Friday, May 08, 2009

Universal Translator Ushers in New Age of Cheap, Off-Camera Harmony

This little nubby little thing may not look like much, but it is an off-camera solution for just about any speedlight that includes manual settings. It'll give a sync jack to a camera, too.

It's cheap, small and will almost pay for itself the first time you buy a sync cord.

Full deets, inside.
__________

Smaller than a golf ball and clocking in at $18.99 $15.99, the Universal Translator does exactly what the name implies: It will will allow any flash with a standard hot shoe to marry up to any camera with a standard hot shoe for inexpensive, off-camera synching.

(You Sony folks are out of luck. But you get the D3x chip for under three grand, so I don't wanna hear any griping.)

It features a hot shoe on top and bottom, and dual sync options for corded use. Like the LumoPro LP120 (the first production run of which is sold out, with more expected in a few days) it has both a PC sync and a 1/8" minijack sync.

When paired with an LP120, any PC-less camera can now go off-camera flash with nothing more than an inexepnsive mono audio patch cord. This is the same jack used my AlienBees, PocketWizards and others. So if you are using, say, AB's, this would free you from the PC Cord Mafia forever and also serve as a cheap, rock-solid backup to whatever current wireless method you may be using.

PC connections suc are not the most reliable connectors on the planet. And they are expensive. I would love to think this may be the first nail in the coffin for that horrid standard, as minijacks are not only more reliable but far cheaper, too.

If neither your camera nor your flash has a PC jack, two of these babies (along with a 1/8"-to-1/8" mono cord) will completely set you up, cheaply wired for action. A male-to-male PC cord will connect them, too.

This is PW reliability at eBay remote prices, with the only downside being a little extra height in the umbrella. This is because the hot shoe in the bottom makes the 1/4x20 thread impossible.

(NOTE TO SELF: Hmm.. maybe not... perhaps a V2 model should come with the male and female hot shoes on adjacent sides -- top and side -- leaving room for a 1/4x20 thread opposite the female hot shoe mount. Then, just rotate it 90 degrees if using it on top of the camera. I'll see if that feature is possible on a future run.)

The female hot shoe is necessarily generic. If your proprietary flash is wobbly up top, you may wish to secure it with a ball bungee, rubber band or some gaff. I always did that when putting a later SB on a generic shoe.


Anything to Anything

Long story short, whatever flashes you may have lying around that have a selectable manual power setting, just became off-camera friendly. It even works with the notoriously picky SB-600.

I realize that this is basically the equivalent of spreading a little bloody chum in the waters of the cheap used flash market on eBay. But please make sure your flash has a safe trigger voltage before joining it with your DSLR baby via a direct, wired connection. Probably better to wait a few weeks for the prices to drop back down, too. And there's always Craigslist.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that this thing is finally here. The 1/8" jack was my idea. Not that it was complicated, of course. Just one of those "duh" moments when trying to figure out how to remove unnecessary expense from the lighting stuff.

PC cords just do not need to be proprietary. Or maybe it's just me. I dunno -- what are your thoughts on the minijack vs. PC thing? Hit us in the comments.

Thanks to MPEX for making this happen, as it lowers the cost of entry to off-camera flash for many, many people.
__________


Product Page: Universal Translator


NOTE: Several people have pointed out that Flashzebra sells a similar item at a similar price. That one is not hot on the bottom and does not include PC options. But it does have a 1/4x20 underneath.


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77 Comments:

Blogger Matthew G. Monroe said...

Smart idea... Veeeerrrrrrryyy smart.

As a Vivitar 285 kinda' guy, I'm always checking (and double checking) my gear bag just before a shoot to make sure that I have the proprietary sync cable included with my strobes. Nothing worse than going out on location and realizing that the lights can't be fired up... At the same time, I have to admit that I hate -- and I do mean HATE -- PC connections (always falling out at just the wrong time), and so the inclusion of a 1/8th inch plug with the Universal Translator is both a clever idea and a well thought out idea.

Matt

May 08, 2009 12:29 AM  
Anonymous Mike Allebach said...

