Hacking Your Camera's Sync Speed, Pt 1

This weekend's shooting reminds me of the love/hate relationship I have with my job as a newspaper shooter.

Hate: Working a 12-hour day, much of it in draining heat, only to have a couple of small photos run in the backwaters of the sports section.

Love: Getting to watch two phenomenal pitching performances at the state softball championships. The first game was merely a no hitter, thrown by a sophomore against a team good enough to make it to the 4A Maryland state championship.

The second was a perfect game thrown in the 2A championship, in which another 15-year-old sophomore struck out 19 of 21 batters faced. They gave up trying to hit her half way through the game only to find out that they could not bunt her, either.

It was just an insane performance. And she stood out there on the mound with a huge grin on her face the whole time, knowing that she owned them.

But the three games (and the continuing effects of my #$!@*!! allergies) pretty much made me useless for Sunday. And even on Monday, I am writing through the murky haze of Benadryl. So if I fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, you'll know why.

Today we are talking about sync speed, and how to raise it. But before we explain it, why would we even want to do it?

As we learned in the balancing light posts of Lighting 101, the ambient light exposure is affected by both shutter speed and aperture. The flash exposure cares only about the aperture, as long as you are operating at a shutter speed at which the camera and flash can sync together.

So, for every stop you can raise your shutter speed and still sync, you can open up the aperture one stop. This means that your flash can get the same lighting effect using half the power. Which makes it potentially far more powerful.

In normal operation, the sync speed is the fastest speed at which the entire chip can be reached by the light of the flash at once. At faster speeds, a mechanical shutter basically forms a small slit that travels across the CCD, with only a small portion visible at once. So a single burst of a flash cannot light the whole frame.

There are three ways to increase your effective synch speed: Focal plane flash, partial frame sync and exploiting an electronic shutter.

The first method is very specific to camera/flash combinations, so I am not going to give it much space here. Suffice to say that if you have a high-end digital camera and flash, you should check in your manual to see if it offers anything that says "FP Flash" or "Focal Plane Flash," or "High-Speed Flash," etc.

Basically, it fire a series of pulses (when you are over your normal sync speed) that have the effect of lighting the whole frame as the shutter slit travels across.

If you have this option, definitely enable it. Simple as that. Both my D2Hs and the D2Xs do this with my SB-800's, and it works pretty much seamlessly. (On my cameras, the FP flash enable function is at E-1 in the menu bank on the cameras.)

If you have different camera/flash combos that work in the FP flash mode for you, please post the combo (and, just as important, how to enable FP flash) in the comments. I will bring the info up top in a later post. We can compile a database pretty quickly.

One caveat with high-speed flash is that the flash loses effective power with each increasing shutter speed. This is because of the pulsing nature of FP flash. So you have to work at relatively close range. But you can still darken the sky, and/or shoot with a wide-open aperture to blow out the background. You can also reclaim power by grouping multiple flashes in the FP mode, using the Nikon's CLS or Canon's ETTL controlling systems. If you want to know how to do that for you system, hit the instruction manual.

But today, we are talking about a method that far more of you will have access to: Exploiting electronic shutters for ultra-high-speed sync.

Electronic shutters also have auxilliary mechanical shutters that actually open and close up to, say, 1/125th of a second. This helps to protect the CCD from dust and damage. Beyond that speed, the computer just grabs a progressively smaller slice of time from the CCD and "fakes" higher shutter speeds electronically. Which, as it happens, is totally golden for us.

Why electronic shutters? You can manufacture this type of shutter far more cheaply and it will last for a long(er) time. You are essentially avoiding having to engineer for the stresses of high-speed mechanical shutter operation. Thus, if you have a lower-end digicam, you likely have an electronic shutter. A good clue is if 1/500th of a sec sounds clunky, like you are still shooting at a 60th.

Why is this so cool? If you think about what we said above, you physical shutter is open all at once for all of your shutter speeds. I.e., no slit for the flash to deal with.

So, you can get high-speed flash with any flash. And you are not wasting flash energy on a series of pulses, either. To my mind, this is far more effective than FP flash.

As I mentioned above I use two flagship, company-supplied Nikons: The D2Hs and the D2Xs. But I plunked down my own cash for a body that has quietly become a little darling of the pros: The Nikon D70s.

It is small, light, not particularly heavy-duty and sports a 6.1MP chip. That sounds small by today's standards (the camera is about a year old) but it gives more than 3,000 pixel on the long dimension. Which is plenty for my needs.

You can still find them refurbished by Nikon USA for about $500 USD. I love mine, and it does things my "better" cameras cannot do.

I'm sure that there are other cameras, from various brands, that use electronic shutters. I would love to hear about your combos in the comments, so I can bring them up to the main post on an update later.

Back to the D70s, here is how to fake out the sync. It couldn't be simpler: All you have to do is make the camera think there is not a flash connected. Then it will not arbitrarily limit your shutter to it's nominal sync speed of 1/500th of a second, which is a pretty good sync speed to start with.

As long as there is not a TTL-capable flash connected to the camera - either on the hot shoe or with a TTL cord - you are good to go. So, if you are using a Pocket Wizard or a sync cord, your flash will sync above 1/500th.

This is one case where a PC cord trumps trumps the PW, as the electronics inside a PW will slow down the upper limit on this trick. But even with the Pocket Wizards, I can sync well above 1/1000th of a sec. I do not know if this will work with a Gadget Infinity remote. (It probably won't.) But I know it will work with a PC cord (and a required hot shoe adaptor in the case of a D70s.)

