Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How To: Sync a Canon G9 at 1/2500th of a Sec

The Canon G9 is my knock-around point-and-shoot camera. It has 12.1MP, a fast lens, does video and actually syncs well above its nominal sync speed of 1/500th of a sec -- if you know how to do it.

There are a couple ways to pull this off, and the cheapest way is actually the best.

The first thing you have to know if you are going to sync the G9 (or G7) at high speeds is that the camera's onboard flash has to be turned off. Ironic, I know. But the engineers at Canon programmed the flash to sync at 1/500, so when the flash is on that is where your shutter is gonna max out.

So, now that we have turned off the flash, we'll be synching an off-camera flash via the oh-so-handy hot shoe up on top of the camera. The easy way is to use a Pocket Wizard, which works fine but will in practice limit you to a max of about 1/1000th of a second.

This is because of the very minor lag times introduced by the circuitry in the PW itself. This is even more of a hindrance with some of the other wireless remotes, to the point of not being useful at all for some other wireless trigger units.

What you need for really high-speed sync is a simple, dumb wire. This will mean you are limited only by the shutter speed and the power level of the flash.

Why the power level? Because power level (for a speedlight) corresponds to the actual duration of the flash pulse itself. A full-power flash lasts about 1/1000th of a sec. And no matter what synching method you use, you will not squeeze that flash pulse into a 1/2500th of a second's time.

So, first understand that you can expect a full-power manual flash to be fully deployed up to about 1/1000th of a sec. A half-power flash will buy you up to about 1/2000th of a sec. And beyond that, you'll need to limit yourself to a 1/4 power flash, max.

You may think you are synching a full-power flash at 1/2500th, but you are not getting all of it. Just mind the math and you'll be fine.

So, how do we squeeze all of this flash through, without a PW? We use a dumb PC cord. For the camera, you'll need a PC adapter, such as a Nikon AS-15, which converts a hot shoe to a PC cord. Then, you are all set, just as if your camera had a PC jack.

Connect the PC cord to the flash, either by straight connection or via a hot shoe adapter on the other end, and fire away. This will buy you the full synch capability of the G9, but it seems a little cumbersome.

Fortunately, you can bypass all of these steps with a simple, neutered Nikon SC-17 cord. Which is what we will be learning about in the next post.


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39 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No need to cut the sc -17 just put gaffer taper over 1 of the two contacts that are in line with each other. Disables ttl and other talk back. Good luck over there.

April 30, 2008 12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sar-kelandi (Daniel) says:

Hey David, I showed you a picture I took of a girl jumping and kicking in the air shot with my G9 at 1/2500 sec with a SB-28 on the hotshoe!

I guess the camera doesn't feel the incompatible flash, hence syncs all the way!

BTW, I found out that the max shutter speed is not consistent and is 1/1600 to 1/2500 (I think it depends on aperture settings or zoom setting!?).

April 30, 2008 1:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Due to using an electronic shutter this method works well with a Nikon D40 too. I can sync happily to 1/2500, and 1/3200 works at least 95% of the time using a hotshoe -> PC adapter and a PC cable.

It's like the best of both worlds, all the benefits of SLR design like lenses and a viewfinder, and durability mixed with being relatively small and lightweight.

April 30, 2008 1:10 AM  
Blogger Jammy Straub said...

Right on, glad to see the G9 is still treating you well. I look forward to seeing some more work done with it.

Is that follow up post on the ring flash adapter still coming? I've been holding off on ordering one... itchy shutter fingers..

April 30, 2008 2:02 AM  
Anonymous @rek said...

the same works with Nikon D40, with manually set SB-24 i managed to get a decent shots at full shooter speed :)

April 30, 2008 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Julia said...

We will be neutering a Nikon? Oh us Canon fans are gonna love this!!

April 30, 2008 2:40 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

Everyone is loving the electronic shutter on the G9, but for around the same price you may find a used Sony R1. A fantastic combination of an electronic shutter that can sync to 1/2000th, but with a full APS-C sized CMOS sensor and truly amazing Zeiss lens.

April 30, 2008 3:02 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey said...

Another great choice for this is the Sony R1. An electronic shutter that syncs up to 1/2000th, but with an APS-C sized CMOS sensor and a great Zeiss lens. And the R1's hotshoe can do TTL with Sony or Metz flashes.

April 30, 2008 3:14 AM  
Anonymous DaveH said...

