Off-Camera Flash Street Photography with the Fujifilm X-Pro1
As you may or not know, I recently made the decision to swap my DSLR for a mirrorless camera for street photography. One of the huge benefits to using DSLR cameras for photographers – and particularly DSLRs manufactured by the ‘big hitters’ Canon and Nikon – is the massive ecosystem of supported accessories available for these cameras. DSLR technology has well and truly matured now, and the fact that DSLRs have been widely used in the professional sphere for well over a decade means that supported accessories for these cameras (and most importantly a flash system) are easy to come by. By contrast mirrorless cameras as a professional and prosumer tool are newer arrivals on the block, and the flash accessories for these cameras are still developing and being refined.
When I was first looking at buying my Fuji X-Pro1 I felt very limited by the flash photography options offered by this camera system, especially as I wanted to practice off-camera flash street photography with it. With my Canon 6D I had a huge range of accessories to choose from for off-camera flash, and the knowledge that what worked for one Canon DSLR was bound to work for another. As Canon are such a mainstream brand with huge DSLR sales, I had a huge wealth of information and research by real users online to draw on. By contrast, what I’ve read online suggests the X-Pro1 is a little bit more fussy about its flash accessories, and as a slightly more niche product, it was a bit of a minefield knowing what flash accessories I could get to work with the camera. Reports on the forums were conflicting about what worked and what didn’t. So now that I own an X-Pro1 myself and have had the opportunity to test it with a couple of off-camera flash accessories, I thought I’d share with you 4 off-camera flash setups I’ve found that seem to work well on the X-Pro1. If you’d like a overview to the basics of using off-camera flash, be sure to check out our guide to using off-camera flash in street photography.
Note: My X-Pro1 is running firmware 3.40.
General Advice: Make sure Silent Mode on the X-Pro1 is set to ‘Off’ as this will ensure the hotshoe is active and the flash will fire.
Wireless off-camera flash with the Fuji X-Pro1
Pair of Yongnuo RF603II Wireless Triggers for Canon (C3 Cable Model) + Flash
For my personal off-camera flash setup for the X-Pro1 I use a pair of Yongnuo wireless flash triggers which are really cheap! I used these triggers on my Canon DSLR, but I had to buy a newer model of them to get them to work with my Fuji. The Yongnuo wireless triggers I have are the RF603 II, specifically the model with the C3 cord for Canon. These triggers are designed to work with Canon DSLRs, and also come with a wired cord you can connect to the Canon’s shutter trigger socket for remote shooting. Yongnuo sell two models of cord for Canon DSLRs – the C1 and the C3. My C3 cord version of the Yongnuo RF603II works perfectly as a wireless trigger on my X-Pro1 (obviously I don’t use the cord at all though).
It’s important to have the RF603II model of the 603 triggers, as they have a switch to force the triggers into transmitter mode when you attach them to the X-Pro’s hot shoe. Based on my online research, the Yongnuo RF603s for Nikon don’t work on the X-Pro, and neither do the first model of the RF603 for Canon. The good news is that if you do own an older pair of the Mk1 RF603 wireless triggers, you only need to buy one of the RF603II for your X-Pro1. The Yongnuo triggers are backwards compatible. So I use one RF603II for Canon on my X-Pro, and a RF603 (Mk1) attached to a Canon 430EXII Speedlite flash. I set the RF603II to TX (forced transmit) and this setup works perfectly for me! The triggers will fire almost any flash that works on a digital camera hotshoe too! There are only 2 minor irritations. The first is that I have to be aware that I don’t let the flash go into sleep mode as the triggers are unable to wake it up on their own – so I have to manually slide it on and off when I use it. The second is that if the batteries in the wireless triggers get low then they don’t always fire, so it’s good to have a spare set!
Another wireless off-camera flash setup for the Fuji X-Pro1
Yongnuo RF600TX + Yongnuo YN560III Speedlite
When Martin U Waltz (one of the streethunters.net 20 Most Influential Street Photographers of 2015) visited Rethymno recently, we were able to test out his wireless off-camera flash setup on the X-Pro1. Martin shoots with a Sony A7R, but we found that his combination of a Yongnuo RF600TX transmitter and a Yongnuo YN560III Speedlite works well on the X-Pro1! The good thing about Martin’s setup is that the Yongnuo YN560III has a built-in wireless receiver, so you don’t have to add an extra widget to the bottom of the flash like you do with my setup. The receiver in the YN560III will also work with the RF603II transmitter I have.
