Yup, I searched the archives and I'm still stumped: SB-800 + Pocket Wizard Plus + cord + ...?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by lex_jenkins, Jul 20, 2005.

  1. Okay, folks, I did my research. Honest. Here on photo.net and
    elsewhere on the web, including reviewing the websites for Pocket
    Wizards and Paramount Cords. I've talked with local dealers. I'm
    still stumped. But it seems like this should be a fairly easy one.

    I'm shooting my niece's wedding in a couple of weeks. For the quick
    stuff where I'm roaming and shooting I'll just be using a single
    SB-800 on my D2H, probably with some sorta flip bracket to get the
    flash properly oriented when shooting verticals. That one's taken
    care of so, no worries.

    Also, I'm posting here rather than the Wedding Forum because this is
    primarily a technically oriented question about lighting.

    Here are my quandaries:

    1. I also want to shoot some couple and group shots that aren't
    terribly formal but which need more light. I want to keep this
    completely wireless. That means battery operated and remote
    controlled. (For one thing, I'm not familiar with this church and I
    don't know whether their circuits can tolerate the load of whatever AC
    powered lights I might normally have rented.)

    2. I might also need to add some fill lighting in the background or
    overhead somewhere to avoid that direct-flash-against-black-void look.

    3. Which cord do I need? This is really important because I have a
    queasy feeling in my gut it's gonna be expensive, so I wanna make sure
    it's the right one.

    Okey pokey, so far, so bad.

    Here's my thoughts for #1.: Rent a couple more SB-800 units for those
    kinda fun/kinda formal photos. I don't want folks all stiff but I
    don't want to miss 99-year-old Auntie Dorothy because she might not be
    around for the next wedding. (That's why I don't like the purely PJ
    style of shooting weddings - it's too easy to miss photos of important
    family members.)

    I figure I'll stake out a corner for these shots. Maybe rent a simple
    backdrop frame and backdrop too, who knows.

    I don't think this will be too difficult because despite having
    absolutely no experience using the SB-800 with multiple SB-600 or
    SB-800 units, I have time to rent a set and practice first. And for
    these couple/group shots all the flash units will be within eyeline of
    each other: the "master" flash on my camera and the pair on either side.

    No. 2 is the trickier bit. I have a Pocket Wizard Transmitter and
    Receiver (one each). I don't just *want* to put 'em to use, I think I
    may *need* to put 'em to good use to get the effect I want.

    Ya see, I don't trust the SB-800/SB-600 "wireless" rig in areas where
    the various units can't "see" each other. No, I haven't tested my
    paranoia yet, but I just have this uncomfortable feeling that in a
    room with up to 70 people roaming around, if the units can't
    physically see each other, iTTL ain't gonna work.

    So for the roving shots where I'm using a single SB-800 on camera
    *and* I want a little background illumination, is there a way to use
    the Pocket Wizard kit simultaneously to pop another flash? (For the
    moment I'm thinking of placing the other flash, to be fired by the PW
    Receiver, somewhere on the ceiling with some sort of bounce or
    diffusion. Maybe a rented Quantum and small softbox with a warming
    gel. I dunno, still working on this idea.)

    This brings us to #3.: Which cord to use?

    The SB-800 on my D2H will be attached to a flip bracket via my SC-29
    curly cord. No problem. But that means the hotshoe is spoken for and
    unavailable for any of the farmrigged solutions one salesman suggested.

    However the D2H does have that standard flash sync terminal, plus the
    10-pin remote terminal. I already know the PW Transmitter can be
    hooked up to the flash sync terminal successfully - I've verified that
    at home. What I *don't* know is whether I can simultaneously use the
    SB-800 on the hotshoe (or via the SC-29) *and* the PW Transmitter via
    the sync terminal to trigger another flash, which will be hooked to
    the PW Receiver.

    I hope you can understand my predicament. This is expensive gear and
    I don't want to fry anything. Since it involves using equipment from
    various manufacturers, it's not always easy to get a firm answer
    regarding this sort of thing. So I figured I'd try here, knowing that
    some folks are more experienced than I with the SB-800/SB-600 system
    and Pocket Wizardry.

  2. Lex,
    My response is just a tiny part of your really big question but...the idea of having extra lighting located in a fixed location to up the ambient light in the room is at least partially covered in the Wedding Forum. The link is here.
    Also, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to fire the PW transmitter with the PC-sync while getting full TTL with your shoe-mounted 800. Personally, I'd stick to using multiple 800s (or 600s), but I haven't played with that other than a quick bit with a friend's setup. Perhaps it's not as reliable as Nikon claims.
  3. Doesn't the D2H manual tell you whether you can use the hotshoe and PC outlet at the same time? I would think you can (I can with my 20D, and it says so in the manual), and the Pocket Wizard transmitter is supposed to be sync voltage safe with 3.3 volts. On the receiver, it is supposed to accept up to 250 volts and the Alien Bees website says their sync voltage is less than 6 volts anyway, so it would seem you are OK.