Case in point is this quickie portrait of a high school tennis doubles team. (I had five minutes to do this and two head shots between warm-ups and practice.)

The ambient exposure of the hazy/sunny day was ~1/1250 at f/5.6 at ASA 200. So I underexposed the ambient a stop by shooting at 1/1250th at f/8. The sun, as you can see, is coming across the back of their shoulders. Look at the shadow near the racquets on the ground to confirm.

Now, the high shutter speed gives me a lower aperture and the ability to dominate sunlight with a small flash. In this case, it was a single Nikon SB-26, on a stand (sync'ed by a PW) in manual mode and set to 1/4 power. I put the beam at 85mm to get a little more lighting efficiency, given it was about 10 feet away.

Why 1/4 power? Because recycle time will be negligible. No waiting to fire. But, it is important to note that I could have shot at 1/1 power and dropped the aperture to f/16. Thus, I would have been able to overpower daylight by three stops. Now, that is power.

Here's your limiting factor: The actual duration of the flash pulse itself.

A manual, full-power flash takes about 1/1000th of a second to discharge. A half-power flash discharges in about 1/2000th of a sec, a quarter-power flash in 1/4000th, etc.

So you are not going to get all of a full-power flash in a 1/8000th of a sec, no matter how your shutter slices it. Basically, you can sync a full-power shot at 1/1000, a half-power shot at 1/2000th, a quarter-power shot at 1/4000, etc. This assumes a PC cord with no time loss due to the electronic circuitry in remotes. But I can consistently do a half power flash at 1/1250 with my Pocket Wizards. Beyond that it gets dicey. But I can always switch to a PC cord to further stretch it.

Next, we will talk about how to work beyond the limits of your mechanical shutter. Long story short: Not camera/flash model dependent, but less stretching to be had.

And again, please list your various electronic shutter cameras (and their fast-sync capabilities) in the comments, and I will bring them up to a round-up post when time permits. If you are not sure, just test against a wall indoors to see what your off-camera outfit is really capable of.

You might be surprised.

Related post: Balancing Light, Pt 1
(Part two continues, linked from Part 1)


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Anonymous Mat said...

Thanks for this one, wish I'd knew this a month ago, while I was shooting at the seaside in full summer sun.
I've read somewhere, that you can have your flash on D70s and it will sync above 1/2000 if you cover/isolate all contacts except the middle circle on the hotshue. Do you know anything about this? Is this true?

Thx, regards, Mat

May 28, 2007 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D70 with Cactus trigger will sync at 1/640.


May 28, 2007 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Geerling said...

Working with my Nikon D40 and a Vivitar 285, connected via eBay triggers, I can sync consistently at 1/1000 before only parts of the frame are exposed. At 1/1250, about 1/3 of the frame is dark.

On the camera, I can get up to about 1/2000 (the 285 has only the center pin, and doesn't do any TTL).

May 28, 2007 1:04 PM  
Blogger Hugh Macdonald said...

Mat: That would make sense, as all you're leaving exposed are the same connections as the PC cord is using. It's the other (now disconnected) contacts that the camera and flash use to talk to each other.

May 28, 2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just tried what Mat suggested - isolated contacts with electrical tape (except the middle one) so that the d70s wouldn't know an SB-600 was connected - and the camera then synced well above 500.
Best, Axel

May 28, 2007 1:21 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Well, it doesn't seem to work on the Pentax K10D. Though the shutter speed sounds about the same at 1/125 as it does at 1/2000 the camera refuses to fire the flash at any speed over 1/180.

May 28, 2007 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

In my best Homer Simpson voice..." 'doh! "
I never thought about FP for my d80 and will also have to mess around with my d70s. Thanks for showing me the light .... again!

May 28, 2007 1:37 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

According to this source the 1D (mark 1) is the only Canon camera with an electronical shutter - which is also why it has a flash sync speed of 1/500th of a second. All the others use a mechanical shutter...

May 28, 2007 1:44 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

D200: E1, same as the cameras you've mentioned above. Normally 1/250th (also probably the same as the D2 series).

Great stuff, as always.

May 28, 2007 1:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thank you for the write up!
Now it makes more sense to me when I do use my cameras!

May 28, 2007 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

The original Canon 1D also has an electronic shutter.

When I had a D50 I could get 1/1000 flash sync with the Gadget Infinity remotes.

May 28, 2007 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use an Pentax *ist D and a Pentax af-360fgz, anyone want to tell me if this will work so I don't have to hit the manuals? heh, please?

May 28, 2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Hello David, I seem to have an apparent problem here. I work with a D2Xs as well and my FP have been enable for a while now. I can use higher sync speed when the flash is mounted on the body, but I can't exceed 1/250 with the pocket wizard plus 2.
What am I skipping? I've read the article several times.

May 28, 2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Yes this is why I love my D50. As long as the flash duration is quick enough you're golden!

May 28, 2007 2:54 PM  
Blogger orcmid said...

You had me dive for the information on my just-acquired D80. The D80 has Auto FP High-Speed Sync (called Auto FP) and it is turned on and off with custom setting CS-25. It works with the SB-800, -600, and -R200.

(The D80 also has i-TTL and wireless Commander modes. That melts my brain. I have a lot to learn.)

May 28, 2007 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

The D80 syncs nicely with the SB-800 at up to 1/4000 with FP, but using Gadget Infinity RD/RF 616 triggers I start getting dark horizontal bands at 1/250.

