Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sun Control: Nikon D800E versus Fujiblad/Phamiya

All this talk about the Nikon D800E approaching medium format territory and I think many of us (myself included) have forgotten one of the big selling points for medium format systems such as Hasselblad/Fujinon (Fujiblad) and Phase One/Mamiya (Phamiya), namely that these cameras employ leaf shutters on their better lenses thus allowing flash sync speeds of 1/800th and 1/1600th of a second.

In layman's terms that's more than 2-3 stops what a Nikon/Canon will sync (in reality, not the listed 1/250th white paper specs).

Which means you're able to turn down that sunny-16 (f/16) sunlight down to f/8 or f/5.6.

How do leaf shutters work?


  1. Leaf shutters matter if you are shooting high speed action with flash, for model shoots you can always put a vari-ND filter and control the sun.

  2. There are also some disadvantages shooting MF, like the screens on the back usually are a PITA and not to forget about the cost...

    I would not recommend using Vari-ND filters combined with flash because you have to guess how much light they are going to eat, I prefer to use a -3 or -2 stops fixed Nd filter as it is more consistant and easier to meter

    1. I have been using a vari-ND filter and have found the best way to go is to use take a reflected meter reading through it with my Sekonic L758 to see exactly how many stops of light it is blocking. The filter has marks which unfortunately bear no resemblance to stops - seems somewhat logarithmic a scale.
      This works for me and I love the 1/800 with my blad. I have used HSS with the canon 5dii and PW flex/mini system - I even have a PW power ST4 for my ranger (that really behaves oddly and the light meter has to go out of the window!) but even with 3x 580ex I cannot get the power that my ranger puts out - long live medium format I say :-)

  3. Sehmuz, but when you use ND filters you drown out your flash output too. Not everyone has 2500Ws of light to throw around. I mean, I do, but I'm special :)

    Atmikes, 95% of shooting MF is a disadvantage. The leaf shutters are one of the few advantages :)

  4. Everyone on this thread is right. The meter is useless with vari-ND and you need a lot of flash power if you knock down the sun. The way you use a vari-ND is your standard strobist style:

    1. Adjust the ambient TTL (in camera meter) with vari-ND. Go to 1/125-1/200 with a large aperture (f2.8-f4).
    2. Take a shot without flash to see how ambient looks. Ambient will be your fill (and accent light depending on where the sun is)
    3. Dial up the flash power until you get what you want

    The goal is not to knock down the ambient but to control it and still use large apertures. I was able to get f4 under bright sun, f2.8 with clouds with 400ws Quadra with reflector. 640ws AB800 or Einsteins should work too.

    Bad thing about the Vari-ND is the focus issues with my Canon.

    We all want fast sync speeds hopefully one day we will get the stuff that existed in Nikon D40 many years ago, so we don't keep lusting after $20K+ cameras and $5K+ lenses (j/k I will always want a digital MF for other reasons :) )

  5. Sehmuz, time to upgrade to the 5DMIII with that new nifty focusing system!!! :)