 film.

The Bantam Special was an expensive camera, priced at $110 (equivalent to about $1800 today) when it first came out in 1936. The price was later reduced to $87.50 as popularity increased production. 

The shutter was a Compur-Rapid with speeds of 1 to 1/500 second, plus T and B. The lens was a 45mm  Kodak Anastigmat Ektar with an aperture ranging from a fast f/2 down to f/16. With the advent of WWII in 1940 the German shutter was changed to an American Supermatic with coated optics. 

The rear of the camera showing the two finder windows. On the left is the split-image rangefinder, and on the right the composing viewfinder. The button on the rear was pushed to release the film for winding to the next exposure.  Because it used roll film, there was also a window on the back to see the exposure number. A roll of 828 film took 8 28x40mm exposures.

The camera collapsed into a very portable clam-shell cased pocket model, measuring 4 3/4" x 3 1/8" x 1 3/4". 

The small foot to keep the camera level in vertical position was located inside the front case. The camera serial number, a very early 13082 for this model, was engraved on the side of the sliding foot. 

The shutter was cocked with the top lever projecting from it and released either by cable release or with the small knob seen on the bottom left side in this photo.  The larger, round knob on the upper left was for focus. 


Kodak Bantam Special cameras do turn up on eBay, which is where I found the two I have in my collection.

The 828 roll film with Tri-X 400 is still produced by Film For Classics and is available through B&H here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Good morning, New York -- variations on a theme

The spire of the Chrysler Building greats the dawn in New York City. I grabbed these early morning shot with my Fuji X-T1 and the 55-200mm zoom. The lights in the spire stay on until sunrise so you can capture more than just a stark silhouette of the building when photographing it. Once the sun is up, the spire lights disappear as in the bottom two photos.

In situations like this I allow my composition to be dictated by the cloud patterns. In this changing situation from pre-dawn to sunrise, I ended up with three different formats, a square, a horizontal panorama, and a vertical panorama at the 16:9 crop setting on the camera. These photos were taken facing north so the sky color shows the reflected light from the sunrise.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Will my Fuji X-Pro1 earn a place on the shelf next to my Leica M4

There are certain cameras, for whatever reason, I have become attached to over my long career as a professional photographer. Even though I don't use them much anymore, they still hold a fond place in my memory and I hang onto them, putting them on a shelf to remind me of wonderful times, and occasionally taking them down and putting them back to work for the nostalgic fun of it.

My M4 was one of the last of the painted black over brass models. I had a Leica factory replacement of an M6 viewfinder to add a 28mm frame in the finder window so I wouldn't need to use a separate finder to nudge out my Leica meter's place on the hot shoe.

Two cameras I feel this way about are my Leica M4 and Fuji X-Pro1. Of course my M4 is a film camera, whereas my X-Pro1 is digital, and therein lies the difference in putting them back to use. A film camera of almost any era will produce images today that are not substantially different from even the most modern film camera. Digital cameras, on the other hand, have been evolving rapidly over the past fifteen years. In a sense they carry their "film" with them in the form of a sensor. As new cameras with improved sensors take their place the older models become completely obsolete.

Nikon's D1x of 2001 was recording at just 5.3 megapixels. A 35mm film camera of the same era could produce a scanned slide image that bested that at around a 24mp standard for commercial stock photography. Even today I can (and still do) scan film images from that time and earlier. These are perfectly usable -- maybe not up there with today's state of the art 24-36mp sensors, but good enough to make a large print.

Fuji got it right with this camera. It has all the practical features of an older analog system, with over-rides for digital convenience when needed. I especially love the combined optical/electronic view finder. 

The impetus for this post came because I heard last week that the X-Pro1 would be replaced by a newer X-Pro2, probably in September of this year. I felt a little sad about the idea of turning in my old X-Pro1.  It has the same cachet for me as my Leica M4. Difference is that, while I still occasionally pick up my M4 and run a few rolls of film through it, I don't think I will be so inclined with a 16 mp X-Pro1 once a 24 mp X-Pro2 arrives. Digital cameras just don't have the same shelf life as film cameras. I could easily pick up and use -- as I sometimes do -- my first Nikon FTn without sacrificing a thing in terms of image quality from film. The same cannot be said about digital. Could you even imagine using a Nikon D1x today when even our cellphones are capable of higher res images. No wonder even cell phone covers come with pictures of old cameras on them.

