The X100, X-Pro1 and X-E1 are famous for their low-light, high-ISO capabilities, but sometimes a touch of flash can make an image pop where is could be flat otherwise.  This is especially true in bright sunlight where harsh shadows and bright backgrounds can often lead to subjects not being properly exposed, or having harsh and ugly shadows across their faces.  A fill-in flash can make all the difference.  If used properly, flash can enhance a scene and allow you to use a lower ISO to get better image quality without the caught-in-the-headlights look so often associated with it.  That’s another topic though, but I came to the realisation that with the correct use of flash I could enhance my images, so I started looking for the best way to add an external flash to my X-Series cameras.

The X-Pro1 doesn’t have an on-board flash, so I initially bought the Fujifilm EF-20 flash as it was half the price of the X-Series EF-X20 version of what was seemingly basically the same flash in a different body!  I didn’t see the point of buying the “X” version.  I was happy enough with the EF-20, it worked well and was nice and compact for the X100 and X-Pro1, although it does hang a little far forwards.

fuji_ef20

The Fujifilm EF-20

It then came to a point where I was covering an event with both the X100 and X-Pro1 and wanted a small flash for both of them.  I decided to take the plunge and buy the EF-X20 to see if it was really worth twice the price.  I purchased the X-Pro1 from a high-street shop and because of that I got a book of Fuji provided vouchers with the purchase, one of those was a discount off the EF-X20, so I took advantage of that and picked it up at a discount.

When you hold the EF-X20 it is immediately obvious that it is built to a much higher standard than the EF-20, which is actually a rebadged Sunpak flash.  The outer casing is metal and the buttons and dial operate with a familiar solidity if you’re used to the Fujifilm X-Series cameras.  What also becomes apparent is how awkward the exposure compensation adjustment suddenly seems on the EF-20!  On the EF-X20 it’s simply a case of turning the dial one way or the other.  The other advantage of the EF-X20 is that you can set it to full manual mode too with adjustments from 1/32 to full-power.

The Fujifilm EF-X20 on an X-Pro1

The Fujifilm EF-X20 on an X-Pro1

Summary of the differences between the EF-20 and the EF-X20
  • Both flashes work in TTL with the X-Pro1, X-E1, X100, X100s, X20, X10 and X-S1 cameras and I believe they work with some of the Fujifilm bridge cameras as well.
  • Both flashes have a Guide Number of 20, which is significantly more than the on-board flashes, though that reduces to 12 with the wide-angle option on the EF-X20.
  • The EF-20 can tilt 90 degrees up to allow you to bounce flash whereas the EF-X20 is fixed facing forwards.
  • The EF-X20 can operate as a slave, which means it can be used off camera wirelessly.
  • The EF-X20 has +/-EV controls as a simple dial and full manual control down to 1/64th.  The EF-20 is purely TTL.
  • The EF-20 uses 2xAA batteries where the EF-X20 uses 2xAAA batteries.
  • The EF-20 retails for around £80 where the EF-X20 retails around £170.

Both flashes work with a Canon TTL flash cord as I’ve described before, but only the EF-X20 will work in slave mode allowing it to be fired by the X10, X100 and X-E1’s built-in flash, this makes for a more compact bag as you don’t need to make space for another cord.  I tend to use the EF-X20 flash in this mode most of the time (mode switch set to the ‘N’ position) and have the camera in one hand and the flash in my other pocket so I can bring it out ready in my spare hand quickly when needed.  The only downside with the wireless slave mode is that unlike Nikon’s CLS system,  it doesn’t work in TTL mode so you can only use it in manual mode.  That’s fine once you get it dialled in, but you can end up wasting a few first shots getting the right flash level.

The biggest downside of the EF-X20 is that it uses AAA batteries rather than the AA batteries of the EF-20.  This might not sound like much, but there is a huge difference in capacity (NiMh AAA’s are typically 800-1000mAH where AA’s are 2500-2800mAH) and I strongly suggest you get several sets of rechargeable AAA batteries as the EF-X20 absolutely monsters its way through batteries!  If you don’t have rechargeables you’ll end up spending a fortune!  It can be pretty frustrating having to constantly keep changing them.  Even Fuji themselves state 90 shots with a set of NiMh batteries, but I reckon it’s closer to 50 in the real world, especially if you’re using it in manual mode and having to dial the correct exposure in.  Recharge rate isn’t all that fast and gets considerable slower as the batteries run flat.  It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not unusual for these smaller flash units, but if you’re used to the usual large 4xAA speedlights then you might find yourself getting frustrated.  If you want something with a bit more punch and speed then you might want to take a look at the EF-42 instead.

