Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lighting 101: Synching Your Flash


When your flash is connected to your camera, it syncs automatically. When it is off camera, you have to take care of this yourself. And there are several ways to do it.

In the photo above, I synched everyone else's flash to my camera to to get "one of those lucky moments." Except it wasn't luck. I made it happen over and over again for this shot. More on that in a minute.


The Wire

If you are a beginner (and presumably on a budget) you'll want to sync your camera with a simple wire, also known as a sync cord. You'll sometimes hear it called a "PC cord," from the old PC jacks. But you'll want to go with the cheaper audio patch cord version.



As we said before, using a universal translator on both your camera and your flash will allow you to sync it with a simple audio cord. The translator will add the ⅛-inch jack to both your camera and your flash.

(If you are using an LP160 flash, you already have the jack on your flash and will not need the second translator.)

This is about as cheap and simple as it gets. No batteries, no sometimes-fickle wireless radio issues. But you are limited in range to 20 feet or so, depending on the length of your cord. Still, go this way first while you are learning.

For the record, I always have a sync cord with me at a shoot as a backup, even when I am using wireless remotes, as we'll talk about below. Cheap, and very reliable.


Sync With a Slave

If you have more than one flash, you can sync the extra flashes to your original off-camera flash with optical slaves. (If you'll remember, an optical slave fires your flash at the exact instant it sees the light from another flash.)

Which is why, from this day forward, you should not buy a flash that does not have a built-in optical slave. It's that simple -- just don't do it. You are shooting yourself in the foot if you do.

In the photo at top, I used a wireless remote (more on that in just a minute) but slaved all of the other peoples' flashes to my flash. Thus, every time I fired my camera all of their flashes fired, too.

Was it a coincidence they just happened to all be in position to create glamorous light for my two subjects? No it was not. I positioned them exactly how I wanted. It was for a live "shootout" in front of a crowd in Dubai in the UAE. You can see a full post -- with video -- on that here. (Opens in a new window to preserve your L101 post thread.)

Suffice to say, having flashes with built-in slaves makes all kinds of cool things possible. I would never buy another flash that did not have a built-in slave.


Wireless Sync Via Radio

Another popular method of syncing is via radio remotes. This is not cheap, but if you get into lighting to any real degree this is where you'll end up.

For instance, a sync cord would have made it pretty difficult for me to get this shot:



(You can read all about how that photo was made, here.)

Here's the thing. You can get cheap remotes, or you can get good remotes. Cheap remotes, which run about $100 for a set, are not (IMO) nearly as reliable as the inexpensive sync cord kit you probably already have on the way to you now.

The Gold Standard for standard remotes are the PocketWizard Plus series. The entry level model, which I depend on every day, is pictured below. If I am not mistaken, it's the 7th generation of remote trigger for PocketWizard. I have been using Pocket Wizards for over 20 years, as do the majority of working pros I know. The latest models are far better (and cheaper) than the ones I started with in the early 1990s.



And here's the kicker: these things are still compatible with the PocketWizard remotes from way back when I started out. I love that. (Conversely, I loathe "forced upgrade via planned obsolescence.")

You'll need a PocketWizard on your camera and one on your flash. And they are $99.99 each. Given that, I'd still suggest you start with a sync cord (and slaved flashes if going multi-flash.) As you grow into it, wireless remotes will likely make sense for you. And if they do, do yourself a favor and invest in a good one.

There is little more frustrating than a fickle remote trigger, which is why the pros usually end up at PocketWizard. You can spend more (including more advance models of PocketWizard) but a PW Plus X is IMO the very best value in the world. It balances price, quality, reliability and non-obsolescence.

Think of it this way: You'll swap out your camera probably ten times in the lifetime of service you'll get from a good quality remote. Choose wisely, and with the long run in mind.
__________


Okay, we are almost done with the basic gear. Sorry to hit you with all toys and no technique, but it is good to be getting an understanding of the stuff you have coming so when it arrives you can be ready to roll.

So let's talk next for a minute about your very first light modifier…


Next: Lighting 101: Umbrellas


__________

Brand new to Strobist, or lighting? Start here.
Or, jump right into our free Lighting 101 course.
Connect: Discussion Threads | Reader Photos | Twitter

100 Comments:

Anonymous usrbingeek said...

The PocketWizard PLUS II is slated to ship in May: http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/content_page.asp?cid=7-7893-8303

April 25, 2006 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Christopher Rossi said...

Does anyone have experience using Quantum Freewires? What are the pros and cons of Pocket Wizards and FreeXwires?

May 15, 2006 10:16 PM  
Blogger David said...

Christopher-

I do not know about the Quantums, so I cannot tell you yay or nay about them.

But what I can tell you is that I frequently shoot in venues that have multiple pro's all using remotes in the same areas. And I have never seen anyone using those Quantums.

They are all happily drinking the Pocket Wizard KoolAid.

We shooters have enough equipment gripes as it is. So when something works as well as the PW's do, we just go with it and that is one less equipment issue we will ever have to worry about again.

PW's are the best there is. And I am sure Quantum makes a good product. But like they say, butter never needs to claim to taste like margerine.

May 16, 2006 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first post and let me thank you for putting together a very good site. Lots of nice information (esp coming from the build/gaf tape whatever you cant/dont want to buy mentality).

I have finally bit the bullet, drank the kool aide and picked up a Pocket Wizard Transmitter and a couple of recievers.

I had a job where 5!!! Sync cords died on me. Old cords, borrowed equipment etc etc but still... 5!!! luckily the 6th one in the lighting case worked and the client wasnt present. Also I kept having the problem of either PC cords coming loose at the worst time in a shoot or I tape it down then have to untape it each time I use a light meter. (yes, I still use a light meter esp for studio shots)

I dont know if they do this in many places but here in NYC, Mamiya lends out cameras, lights and pocket wizards to schools and end of the school year they collect them and sell them at a discount. I got my PW set for $228. Just picked up a SB-28DX for cheap and now to pick up the small light stand you suggest. My portable lighting kit is coming along nicely and I'm excited to get out of the studio more often.