The stated (non FP) max sync speed is 1/200, so with the GI triggers at least it seems to hold true. I don't have a PC cord or a non-TTL strobe handy to test directly linked sync speed.

May 28, 2007 3:22 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

@Mat: Sounds about right. I've put an old flash (manual, no controls, GN17) on my D70. It only has the middle contact and I was able to sync at any speed. This was before I knew about maximum voltages and whatnot, so maybe I wouldn't dare do it again.

Try it and see.

May 28, 2007 3:22 PM  
Blogger worldwideweems said...

Nikon's D1/H/X will sync above 1/500.

You can also beat sync speed by putting the subject that will be exposed by flash in the portion of the frame where the shutter will be open. I've shot outdoors with a D2X at 1/1600 by turning the camera upside down.

May 28, 2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My D70s syncs up to 1/1250 with the RF-04 ebay slaves.



May 28, 2007 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Wes said...

D80 synchs up to 1/4000 sec as long as it can tell the flash it's in FP mode. Even in FP mode it does not synch beyond 1/200 with brand X units. Read Sunpak 383.

May 28, 2007 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Taping the TTL contacts of my SB-800 gets me to 1/250 on the D80 hotshoe -- dark bands appear at 1/320. Well, it's a 1/3 stop improvement anyway...

May 28, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Pentax DSLR's are restricted so that they won't fire above 180th. The only way they will fire beyond this is by using the High Speed Sync function on the 380 and 540. I've got a couple of 360's so I'll check over the next few days as to how far they'll go.

Also, I've complained to Pentax about the 180th restriction. We'll see what they do, but they have a history of not telling anyone about the detailed changes they've made in new firmware, so expect to have to experiment and check all functions on every firmware update.

So ... anonymous ... the only way to test with Pentax, is to try it and ask in the Pentax forums.

May 28, 2007 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike Zara said...

The Canon 5D has a standard sync speed of 1/200. With Canon EX series flashes (like my 580EX), however, it will sync up to the 1/8000 (the 5D's top shutter speed). To get this, you set the EX to High-Speed Sync (FP Flash).

I have yet to try it, but I'm looking fwd to it! :-)


May 28, 2007 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I complained too.

I dont feel like to sell all my lenses and the body just for another camera.

It's like throwing cash all around you.

May 28, 2007 5:16 PM  
Blogger David said...


You complained? about what and to whom? I am not sure I understand what you mean.

No, check that. I am absolutely sure that I do not understand what you mean...

Could you clarify that just a tad?


May 28, 2007 5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shoot with a Fuji S3 which has the glorious sync speed of 1/180 sec!!!

Could anyone help with this as I am becoming evermore p****d off with it's limitations.


May 28, 2007 5:32 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

I justed tested this out with my Canon 30D and 430EX flash. And it seems like I can go all the way up to 1/8000s without any problems.. This is with the EX set to FP and the flash on the camera though. Cool stuff anyhow!

May 28, 2007 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I did was - I simply used isolation tape to cover my low voltage soligor mz 340 af flash info pids just leaving central one. My D70 in manual mode thinks there is no flash just like I wanted to. Synch speeds - all up to 4000.This is how I made it :)

May 28, 2007 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just did a quick test with Canon 1Dmk2, 540EZ and PW's. results can be seen from the flickr link below:


though I knew that you can go faster than 1/250, and have used 1/320 and 1/400 before, I should've tested this way back. I guess the 1,3x crop factor ie. smaller chip results usable 1/320 sync speed.

cheers, smuli

May 28, 2007 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Great stuff. Just today I was drilling and soldering on an optical slave to make it into a wired slave (still saving up for those PW's...)

So with my new PC-corded flash, I tried this out. Unfortunately, the Canon Rebel XT appears to have a true mechanical shutter. It's rated to sync at 200, and with the PC cord I could push it to 320. 2/3 stop is something, but it's a far cry from 4000.

The 430EX does have a high-speed sync mode that works great, but requires a full hot shoe connection - direct or via Canon's off-shoe flash cord.

Looks like this may be a Nikon-only trick.

May 28, 2007 6:03 PM  
Anonymous przemo jasinski (shemo) said...

with a canon 20d (mechanical shutter) you can get as far as 1/320s when connected to a pc port.

Unless! you connect 580ex in master mode (to trigger other units) to the PC port- then the sync speed drops to 1/125 (probably due to controlling pre flash) - you can squeeze 1/160, but a slight light fall off at the bottom of the frame will appear.

for hot-shoe mounted e-ttl flash units, the camera will refuse to go beyond 1/250 - the nominal sync speed.

however - if you turn on the HIGH SPEED SYNC mode on your flash - all shutter speeds are useable with loss of power with increasing shutter speeds. Yet - ettl slave mode for other flash units still works for all shutter speeds.
(and you can actually squeeze 3shots (3fps) at 1/4 power out of the ex580)


I though of methods of how to fool the shutter and I came up with 2 ides:

1. First (failed, but good in principle) was to exploit the canon's muliti flash mode, but since you can get the frequency of 200Hz, which is not enough. Still, the principle is ok (I just found out from the article thet it is used in the FP modes :) )

2. Second (just theory) would be to have 2 (or more) flash units discharged one after another - with the interval time being dependent on the shutter speed. the quetsion is: how to do a DIY device accurate enough to do that (and not based on AC/DC current) - the advantage would be that you do not lose power up to the discharge time limit, the disadvantage would be the reliablity of DIY syncing mechanism.

the only camera I know of, and which syncs at all its mechanical shutter speeds is the Hasselblad H series. (up to 1/800)

in studio setup, you'd normally controll the flash duration time via a generator (but then - you don't have ambient light)


Przemo (shemo)

May 28, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Finraz said...