I have enjoyed success using Yongnuo Speedlites in the past, as they are a great value alternative to the big (and expensive) speedlite flashes made by Canon and Nikon. I actually find the Yongnuo’s buttons much easier to use than those on my Canon 430EXII, and my Yongnuo YN560II had an optical slave mode that is frustratingly lacking from my Canon flash costing over 4 times as much. Unfortunately I can’t say Yongnuo flashes are as robust in my experience. One fall from about 2.2m (via a bounce off my head) was enough to break the battery door off my flash and despite my repairs it resolutely refuses to fire.
Wired TTL Off-Camera Flash on the Fuji X-Pro1
Infinity TTL Cord + Fuji EF-X20 Flash
If you’re an avid watcher of our street hunt videos you’ll see Spyros Papaspyropoulos sporting a combination of an TTL cord and dedicated Fuji flash with his X-Pro1. All the wireless off camera flash methods I’ve mentioned above use the camera and flash in full manual mode, but one advantage of the setup Spyros uses is that it gives you the option to use off camera TTL flash metering if you want it. The Infinity TTL cord is quite pricey, but it offers universal compatibility with a host of camera brands as well as fast and lag-free operation.
Fujifilm’s EF-X20 flash is a really smart little flash, and the perfect compliment to the X-Pro1. As well as offering full TTL (if you want it), and access to the full flash settings menu on the camera (hello rear curtain sync!) it also has a built in diffuser and optical slave mode, both which are nice features in a flash of this size. Best of all, the EF-X20 has full manual power controls operated by an incredibly easy to use dial (making it perfect for night street photography). This is all wrapped up in an incredibly small portable and pocketable package! I must admit I covet this flash a little for its handy size compared to my Canon Speedlite, though it is quite expensive for its flash power (its guide number is 20), and it gets through AAA batteries at a much faster rate than bigger speedlites.
Wired PC Cord Flash for the Fuji X-Pro1
Standard PC Cord + Flash with PC Sync Socket or PC Sync Hotshoe Adapter
Our great friend and streethunters.net reader Dan Berntsson likes to go super old school with his X-Pro1 off-camera flash rig! Dan makes use of the PC Sync port on the side of the X-Pro1 (it’s hidden under a little rubber stopper) to fire his flash off-camera. PC Cords are really useful for off-camera flash street photography because they are really cheap, and you can buy various lengths and styles of cord for experimental off-camera flash work. One end of the PC Cord connects to the X-Pro1, and the other connects to the PC Sync port on the flash. Not all flashes have a PC Sync port built in (my Yongnuo did, my Canon doesn’t), but you can add a PC Sync port to a flash with a cheap hotshoe adapter.
Dan teams his PC Cord with a vintage Olympus PS200 flash, which is a nice little small flash with a guide number of 14. While you can’t adjust the power of this flash (you need to diffuse the light with a diffuser cap if you want to lower it) this flash is incredibly tiny and pocketable and it’s an incredibly cheap flash to buy used online. Dan is a real engineering expert and generally practical guy, and he told me that the Olympus flash even works ok on the Fuji’s hotshoe despite the fact it is a film camera flash! We even found it worked brilliantly when fired from my wireless triggers too, so it’s a great cheap portable combination if you’re getting started with off-camera flash street photography!
Options for Off-Camera Flash on the Fuji X-Pro1
Hopefully you’ll find this information on the off-camera flash options for the X-Pro1 useful. When I was researching the camera I was really frustrated about the mixed reviews I found online about what worked and what didn’t for the X-Pro1, so I wanted to share with you my experiences of what I can say I’ve found effective. If you know of any other off-camera flash setups for the X-Pro1 that work for you, please leave us a comment below and we can add it to the article later! In the meantime, enjoy your off-camera flash street photography – I know I will!
Hi Digby, thanks for the article. I have some pocket wizards and might try it first to save some money. Have you ever tried those?
Hi Voltaire! Glad you enjoyed the article!
Unfortunately I have not tried Pocket Wizards on the X-Pro1, in fact I’ve never even seen a pair of Pocket Wizards ‘in the flesh’ as it were! I gather they are very good triggers though.