Conclusion

If all you are looking for is a simple occasional use flash for your X-Series camera, you can’t go far wrong with the EF-20, the tilt function is useful and output is good.  If you’re looking for something a bit more flexible then the EF-X20 must be a serious consideration.  The ability to quickly adjust +/- EV, manual operation and use wireless off-camera as a slave flash have some serious advantages for the more advanced flash user and forgetting the much better build quality, I would say that is actually worth the extra premium over the EF-20.

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About The Author

Matthew Maddock is a commercial photographer based in the Lake District, UK. Specialising in the hospitality and outdoor sports industry. He is a Fujifilm X-Photographer and Getty Images contributor. His portfolio can be viewed at memaddock.co.uk

12 Responses

  1. Hernan Zenteno

    Hello. I miss two things in your review. What is the maximum speed you can use with the EF X20 flash? How works the remote function with this flash? con you compensate the exposure of flash in camera remotely or not? Did you tried it? have some samples of exposures? Many thanks

    • Matt Maddock

      Hernan, The article isn’t really a review, more of a comparison between the two flashes, that’s why I didn’t do any images to go with it.

      You can adjust the exposure comp in-camera (on the X-Pro1 at least) but only by 2/3 of a stop + or -. I don’t know why you would want to spend the time going into the menu and changing it when all you have to do is press a button or turn the dial on the flash itself.

      With the X100 you can sync it right up to 1/4000th, and on the X-Pro1/ X-E1 up to 1/250th.

  2. Hernan Zenteno

    Many thanks Matt. I asked about change the compensation exposure of the flash in camera because I was thinking in the remote function but I have not clear yet if this can be done with the X Pro 1 cause don’t have inner flash. If the slave operation of the X-20 is by photo cell trigger or infrared I suppose that don’t work with the x Pro 1, except maybe if you put another flash on camera but this is another thing. What really drove me to your post is the remote flash capability. Taking in account the size of the flash would be very convenient to give a shot of side light in some situations.

      • Hernan Zenteno

        I saw your post but I have interest in wireless off camera flash. I tried my ST-E2 with the Fuji but for some reason don’t work well, you must down the speed to 1/60 or 1/30 to capture the whole flash light. Curiously you could use the Canon wire. Maybe is a thing related to the infrared connection.

  3. Chris

    I bought a new XF-20, it is very good, specially the tilt function. Last week when I was at a Camera Show, I saw a Sunpak flashlight, looks exactly the same as this one for Canon for only US$50, at ebay, the same is selling for $50 approx. Fuji must using Sunpak flashlight for theirs and sell it for US$150-. I know Fuji is using the same system as Canon for their flashlight. I found I was paying too much, triple the price for a cheap one :o(

    • Matt Maddock

      Hi Chris.

      As I said in the article, the EF20 is just a rebadged Sunpak flash – I’m not exactly sure what electronics are inside though.

      Here in the UK the Canon Sunpak flash is about £86 and the Fuji EF20 is £89 (street price) so there isn’t much difference between the two!

      How do you know that Fuji are using the Canon system? Some of the pins line up on the hotshoe so you can use a Canon TTL cable, but I’d be surprised if it is exactly the same electronic system as the Canon i.e. a Canon TTL flash would work correctly on the Fuji camera – you never know though!

      Matt

  4. Jazz1

    Matt, I’m glad I found this story on flash for the Fuji. I’ve purchased the new X20 camera, and never thought I’d need much in the way of flash. However, I need to take some shots of a small panel of speakers and probably some after event shots of two or three people at a time. Given the X20 is a small camera, and my needs are still pretty minimal do you think I could get by with the EF-X20 flash, or should I go with the larger flash, flash bracket and a cable?

    Should I just compromise and get the X20 and a TTL cable and hold the flash up?

    • Matt Maddock

      Hi,

      Get the EF-X20 and a Canon TTL cord, that’s the best solution for every day stuff and will probably do for what you need. It has a wide-angle lever on the side, which is handy for group shots.

      The X20 will also remotely fire the EF-X20 flash (in the right mode) using the X20’s on-board flash, but only in manual mode.

      For anything more serious, get something like the Yongnuo 560 II manual speedlight and fire it remotely with a radio trigger, dial in the right level of flash manually.

      Make sure you set the ISO manually on the camera when using flash because if you leave it in auto then the camera will most likely choose the highest value (1600/3200) which won’t give you the best quality.

      Matt

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