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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lastolite Triflash Sync: Triple Threat

Multi-speedlight brackets are a great way to gang up your small flashes when you need a little extra oomph, as in when trying to overpower the sun for a portrait.

Why not just buy a monobloc, you ask? Well, for one thing, it is easy to gang up small flashes. But it is a little more difficult to hack a monobloc into key, fill and background lights. Different folks, different workflows.

There are a few options for ganging speedlights into a more powerful, single light. And they have all been pretty much the same -- until now.
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Ahead of the Curve

Unlike most multi-flash brackets, the Lastolite TriFlash Sync includes three hot shoes, as compared to the typical cold-shoe versions.

And that 1/8" (3.5mm) jack you see out front? That is parallel-wired to all three, effectively giving you the minijack sync option that frees you from the PC Cord Mafia.

Which means you can use an audio patch cord as a sync cable. A mono cord is supplied, but my stereo cords also worked with a PocketWizard to sync three speedlights at once.

You can also even mount the PW on the center hot shoe and have it securely fastened if you just are firing two strobes. Lastolite includes a cold-shoe adapter for that, lest your PW get locked into an endless relay-mode feedback loop from triggering itself.


Built Like a Tank

With three SB-800s connected as shown, the bracket/flash combo feels like one solid unit. The shoes all have both clamping rails and locking pin holes for Nikon and Canon models.

The clamps are really solid, which is important when you consider how much money could potentially be attached to this thing. I'd hang this one out over water without the usual ball bungee wrapped around the shoes for insurance. The tilt mechanism also has locking teeth, and is quite solid.

(Please note that the above photos are of a beta unit, and the final version may have slight differences.)


Radio Not Required

Obviously, you can go with a 1/8" hard sync cord into the bracket. But if you are, say, filling with an on-axis flash you can trigger a multi-speedlight key light with the built-in slave.

The slave is intelligent, and battery-powered -- which can be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

First off, batt-powered slaves are generally more sensitive, which is good. And you can set it to ignore from one to four pre-flashes, if you are into combining manual and TTL.

But that also means that the slave is battery dependent (in this case, a button cell) so if you are going to be using the slave you have to remember to turn the thing off every time.

It's a non-issue for me as the PW input is convenient and immune from syncing the flashes from other nearby photographers. And if I needed to use a slave I'd probably opt for the version built into my flashes -- the SU-4 mode on the SB-800s is as good as it gets.

That way, I also have three slave eyes pointing in different directions. So the best-aimed slave would trigger, and that flash would easily set the other two off. But most flashes do not have built-in slaves, and the Triflash Sync is inspired thinking for a multi-flash bracket.

They are not yet available, but are coming soon. If you are in the UK you'll get them first (est. in a couple weeks) as they are UK-made and distributed by Lastolite. And they should be trickling out to other countries via the normal Lastolite outlets in fairly short order after that.

Price is expected to be ~$149 in the US. And who knows, UK might even get a relative break this time. Or at least, not have to pay the usual ~1.5x price...


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38 Comments:

Blogger colclaser said...

Hi Dave. Will the shoe accept a SB-900?

July 15, 2010 2:01 PM  
Blogger David said...

I do not own an SB-900, but due to the clamping shoe design, I would put it about a 99% probability of fitting.

July 15, 2010 2:23 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Tramontana said...

The concept and execution look great and I know that photo gear traditionally costs 10x more than one would think reasonable, but 150 bucks for this? Really? A Bogen Superclamp will run you $30 and probably has more raw material in it. This thing adds a wire. We're not talking micro chips here!

July 15, 2010 2:38 PM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

i feel a bit silly here,, but whats the difference between hot and cold shoe?
hot shoe has contacts no? and a cold shoe does not.
but you are syncing them via cords?
what did i miss? did i miss-read?

July 15, 2010 2:40 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

These will be well received. No more hacks. A nice streamlined product that's easy to use :) They'll get my $$$ for sure.

July 15, 2010 2:52 PM  
Blogger DanielSting said...

These are gonna sell like hot sho... hot bread. (Maybe in spanish makes more sense)

July 15, 2010 3:55 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Is that an umbrella mount in the center?

July 15, 2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger magi9112 said...

Seriously they will want $150 for that little bit of metal and a couple wires? I would much rather just bungee cord, superclamp, and RadioPopper it like the previous comment. Wow! I would be willing to pay $50 for one of those, not $150. You could buy an extra SB-26 on Ebay for that price. Oh well, the cost of "Photography" in the name of a product I guess.

July 15, 2010 5:37 PM  
Blogger Levy Moroshan said...

Just what I've been waiting for!

July 15, 2010 8:29 PM  
Blogger Xang said...

Just when I was about to purchase the current TriFlash...decisions, decisions.

July 15, 2010 9:11 PM  
Blogger Gregoire said...

It looks like a well thought out and solid solution for those of use looking to try out multiflash setups.

