Fuji X100 : Intelligent Flash

Fuji X100 | 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800

You know those tiny and often useless flash units built into many smaller cameras or that pop out of the top of many DSLRs? The ones that many people totally avoid using because they seem to hurt more than help? The X100 has one of those. Here’s the thing though: I actually find it useful.

Sometimes you’re dealing with pretty crummy lighting and you need a small amount of fill, a kiss of light to hit your subject to keep them from being all shadowed up. Muah:

A few more examples of how well the fill flash works on this camera.

In these three image there was so much harsh sunlight (the sun was directly above us at this particular time of the day) that a straight shot without flash would have looked terrible. So I had my subjects look down, essentially shadowing their faces, and I popped some on camera light at them. Worked great for preserving detail in the background without completely silhouetting my subjects.

There is one problem you can run into however. You can see it in the image of the wifie above: Notice how her eyes and nose are lit by the flash, but there seems to be a loss of light from her nose down? That’s the accessory hood getting in the way:

I kind of light the spot light sort of look it gave to the image, but in most cases you’ll want to remove the X100’s lens hood (if you have one) before you use the flash.

Fuji X100 |  1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400

I wrote a post a while back that covered the X100’s ability to sync with my SB-900 flashgun at crazy high shutter speeds. That high speed sync helps the camera’s tiny, relatively low-powered built-in flash as well, allowing you to shoot wide open and still light a heavily backlit subject with it, as seen in the example above.

Left: Fuji X100 | 1/30 sec, f/2, ISO 3200 || Right: Fuji X100 | 1/40 sec, f/2, ISO 3200

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t go out of my way to use that tiny little on-camera flash. Sometimes however, using it becomes the difference between getting a shot and not getting a shot. In that sort of situation, I’m pretty surprised at how easy it is to get natural results with the built-in flash. Low light portraits are a good example (above).

Ever use flash to take someone’s photo in a dark room or outside at night and get a super bright or even blown-out subject with a black hole for a background? Yuck. You can usually compensate by manually using a slower shutter speed to burn in some ambient while you mix your flash in to get a better image, or in the X100’s case, just turn the flash on and shoot.  Both of the low light shots above were taken in Aperture Priority Auto. All I did was turn the flash on and the camera did the rest, properly exposing my subject and balancing in the ambient (whatever little amount of ambient there was anyway).

Of course, human beings are not the only subjects the little flash can help you out with:

Fuji X100 | 1/750 sec, f/10, ISO 400

A little on-axis fill to lessen the harsh shadows on Bo Bear here. Also comes in handy for bringing a little more detail out of heavily shadowed areas of your frame. Check out the difference in detail, especially inside the shadowed area of the gas pump on the right, between the first image shot without flash, and the second with flash activated:

Fuji X100 | 1/340 sec, f/5, ISO 800 (flash off)

Fuji X100 | 1/300 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 (flash on)

I like that the results are subtle. They don’t scream “taken with flash!!!!”

Fuji X100 | 1/220 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

These leaves were pretty heavily shadowed. Use the flash to lighten them up against the background.

I must say, when I first saw the little built-in flash on the X100 I just chuckled. But hey, it comes in handy. Fuji calls it an “intelligent flash.” Seems like an appropriate name considering how easy it is to get natural results with it.  Good job, Fuji!

13 thoughts on “Fuji X100 : Intelligent Flash

  1. Fuji should thank you too. Awesome take on the flash. The pictures are great especially the differences in the pic of Bridget in the shades and the old gas station pumps.

  2. dang, you obviously know your way around lighting and flash! i definitely have to experiment with fill-in flash. it’d save so many pics, i think.

  3. That camera is really amazing. It adds just enough fill to make the photo still look natural. It’s almost like using a reflector! 🙂 I may have to steal your idea of having a group of people look down to shadow their faces and shoot upwards… I really like that idea. 🙂 Thanks Jonathan! ;D

  4. Hi Jonathan – so, now I got my X100 (I blame you for making me spend this much money… just kidding, I love the X100 !!).

    I was wondering about your fill flash shots above, since “auto flash” is only available when “A” is selected in both aperture and shutter dial, so did you use “forced flash” or “slow sync flash” on the shots where YOU selected the aperture? And no flash exposure compensation to dial it down a bit?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Klaus,

      Congrats! Sorry about the hole in your wallet 😉

      I set the camera to “force flash” for these shots. This allows me to purposefully select wider apertures so the flash doesn’t have to work so hard when there’s a lot of ambient. The “forced flash” mode still automatically varies the flash output through TTL metering. I’ve never needed to fuss with exposure comp on the flash…it just works!

      1. Cool, thanks for your reply. That saves me a ton of testing shots at least. I’m still in the early learning phase of this cute little camera (yes, my D7000 is jealous!)

    1. As a X100 user I wanna thank you for that great post and for your fantastic pictures.
      I already noticed that the tiny little built-in flash worked rather fine and it was a nice surprise when using it in low light. Your examples show it can be used with high benefit in nearly any situation in- and outdoor.

  5. Great post, I’ve got this camera 1 month ago just before a (to short) trip in Africa.
    I really like the pictures I got. Just (IMHO), it’s a camera for photographers and not for all situations.
    You have to use it for what is has been made (2d cam for a pro or pro-am) and to understand how it works (like my M4-P twenty years ago)
    And I agree, intelligent flash works fantastically (also with dark skins)

    <vb (sorry for my english, it's not my language)

  6. How do you use intelligent fill flash? I have an X100T; the only options I see are auto (doesn’t fire under bright sunlight), forced (too strong), slow sync (for low light), commander, off.

    I also do not see any rear curtain option.

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