Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cactus V6 trigger and RF60 flash

Gotten around to using this a few times. I have two triggers, an RF60 flash and I also used a Nikon SB-910 with the setup on my FujiFilm XT-1. As usual, I'm skipping all of the general information you can get in every review on the internet and concentrating on my specific hopefully unique observations.

First thing I did is updated the firmware and both the RF 60 and the triggers. Have a laptop running Windows 10, so I had to jump through some hoops, but the documentation for those hoops it is fairly easy to follow on the cactus website. It was basically just disabling Windows Driver Signature Enforcement so the firmware updater software could install. You can find the details here: Installing Cactus Firmware Updater & Updating Cactus devices on Windows 10 PC

The firmware update process is fairly straight forward and I had no issues there.One thing I noticed was the firmware app had to be restarted between devices to pick up the next device and firmware version. In other words, It didn't detect the new device automatically once it had detected the previous device firmware version. Not a big deal. Another small snag, was all of my current devices I use have USB Micro connectors, like for my phone, Bluetooth headset, mouse charger, etc. The Cactus devices use the mini connectors which are the slightly bigger ones. I had to get up and go find a cable, but hey, who doesn't have older cables laying around all over the place? 

After that, the experimenting started. I started out and left the Trigger and the RF60 flash on group A, channel 1 just for testing. It is pretty easy to change channels and groups, so I didn't feel if I set it up, I would forget how to do it later. This setup worked pretty flawlessly, right off the bat. One thing I had to look up was how to control the zoom on the RF60 from the transmitter. To save you some grief, here's what you have to do. 

Go into the menu of the trigger and look for "Swap Control" which by default was "Quick Power Adjustment". Change it to "Zoom (Cactus)". Once you've made that change, you can toggle zoom and power setting by pushing in the wheel and adjust by turning. Works the same way as power as far as adjusting all at once or by group. 

Keep in mind that the transmitter will NOT control zoom on any 3rd party flashes. You will have to do that yourself. More on that later.

I took some test shots and everything seemed to work as advertised. No issues at all, although, I did set the transmitter power to low as I was basically testing everything out in my comfy chair and all of this was in my lap. I had remembered if the devices were too close together, they can misfire, which they did. Once I lowered the transmitter power, I had no issues. Realize, close in my case meant 6 inches to 2 feet. Your mileage may vary.

Moving on to the Nikon SB-910. I got the 2nd V6 and set it for receive, went into the menu and chose the SB-910 profile. Put the flash on and nothing! Fiddle, fiddle, press press, shake and curse... Sooo, did I figure it out... YES! I'll cut to the chase. Here's what you want to remember when working with these triggers. Are you ready? First thing is, when you ar choosing a profile for the flash, on the trigger, make sure the flash is ON THE TRIGGER and everything was properly powered up! Once I did that and chose the correct profile again, it started working. 

Notice I mentioned "properly powered up"? Well, what that means, if you don't start from the top and work your way down, you will most likely have issues. At least I do with the SB-910. So power on the flash, then the trigger. Power, on, top, down, very, important!

Once I got through that, it worked pretty well. I say pretty well and not perfectly, because I still had some learning to do... I'll try and help you bypass my difficulties. 

Of course, I knew that the flash had to be set for TTL, which it was, so I really had no issues there once I started to power these on, top down (see a pattern?). Since the V6 can't control zoom on my flash, it has to be done manually. Once the everything is powered on and set up, it locks the flash. You can't do anything with the flash, like the zoom level. But yay! there is a way to unlock the flash! 

If you need to change the zoom level on the flash manually, hold down the Menu button on the V6 receiver and it will display "Flash Unlocked" and it will, you guessed it, unlock the flash. You can then make the zoom change. It will relock itself once the flash has been triggered or you hold the Menu button down again. 

I am thinking about selling the SB-910 and getting a couple of RF60's because they are so much easier to use, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The only thing I would lose, since I don't shoot Nikon anymore is the Auto capability of the SB-910 on the Fuji (see my prior article). I don't use it very much. Well, really not at all, but I hate getting rid of that beautiful hunk of plastic that I worked so hard to get!

Okay, moving on. The build quality of both of these devices are pretty good. There are some weak points, however. The trigger shoes are a little flaky with the friction locks. In order to get them tight enough that I can't pull them off the camera, I feel as if I'm torquing them down and they may break. This has not happened, nor do I know if it will happen, nor have I heard of this happening, but it makes me uneasy. 

I'll go ahead and confirm, as other reviewers have stated that the battery door, especially on the flash feel a little flimsy, but I think as long as I'm careful and don't throw it in my bag with the door open, it will be fine. 

That's about it. I guess the question is, am I happy with these? Yes! I think that the trigger works best with the least amount of grief with the RF60, Once I got the SB-910 working, it seems consistent, which is the important part. 