Thanks again and keep up the great work!
-Ken

May 26, 2006 6:26 AM  
Anonymous Bob Miller said...

I have a Canon 430EX strobe, and a Sunpak 5000AF strobe for a Nikon camera. Couldn't I just buy an ST-E2 transmitter from Canon for $200, and mount the two strobes off-camera? The Sunpak will fire in response to the 430EX light. This could save me some mone unless I'm missing something here.

June 15, 2006 10:40 PM  
Blogger David said...

Dunno. Are you using a Canon or Nikon camera? Wasn't sure, based on the wording of your comment. I would not think that the transmitter would work on a Nikon, as it is linked in to Canon's TTL system.

Also, there is some IR flashing going on when the Canon xmitter fires the Canon strobe. Pre-flash stuff. Not sure how the other strobe would react. Might fire too soon. That said, I am not a Canon expert, so I would lay it out for the Canon guys on one of the discussion boards to be sure.

I am a K.I.S.S. person when it comes to triggering strobes.

June 15, 2006 11:51 PM  
Anonymous conrad erb said...

I thought that some of the starving-for-funds college students might appreciate knowing that the quantum radio slave kits can often be found for $150-$250 or so on eBay. I use two of them, both used, and they work perfectly for my wedding work.

July 09, 2006 11:05 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

I may be the only guy reading this who shoots this way WITHOUT any radio-controls or cords.

I've got a D200 and an SB800. The built-in flash on my D200 STAYS set in Commander mode, and the base for my flash STAYS on the flash. The flash is rarely mounted on the camera, but they do a lot of great work together. Full iTTL automation and all. And best of all, it was free (after the body and flash, that is). Any D70, D200, or (now) D80 owner can do the same with either an SB600 or SB800.

August 11, 2006 3:17 PM  
Blogger J3ff said...

D200 - sb800 and sb600 and the fantastic "creative Lighting System™" Thanks Nikon !!

August 15, 2006 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting articles and comments.

I want to mess around with these concepts but I can't justify the PW purchase at this point. I see a number of cheap slaves on eBay like others have mentioned.

Can anyone tell me which seller they purchased from?

Thanks!

August 22, 2006 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike Ignacio said...

Is the Multimax worth the extra $100 over the Plus II. Are there any features I'll miss by getting the Plus II?

August 31, 2006 4:49 PM  
Blogger Gary W. said...

I bought mulit max for my studio strobes and now carry them in my portable lighting kit. There are a couple of reasons to buy the multis over the standards. If your going to be shooting with A LOT of other phototogs the mulits have more channels, a lot more. The other thing that's nice is that is that they are more flexable in that each one can do both jobs, so god forbd, one breaks on a shoot, you can fill in with a spare... I have four transcievers and three lights. I've never had a multimax break on me, but one time I did inadvertantly change a setting on one without knowing it and couldn't get it to work at the time, so I switched o another unit for the shoot. This was when I first bought them, anyway, I went home and reread the manual and fixed the problem, never happened again but I'm glad I had a spare at the time.

September 03, 2006 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Joseph Francis said...

I had been sitting on the fence, thinking I would just use my D200 in commander mode, but I picked up some Pocket Wizard Plus II's on your advice, and I'm glad I did. They came in handy at a shoot I attended at a studio recently.

September 03, 2006 2:45 PM  
Anonymous JoeySeager said...

For Canon users: Either the Canon 580EX or the ST-E2 wireless transmitter will fire a Canon EX series flash wirelessly without buying pocket wizards. The Canon E-TTLII system fires a pre-flash milliseconds before the main flash, so if you have a second flash with a conventional slave system it will fire on the first flash and the flash won't have recycled for the main flash. So either stick to Canon EX series flashes and use the Canon wireless system, or switch to manual to disable E-TTLII and then you can use ordinary slaves.

P.S. the MR-14EX macro ringlite can fire remotes wirelessly too...

September 18, 2006 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Kevin Richardson said...

I too have bought a Hong Kong radio trigger (and two receivers). Total cost <$40US. Works fine on my EOS350D + 430ex... waiting for ebay sb-25 to arrive.
Surely this is cheaper even than the cable solution.
David - thanks for all your work on this site - its excellent.
Kev

September 30, 2006 4:56 AM  
Blogger Ed Lefkowicz said...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this issue about the cheap Chinese RF radio triggers: I bought 2, they worked fine for a while, when crapped out. The problem? The synch connector socket on the receiver is held in place with a knurled nut inside the unit. As the cord turns in the socket, the nut loosens, the socket turns, and the wire to the center of the socket came loose. I got it soldered back on (tight quarters, and you'll need a soldering iron with a really, really small tip). To prevent problems try:
1/ take case apart (2 small phillips-head screws), and use silicone calk or some such adhesive to prevent the knurled nut from turning. or
2/ quick fix, and effective: use gaffer's tape to tape down the synch cord to keep it from turning.

October 09, 2006 11:24 PM  
Blogger Wil said...

I just want to second Marc Lacoste's comments above. I purchase the EBAY Wireless solution and it's working just fine with my Sigma EF-500 DG Super and a Sunpak Auto 444 D.

October 13, 2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger Elephant said...

Just a quick note on the eBay slaves. I have the 4-channel hotshoe mounted ones, and they seem to work pretty well with my Canon 400D. But I've found two problems. One is that they occasionally fire for no obvious reason, which doesn't worry me too much. The other is that when using an umbrella and working near the max sync speed, they sometimes seem to fire a little late (like, 1 time in 3). I've had absolutely no problem below 1/125, so I can't say I really care. But if I were a pro, I think I'd cough up for the PWs for reliability. HTH

February 09, 2007 5:45 AM  
Anonymous Niklas L said...