I'd hate to have one of my SB-800's fall to the ground!

July 15, 2010 9:27 PM  
Blogger Glenn said...

I'm going with the over that McNally will find a way to mount 7 on there before all is said and done. ;-)

July 15, 2010 9:46 PM  
Blogger Peter Loveday said...

Hmm, does seem a bit pricey.

I'd much rather forgo the built in slave for a cheaper unit with just the 3.5mm socket.

July 16, 2010 12:37 AM  
Blogger kellie said...

Looks cool to me

July 16, 2010 3:33 AM  
Blogger Davidikus said...

The notion of overpowering the sun completely eludes me! It sounds like an ego trip. However, it's good to see such mounts exist, should I eevr need them!

July 16, 2010 4:36 AM  
Blogger John. said...

This must be an updated version, Lastolite do a Tri Flash bracket, without the sync connection at a much lower price - see http://bit.ly/bUWtmi

July 16, 2010 5:09 AM  
OpenID AE5X said...

So $150 for the gadget, then $425 for each SB900 - according to my calcs, $1425. And an Alien Bee 1600 goes for $360....hmm...

July 16, 2010 9:54 AM  
OpenID sednaphotography said...

I think it's pretty cool. Aside from the price, it does seem like an easy, convenient way to do this. I think I like it!

July 16, 2010 11:26 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

UK price is a nice round £100 inc vat. So actually a little less than the US :-)

July 16, 2010 12:03 PM  
OpenID gloda said...

This does sound like a nice improvement over the Lastolite Triflash which I got after you blogged about it (http://strobist.blogspot.com/2009/02/nifty-three-way-flash-bracket-at-wppi.html). Sounds great for manual triggering. It's a shame though that, if I got this right, I won't be able to use these with my PW Flex units? The nice thing with those is that I can just put three flashes on a Triflash, and that inside a softbox (I use the Westcott Apollo). If I need to change the power level, I don't have to take apart the whole softbox again. So it seems like I'm stuck with my current technique of mounting 3 Flex PWs for 3 flashes onto the Triflash?

July 16, 2010 12:15 PM  
Blogger glenn said...

@ B&H:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/611177-REG/Lastolite_LL_LA2412.html

July 16, 2010 12:32 PM  
Blogger SAUL said...

The idea is great but the price seem a bit high

July 16, 2010 12:41 PM  
Blogger Ryan Brenizer said...

I'm first in line for this. The triflash has served me very, very well. I call it the "Sledgehammer of Light."

July 16, 2010 1:34 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Here's Dave Black, using two FourSquare brackets to hold EIGHT SB-900s for outdoor fill-flash with high-speed sync. Let's see....eight flashes @$440 (B&H), plus two FourSquare brackets ($100 each): $3,720. Battery-powered monolights are beginning to look better and better, even without TTL functions:

http://www.daveblackphotography.com/workshop/07-2010.htm

July 16, 2010 3:14 PM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

You say the three shoes are wired in parallel through the 3.5mm sync connection, but are they electrically isolated from each other? If not, aren't you risking erratic triggering (or worse) if your three flashes don't have identical trigger-circuit specs?

I suppose mixing an SB900, 800 and 600 (or Canon equivalents) would be okay, since these are same-maker, same-series units. But I can imagine someone slinging an SB, a Vivitar 283, and a Something Else onto it in a quest for more power.

July 17, 2010 12:29 AM  
Blogger Mr Smith said...

@Jim, 1. Dave Black is using eight lights for a very specific application. He is shooting with a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second, Thanks to the Auto FP from Nikon. Even with a monolight you can't sync faster than 1/200 or 1/250 and in the sun you will get a little blur trail if you're shooting a bike doing 45mph about 2 feet away form you.
2. The FourSquare has way more practical options than the triflash. One huge bonus is that the FourSquare has the soft box http://bit.ly/aff8ks . That's way better than having a hot shoe over a cold shoe, you still need a pocket wizard or IR. Check out Dave's Surfing shoot where he used the same setup. The water is razor sharp. http://bit.ly/NMNR7

July 17, 2010 1:33 AM  
Blogger Marius Turcu said...

This Lastolite triflash bracket mark III is too expensive. Personally i've made one, looks very professional, has 3 flash cold shoes and a trigger mounting system. The only "inconvenient" is that i needed to build a special cable with one mono audio connector on one side and 3 pc-sync outputs on the other side. I bought 6 pc-to-pc sync cords from China 33$, cut them to have 12 pc sync mount and then build the cables. I was never been distracted from my job using small cables from my triflash to sync de flashes so i really think that this original triflash is really really expensive. Even the mark II was expensive for me so my diy triflash looks better and was built for free.

July 17, 2010 8:06 AM  
Blogger Addison Geary Photography said...

I don't suppose the slave feature built into the bracket will work with canon flashes? For some reason they will slave once, making you think every thing is fine, but only once.

