Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best flash mod yet

Okay, I found a couple more camera flashes. Here are my latest modifications.

The first one is an Achiever EZ 250. I did two mods to this one. I clipped the wires off of the light sensor and attached them to a potentiometer for adjustable output. I wanted it to look a little more refined than the last one, so I took the lid from one of my 9 month old's juice bottles, and drilled a whole into the center to cover the potentiometer. Then I spray painted it black. I bought a four pack of knobs for a couple of bucks at Radio Shack, and added one to the potentiometer. I hot glued the potentiometer to the speedlight body.

I drilled a hole into the front of the flash. I ripped a head phone jack from a broken Sony discman (given to me by a friend), and soldered it into the hole. As a result, I am able to fire the flash using Pocket Wizards.

Flash $4.99 at Goodwill
Knobs $.75 ($2.99 for a four pack)
Potentiometer $2.99 (I like the audio taper)
Wire pulled from an old ethernet cord free
lid to a baby bottle free
Broken discman free
Totally adjustible flash for $8.73

The second flash I didn't modify much. It is a Sunpak Auto 411 S. It allows for manual adjustable flash over a five stop range, so I decided to forgo the potentiometer mod. It also had a sync port, but it was tiny. So I removed it, enlarged the hole, and added the bigger 3.5 mm jack. Now I have been able to fire the flash with my pocket wizards. I bought the flash for $5 from a person on craigslist. Then the above mentioned discman actually had two audio jacks, so I used that jack for the new sync port.
Total cost: $5.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Goodbye Ebay Gadget Infinity Triggers: I loved you

Last week I bought two Pocketwizard Plus II transceivers from a craigslister, then I traded a Canon Flash for a older style Pocketwizard transmitter and receiver.

As a result it was time for me to let go of my Ebay Gadget Infinity wireless triggers and receivers. Twas a sad day. I loved those things and they worked great.

I modded the transmitter with an external antenna. I bought a 1 dollar Xbox adapter from the dollar store, and used that to create a removable antenna.

Then I modified the receivers to operate on AA batteries. Once I "enhanced" them I rarely had a misfire (I can't think of a time), and I could use them from a considerable distance (200+ ft.). I was going to add antennas to the receivers to try to increase the distance even more, but I couldn't pass up the pocketwizard deal.

This post pays homage to my Gadget Infinity triggers whose total price for one transmitter and four receivers is less than the cost of one Pocketwizard (But firing my strobes from around the block was pretty cool last night).

Here is my Gadget Infinity trigger Haiku:

Triggers never fail
So cheap I would buy ten more
Sexy: not so much

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fully adjustable speedlight for $8.

I have been getting into off camera flash - strobist style. Off camera strobes can be pretty expensive (at least for me).

However, I found a SunPak Auto 2000 DZ Thyristor at Goodwill for $4.99. Unfortunately it only has one setting - full power. The power can't really be adjusted. While, browsing flickr, and other blogs I found some people who have "modified" their flashes in order adjust the light output.

I decided to give it a shot. Many older flashes have a light sensor (or something), that can sense when the light from the fired flash bounces back and hits the flash. It then cuts power. Two wires go to this sensor. It is usually a little hole on the front of the flash. On this strobe, the hole is surrounded by a florescent green circle.

I opened up the flash, and cut the two wires leading to the sensor. I then went to Radio Shack and bought a potentiometer for $2.99. I bought the 100k-Ohm Audio-Taper Potentiometer (Product No. 271-1722). I first tried the linear potentiometer (based on another blogger's recommendation), but it didn't work as well. I soldered those two wires to the potentiometer.

The good news is that my flash is now totally adjustable.

I think I could probably do an exact job of marking of power settings if I owned a light meter. But instead, I set up the strobe next to a Nikon SB-800. I took photos with my SB-800, and then with the SunPak, adjusting the light output of the SunPack to match the images from my SB-800. (Both strobes were set to 35mm). This picture has my SB-800 (left) next to my SunPak. When I did the test shots I actually aimed the strobes at an object to compare the light.

At full power my SunPak equals the power of the SB-800 at 1/4 power. I was able to mark off stops on my SunPak at 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, and 1/128. Pretty cool! It worked much better than I anticipated. I used a different color sharpie to represent different light output.

I still need to make it look prettier, but right now it is function over form. Here are some samples of varying output:

Here are a few links to people who posted some good info:

Most of the information came from here: kaisphotos on flickr

Some more reading here (good but not as useful):