Back in May I posted a little preview for the EF-X20 Fujifilm flash. I’d recently bought it and was looking forward to a busy season of wedding photography using it with my X-Pro 2. Here I am about 25 weddings later with a few samples and a quick EF-X20 review for anyone interested in going ahead and buying this flash. Full disclosure; I’m a (mostly) reportage wedding photographer, I personally have little interest in setting flashes up on stands for my work. If you’re looking for something to put on a stand, look elsewhere.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Or so they say. It’s small. This for me is a resounding positive. The great thing about the size of this flash is that it allows me to attach a the unit to my X Pro 2 via a cheap TTL cable and then shoot the camera in my right hand with the flash in my left. There’s a very small dial on the top that allows me to control the output of the flash, and so I can flick it with my thumb quickly if required. Where the flash is lacking is in power, which is the main reason that you’re unlikely to want to put it too far off camera. For me, it has a huge amount more than I need, but I’m often very close to my subjects at this point in the day.
The recycle time has probably been my biggest issue with the flash so far. It’s no problem if I’m shooting at 1/32 power on the dancefloor, but we’ve all been there on those occasions when subjects are leaving the ceremony heavily backlit – it doesn’t quite manage it for me in these situations. As soon as you crank the power up, it takes just a little too long especially if the aisle for the recessional is on the short side. Perhaps it’s the batteries I’m using (it takes AAAs, I’m using Philips rechargeable 1000mAh batteries), but I feel that it’s working very hard to keep up if the power goes above 1/8.
The build quality is, in my opinion, not as great as I had read in reviews leading up to buying the flash. It’s a solid little box, the power wheel is fine and has shown no signs of loosening up but the little flap for the batteries feels cheap, and a little bit plastic-fantastic-y.
All things consider, it’s almost ideal for me. If the build quality was any better I imagine the price of the flash would increase, and to be honest it’s currently a very affordable bit of kit. I’d buy it again, but if you’re looking for more of a workhorse of a flash you may want to think about the EF-X500, which although I’ve not been able to try yet looks more along the same lines as the Canikon speedlites. Buy it if you’re looking for a flash for a documentary style wedding reception workflow, or a small discreet flash for personal work. Don’t buy it if you’re looking for something to put on a stand a few meters away from your subject, or if you want to diffuse the light in any way other than bouncing.
What a Drag
I drag the shutter for the vast majority of my images. This means I’ll shoot the flash at about 1/32, with an ISO of around 8,000 (I like to get a good amount of ambient light) and the shutter somewhere in the region of 1/30. The flash will freeze the action if I’m close enough and firing the flash directly enough. If I’m a little further back then I may need to dial the power of the EF-X20 up a bit. This is very much my take on a reportage set-up – the flash is harsh and direct most of the time but I like that in my pictures. Occasionally I’ll shoot with a faster shutter speed if I want to try to get the background a little less blurry from motion. The high ISO will mean that you’re going to be dealing with more grain (the last picture in this blog is probably the clearest example of this, having said that not only was it shot at ISO8,000 but it was underexposed a by around one stop, so you’re effectively looking at ISO16,000 there!) but I take the view of many photographers in this genre who would argue that capturing the moment is far more important than worrying about grain.
I mostly use the 16mm f/1.4 lens for this point in the day, although I sometimes go with the 23mm f/1.4. I almost always shoot the reception anywhere between f/8 and f/14 for this stage (I rarely go to f/16 as I worry that with the Fuji lenses they can easily get knocked over to Auto aperture, which would likely result in it trying to pick something much wider than I want) as I zone focus to make shooting a bit faster (set the lens and camera to manual focus then select an appropriate distance on the scale behind the lens clutch). This all works a treat with the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 optical viewfinder, although I will sometimes shoot from the hip too. If I was a little more consistent with my zone focusing I could perhaps get away with a consistent f/5.6 which in turn would increase the effect of the flash and decrease the ISO, but I like to play it safe on these occasions.