Another option would be to install CHDK.

http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

The G9 is not "officially" supported as yet but development is ongoing. The G7 is and most of the Digic II and Digic III cameras are fully supported.

CHDK is software that is installed into the root directory of your memory card. You turn the camera on with it in Play mode, hit a few buttons and it loads the code.

Your on-board firmware is completely untouched. If you don't feel comfortable with the actions of your camera, remove the card, delete the boot files using your computer and card reader and you are back to the basic camera as shipped from the factory.

Enhancements include shutter speeds of up to 65 seconds and down to 'around' 1/25,000 second (some models); running programs written in a minimal BASIC code; USB port control of the camera; Live histogram (RGB, blended, luminance and for each RGB channel); Zebra mode (blinking highlights and shadows to show over/under exposed areas); motion detection (take a pic or start a video when there is movement)...

The list goes on and on. Not all features are available for each model.

This all started out when some folks in Russia discovered that the Digic II and Digic III chips will read an MS-DOS FAT-16 boot record and they started hacking from there...

I first heard about this a few weeks ago, went out to Costco and picked up a PowerShot A650 and have been having a lot of fun!

April 30, 2008 3:52 AM  
Blogger Xavi Gracia (Fiber) said...

It's just great... I own a G9 indeed...

Just one question, it's ok to turn off the flash, an external one will work ok ?

Please, in the next article, could you recomend a good (and not too big) flash for this little wonder of camera ?

April 30, 2008 5:31 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

I'm curious ... you tend to use Nikon Speedlights but you use a Canon G9 which means you can never use those wonderful speedlights in TTL mode.

Have you considered the Nikon P5100, if so what made you choose the G9 rather than the Nikon?

I use TTL for about 50 percent of my work and can't imagine going 100 percent manual all the time.

April 30, 2008 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've tried this with a canon off camera cord and works fine if you cover up all contacts except the main one. F2.8 does seem to limit the flash sync speed to 1600th whereas f4 will bring you to 2500th.

April 30, 2008 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David wrote..."This is because of the very minor lag times introduced by the circuitry in the PW itself."

The delay when using radio triggers actually comes from the time it takes to transmit the radio message (a bunch of ones and zeros). On bog standard PWs it's takes about 1/2000s.

Peter.S.

April 30, 2008 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been doing this with the Nikon D40 for a long time. Just put some tape on the SB flash to only make trigger contact for on-camera work, or use the AS-15. It also works fine with studio flashes for huge light output, although the studio flashes don't push light out as fast as the SB-800/600 strobes.

I get up to 1/4000th with it. Mich better than the 1/250th with my D200 piece of switch heavy junk.

April 30, 2008 8:25 AM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

i wonder if this is not limited to just the G9?
could the same be true with other, less speedy sync cameras?

April 30, 2008 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Adam Maas said...

You shouldn't even need to neuter the SC-17 as it has Nikon-dedicated TTL contacts not Canon-dedicated ones. Different pin layout. At worst you need to cover the bottom pair of contacts (if they annoy the camera). And even that's unnecessary if you're using non-dedicated flashes.

Now you would need to neuter a Canon OC-SC2 or OC-SC3 cord (the canon equivalents of the SC-17/28)

April 30, 2008 10:05 AM  
Blogger eric5500k said...

As far as the flash/ambient balance goes, there's no difference syncing at 1/2000s at half power v. syncing at 1/1000s at full power, right? So the faster sync speed is just for freezing motion? Or am I missing something?

April 30, 2008 10:07 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

The reason to sync at say 1/2000th rather than 1/1000th is to change your aperture, and/or to change the relationship between the ambient light and the light from your flash(es). If you shoot at 1/1000th, at F5.6, and the sky is medium blue, you could also shoot at 1/2000th at F5.6 and get a darker sky. This may mean that you have to move your flash closer to the subject, or remove an umbrella or similar light-losing diffusion.

I sometimes use more old vivitar flashes at 1/4 power for things like this, sometimes with a diffusion panel.

April 30, 2008 11:02 AM  
Blogger Jon.B said...

A simple wire is nice, but how about E-TTL, for those who use it :) - or for those flashes that don't have manual mode :( ?

Check this out: http://photographicallyinclined.blogspot.com/2008/04/hacking-canon-off-shoe-flash-cord.html

btw - this is my favorite blog! I am looking for some more "assignments"... Thanks for all the work.

- Jon B

April 30, 2008 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So understand the concept, but why? Is it to completely overpower the ambient at high noon?

