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Intermittent off-camera flash triggering with radio triggers and Micro 4/3 cameras

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by hookgrip, May 26, 2013.

  1. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    I'm just starting to get used to the world of Micro 4/3, and this forum has been so helpful in aiding my transition. Having used APSC and FF DSLRs for 4-5 years, I'm familiar with the basics, but some of the things aren't quite the same between DSLRs and Micro 4/3.

    One of these things is off-camera flash. I used RF-602s and Comtrig T320s with my D700 and 5D, and they worked great with my SB-24s off-camera.

    However, I've discovered a quirk when trying to use these triggers on Micro 4/3. I've tried the triggers on an E-PM1 and an E-PM2, and on both of these cameras, the flash triggering seems to be intermittent.

    What I mean is this: I'll put the trigger on the hotshoe, turn on the trigger/receiver/SB-24, turn on the camera, and then take a shot. The flash will always fire, but the first 1-2 shots will come out dark, as though the flashes didn't quite sync up with the camera. Afterwards, if I take more shots, they will be lit correctly. If I don't fire the flashes for a while and then take another series of shots, the first 1-2 shots will come out dark again, with the ones afterwards being lit correctly. I've tried many different shutter speeds, setting first/second curtain sync, and even taping up all of the contacts on the transmitter except for the firing contact, but nothing I've tried so far seems to cure this problem. It's something that I've never seen happen on a DSLR, so I'm a bit confused as to what might be causing it.

    Anyone have ideas?
     
  2. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    I suspect that it's something specific to those radios when used with those bodies. I have two sets of old Quantum radios that work perfect on everything (4 different Nikons) including several Olympus µ4/3 bodies.
     
  3. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    Same problem...

    I noticed the same problem with my E-PL5, Comlite trigger/receiver and Canon 550EX. The first one or two shots, the flash fires, but the image records no flash. I did notice something odd: For example, if the first shot was at 1/200 shutter speed, I get a dark image. Then I change the shutter to 1/50, I get a properly exposed flash image. Then taking shots at 1/100, 1/160, and finally 1/200 all produce good flash images. But it didn't seem to make any difference which shutter speed or flash mode (2nd curtain, fill, etc) I used, the first shot was always dark. Flash sync speed is not the problem because the entire image is dark (I could sync up to about 1/320 before I noticed a curtain shadow). This is really an annoying problem. If anyone has an idea about a cause or solution, the OP and I would love to hear it.
     
  4. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    Interesting. RF602s and Commlite triggers are some of the most popular ones around, so I wonder if other triggers work better with Mu 4/3 cameras. I'm going to borrow a friend's Cactus V5s later today and report back on whether those work.

    Glad to know that I'm not the only one who noticed this problem! I've actually noticed that the first 1 (sometimes 2) shots always come out dark, regardless of shutter speed. The flash will always fire for that first shot, but the images are always dark, regardless of whether I use 1/50 or 1/200 shutter speed. Somehow, the images after that are fine, but if you leave the camera/flash unused for a little bit and try to take another picture, it will come out dark again despite the flash firing.
     
  5. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    An update...

    I just tried the triggers with my old Canon 10D firing the EX550 flash and it worked fine. No dark first shots. Then switched to the E-PL5. Same problem. The first shot is dark, even though the flash fires. Second and subsequent shots are fine unless I let the camera sit idle for a few seconds - maybe 15. Then the next shot is dark. It must be something funky in how the E-PL5 triggers the flash, but I have not noticed this problem when using the Oly clip on flash.
     
  6. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    Same here. My Comtrig T320s worked perfectly with Nikon/Canon DSLRs, but all of the Micro 4/3 cameras I've tried the T320s with so far have the dark first shot issue. Same thing happens with the popular RF602 radio triggers: they worked perfectly with DSLRs, but had the same issue with the first shot being dark on Micro 4/3.

    I've tried the clip-on Olympus flash as a trigger with an optical slave attached to my SB-24, and there were no problems there. However, optical slaves are a big step down in reliability compared to radio triggers.

    One other interesting thing: Commlite's website (as well as eBay) list these triggers as being compatible with every major brand, including Olympus. It seems that the transmitters/receivers for all brands are the same, with the only difference being the cable for using the triggers as a remote shutter release.

    Commlite (Hongkong) technology Co.,LTD
     
  7. vchaney

    vchaney Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Sep 22, 2010
    I use radiopoppers jrx system and it works fine. Also allows control of power on older nikon flash units which are pretty cheap these days.

    Silly question but it's not the flash going to sleep is it? I wonder if the first pulse wakes it up. It does seem odd that it's so consistent.
     