To use a pocketwizard on my Sb-600, I put a old eBaywizard receiver (hotshoe with pc sync) up to the pocketwizard. Anyway this system looks much better.

May 08, 2009 12:50 AM  
Blogger jphphotography said...

You know I don't see why the pc connector has been around so long. It is a terrible design, it doesn't lock, it slips, and it is basically "unobtanium" as a DIY part. I've tried to find the connectors everywhere an no electronic part stores sell them. I wish they'd switch to a 1/8 jack or even the mini stereo jack for everything, at least they are available.

These look pretty neat, too bad I just bought a bunch of Nikon hotshoe to pc adapters ;)

May 08, 2009 1:06 AM  
Anonymous Kevin Ford said...

This is awesome, for those that want to work with manual settings on their flash.

I would like to see something similar made that can accept an ethernet cord so that we can still have TTL, Ettl or iTTL depending on the brand.

May 08, 2009 1:11 AM  
Blogger Delano said...

great price, great features, simply awesome

May 08, 2009 1:21 AM  
Blogger bubbledumpster said...

does this work with canons?

430ex??

May 08, 2009 1:46 AM  
Anonymous Chase Bowers said...

Another great idea... I was a late comer to following this blog, only a few months ago... I have since learned so much about off camera flash that it has inspired me to teach others all that I have learned and pass the knowledge and technique along. I think the mini jack idea is great. Anything that allows more accessibility is appreciated by newbies experimenting with these techniques. Thanks a ton!!!

May 08, 2009 2:11 AM  
Blogger Quin said...

It looks like, and I can't see the picture and post at the same time tonight so I'm guessing here, this just connects to the hotshoe on either the camera or flash? Light a straight through connection with the added audio jack in the side?

Then, as a Sony folk, this should work on a Sony with an ISO hotshoe adaptor. And most of the hotshoe adaptors have the voltage safety parts wired in.

Personally, PC jacks were nice but have started to annoy me. I got two household to PC cables, for some studio lights I got for cheap. The two cables swap which side of the PC jack the large pin is connected to, so the two flashes can't be linked together without firing the other one when one finishes charging. If I find a star adaptor that covers that little peculiarity, I'm all set.

May 08, 2009 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Tobi said...

Regarding that Sony part -- it's not only the first time I actually saw someone else than an old time Minolta-fan being concerned about it, it's also the very best reason I ever read /for/ that silly hot shoe. :-)

Tobi

May 08, 2009 3:03 AM  
Blogger Michael Zelbel said...

Minijack is just fine. Would be great if it would have two or three jacks - as a hub.

Good light!
-- Michael

May 08, 2009 3:21 AM  
Blogger Marten said...

(NOTE TO SELF: Hmm.. maybe not... perhaps a V2 model should come with the male and female hot shoes on adjacent sides -- top and side -- leaving room for a 1/4x20 thread opposite the female hot shoe mount. Then, just rotate it 90 degrees if using it on top of the camera. I'll see if that feature is possible on a future run.)

I'd rather have the hotshots opposite, and a thread on the side. At nightclubs, I use a this thing to both mount an on-camera flash, and trigger a remote flash. This on hotshot, then flash on this thing's hotshoe, and connect outgoing pc-port to splitter, one cable goes back to incoming pc-port and other goes to an eBay trigger, which fires my second, handheld, flash with a lumiquest big bounce.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marten/513865473/in/set-72157617358104112/

It allows me to have both a large main light, an (on-axis) fill light and still be portable enough to move through crowds.

May 08, 2009 3:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe its just me but i can't find the "More >>" button linked to "http://strobist.blogspot.com/2009/05/universal-translator-ushers-in-new-age.html" so no one can view the page unless you go through the comment section..

May 08, 2009 4:16 AM  
Anonymous Peter Horstmann said...

Hi David,

nice piece, obviously very helpful. A really hot hot shoe. Do you have any idea regarding cable lengths this shoe can handle?

Kind regards,
Peter

May 08, 2009 4:51 AM  
Anonymous NicolasF said...

No problem with high voltage speedlites on eos?