AS confirmed by some other people, my Nikon D70 syncs up to 1250 with my v1 gadget infinity set. I've been using it like that for awhile not understanding how it could work, Thanks for the help!!!

May 28, 2007 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Darrell N. said...

I just tried it on a Canon 5D with 580EX flash set to manual, various power settings between 1/8 and 1/32, bottom contacts taped over except for the center contact. It will sync to 1/250 second.

May 28, 2007 8:21 PM  
Anonymous conrad erb said...

not sure if anyone said this, but some DSLR cameras have a slightly higher sync speed than the published specs. my canon 20D, using a generic sunpak 333 flash, syncs just find at 1/320th of a second. there is a very slight black line at the bottom of the frame at 1/400th of a second. doesn't seem like a big deal for most people, but when you are maxing out your flash to balance with ambient, that's two thirds of a stop less ambient to worry about!

May 28, 2007 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shoot with a Minolta Maxxum 7D and you can enable HSS (FP) mode when using a 3600HS(D) or 5600HS(D) flash by pushing the HSS button on the flash.

This is the same for the Maxxum 5D and also for the Sony Alpha A100.

May 28, 2007 9:56 PM  
Blogger sv said...

Good job - I think this article clears up some confusion readers may have had after reading the original posts on balancing flash and ambient light.

May 28, 2007 11:23 PM  
Blogger Dr. Tan said...

Well, I tried using a Cactus trigger with my 300D. Anything above 1/800 gives me nothing more than a black sensor.

I wrote about it here

Look for the paragraph above the picture with the yellow box.

May 29, 2007 2:37 AM  
Blogger Carsten Bockermann said...

The fact that it syncs at any speed is the reason why I still have a Nikon D70. For example this http://www.cabophoto.com/Koeln089.htm was shot at 1/2000 with an SB-800 in A mode.


May 29, 2007 3:41 AM  
Anonymous Reg said...

thanks Dave, now just watch the price of those d70s's shoot up on ebay:)

May 29, 2007 5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Canon 350D, old flashes, Ebay slaves, max 1/250, beyond that unusable. Any help, please.

And what I haven't read in the article is quite important: You also need faster shutter to get sport action ( in my case BMX bikes going pretty fast, so 250 isn't fast enough).

Please, please, please...

May 29, 2007 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Canon 350D, old flashes, Ebay slaves, max 1/250, beyond that black stripe.

Another usage (very important and crucial) - action photos (In my case BMX bikers going too fast to be frozen by 250)...


May 29, 2007 6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had same kind of results with canon 30D, as Conrad erb with 20d. Perfect sync still at 1/320th of a second and thin black line at 1/400th.
I had bottom contacts taped over except center. I used speedlite 550 ex on top of the camera as trigger and Nikon speedlight SB-80DX as slave unit (1/16 power)

May 29, 2007 7:47 AM  
Anonymous brentj said...

Does anyone know the capability of a D200 and a SB-600? I could go test it out when I get chance but I am wondering if anyone else has had a go.


May 29, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Graham said...

I just gave this a shot with my d50, i used a vivitar 285 on a stand connected by the new V2 Gadget Infinity Remotes, i got consistant 1/400 and spotty 1/500 performance - nothing higher (1/500 is the published spec on the d50) but once i threw the 285 on camera i managed to properly expose a shot in my office @ F8 of 1/4000 (yes 4 - 0 - 0 - 0) with the flash bursting on 1/16 of a second... i can honestly say i didnt expect it to pull that off

May 29, 2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Albertas Agejevas said...

Old generation Gadget Infinity remotes between a D40 and an SB-28 would occasionally miss the sync at 1/500 s, so I usually shoot at 1/400 at most.

May 29, 2007 2:27 PM  
Blogger homer said...

I managed to get my D200 and my sb600 to sync all the way up to 1/8000 on 1/4 power with no black shutter lines BUT only on camera and not with my pw's.
With the pw's triggering the flash, I can't get past the normal 1/250 sync without the lines.

May 29, 2007 3:48 PM  
Anonymous strobe2go said...

Tried with a D200, SB-800 and V2 GadgetInfinity triggers. Via the triggers 1/180 is maximum (whereas the camera synchs at 1/250 in regular mode. So you would think the remote trigger is too slow which can't be the case after all the posts above.

I tried connecting the flash to the camera via the PC cable and now it goes up to 1/350???

Any idea how to speed up the REMOTES?


May 29, 2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger Codiac2600 said...

With the Pentax K10D you have to switch your flash to HS (high speed) mode and set the camera to M (manual mode) and you can punch in any combination of aperture and shutter speed (yes 1/4000) and it works like a charm. Go Pentax!

May 29, 2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Canon 5D with a 580EX has a great high speed sync mode, but you've got to be on-shoe or teathered using Canon's off-shoe cord. The high speed setting does not work using Pocket Wizards. I'm limited to 1/200th (unless you like partially exposed frames).

May 29, 2007 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd a problem recently with my D100 having 1/3th of frame blacked out. Upon further investigation... I found Ken Rockwell article on sync speed


Under Survey of Sync Speed.