Any opinion on the Elinchrom Skyport (Universal)? It does seem to come at a considerably lower prize than the PWs while not as cheap as the ebay ones. Reach is 120m compared to 500m for the PWs. One cool feature is the possibility to control the flashes from a computer with Skyport software and a Skyport USB transceiver.

http://www.elinchrom.com/

February 28, 2007 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Alistair Windsor said...

I have the GadgetInfinity ebay radio triggers and a radio remote trigger for my 20D. The good news is that tehy both work as advertised ... individually ... but the combination never works. For some reason the slaves do not sync when the camera is triggered remotely.

As a work around I put the camera into timer and mirror lock up which results in a 2 sec delay between shutter depress and camera fire. The combination then works fine. Sometimes I use the full 10 sec delay too.

I use this to play around with self portraits.

March 03, 2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Pocket Wizards now go bad if you leave them on. They will replace them as long as they are under warentee, but after that your out of luck.

I hope they fix this issue. I don't want to buy them until they do.

David, I encourage you to look into this problem. I think your blog has a substantial affect on the sales of Pocket Wizards and if you update you blog to describe this problem, it might help motivate Pocket Wizards to fix it.

dpreview forum disscusion of problem here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1014&message=22767345

April 07, 2007 1:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

just buy the pw's. they ALWAYS work. you wont ever have to replace them. they are really really durable. i shoot skateboarding/bmx photo and have had my share of 'accidents' and they are still going strong. 2 years and not a SINGLE misfre...

April 24, 2007 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anybody hear about Speedotron Radio triggers?
It cost 120 for a set at B&H. Which is much cheapper than PW. Can it replace a PW?

April 30, 2007 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I've found that it is hard to look professional while smashing your eBay slaves into the pavement in frustration.

May 01, 2007 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Alexey said...

Speedotron is a US company since 1939. It is not an Ebay slaves.

May 01, 2007 4:53 PM  
Anonymous zoellner said...

I have a canon 30D and a 580 EX flash, and am looking to aquire a second flash. Am I right in thinking with two pocket wizards (one on the camera and one on the 580) I could control other flashes by using the 580 as the master. Therefore only needing two PW?

May 14, 2007 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LensRentals.com has started carrying lots of gear interesting to Strobist readers, including Pocket Wizard Plus II transceivers, Canon and Nikon flashes, and light stands. Good prices, too. None of the other rental sites have anything like it.

June 27, 2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger a.nawrocky said...

can you use any type of flashes with pocketwizards? I have a d50 and am about to purchase some pocketwizards. I know I don't need to get a sb-800, but what are some legit flashes that I should invest in?

August 21, 2007 12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry to say that I am having a horrible experience with Gadget Infinity. It has been over a month since I ordered and still no signs of any triggers. The first ones I ordered got lost in the mail, so they send some new ones. Its been over a week and nothing. I have tried to email them to get info and all do is send me my tracking number for USPS, which is completely useless; the never update the status. They tell me they will be here in 7-10 days. We will see. I was really excited about these, but now I will excited if they even make it. For some reason they are shipping from China so I doubt they ever will. Some people have said that they have gotten extremely fast shipping, I guess I just got bad luck or something.

August 28, 2007 1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where can I purchase multiple receivers and only one transmitter?

September 14, 2007 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone point in the direction of a place to buy multiple wireless receivers and a single transmitter?

Thanks

September 14, 2007 9:54 PM  
Anonymous TT said...

I recently came across what appears to be a way of using the D70s on-board flash, a SB-800 and an SB-28 (with SU-4 slave module) all in TTL metering mode. I doubt Nikon intended it to work this way - but it works great.

Put D70s in non-auto M/S/P/A etc.
Put in commander mode (option 19)
Use the M function if you want the on-camera flash to be used also
Set the power of the flash to whatever is appropriate for the subject – full to fill
Move the camera back to Auto modes (for TTL metering)

Set the SB-800 in Remote mode
Hold down sel for 4 secs
Squiggly lines option to "Remote"
Insure Channel 3 for D70s
You may want to turn off standby mode also

Put the SU-4 slave unit on the SB-28
Make sure SU-4 is in Auto mode (switch on front to Auto)


Place the SB-800 and the SB-28 wherever you want

Start taking pictures. With the D70s and my 18-200 VR I have found the results amazing.

Have used standalone (place one behind a couch), with umbrellas, outdoors, etc. - with great results.

This may have been intended by Nikon all along - but if so IMHO it is the farthest thing from intuitive.

Hope you all find this as useful as I did. All the best.

December 02, 2007 12:50 AM  
Blogger austex said...

"...Point and shoot cameras frequently have neither [hot shoe nor PC jack], so thay are not well-suited for off-camera flash."

I've used a digital slave flash with my P&S, but it often doesn't fire when the camera flash goes off. Is there no hope for those of us who really appreciate the small size, light weight, low cost and ultrazoom capabilities of the P&S space?

December 30, 2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger David said...

Austex-

I would recommend a Canon G9.

December 30, 2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

The videos seem to be missing, anyone know where I can see them?

January 29, 2008 7:26 PM  
Anonymous noumenon said...

First of all - incredible site. You are opening my eyes to the world of small strobes. I am so grateful.

I have this question. I am using a Canon 40D. If I put a 430EX in the hot shoe on the camera, can I connect a Cactus V2s Wireless Radio Transmiter to the PC Sync port on the camera to fire several off-camera SB80 flashes? I mean - can I attach this transmitter to the PC sync instead of the hot shoe and then use it to sync the off-camera SB80 flashes with the and 430EX on camera?

