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Fuji X100s - Leaf Shutter and High Speed Strobe Sync
Old 04-06-2017   #1
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Fuji X100s - Leaf Shutter and High Speed Strobe Sync

After crawling RFF, I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be much (any actually) conversation about the one feature I absolutely love the most about my little Fuji: The leaf shutter.

Why does it matter that this killer little camera has an old, mostly fallen out of favor shutter design? Well, because unlike focal plane shutters found on just about EVERY other camera on the market, Fuji's little X100 family can sync with off-camera strobes at extremely high speeds. When you live in Hawaii like I do, that means my X100s can produce truly impressive results when shooting in full-on, harsh, tropical sunshine when paired with an off-camera strobe, diffuser, and a radio trigger. And unlike those faux "high speed sync" modes offered by Canikon's speedlights and select off-camera strobes by Profoto and others, being able to really, actually, honest to goodness sync with a strobe at a higher shutter speed gives you the ability to get much more useable levels of power out of your lighting kit, while also getting a shallow depth of field at the same time.

The many advantages of leaf shutters combined with off-camera lighting have been explained better by people far smarter than I: Click here if for an excellent explanation of the advantages of leaf shutter photography at

I regularly use my X100s with two sets of off-camera strobes, and can report that the leaf shutter can accomplish impressive sync speeds with both setups:

Setup 1:
2x Yongnuo 560VI strobes + Yongnuo 560TX (Canon version works fine)
Can sync up to 1/800 sec - excellent compact strobist kit, works wonders during dawn or dusk hours but doesn't have quite enough power for full sun use with light modifiers so if I use this in full sun it's usually bare or with a simple grid or snoot

Setup 2: (MY FAVORITE - used to shoot all the images in this post)
2x Paul C Buff Digibee 800s + Vagabond Mini + Paul C Buff V2 radio trigger, transceiver, Cyber Commander
Can sync all the way to the full 1/4000th; PCB's radio triggers have an impressive 1/4000 sec latency, and yes it actually works as stated
This setup will do pretty much whatever you'd want to do in full sun - thanks to the effectively "limitless" sync speed, I could actually leave my X100s shooting in Aperture Priority and just shoot away

The above image was captured at about 3PM, sun is camera top right and slightly behind the subject. I kicked in the handy dandy ND filter, set the camera at F/2.8 to get 1/2000 sec, and dialed in a single Digibee 800 in a diffused 47" silver umbrella. Processed in lightroom with RNI TMAX 400 emulation preset and some minor tone adjustment.

I have used my X100s and Digibees to produce images for full-page spreads and magazine covers and my art directors have loved the shallow depth of field and drama that can be accomplished by lighting a subject well and underexposing the background by a 1/2 - full stop. I couldn't say that the 28mm teleconverter would be that useful for me given my style of shooting but the 50mm teleconverter has been AMAZING for full-sun portraiture.

As far as I am aware, the only digital cameras with leaf shutters and "real" high speed strobe sync capabilities are as follows:
  • Fuji X100 family
  • Phase One family of cameras when paired with leaf shutter lenses
  • Hasselblad family of cameras when paired with leaf shutter lenses
  • Pentax 645D/Z cameras when paired with leaf shutter lenses (I think there are like 2 available)
  • Sony RX-family of cameras (RX1, RX10, RX100)
  • Leica Q
  • Possibly the new Fuji GFX, when the roadmapped leaf shutter lenses hit the market
  • Ricoh GR series
  • Leica S with leaf shutter lenses
  • Leica X Vario, X1, X2 (Thanks 2WK!)

The list above is a rather exclusive little club...many of the full frame 35mm and APS-C options aren't exactly cheap, and the Phase One/medium format cameras are more or less completely out of the question for me and my humble working photojournalist's budget. To be honest so is the Leica Q and Sony RX1R II. When you consider the IQ you get from ANY of the x100 family of cameras, and the fact that OG X100 cameras can be had for very little money these days, you can see how the Fuji system offers a strobist incredible value for money. No wonder David Hobby loves this little guy.

So in addition to sharing any experiences anyone else has had with using the X100 series cameras with off-camera lighting, could everyone maybe also add to my list of leaf shutter-enabled digital cameras worth using with off-camera lighting, and possibly share any experiences you all may have had with other off-camera lighting setups. I'm curious what others have been able to accomplish with their amazing little Fujis. How fast has everyone managed to achieve sync, and with what sort of lighting setups?

I'm more than happy to answer any questions and thanks for reading. Have an awesome day everyone.
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