In the fall of last year, when Fujifilm announced their GFX 50S medium format camera, it created quite a frenzy on the internet. The main concern expressed by many people at that time was the fact that no flash systems were ready to provide high-speed solutions, and that with its own native sync speed at 1/125, the GFX might be limiting for studio use. Less than a year later, things look very different in that regard. In July, Godox/Flashpoint have already released their XT1-F controller for Fujifilm cameras, (including GFX, when updated with firmware version V03). Meanwhile, Broncolor, Profoto, and Elinchrom are all working to release their own dedicated Fujifilm controllers in the next few months. For those who can not wait, there is the very simple solution of using the RoboSHOOT 20MX controller, which enables the GFX to successfully use the Nikon versions of the controllers by these companies. If you want to use Nikon speedlites, the RoboSHOOT provides an easy solution, and several other companies recently announced Fujifilm dedicated triggers. Fujifilm’s own EF-X500 is also available and works great. When it comes to the issue of the native sync speed of 1/125, in my own experience, this is really not a problem in studio or location situations with controlled lighting. For example, on a recent shoot in Sydney, Australia using GFX cameras with GF 23mm f4 lenses, and Broncolor, the short flash durations of the Broncolor Scoro assured super sharp results all throughout. Shooting typically at around f8 to f16, at iso 100, the 1/125 sync speed simply is not an issue. It is all about the flash duration in these situations.
Going back to the issue of high-speed sync, it is important to be very clear that there are basically 2 different ways to sync at high shutter speeds: HSS and HS. In HS, as used by Broncolor and Elinchrom, a very long flash duration is needed to provide a flash long enough, where a portion of that flash can be efficiently synced up with the shutter at high speeds. With HSS on the other hand, (the brands that use this method, such as Profoto, Godox, Jinbei and many speedlites), a rapid sequence of pulsating flashes, creates a very even and reliable solution. While HSS provides a smoother and more even exposure, it can lack the power of a ‘normal’ flash. When shooting with Godox, I have a developed a trick that allows me to take advantage of the very long flash duration (1/250 in full power), on the AD600 and AD200: By using two XT1-F controllers stacked on top of each other, and set in different channels, the first controller forces the camera into FP mode, while the controller on top, only connected by single point pin, keeps the flashes in normal mode, even if the shutter speed is set at 1/8000 or 1/4000 for example. Using this method, I gain almost 2 stops of much-needed power in situations with very bright ambient light. Here is an example, where this technique was very effective, shooting with a Fujifilm XT2 and 35mm f1.4 lens, at 1/8000, iso200 at f5, I only used 3 small AD200 at full power at a considerable subject distance of about 14 feet.
Since this trick only works with the flash units set at full power, the stacked controllers allow going back into regular HSS use, by simply turning off the top controller and set the first controller back to the channel that is used by the flashes. This is important because the HS trick can easily provide too much light, so the ability to go back to regular HSS is critical when moving around and in changing daylight situations. In this example, shot quite early in the morning, with the XT2 and 35mm f1.4 lens, I decided to shoot at 1/2000, iso 200 at f4.5. In this situation, with a much closer subject distance, regular HSS with 3 AD200, set at only 1/16 of their power, was all that I needed.
At a time when new technologies are constantly released, it seems that the best way is to utilize what is available at a given moment, even if it is somewhat unorthodox or maybe temporary as a method or trick. What counts in my opinion is to maximize the options and take advantage of the many growing possibilities to creatively and efficiently use lighting. With all of these new options, the GFX excels with high-speed sync, and the initial concerns about the lack of available solutions can now safely be put to rest.