Is it to stop a ball bouncing off a tennis racket.

I mean, I get the gist, I guess I just can't think of all the uses.

April 30, 2008 4:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Harrington said...

Why the the camera companies limit the sync speed in the first place? They could advertise the high sync speeds to sell more cameras.

April 30, 2008 7:58 PM  
Blogger Dougie Hoser said...

That pretty much matches my experience. With eBay triggers, I get partial sync with underexposure at 1/1250th second unreliably, but not reliably. 1/1000th second seems to work every time but sometimes underexposes a touch.

I swear that I tried an un-neutered SC-17 with an SB-26 and it worked, but I might be confused.

April 30, 2008 10:27 PM  
Anonymous leen said...

i call G9 a spy camera...love its features specially the mute and fast shutter speed... but never got to own one yet =)

May 01, 2008 5:25 AM  
Blogger PhotoJ said...

Dave,
My latest post mentions you by name. Thanks for the inspirations that has led to the recent change in my photography.

May 01, 2008 2:08 PM  
Blogger Steve Hebert said...

Awesome thought. I would suggest using a Sunpak 544 with which you can get flash durations of 1/25,000th of a second. I have had a great experience with this flash.
Steve Hebert
picasaweb.google.com/thephotographerman
thephotographerman.blogspot.com

May 01, 2008 9:43 PM  
Blogger Hugh Macdonald said...

Just bought myself a G9 yesterday.... Mainly on your recommendation... A very very nice camera..... It'll get me doing a lot more experimentation.... My 5D is just a little too big and bulky to carry around with me most of the time..

I'm going to have to try this one out - thanks for the tips!

May 02, 2008 4:30 AM  
Anonymous doni said...

D40X also? or "only" D40?

May 02, 2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous The Dude said...

Last week I was in Central London visiting Jacobs and their professional suite in the basement where the good folks from Canon were feeding the masses and showing their latest gear. So while everyone was messing around with 1ds Mk3's and the like, some dude fresh from Japan ( who's name I've forgotten) pulled out his "customised" Canon G9 and blew everyone and me away. the three things that made this particular G9 stand out from the crowd was the semi permanent addition of a Canon LA-DC58H Lens adapter, a custom grip which gave the camera a much more chunkier feel and a external 35mm Voigtlander viewfinder taking residence in the G9's hotshoe. Theses touches just transformed the thing and I couldn't let the camera out of my hand. I've got very big hands yet this felt (and looked) just right the business. I was especially blown away by the addition of the external viewfinder. It took me five minutes to make my mental adjustments as regards composition before it became second nature. This also gave the camera that "Leica" look.

I had already arranged to do a deal with Donal P/Xing my trusty Canon 10D for a G7, having breaking my back the day before xmas eve, last year. I wasn't too bothered about the lack of RAW having shot JPEGs all my digital life but seeing the G9 in all it's glory started me thinking. I just wanted something light and usable about town.

Anyway to cut a long story short I just couldn't afford to stretch to a G9 as tempting as it was and so took home a nice quality used G7 instead. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered that the G7 could actually SHOOT RAW! It's just that Canon choose to turn off this function with this camera. Now some dudes from darkest Russia have managed to turn it back on. You can now upgrade your trusty G7 to raw imaging by performing the what is know as the "G7 CHDK Hack". More information about the "hack" can be found here:

http://www.mycanong7.com/html/g7_chdk_soft.html

So now I have a great camera, that can sync at all speeds, work wirelessly with off camera flash and process RAW files for under two thirds of the cost of a new G9. Sweet deal! I haven't tried the "hack" yet, so I'll keep everyone informed. The Jpeg files currently coming out of my G7 are a little too noisy for my liking even at 200ASA. Maybe I've got a lemon but it's early days. A quick tweak into Superfine, solved that problem. Alas the days of back breaking lugging gear around town is no more. I've just found some really nice accessories to go along with my G7 from this dude called Richard Franiec. You can visit his website here:

http://www.lensmateonline.com/newsite/order_G7_1.html

And the 35mm external viewfinder (along with turret style "zoom" viewfinders) can easily be sourced from Ebay. Happy Days! Now ll I need is a cheap Nikon SB-28. Any suggestions?

May 04, 2008 10:08 AM  
Blogger David said...

I have a G9, I use my SB800 on it with the nikon cable, no problems. The flash is set to manual, not ttl but works great and syncs all the way.

