1/8000th flash sync with Broncolor Mobil and Canon 5D mk2

Well here is a little something to get your heads around. I’m not sure on the physics or the tech behind this post but I do know the maximum published sync speed for non Speedlight flash kit is a measly 1/200th of a second with the Canon 5D and 5D mk2. Not any more! The techniques used in this post were hinted to me by Martin Hogeboom in a cafe in Amsterdam last week and I vowed to give it a go and see if the rumours are true. All the exif is intact so please learn from it as you wish.

My little box of tricks - What's in the Sto-Fen?

My little box of tricks - What's in the Sto-Fen?

Shot 2

I drilled a small hole then used instant Araldite to secure a peanut optical slave into the lid of a Sto-Fen diffuser. I attached heavy duty Velcro to the side of the Sto-Fen and my Plus 2 transceiver. Then I made a lead - female PC to 3.2mm mono mini jack. I cut down an old PC extension lead rather than attach a fiddly PC connector.

Here is the kit all assembled on my 430 EX2 flash unit.

Here is the kit all assembled on my 430 EX2 flash unit.

And another shot from the rear. The Stofen / PW set up simply pushes on the top of the flash without the need for anything else.

And another shot from the rear. The Stofen / PW set up simply pushes on the top of the flash without the need for anything else.

Here's the set up. Full blasing sun, clear deep blue sky, and my Broncolor Mobil A2R flash unit with it's bare faced flash head.

Here's the set up. Full blasing sun, clear deep blue sky, and my Broncolor Mobil A2R flash unit with it's bare faced flash head.

Here is the Bron set up. Full power 1200Ws unit triggered by a PW Plus 2 tranceiver.

Here is the Bron set up. Full power 1200Ws unit triggered by a PW Plus 2 tranceiver.

Here are the settings on my 430 EX2 flash.

Here are the settings on my 430 EX2 flash.

Well here is shot 1 using 1/8000th second at f/2.8 with ISO 100.

Well here is shot 1 using 1/8000th second at f/2.8 with ISO 100.

Here is the same shot with the flash switched off.

Here is the same shot with the flash switched off.

Here is an f/2.8 close up at 1/8000th. Remember we are in full sun and it is almost obliterated.

Here is an f/2.8 close up at 1/8000th. Remember we are in full sun and it is almost obliterated.

1/8000th at f/2.8 with flash.

1/8000th at f/2.8 with flash.

And here is the shot above without the flash on.

And here is the shot above without the flash on.

Again here is a close up at 1/8000th at f/2.8. All the exif data is intact on these shots so please learn from them the info you need to further experiment.

Again here is a close up at 1/1000th at f/2.8. All the exif data is intact on these shots so please learn from them the info you need to further experiment.

And without flash.

And without flash.

Back onto 1/8000th second for good measure. Flash set to 3m distance barefaced with built in 60 degree reflector (equivelent to a Speedlight on 24mm setting)

Back onto 1/8000th second for good measure. Flash set to 3m distance barefaced with built in 60 degree reflector (equivelent to a Speedlight on 24mm setting)

As above but without flash.

As above but without flash.

A more regular setting might be 1/2000th at f/2.8 for a fashion shot. Here it is with flash.

A more regular setting might be 1/2000th at f/2.8 for a fashion shot. Here it is with flash.

And here it is again without flash.

And here it is again without flash.

Rewriting the rule books is fun at times. However these especially dull pictures are simply to illustrate a technical phenomena. You may be interested in these findings in order to freeze action or to use shallow depth of field in your flash lit portrait work. Whatever your need, be sure to feedback and ideally post links to your pictures that use high speed non Speedlight flash. This may work with Elinchrom heads and Skyport – Who knows. Please comment, Tweet, or spread the word if you find this article interesting.

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About Damien

Damien Lovegrove learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost trainers of photography and entrepreneurial business strategies in our industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe sharing his knowledge and expertise. “Photography fascinates me” declares Damien. "Much of my photography is inspired by a burning enthusiasm within me” explains Damien. “Picking up a camera gives me such a rush that I’m instantly driven to create pictures.”

74 thoughts on “1/8000th flash sync with Broncolor Mobil and Canon 5D mk2

  1. Umm wow!. Looks a very neat design Damien and the results are very impressive, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with these in the real world on one of your shoots. Being able to turn off the sun at your leisure gives you so much more control, great stuff.

