THIS IS AN OFFICIAL WARNING – DUE TO TECHNICAL CONTENT, THIS POST WILL ONLY BE OF INTEREST TO PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO USE POCKET WIZARD TRIGGERS WITH THEIR NIKON CAMERAS – ANYONE EXPECTING THE USUAL STUFF PLEASE ENJOY A POST FROM THE ARCHIVE
Following a mind-destroying battle with technology to get my new Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 to trigger my Nikon D3s, I’ve finally had a breakthrough. After doing everything that seemed logical to get it up and running, I was still left with a situation where a single press of the shutter on the trigger camera would cause a slight pause then a burst of five frames on the remote camera, at a slow frame rate (around 5fps). Whatever I did, I either got the same result or just no response at all from the remote camera.
After sending an email to the technical support line, Ian Ray replied with instructions on how to get my toys up and working. If you’ve had the same problems that I had and, like me, haven’t been able to find any info on the problem anywhere else, here’s what I was told.
“There’s a special caveat that needs to be considered when using a remote FlexTT5 as a remote trigger, when it’s also set for it’s default ControlTL mode of operation.
When using the radio set to receive on ControlTL channels, and to communicate with the camera’s TTL systems, the radio can’t listen for an incoming radio trigger while also communicating with the camera’s metering system. This metering system is “awake” and talking to the radio whenever the shutter and aperture are displayed on the top of the camera’s LCD display. This shuts off after about 5-8 seconds, at which point you’ll be able to trigger the remote camera again. This mode of operation is useful if you’re triggering the remote camera, and then want the camera to then relay a TTL signal to a remote speedlight; however, for a simple solo remote camera configuration, I’d recommend the following instead:
To disable the communications that stop the radio from being able to listen for incoming trigger signals, you can put the receiving radio in to Basic Trigger Mode via the PocketWizard Utility, under the Misc tab. I usually recommend setting up Configuration C2 for this purpose, so that you can switch quickly between configurations in the field. Once you’ve enabled Basic Trigger Mode, and configured the radio to receive on a Standard Channel, you should be able to trigger the camera as quickly as you can press the test button on the remote in your hand.”
With this information, I managed to get the remote camera firing quickly and responsively but still had the problem of a single press of the trigger camera shutter producing a ten frame burst from the remote camera. After talking this through with top Getty sports photographer Richard Heathcote, we narrowed this down to a problem with the length of the trigger signal ie the trigger was sending out a pulse that was too long (around 1/2 second at a guess) causing the remote to assume I still had the shutter depressed. This in turn resulted in the full-on gatling gun effect. This would be fine for most sporting situations but if I’m in a press conference and wanting to use a remote camera, I don’t want to cause Brenda to stop her speech and enquire “Ere Phil, who the fark own’s that wretched carmera?” Looking through the software that controls the modules, there was no reference anyway to a facility to adjust the delay. Once more, I was stumped.
Thankfully, Ian replied once more to my further queries with this mail;
“We’ve been getting a couple of reports of similar issues, and we’ve confirmed that there are some timing issues with the sync ports on the Nikon FlexTT5 units when used for remote camera triggering.
Our developers are currently aware of this issue, and we’re going to be reviewing this operation in the very near future. In the meantime, I hope that the current firmware will allow for acceptable operation while we work on a more elegant solution!”
So there we go. At least I have some vindication in not being an eejit (at least relating to the triggers). Now that the ball’s in their court, we just need to make sure that they bring this fix out and sooner rather than later. If you’re having similar issues, I hope this has helped but, more importantly, I hope you write to pocketwizard’s support team to add your voice to the request to get this sorted. Let’s just hope that PocketWizard follow the words that are written on their own product; “Test/Learn”.
Update – 22 July 2011
This morning, I received an email from Ian at Pocket Wizard;
I’ve got some good news, and some bad news in regards to this specific issue.
The good news is that we’re currently testing a firmware fix for this specific problem, which so far appears to have taken care of it!
The bad news is that we’re still working on some other areas of this firmware which require a bit more attention before we can launch another firmware release, and at this point I don’t have an exact estimate as to when that might be. Optimistically, I’d say we’re looking at weeks, and not months from now – but I can’t say for certain just yet, as there are a few other things that still require some wrapping up.
At the moment, with the current 2.146 beta firmware ( http://www.pocketwizard.com/support/downloads/beta ), the only workaround that I’ve found is to hold the transmitting radio’s TEST button slightly longer than a “tap”, which appears to make the camera fire a little less than the burst that you’ve described. In my latest test a few minutes ago, I can control the burst down to about 3-4 frames. Or, to use the camera in single-shot mode.
I definitely apologize for the problem in the meantime – but we should have a fix available in the not too distant future!”
Update – 17 August 2011
STOP THE PRESS! I think they’ve only gone and done it!
After an email from London royal photographer Mark Cuthbert to inform me of a new beta firmware that was now available, I downloaded V2.160 through the Pocket Wizard utility and it APPEARS to have fixed it. Flashes are firing consistently while, best of all, the remote camera seems to be triggering accurately and in perfect sync with the trigger camera. Brilliant! I’ll temper my gushing excitement with these two provisos;
- These things should have worked from the start. They delay in releasing them was to ensure that the company didn’t have the same problems that they had with the Canon release and yet it still went wrong. When there are cheaper products on the market that do appear to work perfectly well, the customer will only pay over the odds for a quality product and quality customer service.
- While I’m happy to report that the issue seems to have been finally addressed, it’s up to Nikon-using PW owners to test this beta firmware out now and ensure it is right before they rest on their laurels. It’s time to get downloading and testing, people!