UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


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.


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
My current project: The Traveling Photograher's Manifesto