They just came out with a V6 II which is about $25 bucks more and it adds some cool stuff like HSS, but I'm okay with these (for now!). Hope this helps someone. 

 Cactus RF60 Wireless Flash w/Wireless WRLS Flash Transceiver V6

Sunday, August 7, 2016

High Speed Sync with Fuji XT-1 and Nissin?

So, imagine being able to do HSS with a Nissin flash. Well, no need for imagination. Just do it. So, the trick to this is it has to have a TTL connection between the camera and the flash. You can direct connect it to the shoe (bleh) or use a Canon cable, which is compatible with the Fuji flash contacts. This will NOT work with a remote trigger that does not understand Fujifilm TTL!

Do you have to shoot in TTL? Well, actually, you don't shoot in TTL, this works in manual mode. It just needs the TTL connection. Here's how to do it. 

First, you set up the flash. You set the mode dial for manual and... Hold down the test button. That's the green lit up button next to the power button. Hold it down for 3 seconds. The light next to the mode selection dial (leftmost light) should start blinking. Guess what? Your done!

From there, as long as there's a TTL connection between the flash and camera, you can set the flash power level and using manual camera controls, shoot up to 1/4000 second and HSS works! It's a little thing and that TTL connection requirement is a bit of a pain, but hey, it's something... 

For the list makers:
  • Hold down the test light/button for 3 seconds and the mode dial indicator will blink when it is in HSS mode. Hold down for 3 seconds again to go back to normal mode. 
  • Connect flash to camera directly or use a Canon TTL compatible cable.
  • Set camera manual settings and flash power
  • Push the shutter button using up to 1/4000 second shutter speed!

I think this works with most Fujifilm cameras like the XT series, X-Pro2, etc. I only tested on the XT-1, but I've read that it works with a lot of the Fujifilm modern cameras. Do your research though, don't buy the 240 dollar flash to find out it doesn't work. I also only tested FULLY MANUAL EVERYTHING. No idea what will happen if you use any of the auto settings. If you're using auto, I'd say just set the flash for TTL and put up with the 1/180 sync speed.

Anyways, have fun as always! Oh, I just got a couple of Cactus V6 triggers and an RF60 that I am just starting to test with maybe a couple other flash units like the Nikon SB-910. Stay tuned, No BS review coming soon!

 Nissin i40

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Final Fujifilm X-T1 Impressions, Probably!

I've been using the Fuji X-T1 for a while now and although I can't bring myself to selling off my Nikon gear and I haven't touched the Nikon since I got it, I am loving it. Let's summarize my feelings. My wife says I should talk about my feelings more often, so here we go!

The camera feels great. Love the controls now that I'm getting used to them. I will admit, it's not as comfortable for me as a Nikon ergonomically, but I've been using Nikon for a long time. The camera is light and I can carry it around all day with no problems with the 18-55 lens on it and the little Nissin flash. The Nikon with the equivalent lens and my monster SB-910 will start to hurt my back after an hour or so.

The Fuji is great with my adapted Nikon lenses and manual focusing. The focus peaking is clear and the viewfinder is a lot better than I thought it would be. The Fotodiox adapter does exactly what it is supposed to do and mates the Nikon lenses to the camera brilliantly. I don't notice any type of image degradation compared to the Nikon and actually, because of the Fuji sensor, I think they look better. That of course, is most likely pure emotion speaking...

Image quality is top notch. I have no complaints. Low light capability is wonderful. When it does get noise, it is "like film". I quoted that, because I keep reading and hearing it in other reviews, but I'll be damned if it's not true! It really is different than a standard sensor. Don't know why, but hey, fist bump... Kudos to Fuji!

Flash. Strobist. Speedlight... Well, well. Here's a jumble of those feeling things. I've gone back and forth about how this thing supports flash and as of a couple weeks ago, I'm now almost satisfied that this little guy can meet my needs. Here's my thought process for what I need. I sold all of my studio lights years ago, so I now just use speedlights. I need decent powered speedlights that will trigger with some type of radio gadget. For studio (mostly portraits), I shoot manual across the board. Being able to control the flashes from the camera trigger is a big plus. I think I can get that with the Cactus V6 triggers. This is good.

Event and indoor photos in general, while on the move require TTL (or Auto Mode). I can use the Nissin for TTL. It's small and light and works great, although it's no powerhouse and bouncing is limited due to not having an over abundance of extra light to cast out of it's little bulb. When needed, a cute little trick is I can put my SB-910 on my tiny little Fuji, set the flash for auto. set the ISO on the flash and boom, I have tons of light. To move it off camera, I can do the same thing. Either use a cable or a trigger and set the flash to Auto Mode if needed, but I hardly ever do that. Auto on camera because I'm running round chasing stuff or manual, because if I have time to set up the flash, I have time to set the flash power.

