Monday, 6 February 2017

Waste Not, Want Not!

About year ago I decided to simplify my off camera flash setup with my X-Pro1 and just go ole skool manual and do away with TTL remote control of my Shanny SN600c speedlights, after realizing that I couldn't hot swap them between Fuji and Canon systems. To save money I decided to see what I could cobble together from the recycle bin of old (and not so old) manual flashguns, which included a pair of Yongnuo YN560mk2 speedlights that I had purchased by mistake but couldn't be bothered to return and had sat unloved in the office, gathering dust, along with an old Jessop's  Canon ETTL flashgun I had inherited from a friend. These were to join my one and only dedicated Fuji X flashgun in my kitbag, the small and under powered Nissin i40. (More about the i40 later). This is all part of my push to do more on-site corporate head shots using less bulky equipment but maintaining the same high production values that I was getting with my Canon 5Dmark3 and 580ex mk2 flashguns.

The Holy Trinity of Off Camera Flash

Ghost of Yongnuo's Past

My original plan was to buy a set of Yongnuo RF 605c radio slaves, after I had seen them being used by Matt Widgery in his studio but then I came across a great deal on Ebay of someone selling a pair Yongnuo RF 603rx (for Canon) receivers and a single RF600tx transmitter for the bargain price of £20.00 all in. This meant that I could remotely radio trigger both of my flashguns instead of just one and before I knew it a small package was delivered to my door. Everything was going according to plan until, I set everything up and nothing worked. I ended up spending the best part of a weekend, changing (and charging) batteries and messing around with the channel switches but nothing worked. A quick e-mail to the seller resulted in a full refund but when I said I'd return the gear, the seller said that I might as well bin them and save everyone the trouble. Now, having been raised on a council estate, I'm reluctant to throw anything away and so I just threw the remotes in the back of my office draw and (kind of) forgot about them. A couple days later a brand new pair of Yongnuo RF 605c turns up at the door and moments after their delivery I was in OCF heaven with my radio slaves seamlessly triggering my flash. Alas this setup meant that I could only trigger ONE of four strobes, via a radio slave with the remaining lights being triggered optically or via the RF605's hotshoe sat on top of the camera. This worked great indoors but the moment I stepped outside it just fell apart (especially if I was shooting against the sun) where the optical slaves wouldn't trigger even they were in line of sight of the master flash and this inevitably brought me back to the two RF603's languishing in the draw. What could be done?

I had seen various "hacks" for the 603 on YouTube and a quick call to John "Mr Magic" Wright confirmed that my non functioning triggers could indeed be brought back to life, but it was all gonna take time and be rather messy in the making and given the time and trouble involved, the entire venture just didn't seemed to be worth it. So back in the draw they went......

Then something strange happened. While tidying up the main bedroom, ready for any Christmas visitors, I came across the original packaging for the Yongnuo 605's and decided to open up the box and READ THE MANUAL inside. It struck me straight away. Page one, opening line:

Read the manual

"RF-602/RF-603 communications mode RF605=RF602+RF603"

And immediately I thought, "OMG,  I've made a booboo!"

Five minutes later, the 603's were dug out of retirement and loaded up with fresh batteries and a RF605 set in "RF603 mode". Bingo, the Yongnuo YN560 strobe sat in the hotshoe of the 603rx fired without complaint. So just by reading the FIRST page of the manual I was able to turn one radio triggered flashgun into three (with a fourth gun in the hotshoe of the master 605tx sat on top of the camera) and all without  John having to perform open heart surgery on the 603's. So now I've successfully recycled all of my legacy speedlights and can radio trigger all of them Result!

The Nissin i40 and the little Magic Button.

Lord only knows why Nissin chose to hide the HSS function on their i40 speedlight but it is there....
At the time I picked up my Fuji X-Pro1 from Donal at Fixation, the Nissin i40 speedlight was the ONLY Fuji XF dedicated speedlight worth swat! It was also the perfect form factor for the X-series of mirrorless digital camera's, being small and nifty, with an almost industrial strength build quality. Alas all good things come at a price and in the case of the i40 that meant a major lack of power and a rather low Guide Number of 40 compared to my usual Canon/Yongnuo workhorses of 58. So what you've really got with this little Nissin is more of a fill-in  daylight speed-light than a main light. Using this flashgun as your sole source of illumination is a very bad idea, you either have to back it up with the sun or another speedlight, in my case the Yongnuo YN560mk2. Paired together this works really well in most circumstances but there is one hidden trick that the i40 has that make this flashgun a must-have for all Fuji  X lovers. You wouldn't know it but the tiny tweeny "Pilot/Test Button" located on the rear of the flashgun also doubles as the High Speed Sync button. Press and hold this button for more than four seconds and all of a sudden your flash sync speed moves from a pitiful 1/160th sec to a blistering 1/4000th sec. This then opens up a whole can of possibilities especially if you're looking (like me) to make nice head & shoulder portraits with flash balanced against the sun and your lens wide open for that tell tale narrow depth of field, out of focus background but to overpower the sun you need power and that's the one thing the i40 hasn't got! So what I needed to find out was could I get my non HSS manual Yongnuo YN560 speedlight to successfully sync with my hidden HSS Nissin i40 via the Yongnuo 603 and 605RF radio slaves. It took me and my neighbour Emin, less than 30 minutes to find the answer.

Fuji XF 60mm @F2.5,1/250th sec 100ASA
The above photo of my mate Emin was shot in his back garden and the resulting jpeg came out of the X-Pro 1 as is, untouched. A Nissin i40 set in HSS mode was fired on camera via a Yongnuo 605RF radio slave (in 603 mode). A secondary Yongnuo YN560mk2 was placed on a lighting stand and shot through a shoot through brolly via a Yongnuo 603 radio slave, subject left. The sun was the backlight, over the right shoulder. Both the 560 and the manual was in i40 was in manual mode.

I'm gonna do a bit more testing with this but I'm very encouraged with the results so far. For some unknown reason the more powerful but none HSS Yongnuo 560mk2 is syncing perfectly with the naturally aspirated HSS enabled Nissin i40 via the Yongnuo radio slaves (admittedly only at 1/250th). We repeated the same shot with the HSS turned off and it didn't sync. Also note, that the Fuji XF 60mm macro is pin sharp wide open........Come on Matt, when are you and your XF56mm gonna come out to play?

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