    As for your #2 situation, I normally use just one battery-powered off-camera light on a stand, not bounced, diffused or gelled, but pointed at the middle of the dance floor or lighting up a back wall for rim, key or accent light where needed. I would think you can use the two Alien Bees you rent. I would check out the ceiling height and color before deciding on a course of action--bouncing may or may not be workable, and you may not have enough power to diffuse the lights with softboxes and the like and still cover a large area.
  4. I've used them before, even around corners, about 20 feet away. Have also used them in a huge nightclub, about 50 feet away with all kinds of fancy lights going, and two other photogs shooting with their own flash. Very good reliability in terms of firing when you wanted them to and not when you don't. The signals are strong enough that obstacles really only became an issue when combined with big distance. If you read around a bit in the Nikon Pro web site, you'll find a lot of guys are now carrying a small suitcase of SB-800s, without pocket wizards, instead of their usual Profoto packs and such.

    I don't think you'll get TTL with the pocket wizards using a PC connection, there's a lot of info passed in the IR signals and flashes between the units. (There is a PC connection on the side of the SB-800.) But someone else may be more knowledgeable about that.
  5. Thanks for the link, Allan, but I didn't see where it specifically addressed the issue of additional background illumination for my roving photos. OTOH, I am concentration-deprived today due to a stomach ailment.

    As for reliability of the Nikon SB-800/600 system under adverse conditions, I don't want to imply that the system actually is unreliable - I haven't tested it. But everything I've read tells me these units are position sensitive, pretty much like any monolights or pack lights that use wireless infrared triggers. I'm not concerned about reliability in the "portrait" area because I won't be shooting over anyone's head.

    What I am concerned about is getting the overhead fill light to pop reliably and *only* when triggered by the PW. I don't want to waste batteries on the portrait SB-800 setup by having lights being triggered all over the place.

    The simple solution might be to hang a 1000 watt Starlite or something like that in a softbox overhead (assuming there's room) and not worry about the PW solution at all. But, again, this is a rural church and I'm not sure how much load their electrical system can handle. Some rural churches barely meet month-to-month expenses, the air conditioner will be on and I don't want to assume they've got plenty of overhead to supply whatever monolights, packlights or hot lights I might otherwise have rented for the occasion.
  6. Nadine: Pbbbtttt! I dunno. The manuals for the D2H and SB-800 have a lotta info but the booklets are indexed so poorly it's difficult to find an answer quickly - or even slowly.

    I got the hang of my D2H in maybe two weeks of daily use. I've had my outfit for something like four months now and I'm still trying to fully understand the Speedlight system. I'm such a lazy bastard I usually just leave it in TTL/BL/FP mode because it works beautifully and doesn't strain my peabrain.

    But, point taken. I'll try again to dig through the manuals.

    Ed: Nope, no TTL with the PW. But all I wanted to do was trigger an overhead strobe preset to provide some background/overhead fill so my direct flash photos won't look like... direct flash photos.

    If I had an assistant there'd be no problem but my assistant is the young woman who's being married.

    If you've had success using multiple SB-800s in similar situations that's encouraging.
  7. Don't think your Starlite idea is good--too much heat and light, which will destroy the dance floor ambiance.
  8. By the way, if the reception takes place in the daytime in a place that has a medium amount of light coming through windows, just dragging the shutter works to avoid the black backgrounds.
  9. Nadine, I agree - hot lights would be my last resort.

    Regarding dragging the shutter, but that I was 10 years younger. I can no longer handhold steadily. I'm pretty much confined to 1/125 or faster except on good days when I can managed 1/60. That's why I mostly use a 24-120 VR Nikkor. Good lens for my ailment but not fast enough at f/3.5-f/5.6. I wish Nikon would make a non-variable aperture f/2.8 version.

    So the only time I drag the shutter is when I deliberately want that blurred/frozen effect. Unfortunately, while I like it, to most other folks it looks like a mistake. They say "Too bad this one came out all blurry."
  10. Lex,
    it would probably be more helpful if I gave you the right link.
  11. Hmm...I regularly drag the shutter even with my Hasselblad and get sharp subjects and pretty open backgrounds (ASA 400, f5.6, 1/15th or so with film, at night, indoors). I do it even with "on-the-fly" portraits, not just for dancing candids. Not saying this is better than using an off-camera flash, just that it seems to work well for me in freezing my subjects while not blocking up backgrounds. Perhaps give it another test?
  12. Thanks, Allan, I'll check that thread.