Now, the only big deal functionality issue I have. Max sync speed is 180. No high speed sync. Sad puppy... Why is that you may ask. If you need to fill flash in bright daylight, it is really, really hard to get the shutter speed down that low without an ND filter. If you do mostly people work, like I do, you are also trying to get the shutter speed down with a wide open aperture. This is not fun and honestly, my only serious issue I have with the camera and why I am having a hard time selling my Nikon.

I only have one one Fuji lens and although it's not a fast lens, I have no complaints. the 18-55 stays on my camera 95% of the time. When I need shallow DoF for portraits, I stick an adapter on one of my Nikon lenses and go to town. Can't really complain about that too much. I do remember a time before auto focus was all the rage.

Not really sure what else to say. The camera is built well, small and light, takes fantastic photos when the guy behind the viewfinder is having a good day. What more could I ask for? I am glad I purchased it, it is so, so close to replacing my Nikon, it's scary. Fuji is great at listening to its customers and moves forward without wallowing it it's name. Every firmware upgrade has significantly made the camera better than it was before. They haven't only added bug fixes, they've added functionality improving and even adding features. Unfortunately, I can't say that about any Nikon camera I've owned. They usually add lens comparability and bug fixes and they are usually very slow to release.

You may notice, I don't go into movie mode, JPG quality, in camera editing and all that extra stuff. I just don't use it and don't care. I set the camera up once. Make it shoot RAW, then adjust shutter speed, aperture and ISO to take pictures. I'm a simple guy so if you need opinions on that kind of thing, you'll have to try somewhere else. I just don't use any of it, so I have absolutely no opinion on any of it.

If I had the cash, I'd buy another one and all the accessories and lenses to go with it. I don't have any interest in the new Nikon cameras coming out. I don't know that I can ever go back fully. If the X-T2 fills the gaps, I'll scrape and save to get one and move over completely.
 Fujifilm X-T1 16 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD and XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 Lens

Friday, January 22, 2016

Most Nikon flashes WILL work with my Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm X-T1 users that have old Nikon flashes, take note. You can use Auto Flash Mode for quick pics. The Angry Photographer over on YouTube mentioned this in a video, so I thought I would expand and share.

If you have a Nikon flash capable of Auto Mode, all the way back to the SB-24's, 28's and more, they should work. I think SB-600's won't and maybe a few others, sorry. I've only personally tested my SB-910, and none of the others. I'm not sure if this will work with other brands. It basically let's the flash figure out what the exposure is.

The way auto mode works and the way we used to do things, back in the day, before TTL, was use Auto Mode and I've forgotten about it, is the flash will fire, the light bounces back and hits a sensor on the front of the flash and it shuts it off when it thinks it is exposed correctly. It actually works quite well. You're camera just needs to fire the flash, either on the hot shoe, cable or a remote dumb trigger. If experimenting, just be careful of really old 3rd party flashes. Make sure the sync voltage won't burn out your camera. They used to be quite high. I wouldn't put my Vivitar 285HV on the show, for fear of that very thing. It may be fine, but I won't take a chance.

Basically, if you put the flash on Auto Mode, set the ISO and the f-stop to match the camera. Zoom can be set also, but I just keep it near where I'm shooting. Note the distance scale and keep within that measurement. I've found that you don't have to be 100% accurate with the f-stop, however closer the better. You can adjust with the compensation also on the flash if needed. I find it is pretty darn accurate.

From there, all you have to do is trigger the flash. It can be on the camera, cable or a trigger. Of course, you want to shoot Manual or Aperture priority to keep the camera aperture from changing on you. Just as in shooting manual, the distance scale is flash to subject. It doesn't matter where the camera is. It even seems to handle bounce fairly well.

There's a lot more tech stuff that can be talked about, but I'm trying to keep this simple. Experiment and let me know how it goes. Of course, if you have the time to set up, Manual Mode rules!

BTW, an X-T1 looks pretty funny with an SB-910 sitting on top of it!

UPDATE: It was verified to work by someone on my G+ with an SB-28, SB-80DX and an SB-800. The SB-600 will NOT work. It doesn't have an Auto Mode.

Kit lens my arse!

This thing is pretty sharp and fairly fast. The OIS is also excellent. I am taking photos at night down to 1/15th without a problem. I am having better luck with this than any of my faster non-stabilized lenses, which I guess makes sense. However, it feels better because in order to work at these slow speeds, the ISO has to hold up, which it does in the X-T1 compared to my Nikon D7000.

The build quality is great. I don't really like the thin channels on the rings. Don't get me wrong, they feel good and work well, but tiny bits of gunk get in there and are a pain to get out for someone that is OCD like I am!

