Q&A: China Answers!

Upon reading the post earlier this week asking for a male-male hot-shoe-to-mini coiled sync cord, reader Shirley Lu, of Guangzhou, China noted in the comments:

If this cable is 10 meters, maybe it will have a delay on signal transfer. And other point is the cost of a 10-meter cable is much higher than a set wireless triggers.

Great question (er, comment), Shirley. I am so glad you posted it. And especially so, considering a quick look at your screen name shows you work at Pixel Enterprises, a Chinese lighting gear manufacturer. (Welcome!) My answers are below.

First, here's the post we're talking about, in case you are late to the party. Second, I edited Shirley's english (which is much better than my Chinese) for clarity.

And third, just in case her comment screen name seems reversed, remember that different cultures use family and given names in different orders.

So, Shirley, to your questions.

First, a wire is almost always going to be faster than a radio remote when you are trying to get your maximum sync speed. This is because of tiny, microsecond-range delays inherent to the processing that takes place inside of a radio remote.

I have tested many remotes and found that a sync wire is reliably fastest when using high, non-FP sync. (We're talking standard dumb- and TTL remotes that do not insert themselves into the timing sequence of of a TTL pre-flash as does, for example, the PocketWizard ControlTL platform. That's a different thing altogether.)

With a wire as a remote syncing device, the only two considerations are the flash's t.1 speed and the shutter speed in the case of a leaf or electronically timed shutter. (As is the case in an X100s and a Nikon D70s respectively for example.)

Second, why even go with a wire when a remote is potentially cheaper?

LOTS of reasons here.

Sync cords, assuming they are well-built, just work. They are not battery dependent, and assuming proper connections, they do not become obsolete. They also are much less* susceptible to RF interference.

(*I say, "much less," because if I say they are immune, someone will pop up in the comments and say an electromagnetic pulse weapon could mess up my sync cord. Sigh.)

In any case, the above are all potential weaknesses of remote triggers, and one reason why I suggest that people start with a wire. This also leaves you with a good and generic backup when you progress to a remote.

Since I posted on Monday, several good suggestions percolated up through the various channels. One was that a solid, heavy-duty straight wire might be better than a coiled wire since the latter is heavy and springy and can tip a lightweight light stand.

Another suggested, wisely, to use a 90-degree plug at the flash end for reduced strain. A couple of people pointed out that Flash Zebra sells a version of this cord that is straight, but shorter. Awesome.

Others chimed in (many of you, actually) pointing to PocketWizard's just-announced mini-to-hot-shoe cord. Not the same thing. That's male mini to female hot shot. It connects a PW to a flash that does not have a PC or mini jack.

Shirley, thanks again for chiming in.

And the consensus of the ad hoc International Strobist Focus Group is for a cord that is a) straight, b) heavy duty, c) longer — say 25 feet, d) has good quality connecters — with 90-degree mini-plug — and e) good strain relief at each end.

Thank you for your consideration.


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