X Series Daylight Shooting with ND Filters
One of the limitations for any camera is the shutter speed – and on the Fuji X Series, the shutter speed tops out at 1/4000.
Normally this isn’t an issue, you rarely even have to think about it.
But if you’re using fast glass, and shooting with wide apertures in bright daylight, that 1/4000 shutter speed can start to become a real problem.
For example, shooting f/1.4 in sunlight, even with the base ISO of 200, could require a shutter speed faster than 1/4000.
The X100 and X100s solve this by offering a built-in 3 stop Neutral Density (ND) filter.
When you need to keep the shutter speed in check, you select the inbuilt ND filter, and the light hitting the sensor is reduced by 3 stops, with no loss of IQ.
Very handy – and it allows you to shoot shallow DOF images in bright sun straight out of the box.
While the X100 and X100s have the ND filter built-in, the other Fuji X models do not.
You need to add your own screw-on ND filter to produce the same effect, and you’ll need one for each lens/filter sizes in your lens set. (Fuji have failed to standardize on a single filter size, so this is a real pain/expense).
You need to look for a 3 stop screw-on ND filter, as this will restrict the light sufficiently to allow for wide-open daylight shooting at f/1.4, or a 4 Stop for f/1.2 lenses like the new 56mm f/1.2.
I tend to use Hoya or Tiffen, but also have B+W ND filters. Most quality name brands will do – just avoid the no name brands, store own brand, or the variable ND filter models.
A 3 stop ND is sometimes called an x8, and an 4 stop a x16 – just a different naming convention.
Using the ND filter is easy enough. You screw it to the lens, making sure it’s clean, and then re-fit your hood.
You’ll see that the filter looks very dark to the human eye, but your X series camera will adjust exposure and EVF/LCD to correct for the light loss, so everything will look normal.
AF will not be effected, and color balance should not be effected, as good ND filters are color neutral.
The only thing you should notice are lower shutter speeds – keep an eye on this as it’s easy to forget the filter is in place, and then head into the shade, or indoors, and wonder why the camera is adjusting the ISO way higher than normal to compensate!
Shooting outdoors, you can now get nice shallow DOF images in full sunshine.
Even wide open at f/1.4, the shutter speed will stay within range, giving perfect exposures, and super shallow DOF.
There is another use for your ND filter, it can come into play when using flash in daylight situations to provide shadow fill.
In this case, the issue is the max flash sync speed of the X Series (Note: not the X100/X100s).
You’re looking at 1/180 as the official max sync speed. (Some users claim 1/250 is ok, but you’ll have to check for yourself)
So what happens if you are in bright outdoor lighting, want to have a somewhat shallow DOF, and want to use flash to fill shadows on the subject?
Here again you use your ND filter to help keep the shutter speed to 1/180, whilst allowing you more creative shallow DOF effects with wider apertures.
It works well – as again the camera works as normal with the filter installed, and the fill flash is subtle and fully automatic.
The punch this gives to daylight portraits is a nice touch – not obvious FLASH – but a very flattering looking lightening of the shadows of the face and body.
A little practice will have you shooting daylight fill-flash with ND filters in no time.
Note, both the X100 and X100s do not have the same daylight flash sync issue, as they sync all the way to 1/4000 – a great feature, provided by their in-lens leaf shutters.