Is wireless off-camera flash simple to use?

February 1, 2011 at 8:00 am  •  Posted in News & Events by

“I recently read an item on a Web site forum about wireless off-camera TTL flash. Apparently this feature allows you to move an external flash unit away from a D SLR and it will fire even if it’s not connected to the camera with a cable. I do own a shoe-mount flash unit but I wonder if wireless off-camera flash is as simple as using a TTL connecting cable.” —Maggie J.

Yes, it is a straight-forward process, Maggie. With many—but not all—D SLRs a burst of light from the built-in flash will trigger a remote flash unit. You may need to set a menu item but that’s not complicated and it’s well explained in the owner’s manual. Since flash metering is TTL, you should get very good exposures unless you place the remote flash unit too far from the subject.

Wireless off-camera flash can be quite straightforward particularly with D SLRs that can trigger a remote unit using the built-in flash. Note too that most systems can trigger several off-camera units, but with certain D SLRs that may require a hot-shoe mounted flash or a commander accessory as the trigger.

Some D SLRs are not as convenient; the built-in flash cannot be used to trigger a remote unit. With many EOS cameras for example, you would need to use a certain optional flash unit—or a pricey “commander” device—in the hot-shoe to trigger a remote flash unit. (In other words you would need to buy a second Speedlite or the accessory for wireless off-camera flash.) Some of the newer EOS cameras do allow the built-in flash to act as the trigger, however.

Most current mid-range to high-end Nikon D SLRs can trigger a remote flash unit with the camera’s built-in flash. And all of the current Olympus, Sony and Pentax D SLRs can do so as well. Of course, the remote flash unit must be a model that supports wireless off-camera TTL flash. Suitable products are made by the camera manufacturers and are also available in aftermarket brands such as Sigma and Metz.

In basic setups—with a single off-camera flash held close to the subject and to the camera (as used for this photo)—a wireless system is no more convenient than using a TTL connecting cord such as a Nikon SC-29. For more elaborate setups, with several remote flash units, wireless TTL is preferable to a tangle of connecting cables. © 2010 Peter K. Burian

It’s not difficult to determine how your own D SLR works re: wireless off-camera flash and the specific flash units that support this feature. Check your owner’s manual for this feature or visit a photo specialty retail store and ask the staff to check their catalogue for the latest information. Because manufacturers’ web sites often provide inadequate specifics re: wireless off-camera flash, a knowledgeable retailer would be your best source of information.

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One Comment

  1. Island Light Photography / March 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm /

    Another affordable (though not TTL) option for wireless off-camera flash that will also work with less expensive manual flashes is the Cactus wireless flash trigger set. It has the drawback of not being able to use the advanced features of a TTL flash but means that you don’t need to fire an on-camera flash, which can sometimes cause unpleasing lighting effects.

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