Cold Shoe Your Monoblocs for Better Radio Performance

Here's an idea that is so simple I am surprised it did not strike me sooner.

It's one of several neat little design improvements in the new Einsteins, but it never occurred to me how cheap and easy it would be to retrofit my old AlienBees.

When I attach my PWs to monoblocs, I usually hang them from the flash's grip lug, mostly because that is the most convenient place. It works, but they dangle when the light stand gets moved about and the antenna is not ideally located.

Some people use brackets to secure their PWs to the light stand in a more rigid way. This solves the dangling issues, but the antenna is designed to work best when it is above the electronics housed in the flash unit.

When the Einsteins came out, Paul Buff designed the modular radio receiver units to plug into a socket on top of the flash. This is perfect. No flopping about, and it's at an ideal location right out of the box.

When I get a new umbrella swivel I usually ditch the supplied cold shoe, preferring the more secure pin equipped OEM foot, or a dual locking Frio cold shoe.

I was looking at a few of the discarded cold shoes from the swivel one day and got the idea to repurpose them for use on top of my monoblocs. (I use Profoto Acute pack-and-heads, but still keep a few ABs around for back-up and/or aux lights.)

A little schmear of quick-drying epoxy in the utility room, and two minutes later my ABs had an ideal PocketWizard (or any other remote) mount, ready to go.

It's very sturdy, does not flop about and offers ideal antenna location and orientation. And pretty much for free if you have a cold shoe or two lying about, as I'll bet many of you do.

If so inclined, you could also do this to your speedlights. But if you travel with them tight inside slots in your roller, the extra quarter inch of thickness might make a difference. But worth a thought, anyway.


Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos

Comments are closed. Question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist


Blogger Adam said...

I use velcro on everything, including my alienbees. hook side on my remotes, loop side on all the things. :)

March 29, 2012 9:20 AM  
Blogger Tim Henrion said...

Very interesting post. Do you see any advantages here with cold shoes over using Velcro? For the lights that I take on the road, I find connecting the PW to the light with Velcro alleviates having something "sticking out" of the light that might get caught on something as I remove/insert the light to/from the travel case. On the other hand, using the cold shoe has the benefit of more stability.

March 29, 2012 9:44 AM  
Blogger Patrick Murphy said...

One small disadvantage… if you are using an umbrella or a brolly the Pocket Wizard will block a bit of the light, as opposed to hanging below the umbrella on the light stand.

March 29, 2012 10:02 AM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

Great idea. But you might consider adding a shorter cable with angled connectors to clean up the cable area. Amazon has a 1 ft. cable under the name " MU1MMS2RA Slim 3.5mm Right Angle Stereo Audio Cable - M/M (1 Feet)"

March 29, 2012 10:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Why wasn't that thought of sooner? It's so obvious now.

March 29, 2012 10:53 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


The main advantage (and, TBH, the reason for doing it) is that it puts the antenna for the remote in the best possible position. Not so if hanging or velcroed to the side.


March 29, 2012 11:56 AM  
Blogger NYSTAN said...

I agree about the VELCRO solution as it has a smaller profile when packing. Also-please take note that Fast Drying Epoxy is not as strong as the long drying stuff. One more point-if you epoxy to the surface without roughing it up first, you are in effect, gluing the hotshoe to the paint of the is preferable to carefully create a small square of bare metal under where the hotshoe is going to sit...use some masking tape and jeweler's awl etc...much stronger....Thank you for another FANTASTIC fix....great idea and am going to use it one something around here-too good an idea to pass up-just not on my tightly packed monos.

March 29, 2012 1:30 PM  
Blogger improv said...


slow down, that has to be a mono cable for Alien Bees doesn't it?

March 29, 2012 2:17 PM  
Blogger brett maxwell said...

funny! I did this just a week ago, the exact same way, epoxy +coldshoe +B800

March 29, 2012 4:38 PM  
Blogger Edward Yezekian said...

Good idea, but not new. My pixel rook triggers came with cheapie stick on cold feet meant to be stuck on monoblocks. Been using then for a while now and they work great.

March 29, 2012 7:10 PM  
Blogger Rick Urb said...

I have heard some conflicting advice. Some say the antenna should be pointed straight up, and others say the antenna should be at a 90 degree angle to the light stand.

March 29, 2012 10:18 PM  
Blogger richardsonad said...

I don't deal with this myself since I trigger with either my Cactus V5's or my Cyber Commander, but this seems like it would really effect your light if you're using a PLM or SoftLighter. Thoughts?

March 30, 2012 2:27 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

NYSTAN said...
"One more point-if you epoxy to the surface without roughing it up first, you are in effect, gluing the hotshoe to the paint of the is preferable to carefully create a small square of bare metal under where the hotshoe is going to sit...use some masking tape and jeweler's awl etc...much stronger."

FYI...The case of an AB light is plastic (Lexan I think), not painted metal.

Nice idea, although I use the Cyber Sync remotes, which don't have a shoe (because they are receivers, not transceivers). Worse yet, the CSRB doesn't even have a built-in loop to attach a strap.

March 30, 2012 3:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The winning ticket was in Maryland? Did your photography budget get bigger:)?

March 31, 2012 7:54 AM  
Blogger Fenix Fotography said...

@Improv: Nope. You don't need to pay an arm and a leg for cables from AB or PW. I get all mine from Radio Shack for a fraction of the price. They work just fine with my AB's, my other brand lights, and my Pocket Wizards I's and II's.

Great idea David!!

March 31, 2012 3:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In truth, the signal radiates in the shape of a donut, with the weakest spots directly above and directly below the axis of the antenna. However, with a small ~2 dB antenna like that, the signal is essentially spherical, so orientation will have negligible effect unless you're far away from the unit. That's the math of it; your real-world mileage may vary.

March 31, 2012 9:06 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Christian said...

I actually added a little home made foot (like the foot part of a flash unit) by using two small pieces of flat plastic, I just made the one a little smaller than the other, so that when I glued the smaller piece to my Viv 285 (just behind the zoom piece on the bottom of the "head" of the unit. This made it so that when the unit was open out straight (what would be pointed straight up if mounted on a camera) I could use my vise type cold shoe holder, with the umbrella adapter, to hold the flash into a position where it was aimed at the center of any modifier I might use (mostly shoot-thrus) AND its more stable than the flash standing on the firing hot-shoe adapter from my wireless trigger, and then the flimsy plastic shoe of the 285s on top of a stand, it lays down now!

April 01, 2012 4:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You probably want to do this with a frio™ instead of a dumb (viz. no lock) coldshoe. Unless you don't mind your PW hitting the deck. Which it will do one day when you forget to screw the lock down. Just sayin'.

April 03, 2012 2:05 AM  
Blogger Theshortlist_tom said...

I went with a similar solution for my speedlights and cactus V5 triggers. The hotshoe on the V5 isnt very strong!

April 03, 2012 4:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home