    Wish I could, Nadine, but the problem is operator error. I have a neurological problem that causes fine motor tremors that mostly affects my hands. Not Parkinson's or anything that dire. Just aggravating enough that I can't handhold steadily or keep my peas on my fork ... without honey.

    That's why I love my VR lens. Unfortunately Nikon doesn't (yet) make a truly top notch, fast midrange zoom (of 28-70/2.8 AF-S Nikkor caliber) in VR comparable to their 70-200/2.8 VR or 200/2 VR. I'd nibble my fingernails in anticipation but I'd probably miss and bite my fingers off.
  13. The SB-800 has a sync connection o nthe left side of the unit. Use a regualr PC or better
    the Nikon locking tip sync cord to connect to the Pocket wizard. Obviously the other end
    ofthe sync cord will needto connectto the Pocketwizard transmitter. On the slaved flash
    the same thing applies. of course you should try it.

    The NNikon wireless conenction is good for about 20 feet and the "eye" on the slremote
    flash will needto be able to see the flash fom the master unit. fro mthe master unit you
    can do TTL control of the output of both units.
  14. Thanks, Ellis. Do you think hooking up the sync cord to the SB-800's sync socket (and then to the PW transmitter) is a better solution than going through the D2H sync socket for this particular situation?
  15. Wow, this thread really rambles. I'll cut to the chase...

    1) You can use a shoe flash simultaneously with the PC connector on the D2h. I Velcro the PW transmitter to the side of the flash to control a remote unit. You can also use the PW transmitter in the shoe directly, without an adapter cord.

    2) Connect the PW receiver to an SB-800 using a PC to 3.5mm phone plug cable, and the PC jack on the side of the SB800. The multi-pin connector on the flash (I don't think it's 10) is only for connecting two Nikon flash units with a Nikon extension cable. The 10-pin connector on the camera is only for triggering the shutter by remote. With a Quantum, use the H-plug connecting cable for the PW.

    3) You do not have TTL control using the PW TX/RX set. You do have TTL using the built-in remote control or the extension cables. Both are limited in reach, and you need a direct line of sight for reliable operation of the infrared connection.

    3) The SB800 is hardly powerful enough to light up the background of a church, and the output is too focused for this effect. I suggest using a monolight on a stand with the reflector removed. I use a monolight alone for formals, and to light the background for candids at the reception (using a PW pair and shoe flash on the camera). A Quantum might work if the area is small enough - I find it generally too weak to use as a background light in a church or reception hall.

    4) A softbox is not very useful at a wedding, especially a tiny soft box you would use with a Quantum.

    5) I gel the flash (I made a sleeve for a bare monolight too) if I want to drag the shutter and make more use of the ambient (tungsten) light. This gives a better color match and avoids the zombie effect of mixed lighting.
  16. The PC connector on the SB-800 is used only to trigger the flash. It is not an output port that can be used with a PW transmitter.
  17. Edward,

    For my own edification...I've never used the PW system so I'm curious how the setup would work. If you can't trigger the PW TX with the pc-sync output on the D2h, does that mean he _has_ to have the PW TX attached to the hot shoe? Which would cost him TTL even on the on-camera flash, right?

    What if he were to use a pc sync to hot shoe adapter to the PW, and have the SB-800 connected to the camera hot shoe (either directly or via a TTL cord)? That way he'd get non-TTL output from the remote light but TTL with the SB-800?

    I apologize if I'm completely missing something. I find this thread very interesting.

  18. Thanks for your input, Edward. Rereading my initial question and followup questions, I realize I've been fumbling around and not very clear about what I hope to accomplish. I'll try to tackle your replies in order.

    I know I can use the PW Transmitter directly from the D2H shoe - I've managed to do that successfully. Yup, I lose TTL but what the heck, it works. What I specifically wanted to know was whether I'd burn up my D2H, SB-800 or PW Transmitter by hooking 'em all together.

    It appears from the answers I've received so far that I can keep the SB-800 in the hotshoe and connect the PW Transmitter to the standard sync socket on either the side of the SB-800 or the front of the D2H. Either way, I can use the PW Transmitter to trigger another flash via the PW Receiver. So far, so good.

    (BTW - yeh, more info than everyone really needs - I plan to buy a flip type bracket and mount the SB-800 to it via my SC-29 curly cable to keep all iTTL functions. If I Velcro the PW Transmitter to anything it'll be to the Stroboframe or whatever I get. I don't want to put any unnecessary strain on the hotshoe.)

