With my Canon equipment adding up, so does the weight with space disappearing in the bags so I've looked at ways to keep things super portable and light. I use speedlites for most things so they're always in my bag, Some say speedlites are a cheaper option but if your not careful a quad speedlite setup can add up close to what a larger strobe like the Elinchrom Ranger for instance. There are lots of forums and articles on that so I won't go there. I use speedlites as they portable and powerful for most jobs. Sometimes with a little bit more grunt needed behind the flash a second can add just that. So I've looked around for the so called 'perfect' dual flash mount setup for me. There are always people on forum asking what is the best 'this' and 'that' but it really is what's best suited for you.
The Dual flash mount:
Looking around the net for dual(+) mounts there are heaps of varieties of ways to have them. I was after something that can attach to a monopod/tripod and can easily be swung round without worrying if a little knock or bang will do heaps of damage. That is achieved by having the flashes straight and strapped to each other with a small little mount so no weak points. For example a lot of dual mounts have the flashes as if they were on top of the camera in a hammer psoition and separated (example here). If you've got that, its wide and has a few points of strain if moved. Plus its not easily chucked into the bag to the next location. It's still good but just not for my needs. After a long time searching I found some I liked on Michael Bass Designs, it wasn't as compact as I had hoped but was the closest thing, after discussion and sending through my plans(drawn on a lil tablet) we got there in the end. Here's what we came up with.
If this is what your after check them HERE
Straight to the chase.
-Easily put together and taken apart
-Sturdy and no weak straining points
-Two sized threads 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 for a tripod or monopod, the mount can be back to front to be center-weighted depending on thread used.
-Aluminium plate is covered in rubberised foam for a non-slip surface.
-Very small when packed into the bag.
-If mounted like picturedHERE, the bottom half of the flash can be twisted for changing batteries or changing controls.
-Can fit in the bag still put together and be safe.
-Has thick foam padding for stopping the flashes touching and scratching each other.
-Can connect the CP-E4 to the flash depending which end you strap the velcro around the flash
-The velcro isn't going to last forever if you don't take care of it. I would have preferred having stitching along the sides with a padding on the end similar to clothing or velro shoe ends but thats time consuming(those examples were the closest I can think of on the top of my head). Having said that Michael has stated t
-Two tt5s can't be mounted as well unless the bottom half of the flash is twisted or turned onto the opposite side.. not really a problem.
-Michael bass is located in USA so I had to wait for international postage haha.
I'm sure if one of these cons are a big issue or want something changed Michael would be keen to adapt it to your liking like we've done.
Sometimes you wont need that extra power and spread but it does come in handy if you need it for a softbox. Next on the list I'm going to try adapt the Lasolite EZYbox to fit my Dual mount, there's already single mounts(HERE) but again I want it dual, small and very portable. I plan to add a plate hinged to the bottom of the circular softbox attachment that way it can fold away in the bag. The plate will then go between the dual mount and tripod/monopod. I think I may need to cut things to allow the dual flash to fit, if its not too big.
Having a dual mount means double TT5...and more RF from the two 580EXs. A few things wrong with that, more weight on the tripod, batteries to worry about and you wont get a great distance with more RF interference. So fixing this is getting the TT5s away from the 580EX (or II) and only having one of them. Getting it away is the easy part with a OC-E3 with a TT5 Caddy attached to the leg of the tripod or monopod for holding the Pocketwizard.
To get one TT5 to support two 580's or 430's is easily said than done, "just a splitter will fix that". The sad thing about that is its not a basic connection like the plus II's that can use a headphone splitter. The receiving TT5 communicates between the flash as well as the transmitting TT5 with new functions like high speed sync, hypersync, ETTL etc. Those require the use of all the communicating pins same as on top of the camera. This is where I've looked into a E-TTL OC-E3 splitter.
The splitter is another making of Michael Bass which is a Canon OC-E3 adapted to a splitter. If your going to do this you need the exact same flash so the communication doesn't get confused. Here's Michael Bass's procedure, passed along by the photog testers:
1. Use matching flash units
2. Put flash in camera hot shoe, turn on both, repeat w/ other flash
3. Turn off the camera, flashes and Pocket Wizards
4. Setup the dual sync cord to the flashes and the pocket wizard
5. Turn the pw on
6. Turn the flashes on
7. Turn the on camera pw on
8. Turn the camera on
I have thoroughly tested these with different cameras and flashes and found my procedure works the same:
1. Put the setup together connecting everything but all turned off.
2. Turn on the flashes
3. Turn on the receiving TT5 and wait for the test flash then press test for another flash.
4. Turn on the camera
5. Turn on the transmitting TT5 then press test for another flash.
6. having the flashes facing you and take a picture both are going and no barring.
After all this I could get the system to work but not reliably. It did improve over the latest firmware update but not enough that I would use it on a job. Every now and again it would stop flashing with the receiving TT5 flashing red meaning an error then come awake with a test-flash and back to normal. This happened every few minutes so progress wasn't great. Sometimes it would go great but the power produced wasn't the same as previous. After wasting more time checking and testing what's wrong I've found randomly sometimes one of the flashes would have a delay. This then resulted in the subject being lit up but then seeing a stronger flash output on the subject but a fraction of the frame relative to the delay.
-Removes the need for a second TT5
-If a flash's batteries go flat the other flash will continue to work.
-Using the Pocket Wizard AC3 the manual and automatic settings work.
-Can choose lengths of cord required when ordering.
-Simply doesn't work reliably to my liking.
-A flash may not be syncing with out you noticing then work resulting in the subject brighter than expected.
Note: Due to RF from some Canon speedlites distance issues remains the same. Solutions to prevent this can be found HERE.
From the variations I've tested I have narrowed down to either a problem with the cord which Michael has now rechecked to be fine, or the TT5 hasn't been designed to be used like this. Yet I may have gone wrong somewhere. Since multiple flashes are becoming more common sometimes going to extremes of 12 flashes.. that means 12 Pocket Wizards(48 batteries + another 24 for the PW). I'm not too sure how PW will go about it, more TT5s from them = $$$ for them or designing 1 receiving TT5 to then trigger other flashes. I'm hoping the second option saving weight and money..and more batteries.
Michael has said his beta tester has confirmed reliable results but from my testing I'd like to know where I've gone wrong. Hopefully I am wrong so this is possible.
So this is now my setup for that extra power needed without the hassle of a bulky dual flash mount. I will be ordering a canon OC-E3 and Caddy per flash unit which will then clip to the legs of the tripod.
If you want to add the CP-E4s to this setup that's easy enough by and strapping it around the legs of the tripod or monopod aswell.
All this is written upon my understanding from my testing and information provided. If you have had different results, correct me if I'm wrong, I'd like to hear about them. I have only tested the Canon flex PWs with the splitter not the Nikon flex PWs. Michael Bass has said t others have found them and I can put up a link. I'd like to hear how
Enjoy, Stefan Haworth