I’d suggest you Google to see if there are any answers. Especially as there are different models of Pocket Wizard which I guess may perform differently. I see it’s possible to force the Pocket Wizards into ‘Transmit Mode’ through their setup software, so maybe this ‘hack’ will work. Have a look around online and experiment and hopefully you’ll find some answers. Let us know how you get on and most of all, good luck!
Enjoy your photography!
Hi – Re the talk on off camera flash using sync cables – It was mentioned in the dialog using an old film flash on the x-pro1. My question is re trigger voltage – What is the trigger voltage on the film flash and is it safe.
I have a Canon 133A which has a trigger voltage of 6.8V. I asked fuji if it was safe to use and they said not to use it, despite the manual stating 3rd part flash units up to 300v are OK. Please advise.
Hanz – unfortunately I can’t really offer any advice I’m afraid. As you say, I read in the X-Pro1 manual that it says: “Do not use third-party flash units that apply over 300V to the camera hot shoe.” I found this website: http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html that quotes the Olympus PS200 around 185V. I suppose if Fuji advise not to use your Canon 133A on the hotshoe then maybe you should follow their advice, or ignore it at your own risk! Did you contact a Fuji company technician directly? Sorry I can’t be more help!
Does the sync port work in silent mode?
I have only used the PC Sync port once and that was with a loaner flash from my mate Dan Berntsson. I didn’t turn silent mode on because I was shooting with a flash anyway so I can’t really tell you. However in my opinion you don’t need silent mode if you are shooting with a flash, correct?
I have never had the opportunity to the use the sync port on my X-Pro1. As silent mode disables the flash signal to the hotshoe I would also assume that it disables the signal going to the sync port too. Like Spyros, I haven’t yet found an occasion where I’d want to use Silent Mode in conjunction with a flash, so I haven’t found it presents a problem yet!
Hi! know this is a year old article but perhaps you could help me 🙂
I’ve recently purchased YN560III + RF603IIc for my Xpro1 and I can’t figure out why the trigger won’t fire my flash.
I’ve set up the channels correctly, silent mode on camera is off, the flash fires no problem mounted on the camera and when I have it off camera the blue light flashes with the trigger mounted on camera and I press the test button, but the flash does not fire at all.
pls, any ideas?
Hi Samo! Sorry to hear you are having problems. I have not used the YN560III before so I don’t know how it pairs with the triggers. However, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be working here. I also don’t know anything about a blue light indicator. Is this on the flash? The lights on my RF603 triggers are green. I’d advise making sure the RF603IIc trigger is mounted on the X-Pro1 hotshoe properly (quite often I find I haven’t clicked mine in properly), and that it is set to TX (transmit) mode NOT TRX. Do whatever you need to do to switch the flash on (I gather the flash needs to be in RX mode I think), and then try releasing the shutter on the X-Pro1. Does that work?
Thanks for the quick reply. I don’t understand it either.
– The trigger is mounted as far as it can go and tightened. Someone even advised removing the spring plate from the hot shoe, however that didn’t help.
– the flash is in wireless RX mode
– Setting the trigger to TX mode does not fire the flash from the shutter button of my camera, however I can fire the flash via the test button on the trigger itself – this works even when the trigger is not connected to the hot shoe
– I’ve read the trigger needs to be in TRX mode (another guy with XT1 got it working like that), but the flash won’t fire. There is a blue indicator light on the flash that lights up when it is connected to the trigger and it flickers when the flash fires. Just pressing the shutter the blue light stay lit the whole time, then pressing the test button on the trigger the blue light flickers like it should. The blue light works just like it should (at least with the test button – it doesn’t work trigger off camera, meaning the trigger is getting power from the camera); suggesting the connection is ok and that the flash is communicating with the trigger normally, it just won’t fire the flash.
– The green lights on the trigger in TRX mode – the right one is lit and flickers when taking a photo. Pressing the test button both of them will light up a the left one will turn red upon fully pressing the button.
I’ve also read that a lot of people are having problems with their triggers (various models) on the Xpro1, so if anyone can just confirm that this combo works on xpro1 would be great
So far it looks like I have a malfunctioned unit 🙁
If anyone has any advice, it would be greatly appreciated
Sorry your problem continues Samo. I’m also using an X-T10 now, and the Yongnuo RF603 II triggers for Canon work fine on that too provided it’s in Manual shutter mode with Silent Mode set to off. So I’m truly baffled by your issue. I hope you find a solution.