July 17, 2010 8:53 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Oh, I'm not arguing with Dave Black's results; his photos are great. And I realize (and even stated in my message) that he was using high-speed sync, which isn't possible with monolights. There's no question that he's making intelligent use of tools to achieve his purposes. I was just commenting on the price. If the results are worth it, expensive tools make sense. But if budgets are limited, it's worth at least considering how much this kind of setup costs.

July 17, 2010 9:42 AM  
Blogger Paul Cory said...

I have, and really like the current Lastolite Tri-flash bracket. It's a fantastic companion for a Softilighter or Buff PLM.

I'll be buying this one shortly after it becomes available in the US. Why? Because the convenience is worth the price (although I'd happily pay $15 less and skip the optical slave feature). I am not, alas, capable of building my own flash brackets and multisync wiring set ups, and I don't particularly have the time to learn.

I am, naturally, envious of those who possess such skills. :-)

Oh, and for price comparisons to studio flash, here's a different take.

3 Canon 540EZs, combined GN at 35mm of 108 (in feet), $240 on ebay. TriFlash sync adds $150, let's call it an even $400.

Alien Bees B400 + Vagabond 2 = $525. GN is 118(in feet) with 7-inch reflector.

The cheapo small flash user still has enough money for rechargeable batteries and a Softlighter, :-)

Of course, if I need to snoot or grid those ganged flashes, I'm hosed. :-) Guess there is no perfect answer, just the one that works for you.

July 17, 2010 6:56 PM  
Blogger Iden Pierce Ford said...

I own one of these and the problem is that the sb900 foot does not hold on this unit so you risk your light crashing out of the foot. I strictly use sb800 units on the tri shoe and I own two so unless I get three of those it is a twofer for me rather than three

July 18, 2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

At $15 for a 3.5mm (or optical) to Hotshoe adapter, the DIY crowd will be laughing at this, take a standard clamp and epoxy two more shoes onto it (or a aluminium block to look pretty), solder the wires and you're done (salt with diodes to taste if you are the nervous type)

Looks like a very well made (and profesional looking) piece of kit, but the price is just silly IMHO.

I'm sure they will sell very well.

July 19, 2010 4:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

"I own one of these and the problem is that the sb900 foot does not hold on this unit so you risk your light crashing out of the foot. I strictly use sb800 units on the tri shoe and I own two so unless I get three of those it is a twofer for me rather than three."

I believe you own the original TriFlash. The TriFlash Shoe Lock positively locks in SB800 or 900's with ease. The one you own is designed for flashes that have a thumb lock at their foot.

Mark Astmann

July 19, 2010 4:54 PM  
Blogger Low said...

I'm a helpless gear freak who jump on most things that give out the slightest sparkle, but even I find the price for this thing absolutely laughable. Anybody who buys this must be a seriously depraved photo gear slave.

July 26, 2010 9:23 AM  
Blogger john said...

I don't understand why this person doesn't just use a monolight although I have met shooters in the past that complicate the simplest things.

July 29, 2010 5:05 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Hey bro, thanks for posting this. I have the old lastolite triflash and it's been great albeit a bit of a bad design on their cold shoes. they hold by friction, and not by a locking mechanism – so they've slipped out a few times unintentionally.

anyhow, according to this, you can wire up a single PW2 which could trigger all 3? Sounds plenty worth the $150 to me :)

July 31, 2010 7:51 PM  
Blogger ekpilot said...

Just picked one up from The Flash Centre Birmingham to use in my portrait shooting in Dubai. Guess I'm one of those "seriously depraved photo gear slaves"! lol Or maybe I just have more money than time, want a professional-looking, elegant solution, and just want to get on with the job....?

I appreciate the low-cost ethos of the Strobist but to suggest this is a fancy Superclamp that anyone with a couple of ball bungees and some duct tape could reproduce, is only telling the world you haven't actually used this thing. Just a gentle suggestion to maybe save an opinion until it can be informed by actual experience.

/end tongue in cheek mini-rant

Anyway, you can't have too much juice to knock the sun down here as we have it! I too at first thought the price tag a bit steep. But after actually having it and using it, I grudgingly have to admit it is beautifully engineered and built. Call it an "elegance" premium" if you think the price is high but show me any quality kit that doesn't cost.

As far as the cost comparison to studio lights, it really isn't relevant. I have and use studio lights, but when I'm out with a bagful of speedlights and stands and modifiers, it's a lot easier to gang a few together for a few shots that need the extra oomph than carry an entire batt-powered studio kit. If you're regularly shooting something that requires the power of the big lights, then you probably aren't using speedlights anyway! This thing just leverages what I already have with me...two thumbs up.

September 25, 2010 9:50 AM  
Blogger kevwil said...

Argh! I still can't find a place to buy one in the US.

October 10, 2010 3:21 PM  

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