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Studio Strobe High Speed Sync Steps

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#1 JBPhoto


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 20:11

Ever wonder how you can achieve a higher speed sync out of your studio strobes? If you own a TTL flash and a sync cord you are in business. If you own Pocket Wizards it'll save tripping over the sync cord.

Here are the steps needed:
1. Set camera's Custom Setting Menu 'e Bracketing/flash' Flash sync speed to 1/250 (Auto FP), press OK.
2. Turn on your TTL flash, set to Manual power 1/128 so as to not influence the lighting, slide it onto the cameras hot shoe you can even point it up if you like. The flash LCD will display |M|FP| 1/128
3. Plug a sync cord into your studio power pack and into your camera's sync socket. Alternatively, plug a Pocket Wizard into the sync socket on the flash or use an optical slave taped to the TTL flash front. The second PW is connected to the studio power pack.

You can now sync at what ever shutter speed you want and can also set the strobes power setting. You may have to adjust power settings and or F-stop as you change shutter speeds for the right exposure. But now syncing at 1/8000 is possible and you'll have gobs of power from that studio power pack to fill pretty much any modifier you like. The key to this is slow flash tube duration so the first and second curtain travel the entire sensor while the strobes flash tube is being energized. This works quite well with my Speedotron Black Line packs and heads, YMMV with your strobes. And if you have a portable battery pack to power those studio packs, you can shoot in bright sunlight anywhere you want to haul your gear. :)

- If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you. -

#2 armando_m


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Posted 06 April 2012 - 02:39

Interesting! got to try this


#3 Ann


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Posted 16 January 2014 - 02:40


I just wanted to confirm that your set-up works and also to elaborate on it somewhat!

My collection of Bowens studio Monolights synchronizes seamlesly with my Nikon Speedlights (although I have only tested with SB-900s) at all shutter speeds up to 1/8000.

A very long PC cable connects the PC port on the SB-900 (which is mounted on the camera's hot-shoe) with the sync. socket on the first Monolight. Further Monolights are synced via a Monocell on each of them.

The first SB-900 can either be mounted on the hot shoe on the camera, or on a TTL Extension Cord of the SC-29 variety, and can be used either with the regular "ON" setting or as a Master.

The other Speedlights can be set as Remotes and be programmed from the Master.

A major plus is that all modes (including TTL!) work with this set up.

To add more complexity and to fire distant and hidden Speedlights (in addition to all of the other units that are in sight of each other), I have found that this can be done very easily by using a flash-extension cord in the hot-shoe.

The end of this cable is attached to the Master SB-900 which is mounted on a lighting stand.

I plug a Hähnel Combi TF radio-receiver into the auxiliary cold-shoe on my extension cord and connect a cable between that Receiver and the ten-pin socket on the camera.

I happen to have the inexpensive Hähnel Combi TF radio system at the moment but was thinking of upgrading to the new Odin TTL-capable equipment instead. That idea has now changed because I have just invested in a new Sekonic Flash Meter and they are designed to work with Pocket Wizard Transceivers. My existing Flash Meter is 35 years old so it has earned its retirement and the new ones are a great deal more capable and efficient!

Distant and hidden Speedlights can each be attached to a radio-receiver and set as Remotes (athough with my Hähnel radio triggers and receivers, the shutter speed has to be kept at 1/250 or less) but Remote SB-900s that are within sight of the light emitted by the Master don't need a radio receiver and use the Nikon IR and synchronise at all shutter speeds.

I can then walk around with a radio-transmitter in my hand fine-tuning the angles and power of the various lights or fiddle with the Set and focus the lens and fire the whole conglomeration remotely from wherever I happen to be standing.

The AF-ON Button does have to be changed back to "AF-Shutter/AF = ON" to enable remote focussing from the Transmitter.

To sum-up the cable-connections:
The PC Port on an SB-900 mounted on the Hot Shoe connects to a heavy-duty cable which leads to a Monolight's Sync socket;

Camera's Hot-shoe connects to an Extension Flash Cable connected to an off-camera Master Speedlight which can be used in all modes including TTL.

Camera's 10-pin socket is connected to the input port on a radio receiver which can be targeted by a hand-held transmitter from anywhere within radio-range.