  2. Hi Damien
    Thanks again for the really interesting article. I love the new PW’s and the ability to sync at 1/4000-1/8000 and always wished I could do the same with the mobil kit. Before I give it a try, I would love to hear any feedback upon the potential risks to the circuitry or the mobil pack & heads of dumping so much power in say 1/2000. Could it fry the circuit board of the A2R? I am less concerned about the heads as I am guessing that the worst thing that could happen would be that you blow a bulb. Would welcome your thoughts or the thoughts of others on this topic.
    I looks like it could be a real game changer……you should patent the idea before PW do :-)
    Thanks again for a great shoot in Amsterdam.
    All the best
    Ian

  3. Possibly a silly question, but I’ll ask it anyway.

    I don’t suppose the same theory would work from a moded SB-800 to another SB-800 if using a skyport (or similar) radio trigger?

    I know they will do this via the CLS but until the Nikon PW flex ttl comes out (if it ever does) I wonder if this might be a work around?

  4. Good trick – I guess it is just advancing the flash timings and works because the big flash has a long flash duration.

    This technique does work with an Elinchrom Ranger but beyond around 1/800th you lose quite a bit of effective power. I have the short flash duration A heads, it might be different with the regular head.

    You can prove the concept using the optical trigger to see if it works before deciding whether to build the custom radio trigger.

  5. Hi Damien,

    Is it April fools day?

    Wow! This is VERY interesting, especially because I can’t quite figure out how it works. The mobil head is still triggered by the PW-to-PW radio connection. Just the PW on camera is triggered by a peanut trigger.

    I’ll have to try this on my Bowens Gemini kit and if it all blows up I’ll send you the invoice. ;-)

    If it does work I’ll have to drive down south and kiss you because it would be brilliant for my outdoors fashion work. Will report back soon.

    Regards
    Heinz

  6. Thanks James and Ian.

    Ian, I think the Mobil is discharging in just the same way as it always does. It is just firing at a different advance time for each shutter speed to ensure the flash burn is happening throughout the whole shutter action. It is possible that this can be achieved with a Pocket Wizard Multimax but I think the amount of advance would change with the shutter speed selected. I’m not sure without further testing.

    A couple of points to note:

    1. As the shutter speed goes up the flash exposure drops. So at 1/2000th you get a more powerful flash exposure than at 1/8000th.

    2. It is not the miracle solution to improving the ambient to flash ratio that we all dream of it is merely an opportunity to use a shallow depth of field or to freeze action with non Speedlights.

    Damien.

  7. Hi Martin,

    As you say there is light fall off at higher shutter speeds but to get a beauty dish worth of flash at f/2.8 with the ambient exposure cut by 2 stops in full sun – more in overcast or dusk conditions, is fantastic.

    Good idea using the flash packs built in optical trigger to test. I am under the impression from hear say that some radio trigger systems are quite delayed and will only allow 1/125th second sync but Pocket Wizard claim ‘as fast as a wire’ so it’s worth taking this into account too.

    Cheers, Damien.

  8. Hi Martin,

    The ST-E2 doesn’t work because it sends pre flash info to the remote flashes. I thought I could use it as a trigger in my studio but the flashes fire before the shutter opens. The same would be true for the on camera flash if it was set as a master because it would be sending pre flash communication. Luckily for me the 430 EX2 doesn’t do master mode otherwise I might get confused.

    On another note, in the studio I got away with 1/64th power for the 430 EX2 but out in full sun I needed 1/4 power. Using a blacked out Sto-fen would solve this though.

    Cheers, Damien.

  9. Hi Callum,

    I see that you used Skyport instead of Pocket Wizard. Is it my imagination or are your high speed sync shots two stops brighter at the bottom than the top? The first shots in your article show the light output from the Elinchrom to be even top to bottom. But the pictures at the end of your article are nearly black at the top of the frame. But there is no hard line so why is this? Have you taken any real shots using this high speed system in the studio?

    Thanks for sharing,

    Damien.

  10. Hi Trailboy,

    Good tip about other flashes triggering. I’ll paint the inside of my Sto-fen.

    I’ve seen quite a few test articles of various set ups like the one you link to but no pictures that are inspiring me to want to get out there and start high speed sync shooting with non Speedlights. I know this post is yet another ‘test shot’ article but now I want get shooting art with this new system and open up the possibilities.

    Regards, Damien.

  11. Hi,

    I will be testing it with my Seculine Twinlink T2D Transmitter-Receiver Kit.

    Hopefully it will work and if it does I’ll line up a fashion shoot for next week and test it with some proper fashion results.

    Will post the results when I’m done (no test shots I promise)

    Regards
    Heinz

  12. Works with my Skyports and my Yongnuo rf-602. I prefer the latter because of the small form of the transmitter making for alighter package on the hotshoe. You can use any Canon flash that syncs HSS – I dedicate a 220ex for it.