Out of the 5 Nikon lenses I run with, only one is variable aperture. Although I thought the f/2.8-4 would bother me, it really doesn't. I may lose a bit of DoF, but I don't have to squeeze every bit of light to get a good photo. Next lenses will be the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 and the one I'm really drooling over, the 56mm  f/1.2

I will have to say, I'm a little weirded out by the aperture ring not being marked and having stops at either end, but I'm living with it. Yet another thing to get used to.
 Fujinon XF 18-55mm f:2.8-4.0 R LM OIS Zoom Lens

Quick Fujifilm XT-1 update

Okay, real quick. What don't I like...

There's a shutter delay if I'm in either magnification focus mode or in the menu or viewing pictures. I'll live with it, but I have lost a couple moments because of the delay. It varies from about 1/2 second to 2 seconds and can be annoying.

TTL off camera does not exist. I rarely use this, but when things are moving quickly, it is very convenient. I'll live with this too.

Battery life does stink a bit. I can get a few hundred shots out of the battery, but I'm spoiled with the Nikon. Again, I'll live with it. I just have to take a spare battery or two.

What I do like...

Everything else, so far!

Waiting to get the Cactus triggers and will start playing with that, but I don't see any issues with it other than losing HSS. That may be extremely inconvenient in bright settings when I need fill flash or to darken the background. We'll see... More to come!
 Fujifilm X-T1

I Love This Camera! Is it the Holy Grail?

Of course not. You can stop reading now unless you want to know why...

Still here? Okay. It is a FANTASTIC camera. I'll say that right up front. The sensor and images are absolutely magnificent. Of course, I shoot RAW, but I hear the jpg's are good too! With it, I bought the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 "kit" lens. I quote the word kit, because I have never had a kit lens that good. I'll write about that in another article. Here are my observations in no logical order...

Sensor is fantastic. On vacation, after owning it a few days, I took it out at night and just shot. No flash, mostly at 6400 ISO. Is it grain free? No, and I don't care. The noise is just that, grain. I dare say it is pleasant. My Nikon would through out a bunch of color noise, but this one keeps that under control. My standard processing went like this in Lightroom with my presets. Slight sharpening, lens correction then tweaking. Here's the kicker. NO NOISE REDUCTION at all! Sharpen a 6400 ISO photo and don't do noise reduction? Yup... You can see some of it on my Google + Collection here.

Because of the ever moving subjects and light, I ended up just putting it in auto aperture, shutter and ISO. (P)ro mode for the Fujifilm uninitiated. I still have to get more used to the controls and adjusting settings before I can do it as quickly as my DSLR, which I always shoot full manual. It does a pretty good job. There is one thing I noticed that I am not sure if it's me or the camera. In really bright sunlight, when brought into Lightroom, the highlights seemed to always be blown out. I got red flashes all over the place. Just a reminder, these are RAW files, so the in camera adjustments don't affect them. I could pull them back down, but I can say it was annoying to have to do. I wonder also, since detail was still in the highlights if it was just Lightroom not knowing that they weren't actually blown out, but was still alerting and appearing blown. I need more investigation about this one.

The Fuji is definitely slowing me down in full manual. I am not 100% comfortable with the controls yet, but at least so far, it is making me think a little more before I take the shot. I think when shooting the DSLR, but actually moving my fingers and physically changing settings on the Nikon is second nature to me. The dials on the X-T1 are in their natural places, but having to push the button to unlock the ISO dial was a bit of a pain walking in and out of light when I shot it for the week I was in Key West. I appreciate that that it can be knocked out of its setting, but that was a little disconcerting and it ended up in auto. We'll see over time, if I can get it working for me.

I haven't had any problems focusing. I usually stick to single point in the center on the second smallest size. I use manual focus and the AF/L lock to get it to focus and recompose. It reacts just like back button focus on my Nikon. I tried using zone and all of the other fancy focus modes, but I have just never liked them, on any camera. I rarely missed focus, even at night in areas barely lit by street lights. Absolutely no problems there.

Flash? On camera TTL is great with the included mini flash and with the Nissin. Lack of a trigger makes it a little difficult to be lazy and shoot TTL off camera. The Nissin makes it a little easier to shoot in manual due to the dials. I'll probably sell or retire my Yongnuo triggers in favor for the Cactus V6 due to compatibility between systems. Once that happens, I may just roll over and start using this full time when I can integrate all of my strobes with the X-T1 for manual flash work, but sometimes, I just want to be lazy and TTL away!

Aesthetically, this camera is gorgeous. I would have opted for the graphite version, but I couldn't justify the extra money for the same functionality. That said, this is a purdy camera.

Will I keep it? Yes. Am I happy with it? Yes. Does it do everything I want it to do? Almost! The gist of the whole thing is the images that come out of this camera, coupled with the low light, high ISO noise is so good, I can't pass it up! The only real downside for me is off camera flash capability, but I will work around that soon!

After a week of vacation and hundreds of shots, I'm very happy with this little guy, overall. Definitely a recommendation from me!
 Fujifilm X-T1