High Speed Sync with Fujifilm X-T1 & X-T2

UPDATE - July 2017

Godox released a new X1T-F trigger compatible with Fuji X Cameras.
Cactus trigger are still useful for cross brand use. 

More details on my updated article: here

 

UPDATE - June 2017

Cactus released a new firmware X-TTL that provides very stable HSS and cross-brand TTL

Here's a quick video explaining the new set-up with two Cactus V6II...

Here is a little piece about High-speed sync with Fuji X system.
For the past 6 months now, I’ve been discovering and using the HSS technique with my Fuji’s X-T1 and X-T2. Since people have been asking me a lot about what settings and gear I use, I decided to share some fun with everyone.  

HSS portrait photoshoot - Behind the scene - Credit:  Yu-Sam Tang

HSS portrait photoshoot - Behind the scene - Credit: Yu-Sam Tang

I first discover HSS capabilities about a year ago watching Jason Lanier videos about how he shoots and creates the fake sky effect. For months I wondered if it would be possible to use that amazing flash technique with my Fuji X camera. Then I finally found some useful information’s thanks to Donald M. Falls video. I took a leap of faith, bought some gear and start experimenting... 

I usually don’t like to read never-ending blog post about camera wherein the photographer tells more about his personal life than the topic, so I’ll do my best to keep it short and effective.

What is HSS

Let’s keep it simple! High-speed Sync (HSS) is the ability for a camera to trigger a flash at a shutter speed faster than what it supposed to. Most cameras native flash speed sync is between 1/180th to 1/250th of a second. High-speed sync allows you to use shutter speeds up to 1/4000th or even 1/8000th of a second while the flash illuminate perfectly your subject. Meaning without any black bars on the pictures. 

Why using HSS?

Like said above, high-speed sync allows you to trigger a flash a very fast shutter speed. So why would you want to do that? Personally, I found four major benefits in using HSS.

FIRST: I can use a flash outside, with the sun behind the subject and totally overcome it. Yes, that’s right! I don’t need to have my model facing the sun to avoid backlit and therefore get her/him blind after 15 minutes… 

SECOND: Since I’m shooting at a very fast shutter speed (and low ISO generally) I can open my lenses at their widest aperture even in bright sunny day and still use an off-camera flash. That means I can have shallow depth of field without being in a low light situation.

THIRD: When using HSS properly, you can create a more dramatic effect to a scene. Meaning, it could be 3 pm and still be sunny outside but capturing a very dramatic after sunset look on the picture.

FOURTH: I tend to spend a lot less time editing my pictures. Usually I use the sun as backlight and the flash to fill in. So I basically expose for the background and compensate the subject with the flash. If the light is good, there is not so much editing needed. And the funniest part is that some people think the sky is heavily photoshopped. That’s what we call the fake sky effect...

How to use HSS on Fujifilm X-T1 or X-T2?

The answer is simple: Cactus V6 II
You can check on their website, why those trigger are really amazing.
I’m not here to promote them, just to explain the settings to make it work with Fujifilm X system.

So let’s be clear, I haven’t tried every piece of gear on the market. I’m sure there are plenty of other valid options. I’m just giving you the settings and gear that work for me.

I use HSS with my Fuji X-T1 (firmware V5) and Fuji X-T2 (firmware V1) thanks to the Cactus V6 II flash trigger (firmware 1.1.005).

For the flash I use the Godox Witstro AD360 and Godox V850. In some country Godox is called Neewer or Flash point. But they are basically the same flash with different names.

 

Here are the steps to set up the Cactus V6 II trigger
with your Fuji X-T1 or X-T2

  1. Update the Cactus V6 II firmware after having bought it
  2. Mount the Cactus V6 II on your Fuji camera
  3. Turn the camera on
  4. Then turn the Cactus V6 II on TX mode (trigger) and wait for it to recognize the camera. It should show an F for Fuji
  5. If it doesn’t detect the camera, click on the Functions button, then go to Camera and Flash Setup (press OK button or the dial to navigate the menu) and chose Fujifilm.
  6. Set the Flash System on Nikon. Don’t ask me why! I know I’m using Godox flashes, but that’s how it works…
  7. Set Flash Profile on Auto Nikon
  8. Learn HSS (only needed once). Press Start, then you have 30 seconds to take a picture at 1/1000th. When it’s done the trigger should indicate Recorded
  9. Press the dial to activate Forced HSS ON
  10. Don’t forget to turn the HSS mode on your flash as well.

Now to trigger a Godox flash you have two options:

  1. Place the Godox FT-16 flash trigger on top of the Cactus V6 II trigger. It does look funny, but it works. Then place the receiver on the flash. Be careful, there are different type of receiver depending the flash you’re using but they all work with the same trigger.
     
  2. If you have the budget, buy one or two more Cactus V6 II trigger and place them on the flash. Don’t forget to put them on RX mode and to set the Flash Profile to Nikon as well.

That’s all folks! Now you should be able to use high-speed sync with your Fuji X-T1 or X-T2. I haven’t tried with other Fuji cameras. But I guess since it was working with the XT-1 (which, unlike the XT-2, is not supposed to support HSS) you should have any trouble with XT-10 or X-Pro series. Although if someone has insights about that and would like to share them, please feel free to comment.

Note that the Fuji X-T1 will allow you to use HSS up to 1/4000th of a second, where the X-T2 will go up to 1/8000th of a second. That makes a big difference, especially if you would like to shoot in a bright sunny day. Also, make sure the camera is set on mechanical shutter and not electronic, otherwise it won’t trigger the flash.

What about the results?

Although I love to HSS with my Fuji X-T1 and XT-2, the system is not flawless. Sometimes it doesn’t trigger in HSS. I’d say that 75%* of the shots are good. So you need to be patient and learn the limits of your camera. I know that other systems, such as Sony mirrorless, will handle HSS way better than Fujifilm cameras. But I am not here to start a debate...

*EDIT: I'm now using the last firmware update for the Cactus V6 II (v1.1.006) and it's way more stable. The success rate rose to 98% on my last session.

Below, you can see more results that were published on my Instagram or Facebook page.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read me.
Feel free to share your personal experience, ask me any question or leave a comment.