Thursday, September 13, 2007

You bought these flash sync items. Now what?

In the previous post here, we discussed the various ways flash can be fired from the camera. In this post we will see how these peripheral devices actually connect to your camera. So when you squeeze on the shutter release. There will be light!

How to connect cables to your flash:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

These cables come in a variety of flavors. You can get a standard PC to PC cord that just sends a simple low voltage pulse of electricity to fire your flash. Or you can go all the way up to a i-ttl (Nikon) or e-ttl (Canon) cable that carries all the 'smart' knowledge from the camera.

What's the difference?

  • With ttl technology, you can set your camera on auto and just hammer on the shutter. Every picture won't be exposed with the flash perfectly, but they will be very close to spot on every time.
  • With regular PC cables (non ttl) you will only trigger your flash. If you have your flash set on half power, it will obediently flash away at half power, oblivious the the fact whether it is actually doing what you need it to do or not.

Here is an image of connecting a PC cable to a hotshoe adapter. (This is the same exact principal as connecting the PC cable directly to the camera)

PC cable to hotshoe:

Here is an image of connecting the PC cable to the flash. (This is also the same principal as connecting any camera to a light source)

WARNING! With the advent of sensitive digital cameras, there has been much discussion on the web about the danger of using older photo flash strobes on the hotshoe connector. The primary concern comes from the two major SLR manufacturers, Nikon and Canon, listing the maximum hotshoe X-sync voltage being no higher than 250V and 6V, respectively. Many older flashes had a trigger voltage of over 200V on the X-sync contact relative to the mechanical ground shoe connector. This high voltage has the potential to damage or destroy expensive modern digital cameras. If you have questions or concerns about the voltage of your strobe. Just Google your flash name + sync voltage. You should easily find the voltage within the first three hits.

PC cable to flash: (two images of the same thing)

Using an optical trigger:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

  • Optical trigger
  • Flash

This is by far the easiest way to trigger a flash in regards to setup. All you do is attach an optical trigger to the bottom of your flash the same way you would connect the flash to your camera via the hotshoe.

Optical trigger sliding onto the hotshoe of the speedlight:

Using wireless transmitters:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

  • Wireless transmitter x1
  • Wireless receiver x1 (you will need one receiver for each flash you want to trigger wirelessly)
  • Cable to connect the wireless receiver to the flash (this cable comes in almost all wireless kits)
  • Flash

While this is the most complicated way to sync your flash. It's still pretty easy. There are certain proprietary steps that belong to each wireless transmitter. The images you see below are using Pocket Wizard's (PW's). I won't go into these steps unless your having a difficult time with a certain type. If you are, make a comment on the bottom requesting additional posting and I will add it within a day or so.

The wireless transmitter will have a hotshoe attachment on it that fits directly onto the camera. I'm not going to show an image of this at this time unless it's requested later. It's pretty straight forward.

The wireless receiver is where it can be a little confusing. There will be a sync cable that connects from the wireless transmitter to the PC port on your speedlight. This image should do a good job explaining how this connection works. Although, some wireless setups connect directly to the bottom of your flash via the hotshoe and don't need this cable at all.

Wireless receiver hooking up to flash: (I made this third image a little larger so you can really see what's going on here)

I'm not going to go over Infrared Transmitters due to the proprietary nature of them. I strongly recommend just cracking open that hardly been used owners manual and finding out the best way to use it. Just remember, the transmitter has to 'see' the receiver for IR technology to work. It MIGHT work around a corner since the signal can bounce off walls. But never through walls and things like that.
In the next post. I will discuss how this gear attaches to light-stands and what options you have.

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