May 08, 2009 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Good Find! It's about time the photo world recognize that using "generic" components enhances the interoperability of such things as Flash and Camera. This probably started off as a DIY project by a frugal photographer that didn't have the funds for a PW, but had some spare mono cables around. It probably works with stereo cables too, and having a handy stereo cable comes in handy when traveling with an iPod, or other music player, to feed the "AUX" input on rental car radios.

May 08, 2009 6:21 AM  
Blogger SRP said...

I use two along the lines of this one, with my Canon 400d and 430ex, with a cable, it is a great and cheap way to get into off camera flash. Great site, i have found alot of information on here to help my photography.

May 08, 2009 6:32 AM  
Blogger Anssi Saviluoto said...

As a representative of the Sony crowd I must say I love it.

The FS-1100 and FS-1200 turns the minolta hotshoe into a standard one.

It works really well with manual flashes, pc-cords and wireless triggers. Nowadays they are pretty easy to find from Gadget-infinity and other places too.

May 08, 2009 6:47 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

COME ON!!
I made one of these in January, 2008!!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14547923@N00/2223535502/


Keep up the good work David.

-Dean

May 08, 2009 7:28 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Could you please add a link to where I may buy this? Also, it says "Full deets inside" but I don't see a link for more info? It's 7:30 AM so maybe I just need more caffeine!

By the way, because of Strobist I now use RadioPoppers, shoot-through umbrellas, and grids with my flashes! And I no longer have to lug around my bulky, heavy studio Strobes... Strobist rocks!

-Michael
www.QuintusPhoto.com

May 08, 2009 7:47 AM  
Blogger treadwm said...

I, for one, would not miss PC connectors one bit should they spontaneously disappear from the planet en mass. I use the screwlock version on my Nikon flashes. I spend considerably more time fiddling with that connector than I do with my ebay triggers. It's gotten to the point of tightening it as far as I dare, check that it working and tape it in place. Give me audio jacks anytime.
So start the revolution, David! Ban PC connectors! :-D

May 08, 2009 8:01 AM  
Blogger Jim Cramer (18) said...

These things should really be made by the camera companies too. I am a Sony guy but we're not out of luck since Gadget Infinity has the ones for the Sony hotshoe also. Still I think Sony (the others aswell) should make their own and not have their customers rely on china crap. I'm really not fascinated with the build quaility to say the least...
Regards, Jim

May 08, 2009 8:09 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Mickey-

The Flashzebra item is not hot on the bottom, so cannot be used on a camera, and there is no PC. So it is similar, but only works to give a miniphone jack to a flash unit.

@All

Thanks for the catch on the jump page. Published overnight with a broken tag and I only saw it when I woke up.

May 08, 2009 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

I'm a big fan of this site, and I get the MPEX sponsorship thing, but I wanted to say that flashzebra.com has had these for a very long time, and they sell other variants with more reliable PC cabling.

May 08, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Randy-

Unless you are talking about a different item than Mickey mentioned above, the FZ item (a) is not hot on the bottom and (b) doesn't do PC in addition to 1/8".

It will put a 1/8" jack on a flash, tho.

May 08, 2009 9:55 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

Oh, and one more thing, PC jacks SUCK! Over a year ago, I converted everything I have to 1/8" mono jacks. No problems!

See?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/14547923@N00/2222741543/

May 08, 2009 10:11 AM  
Blogger Phat Baby Photographer said...

Nice. Even the screw on PC connections aren't 100%. Every time I set up my lights I want to solder the darn things on permanently.

May 08, 2009 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I got a used Minolta flash and hacked a phone jack into the bottom of it so I could use phone cords to sync it with my camera. I had a matching hotshow adapter for my body. Cheap, reliable, and simple as well.

May 08, 2009 11:39 AM  
Blogger Heather D. said...

I'm wondering how it saves money?? I've been investigating what I need to take my flash off camera wired, and the prices for other adapters and cords seem the same. (I've already got a wireless solution, but it was cheap and functions as such.)

I do understand the benefit of using the audio mini-phone jack...much more universal, and I hate that the PC cord always falls off.

May 08, 2009 12:19 PM  
Blogger Heather D. said...

