Power necessary for HSS outdoors vs. ND filter

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NicoT Regular Member • Posts: 334
Power necessary for HSS outdoors vs. ND filter

I have two Nissin MG10 strobes: https://www.nissindigital.com/mg10 that I use with my Sony A7R IV. I trigger them with the Nissin Air 10S https://www.nissindigital.com/air-10s

When trying to shoot shallow depth-of-field portraits outside during the day, with a medium sized softbox as my modifier, I have ample power to shoot 1/250sec @ f/8 at ISO 100. This slightly overpowers the ambient sun, in a good way. Then I can put on an ND filter, which blocks equal amounts of strobe and ambient light, allowing me to shoot 1/250sec at larger apertures, like f/2, to get shallow depth of field with the same relative exposure. That's how I've done it for years and years and it works well.

I was excited about HSS because then I wouldn't have to mess with ND filters. I totally get it why using HSS results in lower power (the duration of the flash is much longer, or it's pulsing rapidly) rather than one big, quick pop.  But even at full power, with both of my MG10 strobes inside of my softbox, I can't take an outdoor portrait in HSS mode where the artificial light slightly overpowers the ambient daylight. In other words I don't have enough power to shoot 1/2000sec @ f/2.8 in HSS.

If I take the softbox out of the equation then I do get enough light from the strobes in HSS mode, but I have to use both strobes at once and I have to have them super close to my subject.

Are the Nissin MG10 strobes particularly weak in HSS? Does anyone else have more success with ND filters than with HSS? I'm trying to figure out if there are other potato masher style, or very portable solutions, that work better with HSS. Or maybe I'm doing something totally wrong? I'm generally a manual exposure guy and not a TTL guy, but I've tried both and neither seems to give me enough light. I get slightly more power in HSS in manual, probably because the strobe doesn't waste energy from the capacitor doing the pre-flash.


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Sony A9, A7R IV, RX-100 M4, iPhone 11 Pro

Sony a7R
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