Thanks a lot.

March 14, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger Ed from Ohio said...

noumenon - I agree. Excellent site. Only bad thing is that I'm buying up stuff left and right!

I'm in the exact same boat as you. Getting the 40D to work both with the hot shoe and wireless strobes.

After looking over the manual, they have a little notation that says that the hot shoe and PC connector are both active and can be used at the same time. Very cool!

Since the 430EX uses E-TTL and I want to keep that functionality, I ordered a simple PC to hot shoe adapter to connect the transmitter to the camera. I have seen others use this configuration, but all my stuff is still in transit so I can't personally confirm it works yet.

March 18, 2008 5:04 PM  
Blogger Lola said...

I was initially really excited when I found this site, but now Im getting really bogged down the technical gadget 'must have must not' advice. I know you use love to talk gadgets,but it's dead boring. I have a Canon 1D and a 580EX II, I was going to get a ST-E2 wireless transmitter so I can use it to trigger off the flash and if that works well then look at getting another flash to set them both wirelessly. Im not very confused about all this talk of radios and PC cords, is my set up enough to begin this 101 tutoiral?

March 21, 2008 8:33 AM  
Anonymous syakir said...

Hi,

I am a canon user, so my questions is if i can use the ST-E2 to wirelessly trigger my canon flash(s) and at the same time have ETTL, why do I need to buy PW? Is there any other advantages of using PW over the ST-E2?

Thanks!

April 01, 2008 10:42 PM  
Blogger Matt Gholston said...

To the fellow with the comment about point and shoots and no hope... Nikon and Canon both make P&S type cameras with a Hot-Shoe feature, and for some folks that might be the trick...

I believe that the Canon G9 (as the other poster mentioned) or Canon S5 IS and the Nikon CoolPix P5000 & P5100 all have Hot Shoe flash capability and therefore off camera flash capability as well using standard techniques.

That being said, if I was going to put $350 into a P5100 or $500+ into a Canon G9, I might take a long look at something like the Nikon D40, which sells for about $400-600 depending on where you get it, and if you get the kit or just a body...

I am not sure if Canon makes an ultralight DSLR like the D40, but if you are used to shooting with a D3, D300, or D2x or Canon Equivalents you have no Idea how lightweight a DSLR can be...

A D40 with the 18-55mm VR kit lens is very light weight and easy to carry, gives you DSLR responsiveness, works with a full stable of flash and lens accessories and shoots RAW or JPEG (which the Canon G9 will do but most P&S cameras won't ).

No, you are not going to stuff a D40 in your pocket as I do with my Canon SD850IS or S500 Pocket Cams, but... it will be so much more responsive, and function so much better in low light situations, that even though I love my little canons, I often wish I had a D40 with me instead.

I say go down to Best Buy or wherever and hold one of these baby's, you need to hold it to appreciate the lightweightness and portability... they likely will have it already set up with the kit lens so you will be able to see exactly what I am talking about.

If you can, compare it to the Canon G9, and you will see that as far as weight and size, you are not giving up much to have a true SLR, especially if you replace the kit lens with a small prime like a 50mm f/1.4 ...which makes it even smaller!

Just be aware that the D40 has no built in AF motor so any lens that does not have its own motor will be manual focus only on this camera, but this really is not that limiting IMHO for the lenses that most folks will use with this DSLR.

I mean, if you get an 18-200mm zoom you may not ever change lenses again!

Just give it a think... and IMO I like the D40 better than the D40x, you won't need the resolution in this class of camera and the D40 is cheaper!

RMG

April 05, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all. Great discussion. I want to weigh in because I've been doing this for years now with a canon ir setup. I have never used the pw. There is another major advantage with the canon transmitter. It emits a I'd crosshair beam that assists focusing in low light. I use a 5d and canons fastest available lenses like the 50mm 1.2 and 24mm 1.4. In a wedding reception or some corporate functions this is the best setup for me because the ir signal bounces around and works fine while the autofocus is helped tremendously. With the 24 I can even use the beams to tell what the camera is focusing on. Useful for shooting over people's heads. There are times especially on commercial outdoor shoots when this system is let down by the line of sight requirement but you usually have more time to set up in those situations and maybe I'll look at cables for that now. Keep up the great work!

May 01, 2008 6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alien Bees now have an affordable Pocket Wizard replacement:

http://www.alienbees.com/remotes.html

Having seen an electronics guy ( engineer? ) take an Alien Bees light apart in his review ( don't have the link, sorry ), and having seen how clean the design is, I trust their own-made remotes, and will be getting 'em meself, when I can afford.

( transmitter + receiver/repeater for about $130 )

I do know, however, that their measurements are sometimes a little weird, or "marketing"...

( e.g. measuring an umbrella by going around the dome? Is that normal? )

Whatever, I think they're probably excellent for the price, and if anyone knows different, then say so, eh?

Cheerses!

May 31, 2008 7:29 PM  
Blogger Blake said...

Do the Pocket Wizards support FP (high-speed sync) mode?

June 06, 2008 1:05 PM  
Anonymous mark mercado said...

Got one of those ebay slaves specifically made for SB600

Fires all the time. The only time it fails is when the strobe goes to standby. In this case I just turn off the standby feature.

Once the included batteries die, I will solder a battery pack with 2xAA's

June 12, 2008 4:38 AM  
Anonymous Karin said...

Dear all,

Like everybode out here I was kind of shocked by the costs of the Pocketwizards. As I didn't want to use the cheap and not so reliable ebay triggers, I finally ended up with the Elinchrom Skyports. For my work they are just great, no misfiring and the costs are about 50% compared to the Pocketwizards.

June 16, 2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous martin stacho said...