I still have many of the film cameras I owned, but I immediately trade in my digital cameras as soon as a new model is announced. I wonder if this will change now that we seem to have reached a plateau of sorts on how far we can push the quality level of a digital sensor. For practical purposes, 16-24 mp seems to be all that is needed for most of what I do. Maybe that means some of today's digital cameras can enjoy longer, productive lives. My X-Pro1 is a fun camera to use. It feels good in the hand. Fortunately, there is a realm of my fine art work where the images from my X-Pro1 are all I need. Maybe that bodes well for it landing on the shelf next to my M4 once the X-Pro2 arrives.

Nothing can quite equal the beautiful patina of a brassing Leica. On any other camera they might be distracting. On a Leica they are a symbol of character. I sometimes wish the X-Pro1 had a brass casing. 
My X-Pro1 is showing signs of wear with scars and scrapings serving as reminders of hard use and good times. It is these battle scars, probably more than anything, that make a camera your own. You've been through a  lot together. Sometimes it is more than the pictures we bring back from a trip, it is the camera itself that serves up fond memories of what we did together.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

First look -- Canon's new 11-24mm f/4 super-wide angle lens

Yes, I realize this site concentrates primarily on Nikon, Fuji, Sony, and Leica brand cameras and accessories. Once in awhile, however, something worth shouting about comes along from another manufacturer. In this case, it is the new Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens. I was able to play with one on a new Canon 5D the other day, and have to say I was extremely impressed by it.

Until now, the widest rectilinear lens available for a full frame DSLR was the variable aperture Sigma 12-24 f/4.5-5.6. Nikon has the excellent 14-24mm f/2.8, but that suffers from enough rectilinear distortion to knock its practical focal length to something closer to 15+mm once it is corrected. The Canon 11-24 did not appear to have any rectilinear distortion that I could see.

Yes, it is f/4 vs f/2.8 for the Nikon lens, but making an element for an 11mm focal length accommodate an f/2.8 aperture would have boosted the already heavy 2.6lb lens even more. I actually sold off my Nikon 14-24mm because of its weight and size.

This is the perfect lens for dramatic landscape and architectural photographs. A lens this wide is quite specialized and is not for everyone, but, if it suits your shooting style, you're going to be as excited by it as I am. Added to the newly announced 50mp Canon camera coming out later this year, this will make a perfect landscape kit.

At $2999 this lens is definitely only for photographs with a serious need for such a wide angle. When this lens is more readily available I may be tempted to run it through its paces for a hands-on blog review.

If you are planning on buying this lens, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by clicking the link and purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Adorama    Amazon

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Winter's last day

Just to remind us of the fickle power of Nature, this last day of winter hit the city with a mix of snow and cold rain at a time when we have already had enough of both. It was a strange weather pattern starting late in the day so that there wasn't much built up of snow until the evening. Like most New Yorkers, I had already had enough of winter so  instead of going out to photograph anything specific I thought I would just take whatever came my way, and concentrated mostly on serendipitous abstractions.

This image and the one below is of the rain patterns through the roof of a taxi. These images are too small to show it, but the city buildings are clearly focused inside the rain drops themselves. Taken with the Fuji X-T1 and a setting of 18mm on the 18-135mm zoom.

Same situation as the photo above it, but here I switched to the Fuji 14mm wide angle lens. 

I was setting up to photograph the hanging icicles with only a little bit of the Empire State Building showing through the mist, when the clouds opened up just for a few seconds to reveal more of the identifying outline of the top of the building. I had time to grab two exposures of it before it disappeared back into the mist. 

I grabbed this impressionist view of Bryant Park later in the evening with the Sony RX100 III.  I liked the way the blur pattern emphasized the driving snowy mix and made the scene more abstract. The ISO was set to 1600, and instead of eliminating all the noise, I corrected only part of it leaving some to preserve the impressionist effect it lent to the picture. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Fuji X-T1 goes to the cleaners

Yesterday I posted an image I took with my Fuji X-T1 and an aperture setting of f/22. Normally, I would not use an aperture that stopped down, but events were happening rapidly and I did a quick setting so as not to miss the rapidly changing scene. Good thing I did because after only one exposure it was all over.

