As I use my Fujifilm X-Series cameras more and more for event work, I've needed fill flash here and there to enhance some of the portraits I'm asked to take on the fly. With there being very few good options for the Fuji system at the moment, I picked up a Nissin i40 back in April. Initially, I just wanted it as a fill flash, but more and more, I have been using it as a backup for outdoor flash work. Below, I'd like to share my experiences with the flash.
Design and Build
The diminutive size of this flash should be the first thing that stands out to you. It is tiny, obviously designed to cater to the mirrorless camera user. It weighs in at a mere 203 grams without batteries, 157 grams less than the Nikon SB-700 and 87 grams less than the Canon 430EX III, and lighter again than the flagship models from the big brands.
The physical dials on the i40 were a really attractive feature for me. Being a dial kind of guy, I loved the idea of the tactility of these controls. This led to disappointment, however. The mode dial for switching between TTL, manual, slave, and video light modes has good resistance and takes a little effort to turn, but the power dial is loose and gets knocked extremely easily. The numbers painted on the dial for flash power and exposure compensation all but rubbed off after a couple of weeks of use, and have continued to do so over time.
Overall, the build quality feels quite good, although it's certainly not as rugged feeling as a Canon or Nikon unit. There are a couple of weak points that feel as though they could use some improvement, especially around the swiveling head and battery-door hinge. The head is attached by a flimsy feeling external metal swivel, and the battery door hinge feels like it will snap given a rather strong wind. So far, I haven't had any problems with either of these, but I feel as though I need to be extra careful every time I use the unit.
On the Shoot
The small size and light weight of this flash make it an ideal flash for small bodies like my Fujifilm X-T1. With small primes on it feels a little over-balanced, but with larger primes like the 56mm or 90mm, it is a perfect match. I can't imagine using the Canon, Nikon, or Sony versions on any of the larger bodies though. It would feel extremely out of place.
In terms of performance, the TTL metering is accurate and works extremely well with the Fuji system in aperture priority (or manual with auto ISO) for a great fill flash experience. Using the camera's exposure compensation to control the scene, and the flash compensation on the i40 to control the flash, you can get excellent exposures easily. The in-built bounce card is great here as well.
For off camera use, placing the flash at 1/4 power behind a small umbrella, I was able to achieve the scene below at ISO200, 1/180, f/4.5, and the second shot by moving the subject closer to the light, powering up to 1/1, and stopping down to f/14.
I was quite surprised when I did power testing with my Sekonic L-308S; when pointed directly at the meter, both the Nikon SB-800 and the Nissin i40 gave the same reading. Putting this in a larger modifier like a Westcott Apollo or Photek Softlighter, you start to notice the difference. Although it is reasonably powerful, at approximately 2/3 stop less output than my SB800, it's just weak enough that it has trouble keeping up in a large modifier.
Recycle times are excellent, with the flash recycling from a full power pop at about 3.5 seconds using freshly charged Eneloop Pro batteries.
What I Liked
- Small footprint
- AA batteries
- Quick recycle
- Excellent TTL exposures
What I didn't Like
- Dials easy to knock
- Build quality at joints
- Connectivity only via hot shoe
- Lack of in-built wireless communication options on Fuji model (Fuji limitations for now. Look forward to it in the future.)
By no means is this going to be a replacement for a flagship flash from Nikon or Canon, but it is still a capable unit in a pinch, or as a second light when you want to reduce your weight and the footprint of your gear.
Although not as small as this unit, I recently started working with the fully manual Adorama re-branded Godox Ving V850: http://www.adorama.com/fplfsmzl.html
I have to say, I like these units a lot (I now own 3). They run off Li-On batteries and you not only get around 350 full power flashes per charge, but full power recycle time is 1.5 seconds, right on to the end. No weak battery slow-downs. Roughly equivalent to a Canon 430EX in output, besides built-in optical triggering, they also take on an additional multi-unit-channel low frequency (433MHz) radio system: http://www.adorama.com/FPLFSMZLRR.html
Not bad for 100 bucks a pop (no pun intended). They have dedicated TTL units for Canon and Nikon for $40 extra, but I have no need for TTL, so this works for me. FYI
Looks like an interesting unit. For the price, they'd be a great addition for sure.
If you want to keep TTL functionality, you can use a Canon TTL cord. As small as the unit is, it is quite easy to hold the flash off to the side, while shooting the camera with one hand.