What can I say about PW's . Yes they are expensive, but as we say back home " we are not that rich to buy cheap things " I've tried every possible system to remotly trigger flashes , the cheap onces , also the crapy canon st-e2, thank good it broke on me , otherwise I would not find the PW. They are the most efficent and reliable think out there , have 3 of them , never had any issues , they allways trigger , no matter what and that is worth the money as it gives me piece of mind and I can rely on them. I never looked back.

July 15, 2008 5:24 AM  
Blogger S said...

Ok so I wanted to try this out with but I don't have any wireless stuff. I went to the hardware store to buy a H-Plug end and plug cable to make a long PC Cord. I noticed that the ends costs around $3 each while a 15' extension code was $1.50! But it has the male end on it so I bought a Plug-In Triple Tap Outlet, you know the one you use to plug into an outlet and will allow you to plus in 3 plus. I cut the ends off the triple trap (it only cost $1) and it works! No wiring! And I still have a functioning extension cord when I need it!

August 08, 2008 12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a canon 5D and a 580EX. What is the best way to hook up the pocket wizards to a 580EX? Since the 580EX does not have a PC connection slot I am not sure what to do. Any ideas?

August 11, 2008 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Jane said...

Any reviews or comments about Radiopoppers?

August 31, 2008 5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just learning all of this lighting jargon, but I'm convinced that the money for Pocket Wizards will be money well spent. My question... I have a Canon Digital Rebel XT, which I believe I can connect one of the PWs to directly (no cord?), and the other will connect to my external flash (Canon Speedlite 430EX) via Pocket Wizard 1/4" Phono to Miniphone Sync Adapter Cable, 16" cable. Since it is a Canon flash, I don't think it has the PC cable adapter? So what do I need to buy? Is it called a PC Female adapter? Where do I find that? Is that everything I'll need to get them to connect, or do I need another adapter for my camera? Thanks!

September 11, 2008 10:48 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Alienbees make a great low cost alternative to the PocketWizards called the "Cybersync".

September 13, 2008 1:55 AM  
Anonymous danita said...

Just wondering if anyone knows anything more about Alien Bees "Cybersyncs"? I have a Canon 550 flash and it has no PC connection...do they have cords for different types of camera manufacturer's flashes? It looked like they didn't yet, but were going to start manufacturing them. But I wasn't sure. I'd like to go ahead and get a set-up, so I may just go with the PWs...I like the Quantums too, I used to use them when I was working with another photographer.

September 16, 2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous danita said...

Ah, it looks like FlashZebra.com has anything you'd need for the AlienBees...and others. Cool.

September 16, 2008 4:56 PM  
Anonymous danita said...

I have just placed an order for the AlienBees set-up for one flash and a hot shoe adapter for my flash.

I'll report back after I get a chance to put them to good use. I shoot Equestrian Jumping indoors and usually don't use flash. Every now and then I do, but don't like shooting with the on-camera flash. So...I will let you all know how the set-up works. If all goes well, I'll be adding another flash for my Reining shows. (I'm really hoping for no mis-fires or loose connections from the PC causing firing when I'm not shooting. I will be taking some tape for the connections. I don't want to spook horses when they aren't already in the air! Most of the horses are used to flash as the guy that shoots at one of their other shows uses flash, so I'll not likely have any problems there.)

September 16, 2008 5:48 PM  
Anonymous Chris Walter said...

The photobooth idea has got my head spinning I LOVE it! It would be the perfect thing to distract the wedding guest while I take the B&G off on a 2 hour creative shoot :D

September 17, 2008 9:21 PM  
Blogger Rick Cogley said...

Hello - thank you for this excellent and useful site. I hope to assemble some strobe kit to go with my Nikon D90, and to follow some of the tutorials. At any rate, first thing is really to learn what everything is, so I have been reading all the various content here and elsewhere.

I live in Japan, and found Pocket Wizards at the Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku Tokyo. The clerk there told me that they have been "localized" to match the Japanese telecomms law, changing their max range to about 20 meters.

Interesting, I thought, that this kind of product gets crippled by local laws.

Maybe I will pick some PWs or AlienBees up when I am in the US.

October 18, 2008 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just had a had look at Amazon here in Germany. Pocket Wizard Plus 2 costs 265 Euros ($353) for One. well thats me out of the game.:((

October 20, 2008 5:34 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

break it down for me, real simple like. i don't think my camera has a pc jack/outlet. which kits from midwest photo exchange are the best for me?

November 01, 2008 4:11 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

soooo... which kit(s) from midwest photo exchange would work with my current set up?-- canon xsi with no pc jack (at least i don't think there's one), and a promaster ttl flash.

November 01, 2008 4:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi all,

I'm new to this thing as well and I'm trying to figure out what I need for my strobe. Here is what I have: Canon 5D, Canon flash 540EZ, a pair of Pocket Wizard Plus II, a light stand. If i read instruction properly, I will need a PC connection adapter for my flash, an umbrella, and umbrella holder with flash shoe mount, am I correct? What I don't understand is that where i could mount the PocketWizard to the flash since the umbrella holder won't have place for it. Sorry for my silly question & thanks for the information.

Phil

November 30, 2008 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Kenny said...

Hi, i was wondering whether the GADGET INFINITY ebay triggers would work with the D40. I've been wanting to get off camera flash for a while now, so i decided to order two Vivitar 285HV's. I just want to make sure that the GI ebay triggers would work on the D40 hot shoe. Please respond.

P.S: The D40 is so limited, you should just save up to get a more versatile camera.

- Kenny

January 16, 2009 12:48 PM  
Anonymous BJ Adkins said...

I have found 285s on eBay for as little as $25 and pocket wizards fairly cheap also. Some of the online groups will have what they call group buys which bring the price down because we buy in bulk.