PS. LOVE the blog. I've learned a lot!

May 08, 2009 12:20 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Heather D-

re: Saving money, it works in a coupla ways.

One, you do not have to spring for buying cameras and/or flashes with built-in PC jacks. Usually, only the more expensive versions have that.

Second, your sync cord is now a mono audio patch cord, which are not only cheaper but have better connections (more time between replacements.)

-D

May 08, 2009 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Kenneth Jarecke said...

I read "universal translator" and thought you were writing about that thing Uhura sticks in her ear (being that the new Star Trek opens today).

Stop toying with me!

May 08, 2009 12:40 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

So when will MPEX sub these into their kits instead of including a PC cord? Then you'd be able to use the kit on cameras without a PC jack, like the 450d.

May 08, 2009 1:07 PM  
Blogger Heather D. said...

@David

Got it! Thanks for the clarification.

It's also great because we (at work) already have a bunch of mono audio cables lying around. One less thing we need to buy to get our flash working off camera.

Now to figure out how to mount to our light stands....after lunch. :)

Heather

May 08, 2009 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"PC connections suc are not the most reliable connectors on the planet. And they are expensive. I would love to think this may be the first nail in the coffin for that horrid standard"

Can I hear an "Amen"

May 08, 2009 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Jay C said...

But will it convert Romulan to Klingon? Didn't think so...

May 08, 2009 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still a bit confused as usual is there a hot shoe on the bottom or just a plastic foot? Can you put this on a hot shoe camera and wire it to another off camera?

May 08, 2009 1:37 PM  
Blogger EricFerguson said...

Looks great! I like that it's hot on both ends, and has PC as well as mini.

Seems like a ton of cash for a little adapter though, really. Less than $20.00 sounds great, but it sure adds up by the time you've bought 5 of them. Afterall, there are no electronics in there, just wires going to various shapes of plug. For about four bucks You can get ebay gadgets that convert hotshoe to PC, (and they make them for Sony, too). I'm just as ready to see PC die as the next guy, but dunno if I need a twenty dollar adapter just for the priveledge of using minijacks instead.

Still though, this gizmo is more versatile than the ebay thingers, and, in the end, one gadget instead of four is easier on camera bag real estate as well as pocketbook.

Hot on both ends means no tripod socket on the bottom though: that's one of my favourite features of the ebay converter I've got.

Either way: thanks for posting this Dave, it'll save the day for lots of starving students!

May 08, 2009 2:16 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Jay and Kenneth-

Hello, McFly . . . it IS May 8th . . .

May 08, 2009 2:36 PM  
Blogger midwestphotoexchange said...

Still waiting for someone to update the wikipedia page...

Regarding Sony/Minolta. I really tried hard to get one made to fit (Sony hot top and bottom.) The problem is I would need to make a serious commitment and I don't think I can sell enough to pay the price. However, if you and 9,999 of your friend decide you must have one, feel free to drop me a line!

Moishe
Midwest Photo Exhchange

May 08, 2009 2:51 PM  
Anonymous FergusonPhotography said...

Now we just need this exact same thing but with TTL pass-through capability. I mean how hard can it be to just route off a coupla wires from the center and ground pins on a TTL version of this. THAT would be awesome.

If I had access to a plastics manufacturer and some cheap soldering labor, I'd be a millionare!

May 08, 2009 3:47 PM  
OpenID adamstevensphotography said...

RE: Bloody Chum into the E-Bay waters.... I can't help but wonder David, if you posted this just after listing a bunch of old SB's on e-bay that you have been sitting on for several months.... Watch the prices climb honey!

lol

Thanks for the tip/info/entertainment!

Hope your house sells!

May 08, 2009 4:25 PM  
Blogger Joey B said...

I'm with you on this one, David. PC connectors are just horrid. I've had to re-bend all my PC connectors (usually with my teeth, swearing under my breath) after about 5 minutes of use each time I used them. I won't even touch a PC cable anymore, as I prefer the wireless connection with my camera and strobes... but even so, I utilize the 1/8" miniphone in the process, which is so much more reliable and, yes, cheap.