Lots of cables and connections but massive amounts of light can be generated with this equipment -- and, so far, I have not blown the house, my camera or my lighting equipment to smithereens.
Later Edit:
Further testing showed that it is necessary to sync. the Monolite to the PC port on the Speedlight and NOT the one on the camera itself.

Edited by Ann, 20 January 2014 - 01:19 .

#4 armando_m


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Posted 17 January 2014 - 14:58

Tried at home with my cheap Chinese flash
worked up to 1/2000 :) 


I have to remember to try it next time I'm using studio lights 


#5 Ann


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Posted 20 January 2014 - 00:29

I have done a bit more research and testing of high-speed synchronising and needed to make a correction in my previous post as a result:

I discovered that it is necessary to sync. the Studio flash to the PC port on the Speedlight and NOT the one on the camera itself.

The reason for doing this is to by-pass the Pre-flash from the Speedlights which cause the studio lights to fire before the shutter has opened. It is this premature firing which causes the black banding which is the bane of Hypersyncing.

Some other things of interest that I discovered:

The studio flash heads need to produce flashes of long duration with sufficient "tail" so that light is emitted thoughout the time taken by the shutter-slit to travel across the entire frame.

With the D3 series Nikons, the total shutter travel time (even with shutter speeds of 1/8000 second) is about 1/250 second so the duration of the brightest portion of the flash needs to be available through out the travel-time.

Nikon Speedlights work by pulsing small flashes when working in FP mode but studio lights don't pulse and need to be treated as a short-lived continuous light source.

My Calumet/Bowens Monolites and Travelites happen to offer long-duration flashes when used at Full Power and are still viable down to Quarter Power (although graduated darkening of the top of the image does appear at lower power levels than that).

I have seen suggestions to use a graduated ND filter (placed in the opposite polarity to the normal one) but the darkening is so slight with my lights that post processing could probably fix it.

The problem with the reduced power levels is that the flash-duration times are being progressively reduced.

This also happens with the Nikon Speedlights.

Full power on a SB-900 provides a t.5 flash-duration of 1/880s (about 1/250s in total) while at quarter-power that has decreased to 1/2550. That is the reason that we get black banding at high shutter speeds with Speedlights -- unless we use FP mode with its continuous pulsing.

Most radio triggers cannot activate FP so we are limited to using the regular camera-synching shutter speeds of 1/250s, or slower, with these radio triggers.

In order to "over-power the sun", or use fast shutter speeds with fill-flash outdoors, it is necessary either to find a powerful studio unit that produces flashes of sufficiently long duration; or to mount multiple high-powered Speedlights into a single light fitting which can be synchronised and used in FP mode.

The reduced flash duration times at lower power-levels means that I find that I need to open the aperture as shutter speeds are increased: two extra stops above the meter reading seem to be needed at 1/8000 second but at least synchronisation is possible at all shutter speeds.

Edited by Ann, 20 January 2014 - 00:41 .

#6 Ann


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Posted 20 January 2014 - 22:47

Here is a diagram of a set-up which allows my studio flash and Speedlights to synchronize and operate at all shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec.


The shutter can be fired either by radio trigger or with a cable release connected to the ten-pin port; or from the shutter release on the camera.


This is specific to the equipment which I have and will not necessarily work with different flash units and cameras.



#7 Thomas_MUA


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Posted 01 February 2014 - 22:02

James and Ann;

Wanted to thank you for the info you have shared here…  Yes, I could get this configuration to operate as both of you have indicated…


That said for Alien Bee 800’s it is not a viable commercial solution… this configuration renders an incident light meter useless.  That is a show stopper… there is no way I can ask my team to “wait a few minutes” while I adjust exposure which happens constantly for every lighting configuration change… keep in mind for production work I’m using three to six mono lights… each has to be precisely balanced to the aggregate in the mix.


