Syncing A Canon 580EXii In Stand-Alone Commander Mode With Any Camera


The Context

I was given my Grandad’s Canon AE-1.  I’ve let it sit in a closet for 18 years. But I fixed it & It’s back in business now.  I want to use it & sync multiple flashes to do some … flash stuff.  So i’ve been learning to really use a flash meter & work stuff out.

What I’ve Learned

The 580EXii can act as a commander in manual mode for 3 groups NOT connected to a TTL camera.  You can just power it up and program in your power levels for the 3 groups A:B:C…DOPE!  OR you can do the whole ETTL-style thing with power ratios…but i’m going to not pay attention to that ‘cause I can work out the ratios in my head, & I feel safer & more “grounded” if i’m working with 1/8th power, 1/4th power, etc…

You can even fire your grunt flashes by setting your power levels (on the commander, mind you, this is the key to the neat-ness) & hitting the pilot button, & they will all fire correctly, for old school manual realness. 

A 580EXii can be fired/triggered from the camera either by a PC sync cord, or the hotshoe via a long cable.  

(but callisonic…why don’t you just use pocketwizards?…

cause i spent a year using pocketwizards and getting black frames when the shitting things wouldn’t communicate with each other…i switched over to a hybrid long hotshoe-corded / McNally method of line of sight, and saw my flashes all start to work in a rock solid fashion EVEN OUTDOORS.  seriously 33% of all my shots were missed cause the pocket wizards couldn’t hang.)

Turns out:  

The 580EXii *doesn’t* transmit commander info when synced/fired by the PC cord method. dang!

The 580EXii *does* transmit commander info to grunt flashes if triggered by the hotshoe cable.  EVEN if that hotshoe cable is a “dumb” hotshoe cable…not a modern ETTL hotshoe on the camera…even the Canon AE-1 (&presumably any camera with a hotshoe connection) will trigger the flash which will send out the commander pulses to the grunt flashes.  DOPE!

They don’t tell you this in the manual so hopefully i just saved you 15 dollars on a pc cord purchase that’s unnecessary.

Can’t wait to make multi-flash photos with my grandad’s 35mm film camera.  yeah.

Sidenote:  I’m going to try and refrain from using MALE/FEMALE & MASTER/SLAVE language when I talk about this stuff from now on.  That’s gonna be hard to do as an A/V nerd.  but that language needs to be deprecated, stat.

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