I mentioned in the post that using f/22 at least showed me how dirty my sensor had become. I did a cleaning of it myself, but decided it was time to treat the camera to a professional sensor cleaning. Generally, depending upon use, I have my cameras professionally cleaned once or twice a year. This is in addition to the normal cleanings I give the sensors whenever they seem to need it. My X-T1 was obviously long overdue for a serious visit to the cleaning professionals over at Foto Care.

I used to send my cameras back to the manufacturers for a major cleaning, despite the fact that I lost a lot of time that way because of having to mail them in and wait for service. Now I take them for a professional cleaning at Foto Care in New York City, where I get same day service and the camera gets as good, if not better, service as it did from the manufacturers.

In a clean room the camera is first treated to an exterior brushing to eliminate any exterior dust particles that might cause trouble during the sensor cleaning stage. 

Next the sensor is tested with the lens aperture set to f/8. A translucent filter is placed over the lens and a photo is taken of a pure white light.

The image is then analyzed at high contrast for dust, grime, or streaks. This is the first of several images that will be taken until the sensor it thoroughly clean.

Here the sensor is examined under a loupe to see exactly where the problem areas are.

The sensor is treated to a series of cleaning steps depending upon how dirty it is. My X-T1 was very dirty so it received the full treatment -- several times. 

One of the steps may include a swab cleaning. If you have never done this, you may want to leave it to the professionals. You can cause more trouble, not to mention damage, with a damp swab cleaning if you don't do it correctly. Oscar, who cleaned my X-T1, looked like he had performed this procedure a zillion times. Even so, he proceeded with the utmost caution. 

My X-T1 needed several swab cleanings. After each one the camera was re-examined with a sensor test and loupe examination until it was spot free. Foto Care charges $50 for this service -- well worth it, if you ask me. If you are in New York and want to treat your camera to a professional sensor cleaning, visit the fine folks at Foto Care. They clean every type of camera - DSLR, mirrorless, and cine. Foto Care is a shop visited by most New York professional photographers. It is located in the Photo District of New York at 43 West 22nd Street. When there, ask for Jeff, the owner. Tell him I sent you. You won't be disappointed.

Oscar hands me back my X-T1 with its sparkling sensor. Thanks Oscar!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Breezy day in the Big Apple

The wind was really blowing in the city today and the clouds overhead were moving rapidly from west to east. I used the opportunity to grab a 30 second time exposure of some clouds moving behind the Empire State Building. The day was bright so I used two ND filters totaling 10-stops. With the lowest ISO setting, the aperture was set to give a 30 second exposure at f/22. I had an opportunity for only one nice pass of the clouds before they dissipated.

One thing I learned from shooting the sky at f/22 was how filthy my X-T1 sensor is -- definitely in need of a professional cleaning.

Photographed with the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm zoom set to 22mm and f/22 with an exposure of 30 seconds at ISO 100. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Choosing between the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6, and 18-55mm f/2.8-4

Decisions, decisions.

In my latest hands-on review of the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 I mentioned that with this lens Fuji expands its lens system with a redundancy that covers more that one solution to the same optical coverage. For the consumer, this means more choice within the various focal length categories allowing photographers to tailor their lens choices to the specific way they use their equipment. A serious landscape photographer has very different equipment needs than a still life or lifestyle photographer, just as a photographer using the equipment casually has a different criteria than a pro who relies on it to make a living.

I have received a number of emails from readers asking which of the three lenses I would recommend based upon specific criteria. So I decided to dedicate a blog post to the topic, and here it is.

Here is one of the questions I received recently:

"I was thinking of buying the Fuji 18-135 as a convenient lens to used round the salt mashes, mudflats and coastal areas where I live. However the 16-55 seems to be having rave reviews, including your just published  review.

My question is:- would the 18-135 stopped down to f8-11-16 produce similar results to the 16-55 or is this in a different league altogether (I appreciate the different focal lengths) especially as I need to get up to A2 sized prints." 

First of all, let me say: Fuji makes great lenses. All of these zooms will produce excellent results. Even the small 18-55mm, considered something of a kit lens, can hold its own with no apologies necessary. Is the 16-55mm f/2.8 best of breed?  Well, yes. In fact it comes as close as you can get to shooting a prime for quality. 