    Thanks for clarifying the purpose of those connector sockets. I was pretty sure the 10-pin was for remote triggering only. I have a remote trigger and have used it in conjunction with the PW's to fire the D2H from around 50-75 yards away. Works well.

    I'm not expecting to have any form of TTL when using the Pocket Wizards. That setup is strictly for triggering a non-TTL flash, probably something fairly potent like a Quantum in a softbox like the Photoflex White Dome, which can be used as a totally translucent white diffuser. Think of a big ol' Chinese paper lantern with a Quantum inside.

    So I'm not expecting to use the SB-800 for the overhead/background illumination. It's a great on-camera TTL flash but it doesn't have *that* much pop. I'll probably rent a Quantum and battery pack for the overhead.

    You might be right about a Quantum in a diffuser not being useful here but I figure it's better than the alternative. Anyway, it won't be a huge church. I'm betting the ceiling will be slightly vaulted and it will almost certainly be close to white in color. That's the typical setup for a rural Baptist church in my area.

    I could also ask them to turn up all the lights but then I'll have lots of what will more than likely be halogen lights in those recessed fixtures. I'll take my chances with rigging up my own overhead doodad and count on the camera's white balance and flash to get good skin tones.

    As for monolights, I've already ruled them out. I don't know how much strain this church's electrical system can take and I don't want to rent a generator as well. Also, I don't want cables running along the floor or top-heavy lights when I can't control the area immediately around the improvised portrait area.

    I plan to rent a pair of SB-800s this weekend to practice a three-light wireless setup for these informal portraits. So I'll have plenty of time to decide whether there's sufficient output to handle the job. During the wedding when I'm not actually shooting these portraits that pair of SB-800s will be turned off. They won't affect my roving photography.

    Other solutions, such as gels and dragging the shutter, don't work well for me. As I've mentioned before, I have very unsteady hands. My VR lens allows me to shoot down to 1/15 sec. as long as I concentrate and steady myself a bit, but there's still too much background blur when other people move. As I said earlier, I happen to like the dynamic effect that sometimes results from this, but to the average person it looks like a mistake - they just see a "blurry" picture.

    The last concern I have is one I'll need to resolve for myself. If I do decide to set up an overhead flash in a diffuser it almost certainly won't be an SB-800. In that case, I'll have to find out whether the SB-800 on my D2H in TTL mode *and* the overhead non-TTL flash triggered via the Pocket Wizard will coincide. The SB-800 preflash shouldn't be a factor because the overhead flash in the diffuser won't be a Nikon type TTL flash. But I'm uncertain about the timing of the entire rig.

    Whichhh... brings me back around to using continuous lighting in the overhead diffuser, maybe gelling it and hoping for the best.

    Ain't lighting fun? Almost makes me wish I'd stayed with the movie industry where it was somebody else's problem.
  19. They'll coincide. This is how I use my 20D, 580EX (in ETTL II), slave system and off-camera manual flash. The off-camera flash fires not with the pre-flash but with the "real" flash.
  20. Lex, as I understand, you want to use a TTL flash on the D2h camera (flash bracket, actually), and at the same time trigger a remote flash to light up the background.

    To use a flash in full TTL (D-TTL or whatever) mode on a flash bracket, use a Nikon SC-17 cable (currently an SC-28 cable) in the D70 shoe. The other end of the cable is itself a shoe with a 1/4-20 hole, and can be fastened to the bracket, then to hold an SB-800. The SB-17/28 acts like an extension cord for the D2h shoe.

    Connect the "sync in" port of the PW transmitter to the PC socket on the front of the camera with the appropriate cable. You may also connect the transmitter to the PC socket of the SB-800! That socket is connected in parallel to the flash foot and the test button. The voltage and current draw of the PW is very low, and won't harm the camera if used in conjunction with the flash unit.

    Connect the "to flash" port of the PW receiver to the remote flash using the appropriate cable. If the remote flash is an SB-800, connect the PW to the PC port on the side of the flash.
  21. Lex-- I do exactly what you are proposing all the time with my D2x. Sb800 on a bracket with a dedicated extension cord and a Pocket Wizard plugged into the PC terminal. 1000's of images taken this way and no problems.

    I'm not sure if the D2H is rated as having as much PC voltage capability as the D2x, but at any rate the voltages are very low from both units.

    Happy shooting. -BC-
  22. Thanks for the help, folks. I'm off to the camera shop to gear up and do some experimenting this weekend.

Share This Page