  8. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    SB-24s are a very popular strobist flash and don't go to sleep as far as I know. It's very strange that only the first shot doesn't sync up, and somehow the ones afterwards magically sync properly with the flashes, as long as the flash doesn't sit unused for more than about a minute or so.
     
  9. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    I don't think the flash is going to sleep, because my EX550 has never done that when I've used it on my Canon 10D. When I get some time later today, I'm going to try to set the shutter speed at 1 second and see if I can determine when the flash fires relative to when the shutter trips. When I'm doing these tests, the camera and flash are set to manual. The flash is set to 1/64 power, which relative to a 1/50 second shutter speed (or even 1/200) is very short. Even a slight shutter delay could cause the flash to fire first. BTW, I have the shutter shake delay set to off. Just had a thought - I'm also going to turn off image stabilization to see if that is having any effect.
     
  10. inkista

    inkista Mu-43 Veteran

    332
    Jan 13, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Not really helpful information, but this may be an Oly-only issue. I use (Canon-type) RF-602s on my G3 with a Yongnuo YN-560 and have never seen this issue. Which is really odd, because I thought the four-thirds flash protocol was identical across the two brands.
     
  11. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    One more update...

    I tried a few more things, and although I thought I had it licked at one point, the flash problem continues. I tried a shutter speed of 1 second both in
    "Full" and 2nd curtain sync, and I turned off image stabilization, both to no avail. If I let less than about 30 seconds lapse between shots, everything seemed to work fine, but if I waited for the LCD to go dark (1 minute), the next shot would be dark.

    One last thing: Hookgrip, what version of the firmware are you running? Have you upgraded to 1.1 (or whatever the latest fw is)? From what I've read about the upgrade, it does not address this problem, but who knows?
     
  12. sinclair

    sinclair Mu-43 Veteran

    What if you set up the camera to not darken the LCD?
     
  13. inkista

    inkista Mu-43 Veteran

    332
    Jan 13, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Do you have RC mode set on the camera?
     
  14. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    Yes, I am using the latest firmware for the PM2.

    Will give this a shot

    I do not.
     
  15. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    I don't really think that having the LCD go dark has anything to do with the flash issue. I have it set to stay on for one minute (which I think is the default) in order to save the battery. For my flash test, I was simply using the LCD going dark as a time.

    I have sent an email to Olympus describing this issue, so we'll see what - if anything - I get back.
     
  16. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    47
    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    Received reply from Oly Tech Support, FWIW

    Here's the (non) answer I got from Oly:

    Thank you for contacting Olympus Technical Support.

    No, we are not aware of any issues about this problem with this camera.
    Unfortunately, we are not familiar with this type of triggering device, or
    where the fault may be, as we don't test third party accessories.

    If you require additional assistance please reply to this email leaving the
    complete history intact.

    Best Regards,

    Olympus Technical Support
     
  17. inkista

    inkista Mu-43 Veteran

    332
    Jan 13, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Is the SB-24 set to 2nd curtain or TTL?
     
  18. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    I've tried it set to first or second curtain, it does not make a difference. I've been using it only in M mode, not TTL.
     
  19. inkista

    inkista Mu-43 Veteran

    332
    Jan 13, 2012
    San Diego, CA
    Wouldn't even try 2nd curtain from either side, given that you have no TTL communication. There's no way for the camera to tell the flash how long the shutter speed is (i.e., what the delay on the sync pulse should be).

    If you're testing with a 1s shutter speed, have you tried putting the camera into slow sync mode? At least that way you'd know if the flash is firing before or after the shutter opens. It sounds like a sync timing issue.

    Maybe there's crosstalk with the Nikon pins (unlikely, but the clearance isn't huge). You may want to try taping off the TTL contacts (or removing the TTL pins). I did that with an SB-26. The pins are simply friction fit onto the springs, so it's a fully reversible change. Takes about 5 minutes. You just need a screwdriver and a relatively delicate touch. Keep track of the locking pin (it may fall out as you disassemble). Leave the center sync pin. :) And I highly recommend having a handy baggie for the three TTL pins so you don't lose them--that way, if you ever plan to sell the SB-24 you can put them back.

    3216498622_9accbbde24_z.
     
  20. hookgrip

    hookgrip Mu-43 Regular

    150
    May 21, 2013
    I've tried taping up all the pins except the triggering pin on the transmitter, but it didn't seem to make a difference

    Out of curiosity, I tried an old optical slave I had laying around with the SB-24 and used the on-camera flash to trigger the optical slave. Surprisingly, it worked very consistently, without any black frames. The only downside is that line of sight is required (so it's difficult to use with a softbox or umbrella), but so far this is proving more reliable with Micro 4/3 than the Yongnuo RF602 and other triggers I've tried.