For the record, I use the term “flash” and “strobe” interchangeably.
Shutter, Meet Light: The continuous light portion of this is Photography 101. As your shutter slows, it allows more light in over a longer period of time. That makes your image brighter, and increases your motion blur. The trick is that with a flash and only flash, which we rarely see (because we’re rarely taking pictures in pitch black environments) the shutter speed doesn’t affect the exposure or motion characteristic in any way, so long as we’re below the camera’s sync speed. If “sync speed” is confusing, keep watching/reading.
Strobe + Continuous: The axe murderer attacking the texting teen was all in-camera; no Photoshop at all. Here’s the recipe: darkened room, black curtain behind, no light in the room but the screen of the phone and a flashlight held along with the knife to shine on the blade; two flashes, one in front, one behind; flashes fire at the end of the exposure. The sequence to setting this up is: 1) Get the room as dark as possible. 2) Use ‘bulb’ mode on the shutter so it will stay open as long as you hold it down. 3) Adjust the aperture so that the streaky light is at a good exposure. 4) Bring the stobes on and adjust them using the power adjustment on the lights, because your shutter won’t matter, and your ISO/Aperture are kinda locked in by whatever the continuous light demands. Then do 30 takes and try to get the timing right.
Sync Speed: This is the fastest shutter your camera can use with a flash. That’s becasue at faster shutters either a portion of the physical shutter blocks some of the flash, or the timing isn’t precise enough and the flash isn’t firing when the shutter is open. I did get the Fuji wrong– it achieves its fast sync via a leaf shutter, rather than electronic shutter. Sorry for the mistake, but all the lessons about sync speed hold true. And it’s a good note to myself: the underlying tech about how something is achieved, isn’t nearly as important aswhat is achieved. The reason I messed it up is because I wasn’t thinking about it too much; and I wasn’t thinking about it too much because it makes no difference to me as a photographer how that sync speed is achieved. What does make a difference is that it does have the faster sync. Going forward I’m going to do my best not to get lost in the weeds in Weapons. The show is about useful tools, and how to make the most of them. It’s about not getting distracted by tech details that don’t matter. I fell victim, and made a fool of myself by getting some of the info wrong.
Overpowering The Mightiest Force In The Solar System: This is why sync speed matters: the Sun. It is infuriating that some of the best, most versatile, professional cameras in the world have horrid sync speeds. My D800 is a joke. It has 36 God-forsaken-unneeded megapixels, and a @#$% sync. I’d trade megapixels for sync any day of the week. A camera with half the resolution and a 1/1,000th sync would be a no-brainer. If the technology wasn’t there to provide that, I could understand it. But Nikon, for example, had already figured out this sync issue way back on their D70! That camera used a focal plane (physical) shutter up to the typical sync speed, but then then physical shutter would never go faster than that. Above that speed it would switch to an electronic shutter. The cameras already have this tech. The video modes on all the cameras are done with an electronic shutter. I suspect they could even figure this one out in a firmware upgrade. It’soffensive that they don’t, becaue I think the real reason is that they want to sell expensive flashes, and lots of them. If they take care of the sync issues, then people won’t need their ridiculous Nikon-brand High FP sync flashes, and they won’t need nearly as many of them. That’s bull^%$%. Get with the times DSLR-makers. I’m tired of incremental megapixel improvements and more auto-focus points. Give me features that will actually make my photographic life easier.
The Fuji was at an astronomical 1/4,000th of a second shutter for this shot. That’s around 4 stops better than the Nikon, otherwise known as: you’d need ONE SIXTEETH as much light to achieve the same look. ONE BLOODY SIXTEENTH. Get on it camera manufacturers. I will never buy a camera with a @#$% sync again. If you use flash, neither should you.