May 08, 2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

Add a little toggle or push-button switch for temporarily disabling sync output and it'll gain 10 extra kickass points.

May 08, 2009 6:54 PM  
Blogger EricFerguson said...

I'm with FergusonPhotography (it's not just a name thing, although if you happen to be the Toronto Photographer who owns EricFerguson.ca, we should talk)

I think TTL passthough on a gizmo like this would be amazing. How many contacts is TTL/ five plus ground? So put two minijacks on it....

May 08, 2009 7:00 PM  
Blogger Bugi said...

This is great DH. Just wondering whats the screw lock at the bottom for? does this have electronic contacts at the bottom so you can put this on your camera as well?

Add a slave function with on/off switch, and ttl contacts and this will be swwwweeeet.

May 08, 2009 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Will Crawford said...

I just ordered two of these. My cunning plan is to buy a $4 1/8 jack Y splitter, plug it into a PocketWizard, and use it to control two small flashes from 1 PW (including an SB-600 which is useless as remote flash if I'm not using CLS, which means I can't mix it in with my strobes). Really cool idea.

May 08, 2009 9:39 PM  
Blogger crocksta said...

flash zebra do have a similar product WITH a hot bottom but with only a pc. but at less than half the price....picked up a couple last week.
thanks david

May 08, 2009 10:44 PM  
Blogger David said...

Yep, I see it now. Hot top and bottom, but no 1/8" jack.

-D

May 08, 2009 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Douglas said...

What I would really like to know is why does everyone agree that PC sucks, but manufacturers keep on making equipment with PC jacks? When Canon introduced a sync jack on a Speedlite, that was a chance to start a change to the basic tip-ring jack. Why didn't they take it?

Why do makers keep sticking with what absolutely no one likes??

I really like the basic mono jack of my Cybersyncs. And even though the Sunpak 383 jack is proprietary, thanks to Flashzebra, it's still tons better than PC.

May 08, 2009 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't the lock pins on different brands' flashes standardized? It certainly looks that way when I visually compare the hotshoe of Nikon/Oly/Canon cameras. So why can't a small hole for the lock pin be put on this shoe?

This is one reason I use Nikon hotshoes and adapters, the lock pins work great. Tightening those small screws to hold the flash foot is so tedious and sometimes they are loose even after you think you've tightened them enough.

A Universal Translator is one that will convert the eTTL/iTTL/Sony TTL/wireless TTL protcocls between all the different brands' cameras and flashes without losing any features. Wake me up when that is available... :-)

May 08, 2009 11:46 PM  
Blogger Jim Calvin said...

Those interested in parts like this should also check out http://www.flashzebra.com/. They carry a wide range of parts like the one discussed here. I even found a CyberSync to sunpak synch cable there.

May 09, 2009 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Viru said...

Two observations David:

1. A SCR is all it takes to make this trigger voltage safe for the cameras. This costs about 70 cents retail. Part number EC103D-ND on digikey.com. For how to use it, http://www.hiviz.com/tools/triggers/makeown.htm#scr should help.

2. The the 1/4x20 thread itself can act as a conductor at the bottom for the hot-shoe.

-Viru

May 09, 2009 10:06 AM  
Blogger glenn kaupert said...

If you have an old Cactus trigger, you can use that w/an SB 600 & Pocket Wizard as well.

May 09, 2009 11:58 AM  
Blogger J.R. Farrar said...

Us Sony/Minolta guys are quite happy still. Plus as you say the D3x chip for under 3k. :)

There are some options for you Sony owners. As mentioned the GadgetInfinity makes this guy: http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/product.php?productid=16892&cat=275&page=1

Which is hot top and bottom but only has the PC port. You can either add your own mono jack or get a pc to mono cable. Something like this one: http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/product.php?productid=16964&cat=275&page=1

They are out there. If the PC connection annoys you...and they can! Just glue tape that sucker in there permanently. I've found that I just leave them attached at one end with some gaffers tape. However this works for me because I leave them attached to the wireless remotes and flashes so they rarely come unplugged.

Now if you really want to expand on that SUPER hot shoe David add an optical trigger in there with that little push button on/off.