January 22, 2009 10:41 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Cybersync's from Paul C. Buff (http://www.alienbees.com/cybersync.html) are really nice and work well and are only $60 & $70 each (transmitter and receiver, respectively).

January 27, 2009 11:30 PM  
Anonymous jim said...

Great insights to a mysterious realm of photography for newcomers.

Noone has yet mentioned the Elinchrome Skyport. Though I found it not to be 100% reliable (in the high 90's though)it is a great alternative to the Pocket Wizards at roughly half the price and WAY more compact and light weight. A tiny range compared to them as well but good for many applications.

February 05, 2009 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Wedding Photographer France said...

Hello,

Yesterday Pocket Wizard launched a new remote trigger that will be of interest to a lot of shooters who want to keep TTL capabilities while shooting remote flashes - plus a lot of new goodies.

Check the strobist blog here:

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2009/02/pocketwizard-flextt5-and-minitt1-full.html

To be released in March 2009.

Blaise

February 17, 2009 6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I'm following your instructions and attaching a pc to hh cord from my 20d to a homemade female (on both ends) extension cord and then a hh to pc cord attached to the other end of the extension cord, what type of adapter would I need for my 430ex. According to your insructions, I should use a Wein HSH adapter. How would I plug the hh to pc cable into that if the hh portion is already plugged into the other end of the double female extension cord. I'm confused. Please help.

March 11, 2009 2:23 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Another vote for Elinchrom Skyport. Just had mine for a few months but never failed yet. Much smaller and lighter than PW (which ara a bit bulky) and less than half the price. Nice professional control of Elincrome's new BXRI heads as well. But that's beyond the scope of this blog I guess.

April 14, 2009 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

Nobody else uses the Flash Wave product?

http://g9chon.com/RS.html

Priced about halfway between cheap eBay triggers and PWs, theycome with everything you need to hook up to practically any flash - from camera mountable flashes right up to studio strobes...

(Not affiliated - just a happy user)

May 05, 2009 4:02 PM  
Anonymous ulhbuilder said...

I bought a few of the chinese wireless triggers on ebay, for the price it was worth a try...

When they work they are great...

Mine have worked correctly over 90%of the time, and work near every time for a single flash unit.

However, when one fails to go off in tandem use and I am short on time to complete the shoot/natural lighting/deadlines (I shoot architecture with these) ...like last night... ...grrrr... I would suggest paying for more reliable units.

Casual use, single unit, no deadline, buy these! Pro... ...no...

May 28, 2009 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, i just have a question on pocketwizards. is it possible that i use multimax as my transmitter and use plus II's as my slave receivers to trigger my flashes? and still be able to utilize the multimax's trigger time controllers(e.g. Rear Curtain sync) or some special features? Thanks

June 11, 2009 8:43 AM  
Blogger BallardFamily said...

I have a SB-400 (saving for the SB-900) and according to the folks at Gadget Infinity "We can confirm that the Cactus V4 certainly works with the Nikon SB-400 flash". This may be a great way to get our 'wireless flash' feet wet while saving for more expensive gear. I keep reading about people wondering how they can fire their SB-400 wirelessly so I thought I would post this here since I did not want to join yet ANOTHER forum. Spread the news. I will order one and give a report.

August 31, 2009 3:49 AM  
Blogger أثير النور|EtheR of the LighT said...

Thanks so much for all of you,

I am new here and would like to ask few (stupid) questions, you might call it so.

I have a canon 400D digital camera as well one canon speedlit flash 580 EX II " the latest one".

in terms of both ways the wired and wireless, what really I need to buy for PC cord and pocket wizard ?

October 03, 2009 2:40 PM  
Blogger Cati said...

Omg, my head is about to explode. So many stuff I didn't know about...
I have a Nikon D70 with a happy SB600 and as for now I'm using the IR connection. Is it THAT bad? I mean, I know there are distance issues but well, my pockets are empty from all the gear I'm buying lately.

November 03, 2009 8:12 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

The following review of the RF-602 wireless triggers might be handy to someone :-

http://tinyurl.com/yz26edu

Paul Douglas

November 10, 2009 3:04 AM  
Blogger David said...

Can this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/269313-REG/Wein_W990335_HSH_Hot_Shoe_to.html

be mounted to the camera's hot shoe to sync off camera flash via HSH for cameras lacking a PC connection? I'm understanding the concepts but the hardware is giving me fits.

Thanks

November 11, 2009 9:55 AM  
Blogger Howard Woosey said...

A simple question, If I use a d3 and connect via a pc cable to an sb800 used as a master will I be able to slave other sb800's to it?

December 02, 2009 6:50 PM  
Blogger kris_Strive said...

ADVICE I BEG OF YOU! Ok I have researched for months and I'm in brain overload! I finally decided on the Nikon D90. Next is lights. I was about to purchase a JTL 4 pc lighting kit that includes everything you could ever ask for at about $600 from skaeser.com ... but I was afraid it was too good to be true for the price. I've heard lots of good things bout AlienBees if you're on a budget like mine. I was gonna get the DigiBEE Package (2 AB-400's, umbrellas, etc) But now I'm seriously contemplating the ABR-800Ringflash Package. And maybe a SB-600 Speedlight to have a secondary light source (Wanted the SB-800 but they are discontinued) Could I get away w/out a secondary light source with the Ringflash? What if I just pull out my Home Depot Halogen Work lights for extra lighting? .. AB's Hot Shoe Adaptor does not trigger speedlights. The cheepo wireless set from Gadget Infinity seemed enticing but says it doesn’t interpret TTL which I think I need with my camera right since it's got the whole i-TTL "Creative Lighting System" compatibility goin on? Then I read that you can just put your camera in commander mode and it's internal flash will set off the speedlight without all the bullshit adapters. My head could explode right now. I'm taking my hobby of portrait/fashion photography and turnin it into a business. I have the camera/lenses taken care of (Nikon D90 with AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm VR kit lens, and the 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor Prime lens) and several fabric backdrops. I have $600-700 left for the rest: I want (WUSIWUG) STROBE LIGHTS w/few necessary accessories, stands/modifiers, wireless triggering capability (or should I just get the Nikon AS-15 which allows my D90 to accept a PC cord correct?)...must be portable as well. Simplistic is nice 2! Then over the months Ill add to what I’ve got of course. Doing both studio and outside photography. House calls too. SO PLEASE, ADVICE ANYONE? no_boundary@hotmail.com if you wanna be super nice an also e-mail me your advice! THANKS SO MUCH 4 anyone who responds and helps a fella out!!!

