While traveling long distance it can be hard to drag a whole bunch of large expensive equipment with you.  So is it possible to shoot high quality, well lit images with a lightweight, bare minimum kit?  In my opinion, I believe it is.

I would be taking a trip to America with my fiancé, Clare (who is also a photographer), with planned shoots in both New York and Las Vegas.  Limited weight allowance on flights was clearly going to make it difficult to bring a lot of kit along with our luggage for 3 weeks. We knew that we would likely be shooting in bright sunny conditions and would want to have some kind of creative lighting control over the image.

Vegas Green Dress 1

Fuji X100s – f3.6, 1/1600th @ ISO200

While Clare was still exclusively using full frame Canon cameras, I had found myself consistently using the Fujifilm X system cameras for more and more of the commercial work I was doing. I couldn’t really see a difference in quality, and in most cases, I preferred the Fuji files.  Based on this it seemed like the obvious choice to go with the lightweight and smaller fuji option on the trip.

Kit List:

  • Fujifilm X100s
  • Nikon SB800 flashgun
  • 5m PC sync extension lead*
  • *Hotshoe & flash adapters
  • White shoot-through umbrella
  • Fujifilm X-PRO1
  • Samyang 8mm fisheye
Both images below shot with Fuji X100s – f3.6, 1/1600, ISO200

Vegas Black Dress 1 Vegas Blue Dress 1

I travelled with a crumpler backpack which had a lower half for camera equipment and the top half for other stuff, this worked great as it meant I could keep my camera kit with me as carry-on along with the other bits required for travel.  I put both cameras and the lens in the backpack and put the flashgun, cables, umbrella and chargers in my main case.

In both New York and Las Vegas the weather would turn out very sunny.  In New York there are some options to shoot in the shade of the buildings but this would be an unlikely option in Vegas. As I’m sure many strobists would know, a great way to achieve well lit images using just an off camera flashgun in bright sunny conditions is a leaf shutter, which the X100s just happens to have. (for more info on leaf shutters, check out Mark’s tech rant)

Images below shot with Fuji X100s – ISO200, f2 at 1/800 (left) and 1/1600 (right)

Vegas Downtown 1 Vegas Downtown 4

We chose to use a 5 meter sync lead with shoe adapters to join the camera and flashgun as many radio triggers are only rated to 1/250th shutter speed.  The cable allows us to easy achieve shutter speeds 1/1000th – 1/2000th sec with the X100s, effectively killing the strong sunlight and allowing for a much faster aperture. An aperture of f2 can be used with the built in 3 stop ND filter giving an equivalent exposure value of around f5.6, the SB800 flashgun could easily provide a matched exposure at about 1/8th power while shooting through the umbrella, making it simple for one of us to hold the flash and brolly while the other shoots.  This is a lightweight and mobile solution without the need for stands etc.

Vegas Downtown 3

Fuji X100s – f2.8, 1/640, ISO200

Vegas Downtown 5   Vegas Downtown 6

Images above shot on Fuji X100s – f2, ISO200, 1/800 (left), 1/1000 (right)

In NYC this allowed us to move easy from location to location, working quickly without causing an obstruction.  In Vegas Clare chose to shoot in the morning, downtown away from the busy strip, while I chose to shoot in a dry lakebed in the evening leading up to golden hour. In all locations we were able to easy produce high quality, well lit, striking images with this small & simple setup.

While we chose to use Fujifilm’s X100s because of it’s leaf shutter, hot-shoe, built-in ND filters and versatile 35mm f2 lens, there are other fixed lens cameras with similar features which would also work great like the mighty Sony RX1, Panasonic LX100, Ricoh GR and Sigma’s DP Merrill/Quattra series.

All but a handful of the images that Clare and myself shot on both locations were on the X100s with only really a few fisheye shots taken on the X-PRO1.

New York 1

Fuji X-Pro1 with Samyang 8mm – f11, 1/250, ISO200

Vegas Green Dress 2

Fuji X100s – f3.6, 1/1200, ISO200

Vegas Downtown 7

Fuji X100s – f2.8, 1/640, ISO200

Vegas Black Dress 2

Fuji X100s – f3.6, 1/1000, ISO200