2nd Curtain Sync on 5D II/III Bodies - Solved !

Started Oct 30, 2012 | Discussions thread
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sixgun Regular Member • Posts: 169
2nd Curtain Sync on 5D II/III Bodies - Solved !

Thank you for all the private messages with interest in this topic, because of your support and inquiries - I am posting this so that those who want to use 2nd Curtain sync with studio strobes and external (non-Canon) flash will now have a reliable way of using this feature on 5D II/ III bodies and other Canon bodies where it currently is only enabled via the speedlight menu when Canon Speedlights are attached to the camera hot shoe.

Background: Canon, it its infinite wisdom, removed 2nd Curtain shutter sync from the custom function menu (cFn). Further, this valuable feature is only enabled when a Canon 580EXII or newer speed light is mounted in the hot shoe. This is true on the 5DII, and III, as well as the 7D and 6D. 2CS is still supported via the PC port on most older bodies. Many of us do not use speed lights, especially for large jobs that require the light of a studio strobe.

We are scratching our heads why Canon would do this ? It really does not make much sense... but we have come up with a workaround should you be interested.

The ability to support 2CS at the PC port has been a standard feature on nearly all DSLRs, including the original 5D. The only reason we can see why Canon did this was to sell more speed lights, but even that does not make sense.... in that most people who are using 2CS are using it in sports and motion photography  -  with much higher power strobes - its not a mainstream function for most shooters - although once you know how to use it, I'd argue that you'll never take your camera off 2CS - even for indoor portraits and weddings, etc.

When you are shooting any kind of motion it becomes absolutely indispensable. It also will save many a shot at lower shutter speeds in low light. For instance, we use it in low light receptions - hand held at shutter speeds as low as 1/10 sec we still have in-focus faces. It also allows bringing in a lot more background light which can make an image more interesting -  instead of having images look like "flash" images with in focus subjects and black or dark backgrounds they look more natural.

Our challenge mainly came when were 1> photographing night time racing action and 2> using a Quantum strobe mounted on a camera bracket to light a passing vehicle - and 10 remote studio strobes in various places to supply an entire street with mood lighting. The premise was to show the vehicle in motion - but still have the driver in focus. This is a somewhat common practice in vehicle advertising, and not possible with speedlights.

There are three specific scenarios that we tested - there may be more, feel free to add to the post if you have tried them.

Using a Quantum flash on a flash bracket (i.e. digital pro-m or equiv) with no other lights.

1> Using a Quantum stand-alone strobe like a T5dR (not the Trio or other all-in-one) - you will need a D23-WR QTTL adaptor mounted in the camera hot shoe. The QTTL adaptor has a switch on the back that will enable 2nd curtain reqardless of the the shutter speed or camera settings. This is a very handy switch, and for the most part, we never put it on 1CS. It works in all modes supported by the Qflash. This works exceptionally well for bare bulb photography outdoors.

Using a Quantum flash on a bracket + a pocket wizard Plus III to fire remote strobes.

2> Using the same setup as #1 above PLUS being able to trigger remote strobes with pocket wizard interfaces. A household-stereo mini cable # 541 connected to the input port on a PW Plus III , along with the 2nd Curtain sync switch in 2CS mode will allow ALL strobes to sync off the 2nd Curtain. Cable MUST be connected to Qflash and not camera PC port - this solved our problem above with the street scene and racing action.

Using only the camera and off camera strobes - (i.e. no flash on bracket)

3> There are times where front light is not needed or you don't want the buik of a bracketted strobe - in that case, you only need a Pocket Wizard MiniTT1, Flex TT5 or Plus III in the camera hot shoe. Via the Pocket Wizard utility - you enable enhanced 2nd curtain sync. You can set the shutter speed cut-in (default is 1/100 sec) and several increments down to 1/10 sec. This is great if you are only only triggering a bank of off camera flash units.
We do not own the older pocket wizard Plus or Plus II units so I have no idea if this will work, my guess is that it will not but maybe someone could chime in here...

Unfortunately, we do not know of any way to use the Camera's PC port to trigger 2nd Curtain under any circumstance - so you are limited to using Pocket Wizards in all three scenarios.

We think Canon was short-sighted in removing 2CS from its cFn menus, but at least there is now a way around it. We suspect a firmware hack will be made available soon as well...
If someone has other ideas or has tested other scenarios, by all means please post them!

Happy Shooting,


President, 6IXGUN.COM

The image below represents 1st curtain sync vs. 2nd curtain. As you can see the first image is what happens when the flash goes off first, the trail is in front of the ball and it looks goofy. Using 2nd Curtain, the flash goes off after he background is exposed and results in a much more natural looking shot.

This works with portraits as well - allowing more of the background light in (even if out of focus) will usually always result in a more natural looking image with subjects in focus.

Image courtesy Pocket Wizard / LPA

In the case of portraits, here is an example of why 2nd curtain is great in weddings - this shot in 1st curtain would look like a flash shot with little background interest or even a dark background. Instead, its a very moving shot worthy of the family album.

Photo by Lindsay Silverman

Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS 7D
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