@midwestphoto can you take an adpater for Sony like the one I linked above and add the mono jack to it? I would think it would be cheaper than starting from scratch? no?

May 10, 2009 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Alan Lapp said...

@ Viru: thanks for the link, that's a useful page for the tinkerers among us. Those look simple enough that I could handle making them.

Your comment beat me to the punch: the Universal Translator would deliver more value for the money if it had voltage regulation built into the unit.

@ David - good thinking on the 1/4" thread solution, but it may wind up being far more costly to implement than simply including a plastic cold shoe adaptor w/ a 1/4 thread.

And yeah, +1, WHY has PC sync not chlorinated out of the photo gear gene pool? Canon got the message on it's Rebel line for the remote shutter release - 1/8" stereo jack. Unfortunately, their higher-end cameras still use the peculiar N3 connector, presumably because their high-end release/timer still uses N3, despite being an easy production line change.

I wonder if it has anything to do with making it idiot proof -- it would be possible to put the flash sync cord into the remote jack if everything were 1/8".

May 10, 2009 1:06 PM  
Anonymous NK Guy said...

Looks good, and anything to move away from PC connectors is a Very Good Thing.

However, if it *is* going to have a PC socket on it for compatibility, perhaps it could be a threaded one. They're backwards compatible with ordinary PC cables, and the screwlock PC cables are way more secure.

I also agree with fans of the FlashZebra product with the 1/4-20 thread - that's a pretty handy thing to have, even if it lacks a hot foot.

May 10, 2009 8:40 PM  
Blogger Corne Lategan said...

NIKON flash on top of CANON camera?

Does this mean I could use say a SB800 (manual) on top of a Canon 5d?

May 11, 2009 7:29 AM  
Blogger Bill Giles said...

I'll probably get a couple of these to try out with my Canon 540EZs. I have a couple of Paramount/Pocket Wizard hot shoe adapters and I find it very difficult to get my flashes in and out of the adapters. I have some of the Flashzebra style adapters and they fit the Canon flashes quite nicely, but require PC cables. I also have some hot shoe slaves made by an Indian firm, Sonia which have a peanut style slave that plugs into a male PC connector. I bought them on eBay here:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&item=350192585950

I like them because they have a 1/4" threaded socket on the bottom and I can use them directly on umbrella swivels and ball heads. They are also solid aluminum. Sadly, the female PC connectors on the sides of these do not appear to be functional, so I had to make some custom female PC to 1/8" mini phone cables. I would prefer that the adapter not have a live shoe on the bottom and mount directly on the swivel, since I only use these off camera and I either use a pocket wizard or an optical slave to fire the flash. I haven't yet found the perfect adapter to mount my flashes, but I will keep looking.

May 11, 2009 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm deciding if its to good to be true, but this one looks legit. ill have to decide if this guy is gunna be a good solution to working a nikon sb 600 off camera with skyport syncs. If it will solve the problem please say so.

May 12, 2009 12:29 AM  
Blogger David said...

"So."

May 12, 2009 12:40 AM  
Anonymous jake14mw said...

Hi all,

So the thing that makes this so great is that Nikon flashes have this 1/8 connection already? I'd love to get rid of PC cords, but with Sunpak flashes I would need one of these things on both ends to use the better cable, right?

May 12, 2009 9:04 AM  
Blogger Becky said...

I am quite the amateur, so sometimes I feel like I'm treading in deep water as I read Strobist, but I love it!
I've read the post and all comments a few times- but am hoping someone can tell me- Does this mean I can hook up an old Minolta Image CZD-70 that I own to my Nikon D40? (Assuming I find out it has a safe voltage... It wasn't listed in the awesome voltage chart) If the Universal Translator isn't the gadget for me, which of all the gadgets that have been mentioned might do the trick for me? Since I haven't had the cash to build an off-camera lighting stach, I've been relying on available light, which only seems to get me so far with our long Canadian winters!

May 12, 2009 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Ezra Ekman said...

