Wireless woes: Radio trigger, receiver, or flash?

Started Jun 5, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Wireless woes: Radio trigger, receiver, or flash?
Jun 5, 2012

For a while, my off-camera flash solution with my NEX 5N (a great camera except for its lack of hotshoe) has been putting a SYK-5 optical slave in front of my on-camera flash, and using it to fire my NPT-04 radio trigger set (from Cowboy Studio or CheapLights, I forget).

I use two flashes: a Yongnuo-460 II, and an old Maxxum.

Yet lately, I've been plagued with receiver troubles. One of my receivers stopped being reliable on both flashes, and the other stopped being reliable on the Yongnuo. If I'm doing shots from different angles, it fires about 50-70% of the time, and I can't find any pattern.

First, I got new batteries. That helped, but didn't completely solve the problem. Then I thought that the receiver might fail at certain angles, and there indeed seem to be some angles where it's slightly more or less reliable, but it's hard to say.

I ordered a new set of NPT-04s, yet the Yongnuo still fails a lot. That made me think that there is some connection problem between its hotshoe foot, and the hotshoe of the NPT-04. The Maxxum has a tighter hotshoe fit. I can make the Yongnuo less reliable by wiggling the connection, picking up my lightstand and plonking it down, or by loosening the screw, but I still can't get it near 100% reliability.

I thought it might be an issue of battery recycle time, where the Maxxum just recycles faster. However, I can click the NPT-04 manual trigger multiple times quickly, and the Yongnuo fires just fine at low power.

What's strange is that I get nearly 95% reliability on the Yongnuo if I just click the test button on the trigger, yet when I actually shoot with the camera, then the Maxxum is reliable, but the Yongnuo is not. If the hotshoe connection of the Yongnuo and the NPT-04 was the problem, why would it fire when manually triggered through the NPT-04 test button, but not when the SYK-5 optical slave fires the NPT-04 trigger? In some cases, the Yonguo might fail to fire, and then I click the test button a couple seconds later (from the same position), and it does fire.

I know that I get what I pay for with cheap electronics, but I'm just stumped because I can't see much of a pattern in my test results. Everything I do only has a probabilistic effect on whether the receiver fires the Yonguo, while it fires the Maxxum near 100% of the time, even if I swap receivers).

If anyone can shed any light on this situation, it would be much appreciated. Or if I give up, then I need to figure out whether to replace my trigger set, or get a new flash.

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