If you use small flashes off camera to do portrait and editorial photography, definitely take a look at the wealth of resources available on Strobist. From off camera flash basics, to detailed shoot setups, the do-it-yourself esthetic of Strobist is both educational and contagious. This morning’s post gives a link to the blog of a fellow named Michael Bass, who modifies Canon flashes to add a sync jack.
Not even Canon’s top of the line 580EX includes a sync jack. Canon wants you to use their wireless system. The Canon wireless E-TTL system works well indoors, especially with light colored walls to bounce the signal around. When shooting outdoors wireless E-TTL has a limited range, and having your off camera flashes within line of sight of the master flash is crucial. I’ll talk more about Canon’s wireless system in a future post.
Sometimes a particular setup requires flash placement where firing with wireless E-TTL is not possible — in these cases it’s useful to have a set of radio remotes like Pocket Wizards or MicroSync setup to reliably trigger your flashes.
The only option for using radio remotes with your Canon flashes until recently was to use a hotshoe female to mini adapter. This meant buying a Paramount Cords PW-MHSF1 for $45, or a hotshoe to PC adapter and PC to mini adapter to create the same setup. I’ve had good reliability with the Calumet hotshoe to PC adapters. Beware of metal hotshoe to PC adapters like Hama, as they don’t always work.
Still with me? So Michael Bass will add a mini jack to your Canon flash for $60. This allows you to leave the adapters at home, and just plug your radio remotes into your flash using a $3 mini to mini cord from Radio Shack. Tip: Make sure to get a mono mini cord, not stereo. And hey, Canon, can you please include a standard mini jack on your next $400 flash? Thanks!
Important Tip: When using off camera Canon flashes with the wireless E-TTL system, pressing the shutter release on the camera will wake up a 580EX that has gone into sleep mode to conserve batteries. When an off camera 580EX is hooked up to a radio remote, it will go to sleep and not wake up unless you turn the flash off and on again. A big pain. Just remember to set Custom Function #14 on your 580EX to keep the flash from going into sleep mode, and your problems are solved.