Sunday, April 9, 2017

Speedlight Manslaughter - I Kill An SB-28DX

Photo #1
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It: Well, I broke an SB-28 DX speedlight, one that I had neutered for use on my D70s and my current crop of Fuji mirrorless cameras. Of course, I was filled with a sense of adventure in the minutes before the dastardly deed, and wasn't exercising due caution when I started removing the screws.

The crime started innocently enough. It began with the purchase of my fourth SB-28. It was a very clean specimen at a good price, since it was sold without a box, bag, or instructions It would not function in the TTL mode with my D100, a contemporary Nikon DSLR.  Having remembered something about the DX suffix being an indicator of digital compatibility, I wanted to test a fully-functional SB-28 DX, so I decided to replace the contact pins  I removed from another SB-28 a while back. If you check that earlier post, you can see that the similar SB-24 I dissected had a more robust wiring scheme, complete with connectors to facilitate disassembly.

(Quaint Factoid: The SB-28 worked on my Fuji S2, and I concluded that Fuji got it right, echoing what other writers claimed when the S2 first appeared in 2002).

Familiarity Breeds Contempt: Truer words were never spoken. This being my fifth time disassembling a Nikon speedlight, I was confident that I knew what I was doing. I remember getting a little careless about the  fragile ribbon cable that connected the hot shoe circuitry with the rest of the flash. Apparently, I accidentally tore it. The two arrows show the severed ends (Photo #1). Oh well, one flash in, one flash out.

Click here to view original
Lightbulb! The SB-28 has a PC connector on the side to facilitate off-camera use, just like the SB-24. And even though I no longer had a working connection in the foot, I could still trigger the flash with this secondary plug (I refuse to call it an interface). Certainly, I could use the Wein Peanut slave arrangement I described in this post, but after some thought, decided that it might be more interesting to have a dedicated radio triggered speedlight for use when optical slaves become problematic. I went ahead a tested it using an Eilenchrome Skyport, and found that it worked, although the trigger itself was a bit fussy. I tried it with an older Calumet Wireless (radio) Trigger, which was functional, convenient and compact, but no longer available. Of course, I could always use Pocket Wizards, but they are nearly as large as the speedlight itself. Smaller is better, and more convenient.

Photo #2
Ta Dah! Here's what the combination looks like (Photo #2). I used a mini-microphone jack / locking male PC tip cable to connect the the speedlight to the receiver (friction-fit PC cables were causing some misfires). Free from the limitations of "line of sight" triggering, the possibilities of placing the speedlight in an interesting location have increased significantly. Using the flash setup  makes photography a two- handed affair because the transmitter must now live in the hot-shoe, so I'm now forced to think about exactly where I want to position my light source. At this point I don't know how much I'll miss TTL flash exposure metering, but can probably adopt a standardized flash-to-subject distance/ flash output/ ISO/ aperture combination when working in the field, as I did here. Of course, there's the built-in distance scale readout that could be very useful once I get it calibrated to my taste.

All in all, this has been a "lemons to lemonade" morphing from an initial disaster to a new way to use a flash. Let's see if I'll need to add any sugar.

P.S. I have just ordered a Phottix Ares to try, based on David Hobby's Strobist Post. We'll see how it compares to my older Calumet unit.