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Rumours abound that the much delayed successor to the ancient EF-42, the EF-X500, has been delayed again until September. Originally due an end of May launch, it’s being pushed back further and further. The imminent July 7th announcement will supposedly have both a price and a Sept release date. Just another week in the Fuji Flash Saga. (Fujirumors have more pics and a potential price of over €500 for the EF-X500).

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Don’t get me wrong. It’s really great that it’s finally coming. I did get to see a mockup version at The Photography Show, but it’s both really late in terms of what’s out there, and in terms of the continuously delayed launch. What do I mean? Well, flash has been the weak point of the system all along, and the original specs for this flash show that it will have remote commander functions-but in optical form. Anyone using remote flash knows that even the super cheap systems out there now use radio triggers, which don’t require line of sight, and will still work outdoors in bright sunlight. Personally I’m hoping the addition of radio is part of the delay, but I’m not optimistic.

The X-T10 already has a commander mode option in the camera, so hopefully, this will work with the new flash. And hopefully it will be either able to use HSS (high speed sync), or get a firmware update for it. Now, the Nissan i40, a 3rd party flash for Fuji, does HSS in full manual power, through a secret handshake on turn on, so it is possible to get it that way, but on a low powered flash. So the sooner it arrives in official Fuji form, the better!

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As for remote TTL via Radio, I’ve already looked at the RobotSHOOT triggers. They’re well up to that task, and as bonus, let Nikon users keep their flashes for Fuji TTL use. The SB910 is a far better flash than the EF-42, and by using a camera bracket, you could easily run TTL with a more powerful flash off a Fuji camera.

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In reality, the long wait for a Fuji flash isn’t from a lack of trying on Fuji’s part. The current flagship flash is the EF-42. This is a rebranded Sunpak flash, made for the S series DSLR’s that Fuji once made. It also shows that Fuji depend on 3rd party manufacturers for flashes. They had Metz on board, but when Metz went under, it made for a major setback. Still, news from around the world is not bad for Fuji users with regards using flash.

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Cactus Image have announced the V6II triggers which provide HSS to Fuji through a range of other flashes, so the external competition is already on. Piet from More Than Words, a fellow Fuji X Photographer, has a review set and it raving about them, and at how great the HSS is.

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There’s the other issue with Fuji flash, that I mention, but seems to be less public. On camera flash is used to light up dark and low light environments. In my case in nightclubs. On DSLRS, the flashes send out a red criss cross kind of pattern. The camera detects these via the secondary mirror system used to focus. The contrast allows the camera to focus, then the shot can fire. Mirrorless cameras focus directly from the sensor, and don’t respond to the standard focus assist beam. They need light to focus. This means a compatible flash needs a light beam, like an LED video light to focus. Product shots of the EF-X500 seems to show a white rectangle, which I really hope is a LED. Why? Because I’m tired of having to use the 5D3 for this one regular job, where I’d rather be using the Fuji.

It’s taken a long time to get to this point, so I really hope that this July 7th rumour pans out and that the EF-X500 will in fact put the flash weakness with the Fujifilm X-Series to bed.

One of the weak points of the Fuji X system is the flash. The EF-42 is the current flagship, but it overly large in comparison to the camera systems. The Nissin i40 is a far more pleasing flash in that regard, albeit even more basic than the EF-42 in terms of control. I do find that using the EF-42 in TTL and bouncing seems to work better than the Canon equivalents, which often need additional flash exposure compensation to get the light right.

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The EF-42 Flash

There’s a whole lot missing in the system though. No off camera remote control for TTL-either optical or radio for example. But the big thing for me is the lack of an on flash AF Illuminator for club and event work. I’m shooting in places where I often can’t even see the people I’m shooting, so having the flash send out a beam to help focus is essential. Both the EF-42 and i40 have these in the camera (The EF-42 is actually a rebranded Sunpak flash), but they’re not turned on in the Fuji firmware.

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The Nissin i40 Flash

In addition, both of these flashes are relatively low power- at 42 and 40 in Guide Number(GN), they’re shy of the power of most flagship flashes which have GN52 or above. Also, most other flashes can do High Speed Sync, allowing you to shoot with faster shutter speeds than the normal sync speed of the camera.

There is something on the horizon to help with some of these issues: The EF-X500 which was announced (and perhaps overshadowed by) with the launch of the X-Pro2. This flash has a GN of 50, meaning more power. There’s also optical TTL control of up to 3 flashes (though I assume they mean 3 groups, rather than literally 3 flashes). I tend to use manual flash off camera, but can see situations where mixing TTL and flash would work well (like a wedding with fixed background light level and TTL for table work). Someone at the SWPP mentioned they would have radio TTL as well, but the specs doesn’t back this up. Radio TTL is possible with the RoboSHOOT triggers from Serene Automation, which I’ll be reviewing shortly.

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The EF-X500

High Speed Sync is something I did use with Canon to get shallow depth of field outside on bright days with flash, so I am looking forward to seeing this in action on Fuji!

One thing that I’ve not been able to find out is if there is now AF Illumination on flash. This would be the nail in the coffin for my Canon system. It’s the only main thing that has stopped me moving completely. Well, that and Tilt Shift lenses. Hopefully Samyang will step up to the plate on that one!