Reader Question

Today, reader Rita asks:

I was wondering if you might have some insight into this issue I’m having.

Shooting with Nikon D800. Off camera speed lights  – SB900 and SB800. Using Pocket Wizard – TT5s on the speedlights, TT1 on the camera, along with AC3 to control light coming out of speedlights. (zone controller).

The issue that I’m having (even on full batteries) is the delay. When I press the shutter, the shutter doesn’t actually release until well after my finger has stopped pressing the shutter. It’s worse than a point and shoot!

I was with Sal Cincotta on a workshop and he was shocked! He shoots Canon, and didn’t have a solution. Have you heard of this? Am I doing something wrong?

Rita followed up by saying she wanted the non-TTL Pocketwizards, but they were not available; and she is using second-curtain shutter sync.

Good question. OK, let’s start at the beginning. No, I doubt very much that you are doing anything wrong.

A "Manual Only" Pocketwizard connected to a Canon flash via a cable

Yes, Pocketwizards need time to send all those pesky TTL signals back and forth (“group one: fire preflash. Now, group 2: fire preflash. Now the real flashes” – etc). Hence, there is extra delay.

When you are using multiple group TTL (group A, group B, etc), this is even more noticeable; and second-curtain sync, especially if you are using a slower shutter speed, will make it even worse. And Nikon is noticeably slower than Canon – even using normal light-driven TTL, on a Nikon most people can see two flashes, while on a Canon, you perceive the two flashes as one since they are very close together.

I have not tried the Nikon version of the TTL Pocketwizards, so I cannot say – but I am not surprised to hear you say this, alas.

Here’s my take on it.

First, I think these TTL Pocketwizards are too ambitious. The engineers who make them have to reverse-engineer the secret Canon and Nikon commands: not a recipe for great technology. Which is why the Canon version took several years to become reliable. And the Nikon version followed the Canon version, i.e. is less mature.

Second: I will never consider any device that uses “special” batteries, if there is an alternative. One of the biggest selling points about the regular PWs is that they use regular AA batteries, not special AAA123 batteries or whatever they are called, that cost $10 and are impossible to find anywhere. End of story, for me.

Third: when I do complex off camera flash, I prefer to use manual flash power settings anyway, meaning I do not need TT1/TT5 Pocketwizards and can now buy the $99 simple model.

So – Rita, while it is possible there is an issue of some sort, I fear that this may just be the inherent drawbacks in your system. But here is what I would check:

  1. Have you ensured that both your camera and the PW’s have the most recent firmware?
  2. Try without rear curtain sync, and with a fast enough shutter speed -what was it, in your case?
  3. Make sure there is a good path from transmitter to receiver and they are close together (for the test, anyway)
  4. Ensure that you have fresh batteries in everything, flashes and PW’s and camera.
  5. Set the PWs to the old channels. This might well help.
  6. Try using manual focus, just in case.
  7. Ensure you have a fresh, formatted memory card, and if necessary, reset your camera to defaults, to eliminate anything else.


Does that make any difference? If not – ask PW support for specs (what is normal?), and if that is too slow, as I fear it may be, then sell the TT1/TT5s and buy some of the new $99 ones. Extra benefit: You will then be able to use any flash (Canon, Nikon, Minolta) that has manual power settings!



  • Who is coming to Oakville this Sunday, noon-4pm, for a Flash course?
  • Who is spending five days in my course at Brock University this August (the Niagara School of Imaging)? There’s still space and my “demystifying digital flash” course is on, so book now! Here’s a video about this course: [click here]


2 thoughts on “Reader Question

  1. Others are reporting no problem with the D800, but they are also saying they upgraded the firmware with an upgrade which referenced the D800.
    Try manual focus and first curtain to see if either have an effect.
    I have the Canon versions and have not had any trouble with them. By the way, the batteries they use last a long time and can be purchased at Dollar stores and most convenience stores. The button batteries are inexpensive and don’t take much space so it’s easy to have a few in your bag.

  2. Make sure to update software properly it is very important
    I shoot canon with tt5 ,tt1 and ac3 controller both TTL and manual with a sekonic 458 light meter with great results
    If you need support I would recommend USA support over Canadian
    They are a lot more helpful

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