    Unfortunately, hotshoe flashes usually have to be run at max power for it to work properly, which could rapidly damage the flashes. The solution I use is to use 3 Viv 283 (slow tail burn) + vp1 and change them regularly, letting each cool down and have a rest.

  13. Thanks Heinz,

    I’ll get shooting too. I look forward to seeing your shots and hopefully we can pull this technology into common usage through the creation of inspirational imagery.

    Cheers, Damien.

  14. Hi Trailboy,

    Thanks for your detailed info. I’m not finding that the Canon 430EX2 needs to be anywhere near full power. I think with a blacked out Stofen I could shoot at 1/64th power like I was in the studio.

    Cheers, Damien.

  15. I think trailboy’s point is that if you use this technique to trigger other (non dedicated) hotshoe flashes like the 283s you need to run the units being triggered at full power to get a long-enough flash duration.

  16. Ahh, sorry, let me be clearer.

    The remote hotshoe flash has to be on full power. Basically, you get a longer burn (which is what you want) with hotshoe guns set at maximum power. The lower the power of the gun, the shorter the flash duration (not what you want). Opposite for studio guns.

    The power of the local flash (the one in the hot shoe of the camera) is irrelevant, so set it to HSS and 128th power if you can.

    With this optical sync HSS hack, you are basically firing the remote flash at the start of the movement of the first curtain (which is what HSS does), not at the end of the movement of the first curtain (which is what normally happens). Hence, with a slow tail burn you can fully fill the frame with light and not catch the curtain at any speed.

  17. Thanks Martin and Trailboy, Yes I understand now. I wasn’t thinking of the small units when I wrote this article but I suppose I could combine the Mobil kit and a couple of 580EX2 Speedlights triggered with the cable out of my Flexs at the same time. I’d just be using the PW standard signal but it should still work just the same.

    I’ll try and shoot a portrait using this set up on Thursday and I’ll have the process videoed for the blog too – why not!

    Cheers, Damien.

  18. Really interesting Damien, it got me out in the garden with my Profoto packs. It doesn’t work quite as well as the results you are getting. I could get to about 1000th before I started loosing too much power.

    I replaced the plus2 with a MultiMax and started playing around with the delay functions, I’ve found with my Profoto B2 I can get much more effective power by dialing in a delay of 0.0028 seconds. I can reduce the power output to about half and still get a great result at 8000th. But I am finding the shots brighter at the bottom of frame so much more experimentation needed I think :)

    What a great excuse to get out in the garden in this weather!!!

  19. “But I am finding the shots brighter at the bottom of frame so much more experimentation needed I think”.

    That’s the peak of the light output, the darker is the tail. Hence why a slower tail burn is useful. Experimention with your own kit is the key. Vary the power of the Profotos to find the longest burn.

    I dont have much experience with studio guns outdoors, as all of mine are mains only.

  20. Hi, yes I also popped into the garden and did a test. Now, my setup was a Metz 44-AF4C set to low power in HSS on camera firing an optical slave which triggers a PT-04 eBay trigger. At the receiving end was a Vivitar 283 on full power connected to an eBay receiver.

    From 1/1000th sec to 1/8000s there is a steady drop in output but not enough to make it unusable, especially if I were using a few guns for key, fill & kicker lights.

    Whats even more exciting about this for me is I can now use my Metz 44-AF4C (which is useless as you cannot fire the darn thing off camera) as the triggering gun on camera, which means it’s back in service.

    Ace! Thanks a million Damien.

    Heinz

  21. Btw, old viv 283s are useful for this because of the slow burn characteristics. Plus, you dont need the VP1s for them, as they need to be set to full power anyway.

    Older guns, like my Metz 45cl1 are very useful for this, as they are very powerful, slow burn and can only be set to manual full power (ignoring auto thyristor), so can be picked up cheaply on EBay because people are looking for the manual vari-power versions.

    Sorry for rabbiting on. Ill shut up now….

  22. Okay here goes for you numbers folks.

    test shooting results graph

    Broncolor Mobil placed 3m from a dark grey wall. Shots exposed to mid grey using the camera histogram.

    Conclusion: With HSS control of the Broncolor Mobil we loose 2.7 stops when we go over the 1/200th second exposure and then flash power tracks ambient exposure.

  23. Wow. Very interesting.
    I’m not 100% on how this works but in HSS the flash pulses on and off very fast during the exposure to cheat the curtain. Possibly the peanut picks this up and tells the Bron to fire repeatedly. Effectively you get one full power followed by several reduced power as the pack struggles to recycle. Or the Bron starts to flash and then gets told to flash all over again before it’s finished. That might explain why you will get uneven coverage of the frame.