All of these lenses can deliver the goods optically, although, yes, something like the 16-55mm f/2.8 takes it up a notch. What I am considering here is whether or not this extra up-tick in resolution is always necessary, and do some of the physical features of one of the other zooms make them a more practical choice for the task at hand.  So the more important question we need to ask ourselves is what do we want to do with the lens. 

The question our reader posed was one of quality in an A2 (approximately 16 x 20") print size. Considering the distance at which a print this size will be viewed, I think that any differences between the lenses is going to be negligible for most landscape work. More importantly is the techniques employed in taking the photograph. On a tripod, stopped down, with a RAW file to capture the most extended range will deliver excellent results with from any of the three. But A2 is about the largest we can go comfortably with an APS outfit. Larger than that, and we want to introduce any and all efforts to obtain the best quality original file, and means relying on the best optics that come from a lens like the 16-55mm. 

Of the three zooms, only one, the 18-135mm, can be considered a do-everything lens. (You can read my full review of it here.)   It is not a small lens, but it has the advantage of covering a range broad enough not to necessitate carrying any other lenses along with it. This practicality keeps it glued to my camera most of the time. If I had to pick one, and only one lens, for my Fuji camera, this is the one I would choose. 

Having the extra two millimeters of 16mm vs 18mm on the 16-55mm f/2.8 results in a more practical 24mm equivalent wide angle focal length than 27mm. Going down to 16mm can often save you from having to carry another wide angle lens. 

The 18-135mm has the smallest maximum aperture of the three. At f/3.5-5.6 we aren't going to be talking too much about bokeh in our description. The other downside of a slow aperture lens is having to use it at slow shutter speeds or high ISO setting. In this case, however, the small aperture is offset by an unprecedented 5-stop OIS. The hype is probably more than the practical reality, but I use this lens a lot and the results are quite impressive. Stated simply: The high OIS more than compensates for the slow aperture. 

The variable aperture on the 18-55mm isn't really so bad -- not very effective for nice bokeh, but adequate for hand-held photography with an OIS lens. This lens has the added benefit of being quite compact. 

I use the 18-135mm lens more than any other for walking around photography. It covers such a broad range of focal lengths that I rarely need any other lens -- except occasionally a super-wide -- to supplement it. The 5-stop OIS works so well that I use the lens hand-held even at night. When my camera is just sitting around on the ready for a spontaneous moment, this is the lens I keep on it. 

Consider the Kit:

Rarely do we use these lenses in isolation when out for some serious shooting.  So another question we need to ask ourselves is what other lenses we would pair with one of these zooms to make up a complete kit. It is one thing to have a very compact zoom like the 18-55mm, but, if it means having to tuck another long zoom into the bag to make up for the lack of longer focal lengths, it might negate the size advantage. 

The 18-135mm is the only one of the three that can be considered a stand-alone kit, although even it would benefit from having a super-wide, like the Fuji 14mm, Zeiss Touit 12mm, or Fuji 10-24mm to cover the lower end.  The 18-135mm also focuses close enough to consider even dropping a macro lens from our kit. 

Taken with the 18-135mm zoom at full extension and closest focus point. Being able to achieve a close up like this may spare us from having to add a macro to our lens kit. 
The 16-55mm f/2.8 is meant to be accompanied by the 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom, and anyone using this lenses would probably want to put the two together. This is a heavy kit, but no one is picking up these lenses to keep their kit light. They are acquiring them because of their pro-level durability, optical quality, and features, as well as for the fixed, fast maximum aperture. Adding any of the available super-wides to accompany these two zooms, and you have a complete kit, second to none, although you may want to toss in a macro, too. Large and heavy as this complete kit is,it is still considerably smaller than an equivalent full frame DSLR outfit of the same ingredients. If the Fuji X camera were the only one I used for all the work I do, I would have this entire outfit. 

The 18-55mm f/2.8-4 that accompanied the Fuji X cameras from the beginning is still a viable choice for a light-weight, single lens only option. For more serious shooting, it's going to need something like the 55-200mm to keep it company, and because neither of them get close enough, we might need to toss in a macro also. Before the other two zoom came out, I used to use a kit like this for travel, but I also found I had to include at least one fast prime, like the 23mm f/1.4 prime, for dark situations I often encountered when doing travel photography. Once the kit begins to include all this extra stuff, it makes the heavier 18-135mm zoom look like a more convenient option. 