Similar devices have been around for at least two years (I've been using them for about that long), but unless you need the 3.5mm female minijack, there's no need to spend almost twenty bucks plus shipping on them. Just as those super-cheap knock-off PocketWizards can be found on eBay for a fraction of the cost the real ones cost, dumb PC sync slave shoes are available for between $4-10 each. Be forewarned though: the cheap ones are usually PC sync only.

If you DO need the 3.5" minijack, get this one. For those without PocketWizards or certain types of monolights (such as Alien Bees), 3.5mm minijacks will be useless. But if any of your equipment uses them, they're much more stable than PC sync minijacks because the 3.5mm minijacks contain a spring-loaded mechanism that almost "locks" it in place. They don't fall out; you have to actually pull them out. Because of this, I'm seriously thinking about replacing mine with these. And don't waste money buying a 3.5mm-3.5mm cord at at a photography store; this has been a standard in audio cables for decades. Buy one at Radio Shack for six bucks and you're done. Just make sure it's mono; stereo may not work, depending on what you're plugging it into. I hope that answers the original poster's question: I prefer minijack by a lot... when it's supported by whatever I'm plugging it into. Unfortunately though, the photography world's transition to it has been sluggish at best.

For those who were wondering about the screw connector, it's so you can mount it onto anything else that mounts a shoe. That includes brackets, some light stands and attachments, cameras, etc. I can't speak for this unit specifically, but some of them actually do have a hot connection all the way down to the base, so you can trigger them in three different ways. (Standard hot shoe, 3.5mm minijack or PC sync.) It's important to note, however, that you will lose all extra capabilities that your camera and/or hotshoe extension cable may offer because you're losing your extra contacts. This is a dumb slave shoe, emphasis on DUMB. It just triggers the flash, and won't pass any information on, including distance, light output, TTL or anything else. That means you'll probably have to put your flash unit in full manual mode to use it. If you need more than that, check out the products that PocketWizard just released.

Also, BE CAREFUL WHEN USING THESE. They don't have the hole for the locking pin, and your flash units can easily slide out of them if tilted backwards. Make sure the base is pointed down a little bit if possible, so this doesn't happen. I sometimes use one of these to mount an SB-600 on a telescoping pole so I can have an assistant hold my flash above my subject, behind, to the side or wherever, and plug a Pocket Wizard into it so I don't have to worry about line of sight, which CLS requires. Unfortunately, that lack of stability requires gaffer's tape, which of course looks REAL professional. *chuckle* This instability also has the drawback of sometimes triggering the flash whenever it is jiggled, due to the intermittent contact the flash unit makes with the shoe's metal contact(s). This can range from extremely obnoxious (when you're moving it around in a dark environment and end up blasting yourself right in the blinkers) to downright dangerous if you end up triggering your flash unit too much, too often, which can lead to burning out the tube. That tube is only $10 to replace, but over $100 to have it done. Whee!

May 18, 2009 12:02 PM  
Anonymous DC Chavez said...

Bought one...

Just like the other PW to hot shoe adapter, my 580EX (1st gen) will not slide into it... I need to either file down the foot on the flash, or spread the metal to accomodate the flash.... Bummer, I thought this was going to work...

May 19, 2009 9:27 PM  
Blogger j. austin studios said...

I purchased this product because I have a Canon Rebel Xti with no ports/jacks. I wanted to hook up to a Novatron strobe light kit without spending the money to buy pocket wizards. I am shooting in manual mode but cannot get the strobes to fire. The translator works fine on my NikonD100 but not on my Canon Rebel Xti. Anyone else out there having this trouble? I've been contacting both Midwest Photo Exchange and Canon and neither of them can figure out what's happening. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

May 21, 2009 3:17 PM  
Blogger okcommuter said...

Will I be able to mount this on my XTI, put the cactus transmitter on top of it, and run an 1/8" cord to my B800?

If so, that would be awesome!

June 25, 2009 12:26 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I received my first one of these last week. As soon as I attached it to either my Canon 580EX (first gen) or my Vivitar 285HV, it would lock up the flash and I could not even fire a test flash. The replacement just showed up today - works fine on the Vivitar with the remote transmitters I'm using (Calumet). However, on the Canon it repeatedly and randomly fires the flash. I have no control - sometimes more than 1 flash per second. I've tried reattaching, powering the flash and radio at different times, etc. Anybody else seeing this? Anybody having success with this and a first gen Canon 580EX?