    Assuming this is right then I reckon you’ll get better results with a cable in place of the PWs since transmission is faster.

    The amount of flash will vary massively depending how fast your external flash can recycle and the flash duration. Bron Mobil or a speedlight will be a great choice for this because it has a very short duration. Cheap studio heads probably won’t perform nearly as well.

    BTW anybody want to ask Bron if this is a good idea….? Not sure of the effects of repeatedly firing a partially charged head.

  24. Jonathan

    The flash does not fire repeatedly, like Canon/Nikon implementation of HSS.

    The external flash only triggers once, and then on the first flash impulse from the Canon HSS flash in the hotshoe. It doesn’t damage flashguns, well, no more than firing a gun repeatedly at maximum power will anyway.

  25. >> The flash does not fire repeatedly, like Canon/Nikon implementation of HSS.

    If that’s right then there are some magic beans here.

    If the external flash fires only once then we have a very complicated setup to trigger it. I think you’re saying that it’s simply that the first HSS pulse fires earlier than a regular flash pulse? If that’s true then it should be possible to make a very simple trigger device to replace the HSS flash, optical slave and Pocket Wizards.

    We need some hard core tech heads on this. Because a simple reliable way of syncing with a Bron Mobil at 1/8000s is pretty huge.

  26. Jonathan,

    In my setup, I use an optical slave and PWs. The setting works because the first burst trigger the external flashes while while the 1st curtain is opening. THE SUBSEQUENT PULSES HAVE NO EFFECT since the external flashes circuit is ON and the duration is longer than the dedicated HSS flash .

    Now since the external flashes have a longer FD than the shutter speed, the sensor will get exposed until the 2nd is closed. I can confirm this setup does not work with some Profoto with short flash duration. So far I did test it with Elinchrom, Broncolor, Alienbees / Zeus and Quantum.

  27. >> It looks like you don’t need the peanut at all. Just wire the PW into the output sync socket of an SB800/900

    I have tested that too, in my case it didn’t work at all

  28. If you want to trigger the big flash reliably in full sun then you do need something like the peanut/PW hack. Otherwise if you just want to prove the concept you can use the optical trigger built in to the pack.

    This trick isn’t especially useful with the Elinchrom Ranger A heads. They are designed with a short flash duration to stop movement – exactly the opposite of what you want here. Its a case of less (cheaper) is more in the case of Ranger kit at least as far as this trick is concerned.

    So I still need my H4D and leaf shutters :-D

  29. Hi Martin, Off topic I know but Ooh did you get an H4D? I was playing with the Leica S2 last week – nice bit of kit. I’m not sure which camera to get next :)

  30. Thank you all for your contributions to this subject. I’ve a model test shoot lined up for tomorrow afternoon and one the day after so I’m going to shoot some real frames on my Canon 5D mk2 with my Bron and a couple of Speedlights in the mix for good measure using HSS. This topic needs art to bring it alive.

  31. Damien. Sadly not, just wishful thinking. S2 looks great and the Leica glass will be sublime. I think at that level of investment the sensor needs to be upgradeable. Be fun playing with the options though :)

  32. This is all getting too complicated.

    This trick has been known about since HSS flash came along. It is a simple technique to understand, maybe after you have tried it a few times yourself.

    It doesn’t require expensive modern studio equipment, or PW triggers, indeed the older the better, and it certainly isn’t magic beans.

    The only principle you need to comprehend is that the external flash fires very early, on the first movement of the first curtain, not on the end of the travel of the first curtain as is normal. The curtain moves faster than the signal to the external trigger, so the flash is chasing the first curtain. Thus, the second curtain is no longer relevant. That is why you can illuminate the full frame without catching the second curtain.

  33. Hi all,

    The obvious thing to me is that if this trick has been known for ages, years etc but there are no decent, wow, amazing pictures that make use of it, (and I’ve yet to find one after hours of scouring the net), then there are two possibilities.
    1. it is no big deal and no one cares. Or
    2. It is known about by technicians who own cameras and are not photographers.

    I favour the first because I went out today to shoot HSS with my Bron kit and ended up shooting other stuff instead. Yes, I gave it a go but I soon got wrapped up in other, much more exciting picture shooting. Pictures to be blogged soon :)

    So my call out here is for any of you in the know to post links to drop dead gorgeous shots taken with big flash using HSS that couldn’t be shot using normal sync. I’m not looking for test shots, I’m looking for inspirational art.

