Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First Equipment Hack

In preparing for a wedding shoot (4 days from now!) my partner and I discovered we had an equipment problem. Here's the setup:

  • He shoots Nikon, I shoot Canon
  • The Nikon and Canon TTL mechanisms are completely incompatible
  • We'll be using a pair of strobes, each mounted on a light stand and bouncing off the ceiling to light the dance floor.
  • We'll each have a speedlight mounted on a flash bracket.

When we're taking photos away from the dance floor, we'll rely just on our off-camera flash. When we're on the dance floor, we want to trigger the two strobes. Fortunately, with the strobes came a cheapo version of a radio trigger (like a knockoff Pocket Wizard). We tested extensively, and after replacing one strobe that didn't fire properly, it all worked great in isolation.

Here's where the problem came in:

The radio trigger is a hot-shoe mount device. No problem, both the Nikon and Canon bodies have hot shoes. The sync cord for the off-camera flash uses...a hot shoe mount (very important to preserve TTL). No problem, both the Nikon and the Canon have...wait, there's a problem. The bodies only have one hot shoe. We need two - one for the radio trigger, one for the flash.

After much research and consultation at our local Penn Camera, we came up with an easy solution. We purchased a Kalt hot shoe with PC cord ($16.99 at Penn). This cord plugged into the PC port on the camera body, and while it didn't have TTL capability, we were using it to fire the strobes through the radio trigger so TTL wouldn't have worked anyway. We mounted the new hot shoe on the CB Junior flash bracket (an amazing device), but the PC cable was too short to reach the camera body. So we cut into the cable, and soldered in an 18" extension using 24-gauge paired wire. Then we ran that up through the coils of the TTL flash sync cable and connected it to the PC port and the hot shoe. Done! And it looks like it belongs.

Now we have TTL for the off-camera flash. When the flash fires the PC port sends the fire signal to the new hot shoe, which activates the radio trigger and fires the strobes. When we're on the dance floor, we leave the radio triggers turned on and we light up the room. When we're off the dance floor, the flick of a switch turns off the radio trigger, and the strobes don't fire.

I'll post a photo of the mod.

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