May 05, 2008 11:07 AM  
Blogger Merv said...

Someone here asked why bother? Well, I was assisting a wedding photog as a second shooter over the weekend. We had serious sunlight, and the couple decided they wanted a shot in front of the fountain, in front of the hotel. This meant shooting about 45 degrees into the sun. That bet my Canon DSLR, and the other photog's Nikon gear. I sheepishly dug out the g9, couple of PW's and asked them to bear with me. 1/1000, F6.3 underexposed the sky just enough to be nice, 1/2 power on the 580 flash cross lighting the sun, and we called it good. Life saver!
Thanks David!

Merv.

May 06, 2008 11:25 AM  
Anonymous UK-Wookie said...

Just spotted an intersing article from Slashdot about hacking Canon firmware: here
I wouldn't like to comment on the legalities of it but it does make interesting reading.

May 07, 2008 5:08 AM  
Blogger the pizza kid said...

I am syncing at 1/2500th with the speedlight directly on the G9's hotshoe, and using a Nikon speedlight SB-25. I have the G9 and the flash set to Manual, and I followed the rule about using 1/4 power flash output. Thanks for this post, I hadn't previously thought of using this shutter speed combination with the flash.

September 29, 2008 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interested in your comments regarding the hacks for the G9. I have one that I use for hang gliding shots. I want to mount it off the wing and set up the remote doorbell setup (to charge the usb shutter release). What hang ups am I likely to find not using an "official" hack? Which version should I use? Thanks for your help.
Ryan

October 01, 2008 2:55 AM  
Blogger Joshua Bernie said...

Will this also work with the new G10?

January 30, 2009 6:23 PM  
Anonymous canon said...

I've owned the G7 for about 1 month now and I've really learned to appreciate all its advanced features - but recently I received my G9 and I will be returning the G7. What I like about the G9 over the G7:

1. Bigger screen (3.0" vs 2.5") - with no apparent decrease in battery life.
2. Picture quality is better. I have done many parallel tests using the exact settings on both cameras (with the exception of the 12 vs 10 MP of course) and the results have been clearly more favorable towards the G9 in terms of light metering and sharpness. The G9 has a new metering system as well as a more advanced focusing system too.
3. RAW option is great. Even though most pics will be taken using JPEG (to conserve memory space), you know it when you've got a great landscape with just the perfect lighting conditions that you know may result in a printable pic, in which case you will want to have a raw copy for processing it to the highest potential.
4. Timelapse photo functionality is a very nice to have option which the g7 lacks
5. The physical handling of the camera is better, the front has more grip.
6. Some other design aesthetics have also gone into the g9 which I prefer.
7. Noise levels are exactly the same as in the G7. I tested both up to 400 ISO (I would not use anything higher that that) many times and the speculations found on the internet forums that the higher number of pixels would result in more noise is simply incorrect - at least in my ability to see it in my tests.

February 05, 2009 12:24 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Trying this with the new G11.

Seems that Canon has not done us a favor. G11 firmware seems to disable the hotshoe whenever it senses a non ETTL device connected to the shoe.

I've been trying with a legacy Pocket Wizard and a Wynn Safe Sync adapter. So far the G11 can not be tricked into firing a non-TTL device.

Been on the phone with both Canon and Pocket Wizard but have been unsuccessful in resolving thus far.

I'll post here if I make any progress. I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has made any headway into the issue.

October 20, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Okay . . . Now I remember why I hate PC cords . . .

For future reference...

Using a Canon G11 @ F8 -1/400th,
Wynn Safe Sync,
a good PC Cord,
Canon 580EX2 set in Manual mode 1/8th power

Able to capture about 95% of the flash duration at 1/4000th. Based on the histogram, only a very slight exposure difference between 1/2000 and 1/4000 at this power level.

Same applies to 1/4 power @ 1/2000th.

October 20, 2009 2:03 PM  
Blogger Hudson said...

Mark,

Just to clarify, are you saying that the G11 synced with the PC cord, but not without it in the safe sync's hotshoe?

I have found that my G11 will not fire a pocket wizard plus II except in self timer mode (2 or 10 second). If it fires with the safe sync and a PC cord then I'm much relieved.

-Hudson Henry
www.hudsonhenry.com

November 02, 2009 11:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Fendt said...

http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/G9

CHDK is available for the Powershot G9 with firmware version 1.00D, 1.00F, 1.00G, 1.00H and 1.00I from the Download page

May 19, 2013 6:05 PM  

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