Long story short, during 1 shoot with limitation of studio strobes and space, I had to shoot at f2.2 at 1/4000th via cord to make the shots look right. My D1x and D70s were fully capable of doing that, but I can't do it with my D100 and my partner's Sony A100 was obviously no match to the D1x and D70s sync speed as well. He had to go with f8 or higher in order to avoid any blackout, his shots suffered (seeing every single detail on the backdrop isn't appealing).

I'm glad that my D70s can do this, makes it awesome! It is also good to know that the D70s can sync at a good speed with the Infinity Gadget system, since a set of V2 is on its way from Hong Kong.

May 30, 2007 5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What was your set up with your K10D? What was the flash that you used? What kind of wireless trigger/receiver were you using?

I'm also using Pentax K10D with Sigma 500DG Super and Pentax 540FGZ. I can't get them to sync beyond 1/180s with a wireless trigger (Microsync).


May 30, 2007 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Madddog said...

Fun test, Canon 1D, Gadget Infinity V2 remotes, Metz 54MZ-3, syncs to 1/16000...what I'd use 1/16000 for I'll never know ;)

May 30, 2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger Max said...

"Does anyone know the capability of a D200 and a SB-600?"
I just tried it - turning on "Auto FP" (in menu E1) works like a dream when using CLS to trigger (camera set to manual mode, onboard flash set to Commander, flash set to manual in the Commander Mode menu).
I didn't think it would work with everything set to manual... I don't know why I didn't actually bother to try it until now.

May 30, 2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Jacob said...

I can only get my 30D up to 1/320. Looks like Nikon trumps Canon on this one...

May 30, 2007 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Kev M said...

Minolta 5d with a non ttl flash on camera will sync upto 1/200. Take the flash off and add ebay radio triggers and now it won't expose properly with flash faster than 1/125.

People keep suggesting using the minolta wireless HSS system (equivelant to Nikons CLS I believe) but it limits you to line of sight. I want fast shutter, flash and radio triggers. I can't wait for pt2 of this subject. Hopefully it will stop me from thinking about jumping ship and joining the dark side.

May 30, 2007 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging by the comments here, it looks like a lot of readers here are seriously confused about what flash sync means. I know you sorta explained high speed sync (autoFP) & hybrid shutters vs. focal plane shutter but it seems as though people aren't getting it.

if you own a canon slr besides the 1D or a nikon besides the D1, D70(s), D50, or D40 (not D40x), don't even try this - It won't work. People claiming that it will are using high speed sync and that's not the real deal.

Furthermore, the main downfall of the cameras that can do this is sensor blooming (caused by the sensor getting too much exposure to bright sources - ie. shooting a shot which includes the sun @ 1/4000 sec but the sensor still "sees" the sun for 1/125 sec. It heats up and blows pixels across the frame.

I'd like to see the manufacturers introduce a user selectable hybrid or mechanical shutter. Normal shutter operations for most shots but you can choose electronic exposure control via the sensor for high flash sync operations. It shouldn't be too hard to do and if the demand is high enough, we will see this happen.
Otherwise, give me a few leaf shutter nikkors and i'll be happy.

May 30, 2007 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop tasing us Dave. Where's part 2?

June 01, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EOS 10D - mech shutter/ 1/200th max sync

With SunPak 383 Super:
- 1/250th OK
- 1/320th 'cropable' bar at bottom of frame.

With Canon 420EX:
- switch-on High Speed Sync on flash panel and 10D will sync to 1/4000 (max shutter spd)

Cheers! Jay

June 01, 2007 2:52 PM  
Blogger Codiac2600 said...

Withe the K10D Gene you have to set the camera in M(anual) mode and set the af360 or af540 flash to H(igh-speed). In manual mode you can punch in up to 1/4000 and it will sync just fine, but you're going to have to max out the flash power and keep it in close to see any effect. Hope this helps Gene and it should also be in the manual as well from what I remember.

June 01, 2007 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm able to sync up to 1/1250 with my Nikon D50 and 4-channel Cactus v1 remotes.

June 01, 2007 11:12 PM  
Anonymous whereswade said...

The problem with HP or FP or HSS or whatever (great feature, useable, but not feasable), is that it shoots multiple flashes to cover the shutter - wasting energy. The great thing about electronic shutters is that the flash can be used at a normal power burst - you don't burn through your batteries. THAT is the main difference between syncing with an electronic shutter at "normal" high speed sync (such as with a leaf shutter system) and using the "gimmicky" HSS, FP, HP feature. This feature (which is great and is useable in its function) kills batteries.

June 01, 2007 11:42 PM  
Anonymous dartz said...

im sorry, this is really misleading, isnt this about high speed sync,
isnt the camera that synch,
but isnt the FLASH DURATION, who freezes movement ???
so you'll get a 1/4000 frozen frame, eventhough the camera body speed is set to 1/125.

June 02, 2007 3:43 AM  
Anonymous Kev M said...

True but HSS is better than nothing. I think the one thing that's worse than the drain on the batteries is the reduced working range of the light.

June 02, 2007 7:04 AM  
Blogger David de Groot said...

I just ran a series of tests with my Canon 400d and Canon 188A on-camera flash. Since the 188A is so old, the 400d does not recognise it is there, but will fire it.
It would seem the highest sync I can get it to do is 1/320 (officially the manual for the camera says 1/200 and the flash 1/90, so I'm happy).

June 03, 2007 7:17 AM  
Blogger David said...

Great article! But I have one question to your tennis photo: would it be possible to set 1/1600s @ f/5.6 and fire flash at 1/8 of power with the same result (and maybe better battery life in flash)? I just think of shorter shutter speed to underexpose available light and correct flash exposure.
Thank you for your answer, David

June 03, 2007 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Michael Good said...

Of course you could put an ND filter on your lense to reduce the apparent brightness ? Therefore lowering your shutter speed to a normal sync speed ?

June 05, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

In case anyone is still keeping score:

I can only get a 1/160 at best with:
D40x + SB-600 + GI(Cactus) V2 transmitter/receiver

Seems pretty bad compared to some of the other results I'm seeing here.
PC cord isn't an option as there is no PC jack on the camera.
Would love any tip to be able to speed it up!

June 06, 2007 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Ken B said...

Hey Kev M

Your Minolta doen't have an electronic shutter. Nor does the Sony A100. Turn the anti-shake off and you can get a little higher sync when using the dedicated flash.

Should point out Nikon CLS is more Equivelant to Minolta Wireless Flash System. Minolta had it for several years before Nikon came out with CLS. Nikon just had the smarts to give it a name and to market it. Props to Nikon for that.

As far as line of sight goes, depending on your lighting conditions, the flash can pickup the bounced light as well. Now you do eventually get out of range and it would be nice to have a dedicated radio wireless setup. I use PWs and Vivitar strobes when the the MWFS won't work reliably. Like when I'm in bright sun or to far away.

June 10, 2007 2:41 PM  
Blogger Ariel D. Bravy said...

With the Canon 1D and 580ex, if you tape all but the center pin and place the camera on the hot shoe (or if you use an off-camera hot shoe cable with only a center pin), the camera will sync successfully at 1/2500th every time. Occasionally it could hit 1/3200, but sometimes it wouldn't work. When the 1D shoots too fast, the whole image will actually turn completely magenta! The 1D's rated sync speed is 1/500th. This test was done with the flash at 1/128 power.

With the 1D2, I could only reach 1/320th successfully (rated for 1/250th).

June 14, 2007 2:03 AM  
Blogger Nacho said...

"If you have different camera/flash combos that work in the FP flash mode for you, please post the combo (and, just as important, how to enable FP flash) in the comments. I will bring the info up top in a later post. We can compile a database pretty quickly".

Sony a100 with Sigma EF 500 DG Super in FP flash mode goes up to 1/4000.
In flash menu set FP with (+) (-) buttons.

June 15, 2007 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this flash stuff is pretty new to me, but need to try achieve at least 1/500 sync speed.
Combo: Nikon D2XS & Sigma EF 500 DG Super. I can only achieve 1/320 by taping the contacts. I still need to figure out the FP Flash thing? Anybody care to explain this a bit more. I feel lost :)

June 25, 2007 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me again from post above! Got it now:
Combo: Nikon D2XS & Sigma EF 500 DG Super.
No need to tape any contacts or mess about too much.
Set the flash to TTL BL. Then go into CameraSettings e1: Flash Sync Speed & set to 1/250(FP Auto). Now look at the back of the flash you should see the letter "FP" appear. You're set and ready to hi-speed flash sync! =)
I get my 1/500 with no problems. Up Up & AWAY!!
Every day I learn something new. This is what I love about Photography.

June 25, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger danny said...

For the Canon fans out there - the 40D is available for pre-order on Amazon and it sounds like it has Live view - that means an electronic shutter! Brilliant!

August 19, 2007 9:56 AM  
Blogger Troy said...

My 1D will sync to 1/2500 with the all but the center pins taped and the flash straight ahead (even with an SB-26 on it) but will only go to 1/1000 in bounce flash. Interesting? Also, it will go reliably to 1/800 with pocket wizards and sometime go to 1/1000 but never over that with the pw's.

September 05, 2007 9:00 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

Actually Danny, if you check the dpreview page on the 40d, it says focal plane shutter just like the 30d. I'm not sure how they implemented live view though.

September 13, 2007 8:25 AM  
Anonymous stupig said...

40D uses a "rolling electronic shutter" for Live View, and apparently this is the only method available on a CMOS sensor. The rolling speed is faster than the physical shutter curtain but not suitable for fast flash sync because it is rolling instead of exposing all pixels simultaneously.

November 14, 2007 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Nikon D80 with canon 540EZ speedlite (TTL terminals taped off), max power will sync to 1/250th, 1/320th with a quarter of the frame cropped.

I thought I'd mention it, since I read that a D80 will not sync beyond 1/200th with a brand X strobe. It will, if you're clever enough to figure out how.

I never got around to getting a nikon speedlight for my D80, and this bummed me out. Nikon's hotshoe voltage is way higher than canon EOS hotshoes, so using a canon speedlite is allowable on nikon hotshoe, but not the reverse. A small piece of electrical tape on the nikon hotshoe TTL terminals and Robert's your Mother's brother. I found that to be an interesting bit of info, for anyone who cares.

November 14, 2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger Patrick F said...

I've been using my Rebel XT with an old Vivitar 3000DT. The specs for the XT say the max sync is 1/200. When I tried today, I was totally surprised to consistently get 1/320 with no problems. At 1/400 there is a black bar over the bottom 1/8 of the frame, though. The size of the black bar increases with higher shutter speeds, covering 3/4 of the frame by 1/640.
I have been a bit afraid of frying my camera with this old Vivitar flash, ever since I read about the trigger voltage issues with digital SLRs. But I just found a link that says the 20D and XT can handle voltages up to 250V! I'll have to check this out some more . . .

November 15, 2007 11:10 PM  
Blogger Aegir said...

I'm going to be the odd one out and bring up Olympus.

An e410 and an Olympus FL36 does FP mode to 1/2000 (gets a funky fake vignetting effect, though). Without the TTL connectors active (as in, using a hotshoe to PC Sync adapter), you can still sync all the way up to 1/2000, which is the E410/E510's maximum shutter speed anyway. The E3 does 1/4000, but Olympus' Super FP mode only works up to 1/2000 anyway.

Banding ofcourse happens without Super FP mode. I forget which shutter speed it starts to kick in. Around 1/500 or 1/1000, I forget which exactly.

December 30, 2007 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm having problems with a D2Xs, SB 800 and PW's - I don't think its true that it can be used...anyone?

April 01, 2008 3:00 PM  
Blogger Kieran said...

Hey Ken B...

The Sony a100 DOES have an electronic shutter...

All the best,

June 26, 2008 1:26 AM  
Anonymous Ewen said...

To add to this very interesting post, and great read, I have a Sony A100 and using the in-built "WL" wirelss mode, it will quite happily sync upto 1/4000sec. The problem is that in reasonably bright (read daylight) conditions where you might want a little balance, it's not that reliable because the daylight over powers the camera signal.

Have just ordered a GI V2s transmitter and 3 recievers, will definately do some experimentation when they arrive.

June 27, 2008 1:04 AM  
Blogger tmark said...

I'm completely new to the Strobist thing, and almost completely new to photography. But I love what I see here and want to try my hand at it.

I have a D300, a D80, an SB-600 and an SB-28. I have the opportunity to buy a D70S (body only, no accessories) for fairly cheap (< $300). Does the sync speed hack on the D70s get me something I can't get with my D300 ? At this price, I could afford to buy it if it allowed me to do something cool I can't do with my "main" camera, but I am not sure if it will. TIA !

July 04, 2008 11:29 AM  
Anonymous jim said...

to summarise the bahaviour of the d70s

. with an SB800 in the P mode it allows a maximum shutter/synch speed of 1/60
. as above but in the manual mode the speed rises to 1/500
. with a PC cord to a studio light in manual mode 1/8000 is possible

hope this helps

September 07, 2008 4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My combo:

D70, SB600 and SB24, Ebay Triggers

Off camera max sync is 1/640. Completely black frame at 1/800. Tried taping TTL contacts on flash - same results.

On camera, with TTL contacts taped, was able to sync at 1/8000!

Results were the same for both SB24 and the SB600.

Looks like it's the electronics of the ebay triggers imposing a sync speed limit...

September 20, 2008 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My ages-old Unomat B24 syncs perfectly fine, on camera, up-to the max. shutter speed of a D50: 1/4000s!

October 03, 2008 5:27 PM  
Blogger jON said...

HELP!!! I just bought Gadget Infinity Trigger and 2 Receivers a couple of weeks ago to complement by two flash units (SB600 and Vivitar 285HV).And just as what has shared in the previous post my D80 syncs nicely with the SB-600 even higher that it's max sync speed of 1/200. But when I start using Gadget Infinity V2 trigger and Receiver I start getting dark horizontal bands at 1/250.

The stated (non FP) max sync speed is 1/200, so with the GI triggers at least it seems to hold true. has anyone already resolve this?

December 08, 2008 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Hasselblad syncs up to 1/800th which is great with studio type strobes. However, the limitation I see here is in the actual triggering when using wireless. Pocket Wizzards can go to 1/500 with leaf shutters, so I don't get the 1/800 that I can go to. I have heard Bowens Pulsars will not go that high either. ANyone have experience with this. I just don't want to have to think that if I'm over 1/500 I should go back to a sync lead. I see this thread is mainly about focal plain shutters. The reason I ask is because I am about to purchase a Profoto Acute B600 or the R model with built in pocket wizzard.

January 28, 2009 8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like I found the answer for my Hasselblad and 1/800 sync. Elinchrom Skyport claims it can work with shutters up to 1/1000th. Guess this would work on focal plain shutter DSLR's that use electronic shuttering when you go past their maximum mechanical sync speed. Still, you may not get this when firing a hot shoe mounted flash because there is too much lag due to other things going on like info being sent to and from the flash/camera. Skyport just sends a simple signal to fire. So I am not talking about high speed sync flash options made my nikon and canon. This is for studio strobes. I really don't know why people bother with wireless remotes, stands, cables and hot shoe flashes mounted like studio strobes, perhaps because it is compact, it is still expensive, take a look at an elinchrom ranger system, in the end you'll save money and time when you buy it all again in some other form like a quantum. And the time and effort selling your old set up. If you have the money, go for it. Programming flash units is just too much stuffing around for me. Heard of problems with syncing above 1/200 with universal skyport receiver, who knows if hotshie mounted flashes are made for this anyway, they should be able to handle it but they don't.

January 29, 2009 9:34 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Not to beat a dead horse:

But I've been tooling around with ultra high speed sync times and have been able to sync my d1x all the way up to it's maximum 1/16000th.
This was done with a simple Nikon AS-10 adapter attached to my SB-600 then attached via PC-cord straight into my D1x body.
At 1/4 power it was looking good all the way to the maximum shutter speed at ISO 125. Once it became to dark I simply dialed the ISO up to 800 and regained a normal exposure.

This is very interesting territory here and quite fun to boot!

-Jeff Catt

March 18, 2009 12:33 AM  
Blogger John said...

I know this is an older post but I thought some might find this info useful.

I just purchased a set of CyberSync radio triggers, specifically, one CST transmitter and two CSRB receivers.

I shoot with a Nikon D300 and a Nikon D70. Using the D300 with the CyberSyncs I cannot sync with my flashes any faster than 1/320 sec before I start to see the shading from the shutter on the sensor. However, using the D300's built in CLS system (Auto FP High Speed Sync) I can sync any of my Nikon speedlights at 1/8000 of a second using my pop-up flash as a commander.

With the D70 I have been able to sync at 1/2000 of a second with the CyberSyncs. I absolutely love that I can do this especially since I keep a 50mm 1.8 on my D70. I can shoot portraits outside with a HUGE aperture, with a fast enough shutter speed for proper exposure and still bang away with my speedlights.

Good stuff!

March 18, 2009 4:00 PM  
Blogger Robson said...

I've got a Canon 5D, 580EX II with a Gadget Infinity's Cactus radio trigger and the max sync speed I can get is 160 and not 200 as everyone says, is there something I'm missing? Turning the High sync option on the flash on manual mode doesn't change anything.

June 07, 2009 5:14 PM  
Blogger Łukasz Kruk said...

I don't understand one part of this, if someone could elaborate I'd be grateful. Please excuse the full citation, it's just to make my question clearer:

"The ambient exposure of the hazy/sunny day was ~1/1250 at f/5.6 at ASA 200. So I underexposed the ambient a stop by shooting at 1/1250th at f/8.

Now, the high shutter speed gives me a lower aperture and the ability to dominate sunlight with a small flash. In this case, it was a single Nikon SB-26, on a stand (sync'ed by a PW) in manual mode and set to 1/4 power."

Why underexpose by stopping down the aperture? Why not set the shutter to 1/2500 - ambient gets underexposed by a stop as well, and you can set the sb-26 to 1/8 power for same effect. Please correct me if i'm wrong.

June 09, 2009 8:55 PM  
Anonymous h4ckem.blogspot.com said...


June 12, 2009 4:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Martinez said...

Just ran some tests. Here we go. Full sync on Nikon D40 with All parts of the frame being lit by a an SB600 strobe.

F5.6 at 1/4000
Flash 1/4 power from about 12 feet away. Zoom on flash set to 85mm.

I taped the rear two contacts and only the top most contact. I believe that even when there isn't anything mounted on the hot shoe, it still emits an electronic signal. Hence why the flash fires. This is not my greatest shot, but it's something quick to demonstrate what flash at 1/4000th of a second looks like.


Shot of a white wall, bumped up the exposure in Cameraw raw one stop to show there is no shutter curtain in the frame.


I'm sure with any remote trigger I'll still get the 1/4000th of a second shutter speed. Thanks for the hack!

July 29, 2009 2:43 PM  
Blogger Sean Davis said...

High Speed Flash Sync, Freezing Action with Flash

Article about hacking a Broncolor Mobil to sync at 1/8000 second.

July 27, 2010 4:10 PM  
Blogger Luis said...

Picked up a used D50 for $200 to try this all out.

Nikon D50, AS-15, SB-800, PC Cord. Any speed up to the max 1/4000th shutter, with appropriate 1/1, 1/2, 1/4 power settings on the flash.

Nikon D50, electrical taped over hot shoe contacts except center, slid in SB-800, same as above.

Nikon D50, Pocket Wizards, SB-800 with PC Cord to PW. Max shutter 1/1250th no matter what I try.

It's all good, though. Sure beats the 1/250th on my D700 and D7000.

March 21, 2011 8:51 PM  
Blogger Furniture Webstore said...

Tried this with D70 today using SB-600 and Yongnuo RF-602 triggers.

Was able to sync right up to 1/800s, but at 1/1000s I got a totally black frame. Still, not bad. The contacts were taped up as mentioned in other comments.

March 27, 2011 12:48 PM  
Blogger emyrold said...

I just bought my 11 year old a D70s for his first DSLR and as a backup for me to get a full pop @ 1/1250 sec... Took David's suggestion from Lighting in Layers (the Soccer clip).

However, I am using the newer Pocket Wizards miniTT1 and FlexTT5 and I cannot get the D70s to go behond 1/500 sec in manual mode.

I am wondering since the new PocketWizard Triggers support TTL maybe it will not work because the D70s thinks there is a TTL flash attached.

Has anyone found a work-a-round so I do not have to cary two sets of triggers and can use the newer miniTT1 as a manual simple trigger on the D70s?

October 15, 2011 2:01 PM  
Blogger synd said...


I want to trigger my flashes via
radio triggers such as the YongNuo 602. But it seems that you can only go up to 1/800th with the YongNuos and a D70s.

Can you please tell me with which radio triggers I can go further ?
At least 1/2000th ?

March 14, 2012 6:40 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

hish speed sync can also be done with a slave flash set to full power and a camera capable of auto fp, set auto fp on, set on camera flash to -- or a high number for longer distances, set flash to ignore preflash, i tried this with a nikon d90 and yongnuo yn560 set to s2 mode on full power and can get about 20 feet or so, yn460ii will work indoors but the slave is too weak to be used outdoors

April 07, 2012 2:29 PM  

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