December 28, 2009 11:02 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I received my first one of these last week. As soon as I attached it to either my Canon 580EX (first gen) or my Vivitar 285HV, it would lock up the flash and I could not even fire a test flash. The replacement just showed up today - works fine on the Vivitar with the remote transmitters I'm using (Calumet). However, on the Canon it repeatedly and randomly fires the flash. I have no control - sometimes more than 1 flash per second. I've tried reattaching, powering the flash and radio at different times, etc. Anybody else seeing this? Anybody having success with this and a first gen Canon 580EX?

December 28, 2009 11:04 PM  
Blogger David said...

Patrick-

Your problem sounds very unusual. (First I have heard, actually.) But I would definitely suggest calling MPEX rather than leaving a comment on a months-old post.

Their support is very good -- they will make it right.

-DH

December 28, 2009 11:31 PM  
Blogger James said...

I got one of these a few months ago, and it tuned out to be one of those random little things that solves numerous problems simply and thoughtlessly. Recently, I’ve been using it to connect a speedlight and a pocket wizard.

I have experienced the problem that Patrick noted December 28, 2009 11:04 PM, and it seems to have been caused by the speedlight sliding back a bit from the hotshoe, misaligning the connection. It just happened to me the other day. Reseating the connection seemed to solve the problem.

January 13, 2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger Nycpedicab said...

Imagine if this could become an aftermarket foot for the Vivitar 285, replacing the winkest link on an otherwise very reliable flash unit. Plus added connectivity.

January 21, 2010 1:10 PM  
Blogger ChrisJ said...

There is a similar thing here in the UK from one of my favourite suppliers.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Twin-Female-Hotshoe-with-Miniphone-3-5mm-Female-Socket_W0QQitemZ150413737531QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Photography_StudioEquipment_RL?hash=item23055b7e3b

This one has two live hotshoes and a 1/4" socket for tripod/lightstand mounting.


Chris

February 19, 2010 5:48 AM  
Blogger Russ said...

Hello, Question here. I have a Canon 5d2 and I purchased some used studio lights from a friend. They are Norman lights. This is a older setup, expensive at the time but he just about gave them to me. Anyhow it has a 500w box the lights plug into with a single sync cord. Well I really would like to go wireless to the Norman lights from my 5d2. How can I accomplish this. By the way I wanted to just try out this studio stuff and see if I liked it,practice with it, then move to a updated light system. Just an amater so be easy on me please. thanks

February 28, 2010 12:57 AM  
Blogger Matt Vollum said...

Sorry...way late on this but I stumbled upon this and bought the translators. Work great with PC port but the 1/8 audio port does not work with SB-800s. I plugged the audio port in to the SB-80DX and it works great...but won't trigger the SB-800s...anyone have any idea why??

July 24, 2011 12:40 PM  
Blogger J.A D said...

I order the 2x universal translator and audio cable kit. When I hook it all up my flash will not fire and my in camera flash controls does not recognize a flash connection. I tested both translators on my camera's hot shoe and attached my flash to the translator. With both translators my flash fired. now can I assume safely that my problem is a bad audio cable? or could it be a problem with the 1/8 port on the translator?

October 19, 2012 2:23 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@JAD-

1. Your camera will not "recognize" a flash when connected this way, because it is a simple, manual flash connection rather than a TTL/proprietary one.

2. I think you are correct in that it is likely a bad cord. But best to call/email MPEX (where I presume you got it) as they offer faaaar better support directly as compared to to leaving a comment in a three-year-old blog post. ;)

October 19, 2012 4:26 PM  
Blogger Scott: said...

Bad news. LumoPro has changed the collar that they use on the 1/8th port of these. The new port will only transmit the signal to your flash if you have a mono cord. Stereo cords no longer work. There goes the cheap and ubiquitous solution of using 1/8th inch stereo patch cables to eliminate the pc port.
Swan

July 15, 2013 12:50 PM  

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