Pocket Wizard Firmware Bug for Canon Users


Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5

Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5

I just discovered a known issue with the Pocket Wizard firmware for Canon. I use the PW Mini and Flex units. The vast majority of the time, I’m just firing one remote speedlite and it works just fine. The problem started when I tried to add a second 580 EXII onto the camera. In case you’re not familiar, here’s the set-up: The Mini sits on the camera’s hotshoe and triggers the Flex which has a flash mounted on it. I then slide another flash onto the mini. The instructions say that the unit on the mini must be set to “master”. I followed all instructions and nada.

So I called tech support and they told me it’s an issue with the latest firmware (which I faithfully update). They sent me some files where I can revert my units to the previous firmware and told me the next update should clear it up. I just reverted the firmware last night and the system works perfectly.

This may not affect you if you never have a speedlite on camera while triggering another off-camera; I rarely do (mind you, I’m not talking about using an on-cam flash to trigger another as with Canon’s wireless controls or Nikon’s CLS). But the product should work as advertised in the moments when, say, you want to use an on-camera flash for fill. Or another instance that I found myself in when I wanted to use high-speed sync. As you may know, HSS or Auto FP for Nikon users, is a great way to shoot at shutter speeds above your camera’s sync speed (around 200th/sec). But doing so comes at the price of power. So having a second flash firing in HSS (even if it is on camera) is a good way to compensate.

If you’re having the same issues, now you know what it is.

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How to Optically Trigger Your Canon 580EXII Flash


Canon 580EXII Speedlite with Optical Adapter

The Canon 580 EXII with Optical Trigger Adapter

Before I begin, let me say that I cannot take credit for this. I learned about it on Syl Arena’s blog. His blog post,  “The Truth About Canon Speedlites & Optical Slaves” opened my eyes to something I didn’t think was possible with Canon Speedlites and I was so excited that I just want to tell others about it.

A little background: I have the Pocket Wizard Mini and Flex triggers to fire a 580EXII wirelessly. What I wanted, was for that speedlite to fire a second 580EXII using Canon’s built-in wireless controls. If you have one flash mounted on the camera, you can use the built-in “master” and “slave” controls to fire multiple flash units that are off-camera.

[NOTE: If you have the Canon 7D or later model, you can use the pop-up flash to trigger an external flash. But keep in mind what is happening. The pre-flash from the pop-up is sending a coded message to the external flash. This is not radio transmission nor is it optical. You also have to make sure that the pop-up does not fire, which would show on your subject. You have to set it so it only fires the pre-flash.]

My assumption was this: The Pocket Wizard materials say that when the Mini is on your camera and the flash is on the Flex, that your camera essentially thinks the flash is still on the camera. The transmitters communicate all the information from camera to flash and vice versa. I also knew that Canon flashes, unlike Nikon, do not have optical slave eyes. This means that a Canon flash cannot be triggered when it sees another flash fire. Fine. I thought that it could still trigger a second flash using my Pocket Wizards. Not so.

Then I read Syl’s blog about a little tiny adapter that you can buy for less than 20 bucks that will serve as a slave eye for a Canon flash! I’ll let you read the post for the details, but here’s the skinny:

Go to FlashZebra.com and get the GREEN PC-adapter. The adapter plugs into your…wait for it…PC port on the side of your 580EXII (pictured above). Both flashes need to be on “manual” for this to work. So here’s the set-up. Flash #1 is off-camera on a Pocket Wizard Flex, being triggered by the Mini on my camera’s hot-shoe. This flash fires and triggers the adapter plugged into Flash #2 which is also off camera. Hallelujah it works!

I thought about buying another flash that has an optical slave eye for $150. OR I could buy another PW Flex for about $200. But for just $19.95 (shipping included) I can now use two off-camera speedlites. This opens up a whole new world of creativity.

If you’re a Nikon shooter, you’re probably laughing at all this.  I have my own list of pet-peeves against Canon speedlites, but I first heard of Syl when he wrote his manifesto-like  “My Canon Speedlite Wishlist which rings so true. Nikon just released its SB-700. If Canon is going to release a new flash, I hope they listen to Syl.

Lastly, I just want to say a quick word about FlashZebra. It seems like a small operation; payment is through PayPal and my invoice had a personal thank you message. I thought that was a nice touch. I ordered the adapter on a Friday and I had it by the following Wednesday. All in all, a good experience.

Hope this helps you as much as it helped me!