What off-camera remote flash cable should I buy?
December 8, 2009 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to use any old flash I find (I have an old pentax flash from one of my film cameras) on a remote cable to my Nikon D100. I want to be able to hold the flash with one hand and shoot with the other during live music shows. Please, help me find the cable I'm looking for.

I've been searching for an "off-camera remote flash cable" on Amazon. A lot of it implies it is for specific cameras and flashes. I have a Nikon D100. I'd like to use the remote cable I'm buying for the old flashes I have now, but maybe a Nikon speedlight down the road.

I think this might be what I'm looking for: http://www.amazon.com/Adorama-Off-Camera-Digital-Cameras-Capability/dp/B0028DEOI6/ref=sr_1_68?ie=UTF8&s=photo&qid=1260316362&sr=1-68

Would this do the things I am looking for? Is there a better, cheaper option for what I want to do (hold the flash in my hand while moving around in front of a band)?

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by ejfox to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Be very careful- some older flash units have very high triggering voltages (like 350VDC) that can kill a modern digital camera graveyard dead.

There are devices that limit voltage to the hot-shoe, but you need to understand what you are doing, and should probably be handy with a voltmeter before you experiment too much.
posted by pjern at 4:48 PM on December 8, 2009

Best answer: This is basically the style of photography I do (at least at night for music).

So: Self Link

I would recomend you save your money for the correct Nikon flash that goes with your camera.

But you don't have to.

The really great thing about these flashes is that with their modern metering system, they will do the lighting adjustments for you. For this style of photography it's so incredibly helpful. You can totally do it with older flashes, but it's going to be a lot harder, and you are going to have a lot more lost shots. Although since you have the LCD you'll be able to judge them pretty well.

Your camera is pretty old, so you won't need to get the most recent speedlight. Looks like a used SB-80dx will work and is under $200 on ebay. It's going to have a lot more power than most older flashes. Will recycle a lot faster (important for music) and it going to be a ton easier to learn how to use. Basically you will put the camera on manual for the shutter speed and aperture you want and the flash will do all the calculations for you.

The cable that goes between your camera and this flash is probably expensive. It will also be overkill for using between an older flash and your camera.

Pjern is right, if you use an older flash with a higher trigger voltage you could bork your camera. I know Canon's are very suceptible to this, not sure about Nikons. Particularly problematic are the Vititar 285s...some are bad, some are not, it's impossible to tell by looking at them, so you just can't use them for this purpose.

Good luck and send me an email if I can answer any questions for you.
posted by sully75 at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

You probably want a cable that supports Nikon iTTL, like the one you linked to. Nikon makes official cables for this purpose for (quite) a bit more. Here's a basic three-footer and this one has an autofocus illuminator built in.
posted by neckro23 at 7:12 PM on December 8, 2009

This stuff is complicated, this little fact might help: TTL only works when you have a TTL camera, a TTL Flash and a TTL cord (if you are using a cord). So the only reason to us a TTL cord is if you have a TTL flash.
posted by sully75 at 8:58 PM on December 8, 2009

Best answer: No need to use a wire. Pick up a wireless system like the cheapo cactus one:

You have to shoot manual flash with these guys and the best part is you can stick the flash wherever you want, no wires to deal with. Worth the money.
posted by WickedPissah at 11:21 PM on December 8, 2009

As an alternative thought, I might mention that flash photography & live music rarely go hand in hand, for several reasons:

- Flash tends to kill the natural mood of a photo and distort the view of what actually happened. This makes sense, in a controlled environment like a portrait where you need the lighting to be carefully constructed and ideal, but it's the very opposite of what you want to capture with live music. When it comes to concert photography, your goal is (typically) to capture the true essence of the event, the performance, and the band. That most often means relying purely on the ambient & stage lights. People often think they need to get the performers' faces completely exposed and perfectly lit like a portrait would be - that's not the case. Concert shots like that often look fake, constructed, and not at all representative of the event or the mood.