    Thanks for your banter and sharing of knowledge. We seem to have got to the bottom of the geeky stuff now it’s time for art :)

  34. Thanks damien, this will come in big time handy and save me having to go medium format to get better sync speed in my new high speed work, im presuming though that it will still work with my spanking new Scoro A4s with a genny attached…

  35. but then again Damien 250th on my d3x should be fine as surely its the flash duration of the said light that will freeze the action, the mobil is notoriously slow at high power (1/60th t0.1 -ish) as we have spoke about before so in this case the shutter of the camera will freeze action rather than flash duration of whatever pack is in question. you should get a part time job in radio shack though with all your gadget and wiring expertise, or just get yourself a bron verso with a better flash duration…or i could be talking rubbish as usual…also a point, camera sync is less with radio triggers as there is lag with these devices unless the new pocket wizards have cured this

  36. I picked up a Euro 15 optical slave today and in less than 20 minutes I was able to sync at 1/8000 and f4.

    In the true spirit of this blog I would like to share my set-up with images of the connections etc. I do not claim to be an expert or have a foolproof system, as I still have not managed to get it working with my Elinchrom studio lights, though syncing at more than 1/125 is not really necessary, I just wanted to see if it was possible.

    Feel free to download the 7MB file here:
    http://files.me.com/ianfreelance/ib04rd

    Good luck and have fun being creative.

    All the best
    Ian

  37. BTW, using an optical-to-radio hack is also the only way you can get second curtain sync on a Canon camera for manual external flash, as Canon (in their infinite wisdom) dont transmit second curtain sync over the centre pin.

    Kris..

  38. great article but one ‘?’ when using soft box sensor of flash gun blocks, how it woks or r u using it in m-mode?pls.

  39. I achieved this by reverse plugging the pc sync from a Nikon SB-800 into the pocket wizard plus II camera port and triggering a white lightning while the sb-800 was in TTL mode….talk about the best of both worlds. I noticed lots of propagation effect after 1/500 sec…but still I get another two stops on my min flash sync speed on a light that can be cranked up to overpower the sun.

  40. Hi John,

    I now have a complete understanding of this subject thanks to people like yourself who kindly take the time to share their extensive technical knowledge with us all. Thank you for making Prophotonut as complete as it is. Major respect,

    Damien.

  41. I made an interesting discovery today while testing this out. I’m going to do more testing to verify this works every time, but I may have found a way to do this without using the peanut optical slave.

    I made my own extension cord for my Speedlite awhile back using standard 6 pin phone connectors. I cut the ends off of a Canon Speedlite bracket cord and spliced in a female phone jack to each end. I also spliced in a firing cord that goes to my radio transmitter. The problem was, this was firing off the transmitter during the focus routine when the camera and Speedlite were talking so to get around this, I disconnected 2 of the wires and left the firing pins and 2 of the com pins still connected. Today, when I hooked everything up (except those 2 com wires) and tested this out, I was able to sync at every speed my camera can shoot (up to 1/4000s) with my studio strobes. I must have the Speedlite turned on and in manual mode but the flash can be covered. When the Speedlite is turned off, this won’t work.

    I will do some more testing and let you all know which pins are still connected and which aren’t as I haven’t looked at it closely yet.

    Or, maybe this was just a fluke but if it is, I would think turning off the Speedlite would not change anything.

    Thanks for the good tips,

    Mike

  42. It just goes to show that as photographers we often think we have to buy equipment when sometimes you can make it yourself. By way of an example, I order prints from DSCL and they send their larger prints with a neat protective flat plastic board. This can be cut and taped with Gorilla tape to form a multitude of speedlight modifiers such as snoots and flags.

  43. I’m using this contraption since a few years now and it works like charm. Finally making portraits at F1.4 and creating the softest lighting from Broncolor heads at almost full blast and the 1DsII at lightning speed 1/8000.
    Also learned from Martin. Up until now it always has been a sort of a trade secret… :-)

  44. Great technique for freezing action with flash in strong ambient but if your main purpose is to mix flash with full sun at a narrow DOF as many have been mentioning then you can achieve this with a good quality ND filter on your lens – a 4 stop filter will give you 1/250 @ about 2.8 in full sun at 100ISO. You can use your flash/trigger system and light shapers as you would with any other shoot.

  45. Hi Stephan,

    You are absolutely correct about the 4 stop ND. However with an SLR it’s hard to see the viewfinder. At least with a mirrorless or compact system camera the EVF compensates completely giving just as bright an image with ND or not.

    Kind regards,

    Damien.

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