Equipment tested: Nikon D300; SB700; Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Nikon

The D300 was set to 1/320 High Speed Sync… yes the D300 has a higher sync speed owing to it’s smaller sensor size… 


Base Line Exposure:

D300 at ISO 200; 1/320 second; Manual Mode, f10, AB800 at full power, Model at 6’

Result: Perfect Exposure (camera setting identical to info on incident light meter)


Test Exposure:

D300 at ISO 200; 1/320 second; Manual Mode, f10, AB800 at full power, Model at 6’

With SB700 in Hot Shoe; Manual Mode 1/128 power

Result: Black frame (camera setting identical to info on incident light meter)


Final Exposure:

D300 at ISO 2500; 1/1000 second; Manual Mode, f5.6, AB800 at full power, Model at 6’

With SB700 in Hot Shoe; Manual Mode 1/128 power

(or alternatively)

With Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger; TTL Mode (required for Nikon compatibility)

Result: Perfect Exposure (camera setting TOTALLY different from info on incident light meter)

btw, the D300 thinks the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger CPU is a Nikon SB in commander mode


Yes it functions, albeit not germane to commercial usage with AB 800’s

And as Ann has mentioned the illumination falls off proportionally at higher shutter speeds in as the sensor is only exposed to a small portion of the flashes falloff tail… while ISO 2500 is not usable on the D300 it is accepted on my D3


James your Speedotron Black Line units clock in at 2400 to 4800 watt seconds and are not competitive in price point to AB’s  I’m absolutely certain they will crank out more than enough light to handle overpowering the sun so I totally understand the merit and worth of this kludge for you…


Ann your Bowens clock in at 1000 watt seconds so much of the same holds true… keep in mind I’m dealing with 320 watt seconds at best with the AB 800’s   But for the size of my studio (12’ ceiling, 25’ shooting space) they are more than enough… an AB 1600 would actually be too much power. 


Ann the Travellite Flash clocks in at 750 watt/seconds (over twice the power of the AB800). It is competitive in price point and has been designed for location work with Calunet’s Travel-Pak battery. Very Nice that this unit is working well for you in this scenario…


This has been an intriguing exercise, and one that I’ve grown professionally from… in my research I’ve discovered that “HyperSync” Pocket Wizard's trademarked term for adapting  high speed sync to optimize for the “tail output” of a monolight flash.


The Pocket Wizard TTL triggers (TT1 & TT5) give a clean frame up to 1/4000 with the industrial strength Profoto Pro-8a 2400 Air… Additionally Pocket Wizard has a programmable interface for it’s product allowing one to fine tune duration/timing to match the various strobe vendor’s products… they actually have product support for Nikon on this…


Btw, Speedotron Black Line units are in the same industrial strength camp as Profoto here…  Bowens are not far behind and are head and shoulders over AB’s


Why did I invest that time/effort here?  My visual statement has migrated to high speed captures…  In order to remain competitive in an overcrowded market I’ve turned to studio illumination to distance my work from the iPhone crowd… not knocking iPhones here... a wonderful product and excellent resolution capture devices… gota love them…


My problem is with hair tosses I use on occasions… the angular velocity of the outer tresses exceed my 320 watt/sec AB800’s 1/1130 t1 flash duration to freeze motion.  Seriously struggle to achieve razor sharp captures…

See image below




Any suggestions and/or wisdom on how to freeze this specific motion blur issue would be greatly appreciated…  

and pleased “more hairspray” isn’t an option… :)


Thanks all… great thread, good stuff…

Insight: "Real men don't lift weights... they lift women"...    anonymous male ballet dancer

#8 Ann


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Posted 02 February 2014 - 01:06

Apart from hanging her upside-down from a high diving board . . . Just carry on with exactly what you are doing!

You are doing some gorgeous work!

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time during the last few days to experiment further with this whole HyperSynch/HSS (High Shutter Speed) issue.

I have found several combinations that work quite efficiently and which involves using multiple different channels and radio receivers to use an exposure-reading only mode (in which the lights are fired by remote Transmitter on one Channel and are read and memorized by my Sekonic); and then a one step change to then take the shots using a Radio Transmitter on another channel.

What screws-up the meter readings for me are those damned Nikon Pre-flashes which upset not only the studio strobes but also the Sekonic light meter.

I think that I may have found a way to get around that issue.

The real trouble is that Speedlights need those Pre-flashes to communicate via Optical linkage and to use their pulsing flashes for shutter speeds above camera-sync speed (1/250 in my case).

