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Triggering master flash with pocket-wizard


I am trying to trigger a bank of 3 speedlites (2x 580EX-II's + 580EX) by putting a 580EX-II on master with a pocket wizard, setting the other two flashes to slave, and triggering the master flash with an on camera (5Dm2) pocket wizard. When I put the flash on master, the flash pocket-wizard no longer communicates with the on camera pocket-wizard. Even pressing the Test button on the p-w attached to the master flash will not fire it.


How can I make this work without using an on camera flash or bringing 2 more p-w's?


I am using Pocket-wizard PLUS II transceivers

I'm a bit confused ... you have THREE Pocket Wizard Plus II transceivers?  One per camera?


The flashes themselves should simply be set to manual and neither in master nor slave (only the Pocket Wizards should be configured).  Basically the flashes are waiting for the sync-cord to tell them when to fire and are oblivious to the fact that there are other flashes.  Only the Pocket Wizards need to be aware that there are other flashes (more correctly... other Pocket Wizards.)


Is this what you're doing and still having difficulty?


The Canon flashes have their own optical system for remote triggering but the sensor is in the base of the flash.  The system is reliable if the remotes have (a) line of sight, and (b) the base is rotated to face the master flash (take advantage of the fact that the heads swivel to point the light where you need it but point the base to face the master.)  In that case (no Pocket Wizards) you would set the on-camera flash to master and the remotes as slaves.


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

Thanks for your response TCampbell. 

I am trying to get away with not having to haul 4 P.W.s around (one for camera, three for flashes) and also would rather not have an on camera flash for this setup. Ideally, I would have one PW transmitting from the camera to the one flash with the recieveing PW in the bank. I then want to have the flash with the recieveing PW to be set on master resulting in the other two slave, pocketwizard-less, flashes to be triggered. 

When the flashes are set on Manual and PWs are configured, the system works fine as long as there are PW's attached to each flash. My problem comes in when I remove all the PW's but one and set that flash on master and the other two on slave. When master is enabled the PW's no longer communicate.

To put it in another way, basicly, I am just doing a 3 light setup with a master on camera flash and 2 slaves. But trying to avoid the on camera master flash and just want to trigger the master via PW.


Also, when I mention "3 in a bank" I mean there are three speedlites on one light stand all fireing into an umbrella for extra power/faster recycle time.

I hope that clears up any confusion. If not, I will post pics to clarify.

I don't think that Canon optical system is compatible with the PW.  I can't say I've tried it, but read of others trying to do something similar without success.  Unfortunately Canon doesn't put in a simple traditional slave system in their flashes.  Sadly, a $50 generic flash could easily do what you're trying to do.


You could get around this by using an optical trigger to put on the two slaves.  Use one set of PW to trigger your master flash, and then optically trigger the other two.  You can only fire manual, of course, but that sounds like all you're trying to do.  The 580exII is known to be picky with optical triggers, but the Flash Zebra is supposed to work:



Great! I'll try a couple of those. I think that'll do the trick.


I'll report back once I try them out.



Sounds good.  Was trying to find the Syl Arena article where I learned about those things and stumbled upon this instead.  LOoks like exactly what you're trying to do:




One note, before you spend $30+ on optical triggers.  If you're ok shooting in manual, why not just pick up a set of Yongnuo radio triggers for like $40 and have them all on RF triggers?

I already have enough Pocketwizards to go around so no reason to get more radio triggers. I shoot a lot of action sports and many locations I shoot at have long approaches. Pack weight and space are cricial. By subbing in those optical slave instead of pocket wizards I'll have enough space to carry another speedlight if I choose. 

I understand, but keep in mind the limitations of optical slaves.  They don't work very well in bright sunlight.  And even indoors they only work to a distance of 30 feet or so.  The Yongnuo triggers that I mentioned are very small, much smaller than PW.  Not trying to get you to buy more stuff, just something to keep in mind.  They also make a flash (560 III) that has a radio trigger built in.

Those Flash Zebra optical triggers worked great on the 580-ex II's. The 580 EX doesn't have a PC plug so I bought a hotshoe adapter ( to try to make either a PW or Optical trigger work with it. I got the adapter in the mail and the PC plug on it didn't seem to work. After sending it back and getting a second adapter in the mail today, the second one has the same issue making me thing it is my flash or operator error.

Does anyone have experience with useing those hotshoe adapters with a 580EX?