If you would have told me a few months ago that I would be able to easily take pictures without Nikon's fantastic CLS Commander Remote Wireless Flash System (AWL), I would have told you that you are crazy. But since I don't own a Nikon anymore I had to learn how to use flashes manually.
Actually, it's not that difficult. It's mostly trial and error. You set the speed to the fastest speed your camera can flash-sync (for the Fuji X-E1 it's 1/125), and then you set the aperture and ISO to the desired setting (I usually use ISO 200), and then you fire the flash. Now you look at the results and see what your picture looks like. If it's too bright, you turn down the power of the flash. Your flash can go full power (1/1) down to 1/128th of power, in small increments. Often I have to take a few pictures to get the perfect exposure. For studio shooting not a big deal. The only REALLY annoying thing is that you have to adjust the power of the flashes ON the flashes. If they are in any sort of soft box or umbrella, you're struggling. Even if the flash guns are not inside the softbox, if they are high up you have to either climb up yourself or make the light stand shorter in order to see the bloody LCD display - in any case, a fiddly job, which gets the light settings messed up and makes a simple photo shoot to something dreadfully difficult and slow.
I have been looking for a way how to change all this. If I only there was a way to change the power of my flashes remotely...
A couple of months ago I read an announcement about the Godox V850, a flash that didn't use AA batteries but a rechargeable Litium-Ion pack. The news left me indifferent, since I didn't realize what a big improvement on a regular flash would be. What I also didn't know at the time is that this particular flash is available with a receiver, and a wireless remote that will not only trigger the flash but also allow you to adjust the power and settings of the flash via the trigger on top of your camera. Hoozzzah!
What exactly does it do?
Basically, you mount your flashes inside your softboxes and then set them up as flash groups. There are 16 groups possible. I need only 2 flashes. Let's say, I set up flash 1 as group A and flash 2 as group B. Now I can remotely control the power of each flash separately. Or I set both flash 1 and 2 up as group A, and I control the power of both together. The will always be triggered together as one flash, independently from how they are grouped.
What are the benefits?
- Remote Control Everything: No more fiddling with the softboxes or the lightstands during a photoshoot.
- Power: The V850 is a powerful flash, period. No more waiting to recharge. No more black frames. No more missed shots. Also, no more AA batteries to charge and carry around. The battery pack of these flashes last a very long time. Yes, you need to have a charger, but mostly for a shoot, you will be fine with just a charged battery pack.
- No more weird button cell batteries: The Godox receiver draws power from the flash itself, so I only have to worry about the two AAA batteries in the sender. I can carry two extra AAA's, no biggie.
- Price: Both flashes with batteries, chargers, receivers and sender are available for less than the cost of one SB900. Heck, they cost less than one SB700.
But what about TTL?
Off-camera TTL technology unfortunately is not available to the Fuji X series cameras, but it's not a big deal anymore. I think, TTL for me is important when I use a flash on the camera. And that, Fuji can do. In a studio setting, a manual flash is just fine. Now I just need to sort out the modelling light problem, and then I'm all set.