Thursday

Mounting RadioPopper PX receivers on an SB-800

With the new design of RadioPopper PX receivers, a number of improvements have been made as far as performance is concerned. I'll be providing a fuller review on that quite soon. But while they seem to interface nicely with Canon flashes (unless you need help with autofocus) they seem to be a poor match for Nikon flashes. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Seen from above, this setup looks mighty precarious..

The makers of the PX receivers — and don't get me wrong, I love what these folks are trying to do — have managed to devise what I think is a very awkward way to attach the unit to your SB-800, SB-600 or SB-900. In each case the receiver is held on by only a very small surface area, and there's a pretty good risk that you could easily knock it off your flash even if you use the double-sided tape rather than the Velcro. And maybe I'm an exception, but I like to be able to put my flashes away in a camera bag (or in one of my Think Tank pouches on a belt) when I'm done, which is not so easy the way they want you to attach the receiver. These three photos show where they recommend attaching the Velcro (in red) on both the receiver and your flash, and the resulting overhang.




From what I can tell, the only reason they have decided to position them this way is so that you will have quick access to the battery door on your flash. That's nice to have, but you might have to change batteries, what? Maybe once in an 8 hour shoot? I shoot weddings and often come home with the same batteries in my SB-800's that were there when I walked out the door.

So I don't think battery access is a problem. Instability and fragility are problems, though. If I'm constantly handling a flash, pulling it out of my bag and picking it up or having my assistant work it on a monopod off to the side, I want everything to be wrapped up as tightly to the flash as possible so I can hold it as one unit and I won't have to worry about someone brushing by and knocking something off.

They might have been worried about the slight curve in the body design of the flash, but once you get Velcro on the increase in surface "grabbing" area more than compensates for the arc.

To remedy this, I simply turned the receiver on its side. Putting the rough portion of Velcro on a much larger area of the receiver, and matching it to a nice big area on the side of my SB-800's, lets me gain a secure hold without compromising the "seal" that is supposed to be formed by the foam circle over the light pulse transmitter. I even opted to put a small patch of Velcro on the battery door itself, and for a while I worried that this would mean I could rip open the door when I didn't want to. But then I realized that I naturally have to grasp that side of the flash anyway when I want to remove the receiver and there's plenty of room to keep a finger over the battery door to prevent it from opening. These three photos show how I ended up configuring the attachment.





On the RadioPopper blog there is an announcement of a new plastic shoe that will hold the receiver against your Nikon or Canon flash without having to use Velcro at all, but for me this doesn't solve the issue of the receiver hanging out over the side (on a Nikon flash) and making the whole unit bigger and less manageable. The beauty of these units is that they made them smaller than the P1 transmitter and receiver, so why then would you want to go back and add more bulk to the thing? Also, if you use an external battery that plugs in to the three-hole outlet on the front of the flash, it appears you can't use the new plastic attachment.



They've also announced that JrX units are undergoing a design change and won't be ready for a bit longer yet. Much as I hate to say it, I wonder if the PX units couldn't use one more trip to the design drawing board to make them work better for Nikon flashes. It might even be practical to make separate models for Nikon and Canon flashes. This is what PocketWizard is doing with their new units, and I don't think there are too many shooters who use both, or who would have to switch back and forth in any one shooting situation.

1 comment:

jchphotography said...

I'm in the same pickle... I just got my PX RPs and while the new mount is interesting, it's bulky, AND uses your flash foot for mounting. The new RP mount includes a tripod socket, so I guess you can mount it on a Gorillapod or other standard 1/4-20 screw, but I usually use my flash on various brackets with cold shoes, so this arrangement doesn't really work for me.

I'm not a big fan of putting velcro on my gear, so I opted for Dr. Scholl's corn cushions and a couple of non-skid hair scrunchies. Still not ideal, but it's as compact as I can make it at the moment.

You can see the current RP mount and my alternative version on my blog at: http://jchphotography.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/of-hair-accessories-and-corn-relief-modifying-my-radiopopper-receiver-mount/