And if I use my current radio receivers, (they are not iTTL meaning that they only operate at camera-sync speed) so I am stuck with 1/250 sec. or less.

Setting SU-4 to ON in the Speedlights kills the pre-flashes but it disables the ability to use HSS with the Speedlights too!

I had some Pocket Wizards here this week to try but again, they only trigger at 1/250 or less, and I was unimpressed with them because they seemed to be quite inconsistent and to suddenly choose to do their re-calibrating trick and shoot black frames -- which my humble Hähnels never do.

I have returned the PWs as I can trigger my lights and take exposure readings perfectly well without them anyway.

I had been considering the Odins but, from your description, it seems that they work in Commander mode (the same as using SU-4 = OFF) which turns on the Pre-flashes?!

I have actually decided that Nikon's TTL is unnecessary in most situations anyway. It is also fairly unpredictable too and always seems to need chimping and tweaking the EV. I find that setting the power level myself individually on each lamp in Manual mode is far more effective, consistent and quicker in the end too; after all, that is the way that I have always handled my studio strobes so it's no hardship to do the same with the Speedlights.

Anyway, watch this space and I will try to post the results of my various experiments as soon as I have sorted through, and hopefully made some sense out of, my dozens of sheets of scribbled notes.

#9 Ann


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Posted 02 February 2014 - 21:46

Now I understand why Nikon sells Speedlights in those nice black cases:




Try this:




How to sock-it to those Pre-Flashes . . .

Edited by Ann, 02 February 2014 - 22:00 .

#10 Thomas_MUA


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Posted 02 February 2014 - 23:53

Ann you're way too funny... don't think I'll be dressing up my rig with a black tux... lol 

Way too much complexity in this mix but I truly appreciate your tenacity in bird dogging this issue...

You are simply amazing at technology aspects... but this configuration would likely stifle spontaneous creativity...

Sometimes working simple and within the limitations of rudimentary setups are in themselves an elegant solution...


As for inverting the model...

Been there once, nope the talent's veins started budging in her temples and neck... not good... 

And she had tenure in Yoga inversions i.e. shoulder and head stands...

Have you ever notice Yoga ads rarely if ever have inverted poses?

There are compelling reasons why Tree and Warrior Two are classics...


As for SB TTL-BL pre-flashes I'm completely in your camp as to not being a fan...

They totally freak out my humming birds... So frustrating having a hummer mid air in perfect focus only to capture tail-feathers of a hasty retreat...


However after many, many weeks of trying everything I stumbled onto Flash Value Lock (FVLock)


From Nikon Europe Support Article 23820


How to use FV Lock
Select a programable button in the Custom Setting menu (either FUNC button, Preview button or AE-L/AF-L button) and choose FV Lock to use for this button for the FV Lock function.  Compose/Frame/Focus then press the selected FV Lock button... 

Preflashes occur and Flash output will be locked at this level and a flash-value lock icon will appear in the viewfinder. FV Lock will be maintained as long the cameras exposure meter is active.


No more warning to ms hummer... nailed her this time... lol




Used the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Nikon for an off camera SB910 behind a shoot through umbrella...

Throttled back the flask -0.7 EV to let ambient dominate... but you can see the flash discharge catch light in her eye...


She was really pissed but came back shortly for more...

It's a very delicate balance between respecting their personal space and getting the shot...

Been feeding them at my place for decades... truly magical birds...  gota love them...

Insight: "Real men don't lift weights... they lift women"...    anonymous male ballet dancer

#11 Ann


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Posted 03 February 2014 - 04:31

Lovely shot of your Humming Bird!

I will definitely try the Flash Lock function. Have you found that you can get accurate flash meter readings if you use Flash Lock with Speedlights outdoors?

When you want to use accurate and instant metering and really fast shutter speeds with your studio strobes, i think that you would find that shoving the case over the Speedlight solves the problems that you were having with your metering.

The idea is just to set-up the Speedlight on the hot-shoe; make the settings on it as I described; shove its black case back over it to cover it completely – and then ignore it totally for the rest of the shoot!
Just do all your high-speed and creative work with your studio Strobes and you will find that you can use your meter without any further difficulties.

Edited by Ann, 03 February 2014 - 04:33 .

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