January 17, 2010 4:16 AM  
Blogger David said...

Kris, this is a textbook example of how not to ask for advice: Fifty gazillion questions crammed into a magnum opus comment on a nearly three-year-old post?

You might want to ask these -- one at a time -- in the Flickr threads.

Start by reading the comment guidelines.

Thx,
D

January 17, 2010 11:34 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

People -- Sounds like many of you are going through the mind explosion as I did before I had any "Strobist" gear. The information provided here is VERY inclusive and descriptive. First things first: if you want to get started putting some of the things you learn here to practice - then get some gear!!!! Stop reading and go get some stuff. You will learn more in your first day of shooting off camera than you will in a month of poring over the info on this site. The best use of this site is to refer back to when you are solving a problem when you are OUT SHOOTING.

To get set up you only need a few things.
1. A camera (duh!)
2. A light stand (35 bucks)
3. An umbrella (10 bucks)
4. Umbrella adapter for the light stand (15 bucks)
5. Speedlight (any kind will do, but take David's advice and get one with manual power output (Sunpak 433, Vivitar 285, any SB Nikon model) - I got the sunpak at a local camera store for 40 bucks)
6. If you are just learning, grab the Gadget Infinity wireless triggers (v4) they are only 45 bucks shipped and great. If you get real good, go grab the Pocket Wizards. There are many different wireless triggers at all price points in between, but the GI triggers will get you started fine.

Thats under 200 $$ for all the gear you need to get started. If you are shooting Canon like I am, dont worry about the PC sync cord. Slap the transciever on your camera, the reciever under the speedlite, the light stand under that and you're ready to go! Now go out there and start shooting.

January 22, 2010 11:49 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have used the Paul Buff Cybersync triggers with great success over the last year doing professional work. Not a single misfire and they are fairly inexpensive in respect to the more expensive PW. Failure to overlook these great flash triggers would be an injustice.

March 09, 2010 1:01 PM  
OpenID SailorPaul_N41 said...

Instead of sync chords which I like to trip over -- is there any reason why I can't use the little Nikon SB200 as a trigger for my manual strobes if I set the SB200 power low to 1/128 ?

I have to walk around to adjust the light levels on each head, but the RF CyberCommander is not in the budget yet.

It seems to trigger reliably even if I flip the on-camera flash head up to the ceiling away from the subject.

May 15, 2010 10:34 PM  
Blogger Bob Grainger said...

I've just been trying out eBay Chinese flash triggers other than the popular PT-04. They are branded Yongnuo YN-04 and YN-04 II. In the UK, they cost £18.99 inc. P&P for 1 receiver and 1 transmitter (visually identical), about £2 more than the PT-04. They don't appear to support i-TTL, etc. (just one centre pin in the hot shoe), but hey, I only work in manual anyway! Both the transmitter and the receiver use tiny batteries (the PT-04 uses a tiny battery in the transmitter and a pair of AAA's in the receiver). I much prefer these YN-04s. Firstly, they look and feel better quality. They both lie flat, i.e., horizontal as opposed to the standing upright PT-04 receiver. This means a:)lower centre of gravity when carrying a top-heavy flash gun, and b)this will keep the flash head lower down when shooting through an umbrella (if you picture a flash head already up above the centre of an umbrella, the PT-04 will lift it a further two inches, whereas the YN-04 just one inch).

The stated range is 30 metres, but I think that this is a bit of an exaggeration - perhaps 20m in my experience. They also come with PC cord sockets, and a cable to connect to a studio flash, I believe. For me, they fire ever time faultlessly. I did recently try out a pair of PT-04 triggers, but after the first evening, both of them no longer accepted my Sigma EG-530 Super flash guns in the hotshoes - they simply wouldn't slide in anymore!

I have no vested interest in promoting this product, but you might like to look at them on eBay - there appears to be just one UK seller: GS12307, based in Guildford. They can be bought with any number of receivers.

Bob, Wales

July 31, 2010 10:02 AM  
Blogger Bob Grainger said...

I've just been trying out eBay Chinese flash triggers other than the popular PT-04. They are branded Yongnuo YN-04 and YN-04 II. In the UK, they cost £18.99 inc. P&P for 1 receiver and 1 transmitter (visually identical), about £2 more than the PT-04. They don't appear to support i-TTL, etc. (just one centre pin in the hot shoe), but hey, I only work in manual anyway! Both the transmitter and the receiver use tiny batteries (the PT-04 uses a tiny battery in the transmitter and a pair of AAA's in the receiver). I much prefer these YN-04s. Firstly, they look and feel better quality. They both lie flat, i.e., horizontal as opposed to the standing upright PT-04 receiver. This means a:)lower centre of gravity when carrying a top-heavy flash gun, and b)this will keep the flash head lower down when shooting through an umbrella (if you picture a flash head already up above the centre of an umbrella, the PT-04 will lift it a further two inches, whereas the YN-04 just one inch).