- Flash is annoying, both the the performer and to fellow concert-goers. Many venues and artists prohibit the use of flash altogether.

- Flash introduces a bevy of additional technical issues, including triggering (obviously the topic here), bouncing, modifying/softening, etc... While it's fine to learn & be able to use flash in a given situation, it should not hamper your ability to get a shot.

It's (IMO) far, far better to rely on ambient light. Use a fast lens, higher ISO levels and slower shutter speeds. It's not difficult to ride your shutter speeds to react quickly and easily with changes in ambient lighting (strobes, etc).

Using flash with a dynamically lit set is asking for trouble. I'm not saying there is never a time for flash during live music (I've had to fall back on it on rare occasions) but it's best reserved for specific times/events where it makes the most sense to use it (again, my opinion).

Not trying to force my style on you, just offering an alternative viewpoint to consider before you get too wrapped up in it. There's a reason 95% of live music shots you see aren't flash lit.

Here's an exemplary live music photographer whose work is worth looking at. He often goes into detail describing his camera/lens/lighting setup for the shoot so you can learn how he works. Note that during the 2-3 most recent shoots he DID use wireless flash due to the lighting constraints of the venues - an example of the rare occasions I mentioned. But as you look through his portfolio you'll see that's the exception to the rule.

Note: I mention all this with no knowledge of your photographic background or experience. I don't mean to come off uppity or anything. I don't even know what style of live music you plan on shooting or if flash is more of a necessity because of it - again, just some things to consider.
posted by sprocket87 at 6:04 AM on December 9, 2009

Response by poster: I really like the idea of the wireless system, seems to be exactly what I need, for now. (Eventually, I'm sure I will purchase a speedlight, and a new remote cable at the same time)

In regards to using flash during live shows, I completely get where you're coming from. I've been shooting shows for a little bit more than a year now. 85% of that time I was shooting at the highest ISO my D100 would allow, using the Nikkor 50mm F1.8D, no flash ever. I loved it. Still do love it, in fact, and I aim to continue on this path.

However recently bands have been offering to pay me for pictures, and I'd like to include a good portrait shot, with flash, of every member. This would be 3-4 flash shots per member, at most. Then back to normal ambient light stuff. I've grown a bitterness towards those who use flash too much, during shows when I am making a conscious decision not to. I've had to swallow that bitterness a little to even do this. However, I feel that the bands are sort of asking for it. I'm a musician myself and I can understand that perspective, having been blinded by photographers at shows. But good photos are also extremely valuable for me and my band, so it's worth a little blindness.

I appreciate the advice from everyone, it's been extremely helpful. Thank you!
posted by ejfox at 8:48 AM on December 9, 2009

There is a real advantage for using the cord. It keeps the flash attached to the camera. Occasionally I've let the flash dangle from the camera (not smart, but it happens). Also, unless your arms are really long, you are not going to hold the flash any further from the camera than the cord stretches. Oh yeah, radio transmitters sometimes suck, and not very many of them (very few) work with TTL.

If you are shooting portraits though, you want some sort of radio transmitter, a lighting stand, and a light modifier of some sort (small softbox or an umbrella would be good). I hate to say this, but you should probably check out strobist.com.

Good luck!
posted by sully75 at 6:44 PM on December 9, 2009

Also btw, yeah shooting without flash is awesome in venues where there is awesome professional lighting. If you are shooting in places with crappy light, and the band wants you to do the best pictures you can, you can definitely do some awesome and dramatic stuff with a flash or a couple of flashes.

Flash does not mean anything in particular re: the quality of your pictures, just like shooting in "natural" light doesn't make your pictures better or worse. There are great photographers who shoot with flash - which can mean many different things - and some of them you'd never know about it. In my own pictures, I often times try to make it fairly obvious that I'm shooting with flash, but in a way that appeals to me. Don't spend time thinking that flash is a bad thing. Or that it's a good thing. It's just a thing.
posted by sully75 at 6:47 PM on December 9, 2009

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