I could go on forever with this discussion because there are as many different photographic situations as there are photographers, each with its own requirements for a lens kit. Each of us is going to have to decide what to get based on our own needs and work habits. Thankfully, Fuji has provided us with enough options to tailor a lens kit to suit. The bottom line here is that no matter which kit we finally assemble, it is going to be the right one in terms of providing quality results. 

Both the 18-135mm and 18-55mm have recently had their prices reduced making them and even more attractive purchase. All three lenses are available from the affiliates listed below, where our blog receives a slight percentage of the sale -- at no extra cost to you -- and  helps keep the site running. 

The Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Adorama  Amazon

The Fuji 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo Adorama Amazon

The Fuji 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo Adorama  Amazon    

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Using the Yongnuo remote flash trigger with the Fuji X-T1 -- Part II

Some time ago I wrote a post about using a remote flash trigger that can be used on a Fuji X-camera to set off a remote flash, like the Nikon SB series.  Since then there I have received a number of emails, comments, and questions on the topic that I thought I'd do a Part II addendum to the former post with step-by-step illustrations of how to go about setting them up.

Any flash used with a Fuji X-camera, other than a dedicated Fuji flash, can only be used in manual or automatic mode. 

As a side benefit, the two Yongnuo units can be set up as a wireless remote control of the camera. Simply attach a cord from the side of the unit to the cable release input on the Fuji X-camera. 

These are the two remote units that come with the package. The Yongnuo model number is: RF-603NII, where "N" in the number stands for Nikon model. There is also a Canon model that I think should also work, but I don't have Canon gear to test one, and have read some reports of problems with the Canon version and an X-T1.

These units are transceivers, meaning they can both transmit and receive depending upon how they are set. A pair of them costs a little over $30. You need one for the camera to transmit, and one for the flash to receive. The package also comes with a cable to convert the two units into a wireless remote control trigger for the Fuji X-camera.

Mount the RF-603 on the X-T1 hot shoe and turn it on to TX, for transmit.

Mount the second unit on the flash and turn it on to TRX, for receive. You can test the connection from either unit by pressing the test button on top.of it. 

When shooting with a flash on a Fuji X-camera, the frame rate needs to be set to "S" for Single, otherwise the camera will not shoot. 

Here the Nikon flash is set to ON and Manual mode. Note that the flash focal length is set to FX zoom. To be totally accurate this should be changed to DX when used with the Fuji X APS sensor.

In this instance, the Nikon flash is turned ON and set to Auto mode.The flash automatically adjusts it output to achieve the correct exposure.  I find that this works quite well and the exposure can be further adjusted on the Fuji camera by using the exposure compensation dial.  

Here the Nikon flash is set up as a Master unit so that it can control another flash, either another Nikon flash or a second Yongnuo flash. In this case, both units are on Channel 1. We could set up more units on the same or different channels.

Below is a short video I did to demo the setup on a Fuji X-T1, X100T, and X-Pro1.

Any of these units will work with a Fuji X-camera, but only designated units can also be controlled by a Nikon or Canon camera so be careful about which model you are ordering. It gets confusing and the prices vary slightly, but here is a list with a link to their availability on Amazon. You can also find them on eBay, but by ordering on Amazon  you get the instant gratification of receiving them right away. 

For pro Nikon cameras and the X-T1:
Yongnuo RF-603NII-N1 Wireless Flash Trigger Kit for Nikon D700, D750, D800, D810, D1 D2 D3 D4, D4s

For amateur Nikon cameras and D610 series, and the X-T1:
Yongnuo RF-603NII-N3 Wireless Flash Trigger Kit for Nikon Nikon D90 / D7000 / D7100 / D5000-5500/ D3100 - D3300 / D600 / D610

For pro Canon cameras and a Fuji X-camera:
Yongnuo Upgrade RF-603 II C3 2.4GHz Wireless Flash Trigger/Wireless Shutter Release Transceiver for Canon 1D/1DS, EOS 5D Mark II/5D/7D/50D/40D/30D/20D/10D Series (RF603II C3)

For Canon cameras and Fuji X-camera: