Control Your World With Ultra-High Sync

UPDATE: The main body of this post now has an expanded list of high-sync cameras and a link to a .pdf tutorial on both Nikon and Canon proprietary high-speed pulsing flash features. -DH
Anyone can nuke their environment late in the evening, when just a little twilight is left in the dusk sky. In fact, the usual problem is failing to open up your shutter to let the ambient burn in for some flash/ambient balance.

This speedlight-lit photo would be a very good example -- except for the fact that it was taken at about 1:30 p.m. on a sunny day at a recent Strobist meetup near Baltimore, MD. That little patch of dark grey up top is sunny mid-day sky.

More after the jump.

The exposure for the above flash-lit shot was at ISO 200 at f/16 and a 1/4000th of a sec. It's that last part which makes everything possible. High-sync cameras are the little hidden jewels in various manufacturers' lines. We have talked about them before, but I came across these two photos which really show just how far you can go with it while archiving the other day.

There are a few special cameras with electronic shutters which do not really have a hard maximum sync speed. At some point while going up the shutter speed scale, the mechanical shutter does not actually continue to speed up. Instead, the chip just uses software to take a smaller and smaller slice of time to create the picture.

This totally rocks, because for every shutter speed you can climb up and can still sync the flash, the aperture can open up a full stop. So the flash has to put out half the light to get the same effect. And you can have it both ways, too, by walking that shutter up and leaving the aperture closed down to turn day into night. Or wherever you want it to be.

The trick is, you have to fool the camera into thinking there is not a flash attached to it. This way it will not restrict itself to its normal maximum sync speed.

These days, the camera normally knows it has a flash on it from the TTL circuitry that talks between the two. You can get around this pesky restriction by using a non-TTL PC cord if the camera has a PC jack. You can also use an adapter such as the Nikon AS-15 (~$20) which turns a TTL-enabled hot-shoe into a dumb PC jack. Works fine, but it needs a PC cord and a sync jack on the flash to complete the connection.

Even cheaper and better is a used Nikon SC-17 cord, which is normally TTL until you neuter the little guy by opening it up and snipping all of the wires except for the ones that are connected to the center post and the edge strip. This turns the TTL cord into a dumb (non-TTL) hot-shoe extension cord.

You can also high-speed sync with a Pocket Wizard, which does not make use of TTL signals, either.

Cameras to Control the Sun

Before we go any further, lets review some of the cameras which have the ability to sync right on up there through the shutter speed scale past their nominal sync speeds. None of them are particularly expensive, and they make ideal second cameras. Just keep an eye out for them on Craigslist or eBay -- especially right after a hot new model comes out (cough, D300, cough) and people get a case of upgrade-itis.

Number one on the list is my very favorite sleeper DSLR, the Nikon D70s, and to a slightly lesser extent, it's older sibling, the D70.

The 6.1MP D70s is now my primary body. I have three, and I am pretty sure my wife is now considering an intervention. But you can buy four of them is great shape for about the price of one D300.

The Nikon D40 (but not the D40x) can do this sync trick, too. It's a newer chip than the D70/s, but it is not compatible with many Nikon lenses. Make sure you check your charts if you are considering buying one.

Also, the old D1 (and /h and /x) bodies are said to sync up high in the range, too. I have no first-person experience with this, so check it out if not sure.

(UPDATE: According to a couple commenters, the Nikon D50 does the high-sync thing, too. Ditto the Sony R1, Olympus E-1 and E-3. Cool.)

On the Canon end, I am told the EOS 1D's do it. Again, never owned one. But I have heard they work from several people.

What I have owned are both the Canon G7 and Canon G9, which are neat little 10- and 12-MP point-and shoots. You have to turn off the in-camera flash and sync via a Pocket Wizard or a PC adapter (like the Nikon AS-15) and a PC cord. I love both of them. They'll sync up to a 1/2000th. The neutered Nikon TTL cord works great with them, too. (Works best, actually, IMO.)

You should be able to find any of these cameras new (G9) or used (all of the older models) for under $500.00.


Now, just because a camera will sync with a flash does not mean a flash will sync with a camera.


Follow me for a sec. A full-power flash from a speedlight usually has an actual duration of about 1/1000th of a sec. Which means that no matter what, you will not be able to sync one at full power at a 1/4000th of a sec. The actual flash pop lasts too long for the length of time the shutter is open. Rule of thumb is, the more you dial the flash down, the faster it will sync higher up with one of these special cameras.

If you are using remotes, they will limit you, too. My PW's limit me to about a 1/1600th of a sec with a D70s. But the neutered TTL cord will sync at right up to an 1/8000th(!!!) of a sec at lower flash powers (and thus, durations -- and higher manual flash power settings as you walk down the shutter speed scale.

So, working in relatively close, we might just open up the shutter until the sky was at a tone that we liked, as in this example which was shot at f/14 at 1/500th of a sec. I know, the trees are a little cluttered, but the point was to show the other meetup-ers that we could place the sky tone wherever we wanted with high-sync.

If you want to do multi-light setups this way, no problem. (A nice rim light coming from back camera right would have amped our example quite a bit.) You can add another PW, but it is usually easier to slave the other flash(es).

A couple of thoughts about the flash mode: If you are working with static subjects, manual is an easy way to go. But if you are in a dynamic setting, consider the old-fashioned "auto" mode. This'll get you some flexibility, considering you cannot go with TTL. (Remember, we don't want your camera to find out there is a flash attached and start telling us what shutter speeds we cannot use.)

Some high-end cameras have a special, pulsing, high-speed flash mode, too. If you are lucky enough to have both a flash and camera that supports these sophisticated functions, definitely enable them. No reason not to.

(UPDATE: A commenter pointed to a pretty good paper on this high-speed, pulsing flash setting here. (Via

But you'll find that you'll actually get more light out of your flash at super high sync speeds with the above neat little supercameras, if you are able to scrounge one for your bag.


Related Post (using High-Speed Sync)

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Blogger Nick Davis said...

Watch the price of used D70's jump up to $1000 now...
If somebody could get "insider trading" tips on what old gear you're going to mention next, they could make a minor fortune in the used market. We photographers seem to be a reactive bunch, I recall a heavily followed thread on DP Review about Nikon's old 105/2.5 AIS lens pushed the ebay prices from ~$100 to almost $300 for a few weeks!

January 07, 2008 3:12 AM  
Anonymous stupig said...

Ouch! How about here in Singapore?
At 1° 18' N, the sun can be HOT at 1:30PM. Single-flash nuking can be tough.

January 07, 2008 3:37 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

hmmm.... is there a place or a list that shows the list of cameras that will be able to do the high speed sync??


January 07, 2008 4:18 AM  
Anonymous said...

Why would manufacturers still install mechanical shutters when they can let the electronics do the job? Can't be to protect the sensor. The mirror can do that job.

January 07, 2008 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The D1x can definitely sync higher (I used the nikon hotshoe cord, the sc-28), though I haven't tested its limits. This shot is 1/1000

January 07, 2008 4:37 AM  
Blogger tschnitzlein said...

Cool idea! Can anyone offer a link so I can modify my SC-17 cable?

I'd like to add a switch into my SC-17 so that I can continue to use my SB-800 in tethered mode with full iTTL if need be.

January 07, 2008 5:20 AM  
Blogger Mitch said...

It's a shame the D80 can't do it too. After all, it's a "higher spec " camera than the D70. Is there any software rejigs to enable an electronic shutter or does the D70 run an entirely different software system?

January 07, 2008 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daniel says:

I got the G9, but with the falling price of the D70s (it has much better high ISO) and the appearance of D3 on the market, I'm feeling tempted to go ahead and trade the G9 for a D70 and learn to work with a Nikon!
The SB-800s are whispering in my ears: "Go Nikon, Go Nikon!"

The awful thing is that I'm heavily invested in Canon camp, so I'll wait for Canon to respond to D3.

BTW, this same effect can be achieved by using an ND filter, but we'll have to use the flash at high output and stay below 1/320th sec.

So ND filter when you need shallow DOF in broad day light.
High speed sync for freezing action or saving you batteries! And the ability to control the ambient beyond what is possible on regular SLR's without sweating!


January 07, 2008 6:07 AM  
Blogger Alex Gilliard said...

I don't believe the 1D's will work but I do know that the original 1D will work it is the only Canon camera to use a CCD sensor which from my research is why the other Canon cameras won't work because all the others use CMOS sensors. There is something CMOS which prevent Canon from implementing a digital shutter.

January 07, 2008 6:15 AM  
Blogger Zedooo said...

Great stuff David. I wondered why hasn't someone mentioned this earlier.

And one more thing, why can't the manufacturers make to software to use electronic shutters on all DSLR's?

Come on, crazy software modders, make me a firmware update for 400D&40D :)

January 07, 2008 6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is, that a PW can be connected to a neutered SC17 cord which is connected to, say, a D70s and the high speed sync will work?

I use a non-neutered SC28 connected to the hotshoe of my D2Hs and a SB800 and shoot manual FP mode with the SB800 on-wire but off-camera. This works just fine.

Now, that you have got my brain in overdrive: that if the setup above will work [neutered SC cord and PW] to get high speed sync with a D2Hs I am in the market for a set of PW's which I've been resisting because I thought there was no way to high speed sync them....

Or, am I missing something in your post?



January 07, 2008 6:26 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

David, I haven't tried it out yet (I'm waiting for the Radiopopper TTL thingies) But certainly the Canon 5D although it has an x-sync of 1/200th will synch at much higher speeds with the flash ON camera (sorry :)).

I put it on ISO of 3200 just now and set it, on manual to 1/8000th of a sec at f4.0 (fast enough?). Then, with a 580EX II on the top I pressed the "H" button to go high speed. Result a correctly exposed frame with no sign of incorrect sync from the shutter. Taking it down to ISO 50 and it was a bit dark, but there's a lot of room to play in there.

Sure, the light was harsh, but it's on camera ;)

Now imagine that with TTL via one of those Radiopopper things :D - I want to have one!

January 07, 2008 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Martin said...

Only cameras with a CCD sensor can do this, there is an early Canon 1D model which has a CCD, all their other cameras use CMOS sensors.

January 07, 2008 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Don't forget Nikon's little DSLR that could, the D50. My D50 with pocket wizards and SB-800 will sync at 1/1250th of a second.

January 07, 2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 07, 2008 8:56 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

This is great info. I was just trying to do this the other day but couldn't quite get it right. Sounds like my aperture was open too wide. I'll have to bump it down a few stops.

January 07, 2008 9:23 AM  
Anonymous LeChuck said...

Very good to learn about high speed sync but I think examples showing how to turn daylight into night and having very dark, not properly lit backgrounds is not a good example of what to do with high speed sync. It makes photos looks simply badly lit, much closer to the reasons why most people don't like "flash photos".

January 07, 2008 9:35 AM  
Blogger rodbot said...

@ nick Davis

$1000 for the D70 on ebay
-no wonder DH has been buying them up. he is doing his own insider trading. or it's his plan on taking over the world. price fixing on ebay.

next he probably buy up the Black straw stock in north america and claim extra special effect happen with a snoot that is 4' long. and then dump them back onto ebay....
we are on to you DH!!

January 07, 2008 9:46 AM  
Anonymous very1silent said...

There actually sometimes is a reason to disable pulsing high-speed sync modes. In particular, these modes have a flash duration which is as long (or nearly as long) as your shutter speed. For freezing VERY fast motion, such as hummingbird wings, this can lengthen your flash duration to the point where it won't freeze the motion.

In those situations, you're going to need to stop down, set your flash to low power, and move it close.

January 07, 2008 9:51 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Promaster has a cord #8172 for Nikon Digital TTL which should work as well. It is cheaper than the Nikon cord has screws to open up the electronics. I will be trying it this week.

Strobist Scott

January 07, 2008 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused about one point. If the shutter is only "open" for 1/4000th of a second, why would it matter that the flash duration was longer? How would that prevent the shot from working? For example, if I cannot dial down my flash, why can't I shoot at 1/4000 with my flash duration being 1/1000?

January 07, 2008 10:07 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

Great tip! I'm going to experiment with my Canon 5D. Has anyone out there done this with their 5D? 20D?

January 07, 2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger pgoyette said...

doesn't the D50 also do this?

January 07, 2008 10:22 AM  
Anonymous alek said...


Ironically, I was researching this topic just last night as I had recently shot my kids sledding down a hill.

Came across a great website that analyzes the Canon 580EX Very simple, but clever approach to measuring the flash duration - hey, gotta do it the Strobist way! ;-)


P.S. Sample sledding picture here - post #770 on my Christmas Blog. Sorry, flash is on-camera, but you posted a while ago about shooting into the sun and using it for a 3D look ... so I was thinking about you when I did this.

Canon 40D at 17mm (yes, I'm pretty close and got "run over" a few times!) with manual settings of 1/800s, F/10, ISO200 and 580EX at full power rotated slightly up to feather the light on the face, but not the snow.

Maybe a good question for Strobists - given that my kids don't always take the same path down the mountain (as implied above), plus that you are on a snowy hill, how would you setup an off-camera flash for this shot?

January 07, 2008 10:31 AM  
Anonymous alek said...

BTW, my understanding is that the Canon implementation of high-speed sync (above x-sync ... 1/250 on my 40D) is a continuous pulse (at about 40 KHz) for the entire duration. While this has the advantage of exposing the entire frame, you also lose a bit of power. And as pointed out earlier, it doesn't "freeze" the action.

Also, it appears you can't "gain" anything by increasing shutter speed. I.e. since it is an "additive" 40 KHz flash pulse, you lose power as you increase shutter speed. You can gain that back by opening up aperture, but the exposure remains the same for an equivalent flash power.

This is easily seen on the 580EX which has a distance scale. As you go above 1/250s, you'll see the distance drop off. It continues to drop as you further increase the shutter speed (keeping aperture constant) ... but you can get it back by opening up ... but you never gain any more distance.

Any Canon heads want to confirm my Monday morning airchair analysis?

And wouldn't this be a similar issue for other systems that attempt to "cheat" a mechanical shutter? And yea, sure would be nice if there was an "electronic shutter" option to sync up to fastest shutter speed!

January 07, 2008 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SHORT on time right now, just leaving a useful link

January 07, 2008 11:13 AM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

I just tried to do this with my Nikon D2X + PW + SB800's.

No luck. But maybe I was doing something wrong? Anyone have success with this camera?

I can shoot with a shutter of 1/8000. But it'll only sync at 1/250.


January 07, 2008 11:15 AM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

There's one reason not to enable Auto-FP when you're not likely to use it on the fancy cameras -- it makes it much easier to accidentally select too fast a shutter setting when using manual, off-camera flash, which readers of this site do quite a bit. The fancy cameras that allow Auto-FP pretty much all have mechanical shutters, sadly.

January 07, 2008 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous (re the point of 1/1000s flash and a 1/4000s shutter)

The only point is there that you're losing 3/4 of your light. So your sensor is going to be getting less light than you expected/setup for.

Apart from that - no problem, feel free to burn up your batteries (just let me know, I'll buy shares in duracel first though ;-) )


January 07, 2008 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Wannabefotographer said...

The D80 has FP flash mode and the SB600 supports it as well. The SB80 is down to $850 Canadian....That doesn't sound to far off of a purchase if you do want FP flash.

January 07, 2008 12:40 PM  
Blogger KeithAlanK said...

The better digicams excel at this.
My Sony F717 will synch with flash all the way to 1/1000 as long as it's the external Sony flash connected with a cable or my new Sunpak 383 on the hotshoe. That's the fastest shutter available in Manual mode. With poverty wizards I can synch at 1/400.

January 07, 2008 2:03 PM  
Anonymous jkelli97 said...

Works on the canon powershot pro 1 all the way up to 1/1600. No luck on the 40d. 1/250 max off camera 1/8000 on camera or on ettl cord.

January 07, 2008 2:25 PM  
Blogger Rachel Barsness said...

For those not in the nikon/canon camps, a little investigation will tell you if your camera can hss, too.

I have a sony a100, and I learned early on that it can sync up to 1/4000th when I use it with my sony flashes, both on camera and using the wireless triggering system.

The main limitation is that with pocket wizards and other brand flashes (for example, sb600s, which I occasionally use), my sync capabilities drop back down into 1/250th range.

January 07, 2008 2:29 PM  
Blogger ExNihilo said...

I would like to add that the Kodak SLR/c (Canon mount full-frame body similar to the 1Ds but slower) has high speed sync as well - right up to like 1/4000th I think...

You do have to have a flash that will perform the FP strobing to do it though - I don't think it actually uses electronic shutter.

January 07, 2008 2:41 PM  
OpenID itafaber said...

Hello David!
Thank you for the post. After the Paris seminar I've tried to use the High SPeed sync, but I can't use it except with the propietary TTL dialect of my camera. I think this is the same with nikon isn't it? (ok except for D70...)
Is it possible with Nikon strobes to flash with FP even in full manual mode?
I've found that my camera sends a sync signal, so I can trick it, but how can I tell to my sb25 to use FP?


January 07, 2008 2:52 PM  
Anonymous steve crowers said...

Strangely enough, it seems my old Sony CD400 P&S will sync up to 1/1000th via the ISO hotshoe. I guess it might be worth dragging that out from time to time (it has a lens by Zeiss). Shame it's only 4MP.

I'll make the assumption that there are probably a number of older P&S's that have hotshoes and might sync relatively high as well. They won't get you professional DSLR results due to the small sensor size, but it might be fun for creative personal work.

January 07, 2008 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Jared said...

Why are Alien Bees different?

When you look at specs on the Alien Bees website, you see that the shorter duration is gained by using MAX power, not MIN.

Compare this with a link posted earlier about Canon flashes:

I'd like to hear from someone who can explain this, because I don't get it.


January 07, 2008 2:56 PM  
Blogger Ernie Rice said...

The D1's sync all the way up. I miss that little feature like you wouldn't believe. But like Dave said, you need short duration flashes to really take advantage of this.

January 07, 2008 3:10 PM  
Anonymous dardiwinata said...

I agree with alek here.
I've tried to do highspeed sync with canon 30D and 580 EX2

January 07, 2008 3:36 PM  
Blogger worldwideweems said...

There is a picture on my site of a boy in mid air. I took the picture with a Nikon D1X f8 1/500 with a Pocket Wizard firing a pair of SB-80 DX flashes in manual mode.

Go to my site and click through to the eighth picture.

January 07, 2008 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason CCD-equipped cameras can do this (and CMOS can't) is that CCD chips actually have an extra row of pixels for every row that actually captures light, with the second row covered up so it doesn't capture light. This second row is used to shift the charge into from the "real" pixel when the exposure is done, and then each pixel's charge is shifted out the end of a row into the output amps and then to A/D conversion. An electronic shutter simply shifts the charge into the covered pixels after the electronic exposure time is up.
CMOS can't do this because it doesn't have this hidden row of pixels -- charge isn't shifted off the chip to get amp'd and A/D'd, it happens right on each pixel site. But that's also why it's easier (and cheaper!) to make high MP CMOS sensors -- you don't need twice as many pixels like you do with CCD.

The "live-view" mode on newer DSLRs with CMOS sort of uses an electronic shutter, initiating a processing phase after a certain length of time, but since there's no hidden pixels to shift the charge into it's not highly accurate time-wise, and the pixels continue to collect light while the processing is going on, so it wouldn't work well for the use here.

Keep up the great articles, David.

Paul LeFevre

January 07, 2008 4:37 PM  
Blogger IllOgical said...

Instead of neutering the SC-17, I'd go for cutting it and adding a connector (USB for 4 or less wires, RJ45 for 8 or less wires). Connected together, you still get the SC-17.

Create a small piece of cable with the same connectors, and only connect the trigger wire, and you've got it neutered without neutering it. No need for a switch, and you can even add a meter of cable if you wish...

January 07, 2008 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Jason A said...

I'll have to play around with this a little more after work, but I've gotten good results with my D80 and a wireless SB-600 as fast as 1/3200.

January 07, 2008 4:51 PM  
Blogger Poppa-D said...

For the D200 users, I posted a pic w/ explanation on how to hack the 1/250 synch speed using an SB800 (or SB600) and a few Pocket Wizards. If you are interested, here is the post:

January 07, 2008 5:00 PM  
Anonymous htom said...

Those with Canon P&S that have the CHDK available can access some extremely high shutter speeds, synced with the onboard flash.

January 07, 2008 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

We had a little fun at a meet-up this weekend testing a Canon Powershot S5.

Typically classed as a point & shoot, it happens to have a hotshoe and could sync at over 1/400 reliably with a Nikon SB-28 on a set of Ebay triggers.

Well, as reliably as the triggers would fire. :)

I think we even got a 1/800 sync out of it though that may have been an anomaly.

Not quite a G9, but not bad for an almost pocket-sized camera. Just remember anything with a shoe and an electronic shutter could be a high-sync candidate in a pinch.

January 07, 2008 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sony R1 works fine as well.

January 07, 2008 7:38 PM  
Blogger Topslakr said...

So, I'm pretty new to off camera flash but with my Nikon D300 and a SB-600 I'm able to use the flash off camera and still get up to 1/8000th with Commander mode. The flash yells at me after the shot but it fires and I can see it. Just makes 6 short beeps before the long one. Perhaps that means it's not 'sync'd' but it worked....



January 07, 2008 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Laurie Meehan-Elmer said...

Well Hot diggity! As someone who's D70 has been collecting dust since she got her D2x, this is great to know. I'm about to dust it off. Also, after reading the linked article I'm thinking I should read my camera and flash manuals some day. I didn't know about the high speed sync capabilities I've had in my bag all along with my D2X, SB800 and four SB600s. I've got some experimenting to do!

January 07, 2008 8:55 PM  
Blogger gymguy said...

I've posted an image(flickr) that I shot with a 1DS at 1/320th, so I know it works at that speed. I'm going to try higher speeds tomorrow, my subject (9yr old son) will give me about 20 mins per shoot.

January 07, 2008 9:40 PM  
Blogger ravin said...

I was hoping to sell my current d70 after getting it serviced, since it's in not-so-good condition and been acting up every so often and I'd been putting it off. Might be worth getting my butt in gear now that you've single handedly raised the after-market value of the d70.

January 07, 2008 9:51 PM  
Blogger Jerome Love said...

great info, i can confirm the 1d speed.

January 08, 2008 12:21 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I tried my Canon 20D tonight to see how fast it would sync with a 430EX fired in manual using a sync cable.

I got a full frame at 1/320, lost a slight bit on the bottom at 1/400 (quite useable) and lost about the bottom 30% at 1/500. Good to know.

Also tried my little old Canon G2 using a modified contact to the hotshoe trigger to fire the off-camera 430EX. I was able to get 1/1000 no trouble - the max shutter speed. Cool!

January 08, 2008 12:49 AM  
Blogger Geoff said...

Someone may have already posted this...
the pentax k10 has high speed sync built in when used with the 540 flash. I haven't tried it with a dumb flash or cable, but the starving student kit is on the way! Syncs up to 1/4000 with TTL. This makes me think it has the electronic shutter required to do the dumb flash trick. Anyone know better?

January 08, 2008 1:10 AM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

Olympus C-5050 syncs at 1/2000s. It also has an f1.8 lens too....

January 08, 2008 5:18 AM  
Blogger Aegir said...

I've mentioned it on a much older post (however with slightly incorrect details), but Olympus DSLR's - even the dinky little E-410 - with the Olympus Fl36/50 flashes will do the pulsing flash (Super-FP mode). I myself own an E-410 and Fl36. Works a treat.

I gave some incorrect numbers before in a previous comment, the E-410 and E-510 do 1/4000 shutter speed. With SuperFP mode they'll sync all the way to 1/4000. The documentation to my Fl36 stated that it could only sync to 1/2000 in SuperFP mode, so the new E-3 which can do 1/8000 may very well be able to sync at 1/8000 with SuperFP mode aswell.

Olympus might not be everyones cup of tea, they don't really have a EOS1Ds or D3 level of camera, but they've got some nice features up their sleeves.

January 08, 2008 6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Some high-end cameras have a special, pulsing, high-speed flash mode, too. If you are lucky enough to have both a flash and camera that supports these sophisticated functions, definitely enable them. No reason not to."

for fast action this is bad. because instead of a single 1/2000s flash on 1/2 to freeze the action, you have multiple flashes spread over 1/500 or whatever, and this is not fast enough and you will end up with motion blur

January 08, 2008 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nikons P5000 syncs up to 1/1000 or 1/2000 as well (can't remember exactly how high).

With pocketwizards on a D70s you limited to about 1/1000s (depending on how much power you're using) because the PWs takes 1/2000s to recieve its data before the flash fires.


January 08, 2008 10:51 AM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

Could someone please explain to me why I can sync very very high on my D2X with the SB800 attached to the hot shoe..

But can only sync at 1/250 with PW's or tethered to a cable.

This sounds to me like a Flash issue, and not the lack of capability of the camera.

Thanks guys.


January 08, 2008 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Mr. 2H2O said...

I have a Sony F717 and Panasonic FZ-50 and I use Nikon and Sunpak flashes (several models) and I've been able to sync up to 1/1000 both on camera and using eBay remote triggers. Its really nice shooting sports with flash an being able to shoot 1/320 or 1/500 to freeze action with flash!

January 08, 2008 6:58 PM  
Anonymous CraigRWC said...

Thanks for this post, David. I've seen this little bit of photo hackery discussed on DPReview a few times, but it's nice to see a more formalized resource for this.

As I recall though, you don't need to neuter your SC-17 cord to make this work. Just put some electrical tape over the contacts on the shoe minus the centre one. Much less destructive!! ;)

Some interesting questions raised in these comments.

First of all, it should be said that only some DSLRs have electronic shutters because their sensors happen to be able to do it. Not all sensor designs are capable of it since there's a lot more to it than just quickly flipping a switch on and off. There are issues of physics at play. I know Thom Hogan has written a technical explanation of this, so you're welcome to hunt for it if you're truly interested.

David Pritchett, your SB800 requires a connection to the full hot shoe because in order to do its version of the high-speed sync, it needs to know what the actual shutter speed is. That way it knows how many times to flash in order to ensure the whole frame is covered (the shutter curtain is always covering part of the sensor at higher speeds).

January 08, 2008 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You got the statement on lens compatibility with the D40 wrong. It is actually physically compatible with more Nikon lens' than any other Nikon camera. This is a side effect of it not having the focus motor built in.

January 09, 2008 7:29 AM  
Anonymous rench said...

List of cameras?
The DSLR list is fairly short. I think DH has listed them in the article. Much longer is the list of prosumer and bridge cameras - If the camera is NOT a DSLR, and it has a hotshoe or a PC connection, chances are good that it can sync at higher speeds. I think the Sony R1 tops the bridge camera list. But really there are a whole lot of these cameras out there - and image quality is decent enough if you use the lowest ISO setting.

January 09, 2008 7:46 AM  
Blogger JonBradbury said...

Just to confim I get my older Canon G2 to sync upto 1/1000sec (f8) using eBay triggers and any flash (usually EZ) without any mods, though it'll only sync at 1/800th at lower f stops.

January 09, 2008 11:57 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Another option for doing this with an sb-600 or sb-800 is to use an su-800 as the commander. You can sync right up to 1/8000th I think. Any confirm from DH?

January 09, 2008 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Mario said...

I recently played around with high speed flash sync and it's very interesting. Your article reminds me of using this mode more often.

Just wanted to say that my Sigma SD14 (Foveon CMOS Sensor) with a Sigma EF-500 DG Super flash synchs all the way up to 1/4000s in FP mode.

January 11, 2008 8:21 AM  
Blogger csgzs said...

Hi folks, I just pop in to report that the Olympus top DSLRs (maybe others, too), can be hacked the same way to sync up to max shutter speed. I have tried the E-1 with 1/4000s and the E-3 with 1/8000s and it worked! The E-3 image is in the strobist pool on Flickr. Nice one!

January 11, 2008 9:40 AM  
Blogger Alistair said...

The Canon G2 uses a hybrid shutter with the aperture leaves forming a leaf shutter. This results in the rather bizarre behaviour that the maximum shutter speed is influenced by the aperture. The maximum shutter speed is 1/1000 at f8 and it drops to 1/400 at f2. It is not a flash sync issue but simply one of the quirks of the camera.

Incidentally if you use a leaf shutter then you can sync at all shutter speeds. Unfortunately the shutter speeds of leaf shutters normally max out at 1/500 secs. Of course some medium format digital backs offer lower sensitivities and you can still buy some really slow film.

January 11, 2008 10:13 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

No need to cut up your sc-17 if you cover one of the contacts will some gaffer tape(top left or right experiment and you'll find it)
and that will disable ttl. Same contact on a Sb 600 or 800 will also disable the ttl for use on the d70.

I have achieved high sync speeds using the d70 hack and then with a d200 using the su-800 and sb 800 fp.
And with canon 580 wirelessly triggering a 550.
For some of the folks who are having trouble: To do this with a pocket wizard you need a d70 or 1ds. It Will not work on d2 series or mark2 series for them you must use their own brand of FP flashes (580,550,sb600,sb800)

January 13, 2008 5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, page titles like "belly dancer" aren't very work friendly if you know what I mean. I hope I don't get a call from up above. I've learned a lot and grown much from reading strobist, but these kinds of post titles, may nip in the bud by ability to visit your site in the future. Please be more selective. Thank you.

January 16, 2008 1:18 PM  
Blogger Hackworth said...

Someone wanted to know why the camera manufactures would still use a mechanical shutter if they could use an eletronic one. As I remember from the google phototech series it is because the shutter allows for a cleaner cut off of light. When doing it electronically one has to cut off the signal from the sensor, which is not as easy because the sensor wants to collect light. So to do it right the manufacturer has to place more electronics to cut off the signal and debounce it (I think that is the right word). By the way this is why cell phone cameras do not have a shutter, and is partly why cell phone cameras are not as good as a dslr. For more information watch the google photo tech series on google video (search for "photo techedu" or simular). As I remember this came up in the first five or so.
I dont know if these dslr cameras have the right circuitry to cut the signal off the best (that is it may be a little less quality than using the shutter), but even if they dont it sounds cool.

January 18, 2008 6:40 PM  
Blogger csgzs said...

Hi folks, I have just realised that I made a mistake in an earlier post, reporting that the Olympus E-1 and E-3 can do the high-speed sync trick. I felt there is something wrong, as the E-1 has a full-frame transfer CCD, which excludes implementing an electronic shutter by construction.

So why could I do it? Well, I have not admitted (even to myself) that I could do it only at full power! I think you have already guessed it - the full power flash duration with the SB-28 is long enough to cover the time while the "slit" the shutter creates travels through the frame (independently of the actual shutter speed). This way, you can sync at any speed without having an electronic shutter in your camera. Limitation: you must use full power on the flash (accepting relatively slow recycle), and this gets reduced beyond your control as shutter speed gets faster. Benefit: if you find the right combination of flash and camera, this will work on a dslr without electronic shutter.

January 20, 2008 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Larry Vaughn said...

Alien Beez and White Lightning Ultras have flash circuitry designed to use shorter pulses at higher power. That why they are called Alien, I guess. Also a good reason to read tech specs so you know what your equipment is doing. I'm assuming the Aliens actually are designed this way, but did read the White Lighting info once when I didn't see why a hand blur was there when shooting at low power.

Most work the other way, Harold Edgerton took advantage of that.

April 03, 2008 1:30 AM  
Blogger minktoast said...

Fascinating post and discussion - many thanks.

Just to clarify - do the D40, D50 and D70(s) have an electronic shutter system as well as a mechanical shutter? Did this then change for the D40x, D60 and D80? (I note that the D80 can do high sync speeds with FP mode and suitable flash - but this is not the same as the trick noted for the above older cameras.)

May 02, 2008 8:52 AM  
Blogger Will said...

I'm a little late to the party, but my Panasonic DMC-FZ8 superzoom was capable of syncing the flash up to 1/4000th, as well. I got no noticeable difference in flash brightness between 1/100th and 1/4000th, tested in a dark room.

August 27, 2008 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Moore said...

Strobist said:
"What I have owned are both the Canon G7 and Canon G9, which are neat little 10- and 12-MP point-and shoots. You have to turn off the in-camera flash and sync via a Pocket Wizard or a PC adapter (like the Nikon AS-15) and a PC cord. I love both of them. They'll sync up to a 1/2000th. The neutered Nikon TTL cord works great with them, too. (Works best, actually, IMO.)"

Hmmmmm . . . I setup my G9 and Canon 580 EXII with 2 PW plus II's and all I could seem to get was 1/1250 at F 8.0? Higher speed frames were totally black?

Am I on drugs or is 1/1600 - 1/2000 not actually possible with this setup?

Many thanks,


August 31, 2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger David said...


The PW's introduce a *very* slight electronic delay that keeps you from getting too far up over 1/1000 of a sec. Corded solutions, such as a PC cord (adapter needed) go all the way up to 1/2500th, but you have to dial down the flash a bit to get to the very top because a full-power pop actually lasts for a full 1,000th of a sec.

A Nikon off-camera cord works great because it does not transmit any TTL info because of the pin locations. If you use a Canon TTL cord with a Nikon flash, this works, too. If you use a Canon cord and a Canon flash, you'll need to tape off the TTL contact and just leave the center contact and side rail live.

August 31, 2008 11:12 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

Canon's non-pro/prosumer/adv amateur line (10D,20D,30D,40D,50D) have all supported high speed sync (1/8000th) with 550 EX, 580 EX and newer Speedlites. I've been using this for years without even realizing that some even newer flash/camera combos don't support it.

September 01, 2008 1:48 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Just starting with flash photography. I've got a D70s and an SB800. I tried shooting over day with sun in the background but couldn't get past 1/500th using built-in wireless flash. I've got great light now, but... i miss the narrow DOF i had in the past when i shot without flash. And i can't get the aperture open because of the 1/500th sync limit. After reading this, it appears that there's a solution: when i would use a neutered TTL cord, the sb800 will sync right up to an 1/8000th(!!!) of a sec. This means i can use wide open apertures, is this right? What's the downside? (Only that i can't use wireless anymore, right?) Am i analyzing all this correctly?

September 10, 2008 5:42 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

I've written an article on shutters, flashes, and sync that explains how all this stuff operates (including electromechanical vs. electronic vs. hybrid shutters), as well as how the high-speed/FP sync on Canon and Nikon flashes works with certain of their cameras:

It might be helpful as background.

September 22, 2008 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed Wojo says;
I' got it going with my G10 and Sb24's fired with Alien Bee Cyber Sync triggers. Fantastic.

November 25, 2008 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious if it would be possible to sync at higher speeds than normal on canon 5d mk2 - the camera uses an electronic shutter in silent shooting liveview modes.

December 02, 2008 10:53 PM  
Blogger Bhong Bernal said...

Hi David!
I currently own a D80 and SB-600 Speedlight. Have tried the FP function of my Cam but only when the SB-600 is on cam. How will i able to sync (at higher shutter speed) my sb-600 off-cam?


January 06, 2009 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Terence Dunn said...

Another of the NiKons that will sync fast is the new D90. I was testing it this evening with a cheap ebay trigger and it was syncing up to the 1/4000 top speed. As for the old D1, with the cable I can sync all the way up to 1/16,000th. On the down side, the D2xs will only sync to 1/250 with my trigger and 1/320 with the cable.

January 19, 2009 10:08 PM  
Blogger sentlon said...

d90, another nikon which can sync hack? any prove of it ?

February 15, 2009 10:28 PM  
Blogger Robb Mann said...

I just spent the day playing with an LX-3 wired to an SB-600. I was able to get flawless 1/2000 second exposures all day long. Lots of fun.

Looks like I'll be dusting off my D70 again...

April 26, 2009 11:20 AM  
Blogger Levi J Webb said...

D90, cybersync and sb800 high speed sync.

August 16, 2009 10:37 AM  
Blogger brokenmonkey said...

I own a Sony Alpha a200 which can do HSS up to 1/4000 sec with an external flash. I use the HVL-F42AM and it does 1/4000 HSS both on-camera and wireless. I am almost certain all the other Alpha cameras can do it as well.

August 23, 2009 4:58 PM  
Blogger Joaquin said...

I did testing with the Nikon D70s high speed flash sync, good results using an SB24 Nikon flash rated @ 1/8 power and camera @ 1/8000's
For some reason the shots look grainy. Check the sample shot please.


August 24, 2009 7:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

The article forgot to mention that the Olympus E-30 and E-3 cameras can sync flash at high shutter speeds, too. Also, it supports wireless flash. There actually is a world beyond Nikon and Canon. :) And it weighs a lot less around your neck.

September 20, 2009 11:31 AM  
Blogger I ride my bike said...

The Canon 5D II also has an electronic shutter (for video mode). Maybe it could be possible to find some walkaround to enable it also for photographing high sync flash?

October 08, 2009 9:50 PM  
Blogger Bryan Lorenzo said...

what is the maximum shutter speed the olympus e-3 can sync with the flash using the pc sync port from the camera body? since some commenters are saying it can do HSS.

October 24, 2009 1:24 AM  
Blogger mw77 said...

I have Nikon D200 and an couples of sb-26. I use them off the camera in slave mode. Sync speed of my "commander" little camera pop-up flash is limited upto 1/250th. I'm little confused, didn't understand if buying a couple of PW will allow me to shoot faster than 1/250th, for example at 1/500th?

thank you, I appreciate you

December 29, 2009 8:33 PM  
Blogger Antagonist said...


There are two individual things D was talking about.

1 A special "high speed" flash feature, its designed to let you fire flash above the cameras shutter/flash sync speed. Its ok but very limiting, the higher the shutter speed, the weaker the flash. So maching and overpowering ambient with this method is doable but limiting.

2 Manual flash, "tricking the camera to fire” with it not knowing there is a flash on camera. Many ways to do this. Best when done with D50/D40/D70 and with G11 aswell (I think) On my d300 and SB800 I tape the two back pins on hot shoe. I can get 1/500 speed with top 25% blacked out. As long as the subject of my flash exposure is in lower 75% of frame than the ambient light takes care of the black area.

Testing witch “highs speed mode” is better. This is dependent on desired shutter speed and distance from flash of the area or subject to be illuminated.
Tape off the 2 pins on sb800,set it to manual full blast. Set shutter to 500 and chimp aperture for a proper exposure. Once you have the proper exposure. Take off the tape from your speed light, and turn on the cameras special ”high speed sink” . Take the same picture.

MOST TIMES you have a properly exposed frame with 25% blacked out(its ok ambient will fix this) The other picture is a full frame uniformly under exposed. Now you know what you have to work with.
There are ways to squeeze out performance out off these cameras.

Now I am deciding on what is better to get. A low megapixel d70 or hight megapixel g11 with bad focus, any ideas?

December 30, 2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Although I understand everything being said about High Speed sync (focal plane) there is a lot to be said about E-ttl capabilites (Canon cameras although I'm sure Nikon ones will do the same) which when using a single flash and or multiple flashes in slave configruation it will trigger them upo to any sync speed you want.

I have a Canon 5D MKII which has a sync speed of only 1/200 !! Yet, when I put on my 580EX II paired up with a 430 EX II (as a slave) I can shoot photos up to 1/3000 !!

Sure, as somebody points out you loose some power output but this may not be a "crucial" thing for everybody. I believe a LOT can be done without having to invest in yet... more equipment.
E-ttl allows you to manage multiple flashes power output, ratio and exposure compensation !! all from the on camera flash. Effective distance of the Infrared system ?, for the most part more than enough for my needs (outdoor senior portraits, engagement, and general photography). And even then... when sync speed is not an issue and you can use the native 1/200 sec, E-ttl allows you to control even more (like individual power outoput of each unit from the master flash in addition to everything else mentioned previously!!!), wow !!
I have been using this way to shoot outdoors and has always met and or exceeded my needs.. Of course there maight be "better and more expensive", but be aware of your needs otherwise... there is NO limit to how much you can spend (with perhaps little or no gain in the quality of your photos)

March 01, 2010 2:20 PM  
Blogger 7tenths said...

Hi All. Just a little update for Olympus users. Max sync of manual 'off-camera' flash for 3 models:
C-8080 - 1/800th
E-1 - 1/250th (1/2 a stop more than the manual says).
E-3 - 1/250th

At least that's what I'm getting with the Olympus FL50

April 02, 2010 5:55 PM  
Blogger Alan Ligarski said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 27, 2010 11:09 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I am thinking about using the D70 as my second camera. Prices are very interesting these days...

BUT what bothers me is the minmal ISO of 200. This could be a drawback when it comes to lighting in bright sunlight and when it comes to noise. Any comments on that by D70 users?

Thanks a lot (and sorry for my English)
Thomas (from Germany)

March 11, 2011 4:26 AM  
Blogger Stefan said...

Dave, talking about synch speed, how would one trilionth of a second stack up:

December 14, 2011 2:58 PM  
Blogger PHB said...

The product page is now up and they specify a flash sync speed of 1/200 and sync on shutter speeds up to 1/250th.

The distinction between the two is not explained but seems to be that the duration of the flash can be up to 1/200th (or shorter) while the shutter must be 1/250th (tor longer).

I am not sure why they would make this change other than that the shutter seems to have been changed significantly from earlier pro cameras for reasons that are not clear but are presumably cost since the max shutter speed is reduced to 1/4000th.

It would be nice if they could come out with a full electronic shutter.

September 14, 2012 3:10 PM  
Blogger Dale L said...

i use cactus v4 and i think i can only do 1/800 on my canon 1d and 1/1000 on both my nikon d70 and nikon d1x ... a godox ttl cable for my nikon allows me to go all the way to 1/8000 on my nikon d70 but i didn't try it on my nikon d1x yet, though i think i can go to 1/16000 most likely. anyone sync all the way to the maximum shutter speeds on these cameras with radio triggers reliably? which ones if u do? thx

July 10, 2014 3:13 PM  

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