Trouble-Shooting Pocket Wizards

I’m posting this today because I recently had trouble with my Pocket Wizards (Plus II’s) and despite my best Google-efforts, nothing I found was helpful for this particular problem. Indeed, nowhere on the internet, that I could find, had anyone even described the symptoms I had.

The problem was that one of my units suddenly (as in, mid-shoot) stopped working, and the red lights, which normally blink, were solid red. No blinking. Turned the unit(s) off, then on again. Swapped in fresh batts. Messed around with cables. No dice. Solid red lights.

I was able to finish my shoot by throwing a flash on the camera, and using it to trigger all my remote lights optically. But it took a call to Mac Group to figure out what was wrong: the cable was worn out and had shorted, somewhere inside the insulation. This is the standard cable that comes with the units, the Mini-to-PC cord that connects the PW to the flash.

It’s well-documented that the PC connector is the stupidest plug ever devised, and whoever is responsible for it should be hung by their toes. I had previously replaced mine by splicing in a Nikon Screwlock tip to that end of the cable, which is much sturdier and had lasted a long time. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, that cable was damaged in a fairly spectacular, uh, lightstand malfunction, and I hadn’t gotten around to making a new one. So guess what I’m doing this afternoon?

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Replacing the PC tip on the cable with a Nikon Screwlock is pretty simple, really. You need a soldering iron and some basic skill with it. The hardest part is that the wires inside that cable are super-fine, and it’s easy to damage them just stripping the insulation back. But there are only two wires to deal with, and as long as you do a decent job taping everything up so there are no shorts (which is the problem you’re trying to prevent in the first place), you’ll have a rock-solid cable that should last you a long time, and never give you the “loose connection” issues that a standard PC tip does.

Why on earth Mac Group doesn’t offer this cable is absolutely beyond me. They have one that I think has the right components, but it’s FIVE FEET LONG! Why the hell would I need a 5′ cable to connect a PW to a flash?! If you’re listening, Mac Group, how about making this? It has to be the most common cable you sell, the one that we all use to connect the PW to our flashes. It needs to be about 12″ long, and feature the Mini plug (for the PW), and a Screwlock PC (for the flash).

And since it’s my idea, I think that, oh, 5% of the gross should do nicely as a thank-you. You can get the address from my website, and checks are fine. Thanks!

8 responses to “Trouble-Shooting Pocket Wizards

  1. For some reason, I bought my PocketWizard to Nikon cords from Paramount Cords and have the http://www.paramountcords.com/proddetail.asp?prod=pw-pc5n PocketWizard to Nikon Screwlock Coiled Cord.

    I know those lightstand malfunctions well. Luckily, the Nikon Sb-80’s are fairly durable, other than the Wide Angle Diffuser flap popping off and being next to impossible to replace to working order, unless a person was previously trained as a cardiovascular surgeon.

  2. Wouldn’t the use of Nikon style screw mount PC connectors make the cables incompatible with other lesser brands of speedlights? Just sayin’…

    πŸ™‚

  3. This may be off topic, but I was curious. I’m soon going to go from HDR shooting to flash shooting, so this could help me a lot. When using the sb-80s do you only need one additional pocket wizard to work all of your strobes? or do you need one for each strobe in the room? Thanks Scott. Love your work.

  4. Ronnie, one of the great things about the SB-80 (also the 800, and 900) is that it has a KILLER built-in optical sensor. So I only need 2 pocket wizards; one for the camera, and one for my “first” flash. All the other flashes will trigger sympathetically with the one that’s on the PW. Works like a charm, even around corners and in remote rooms.

  5. http://www.flashzebra.com/wizardcables/screwlock.shtml

    Bingo! 15″ Screwlock to Miniphone cord πŸ™‚

    You’re welcome Scott.