The stated range is 30 metres, but I think that this is a bit of an exaggeration - perhaps 20m in my experience. They also come with PC cord sockets, and a cable to connect to a studio flash, I believe. For me, they fire ever time faultlessly. I did recently try out a pair of PT-04 triggers, but after the first evening, both of them no longer accepted my Sigma EG-530 Super flash guns in the hotshoes - they simply wouldn't slide in anymore!

I have no vested interest in promoting this product, but you might like to look at them on eBay - there appears to be just one UK seller: GS12307, based in Guildford. They can be bought with any number of receivers.

Bob, Wales

July 31, 2010 10:03 AM  
Blogger WingedPower said...

After who knows how long and how much I laughed when I read this post a few years back, I now find myself at the Pocket Wizard doorstep and walking away with 2 PocketWizard PlusII's... possibly a third to come, as I get my second strobe.

But OMG are they handy and they just work!

Best thing... I can use them to trigger the shutter on my camera as well, which is mighty cool.

August 05, 2010 8:44 PM  
Blogger Dookru said...

wow, it's good technic.

October 24, 2010 6:35 AM  
Blogger V said...

No info on the LumoPro LP160 syncing abilities - Their miniphone syncro option still applies here right?

And if you purchase a LP160 and wanted to go wireless, I assume you would only need an adapter for your PC-less camera?

January 22, 2011 12:46 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the wireless option from Cowboy Studio(CowboyStudio NPT-04 4 Channel Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger Receiver).

I just bought a set from Amazon for $25. This device has over 150 reviews with an overall 4.5 stars rating. As far as I can tell, no one has any issue with mis-firing.

It works like a charm if all you need is off camera strobe with manual controls. No TTL of course, not at this price.

I'm sure it is radio controlled since line of sight is not required and the range is impressive as well.

I highly recommend everyone to check it out, since it's soooo cheap.

February 12, 2011 6:50 PM  
Blogger DTK said...

I just discovered that even old poverty wizards have extended usefulness as hot shoes for strobes like the old 285's without mini-jacks. Pop that old strobe in even a broken old Cactus without batteries in it, hook up a miniphone
and pop it with any other trigger. So excited that that works.

March 03, 2011 12:18 PM  
Blogger Raymond said...

The Gadget Infinity site seems to not be functioning. I can't add anything to the cart, and I can't bring up the contact page to tell them about it. Are there any other cheap alternatives for wireless triggering?

August 01, 2011 7:42 PM  
Blogger John T said...

I now read on the PW site that the PocketWizard FlexTT5 will fire iTTL and regular sync units in a serial mode. There is a warning of having to lower the shutter speed when using units like mine that fire at 1/500 during full power. I did not check out what the larger units do. Any ways my method is one among many good ideas expressed here. YOU are not LIMITED to using PW's.

October 24, 2011 1:09 PM  
Blogger BJ said...

First, thank you for such a wonderfully informative site! Second, I have a question I'm betting that you can help with: I have an old Minolta 360PX that I'd like to start using off-camera with my Canon 60D. There's no PC jack on the camera, of course - that would make things too easy. So, what would you recommend as the best, inexpensive approach? Thanks!

December 28, 2011 8:41 PM  
Blogger ketand said...

hi please let me know which is the best remote trigger for the combination of EOS550d and nissin 622 mark II

December 31, 2011 3:22 AM  
Blogger truthseek2002 said...

Hi, thanks for sharing your blog with us. I enjoyed reading it. I have two pocketwizard Flex and while shooting a wedding, the remote flash is going off when I photograph but for some strange (and infuriating reason) is not captured in the actual photo. I'm shooting at 1/100th at 2.8 with ISO 800. Do you have any suggestions that could help me solve this problem?

March 02, 2013 1:00 PM  
Blogger James Hodgkinson said...

Can someone point me in the direction of a hot shoe translator like the MPEX one that's easier to ship to Australia? Doubling the cost of a simple item's a bit unfortunate just because of shipping :(

March 11, 2013 8:12 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@James-

Dunno their shipping rate, but try Lon at FlashZebra:

http://flashzebra.com/hotshoes-shoes/index.shtml

March 11, 2013 8:28 PM  
Blogger ObsidianJaguar said...

I have a cannon 60D and plan on getting a 600ex-rt ... does that mean i can skip out on this equipment? or are there advantages to this way i am un aware of?

April 28, 2013 5:11 AM  
Blogger Loren Knowles said...

I have been using Radio Popper JrX units. They work great! The plus is that, while not ETTL, you can sync up to three TTL flashes (or groups)and adjust the output of each individually from the camera using simple knobs. A bonus with this is that the transmitter has a 3.5 stereo jack so you can connect a cord directly to the RP cube (Canon or Nikon) for corded shooting. Highly recommend!

September 08, 2013 11:21 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I feel so lame, but have searched for hours and still have no clue. I have a Nikon D7000 and an a YN560-III, and just received the Lumopro hotshoe translators. What do I need to to do fire the off-camera flash? I have the flash set to manual, the camera in aperture priority mode, but when I shoot the flash doesn't trigger. I've tried setting the on-board flash in commander mode to -- but beyond that I'm not sure what I'm adjusting. Any help would be appreciated since all my searches turn up troubleshooting for wireless systems.

February 13, 2014 12:42 PM  
Blogger WBrian said...

Hi all,
I'm new to strobist. I have a Rebel XS and a canon 580 flash. I have a sync cable that allows for ettl shooting. Is that comparable to what's shown above?
Thanks!
Brian

March 26, 2014 12:23 AM  
Blogger crystal wyatt said...

Hello! I have just received my starter kit and in attempting to set it up I am finding it difficult, if not impossible to attach the LP907 hot show translator to my camera. I have a Nikon d5200. Is this not compatible? If not, is there one that is? Thanks! So excited to get going!

March 28, 2014 7:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home