Flash triggers with xBee radios

Photography & Video
Flash triggers with xBee radios



Our own Matt Mets has a great project up where he makes homebrew camera flash triggers with xBee radios:

A year and a half ago, I started dabbling with using off-camera flash units, in order to exact better control over the lighting in my photographs. Of course, to do this, I had to invest in some equipment. I was able to pick up some used flashes for pretty cheap on Craigslist, however there were only two choices for wireless remote controls for them: Quality but expensive (Pocket Wizards), or cheap and questionable (Cactus triggers). Of course, I went for the cheap ones!

Well, I got what I payed for, and they stopped working after a few weeks. Rather than toss them, I had the bright idea of replacing their guts with some xBee transmitters. This actually worked pretty well, but I didn’t get around to documenting them until now. The idea is really simple- just configure the xBees in direct pin mode, and hook them up to the flash sync ports on the camera and flash. Using these transceivers, I am able to reliably pull 1/120th of a second sync speed (probably fine for studio, but not daylight), with an excellent range (something like 1/8th mile outdoors). Though they work fine, the construction quality is definitely questionable, so I’m kicking around designing new enclosures and having them printed.

6 thoughts on “Flash triggers with xBee radios

  1. EthanZ says:

    Using xbees in this situation seems a bit overkill… basic RF transceivers would probably work just fine, and cost much less.

    1. Matt Mets says:

      Probably, but I had a pile of xBees on hand, and they have that really nice virtual pin mode that you can use to set up wireless links without a micro, and also have a fairly noise-immune protocol implemented :-). I’m open for other options though- know of any cheaper systems that could be used instead? Something with less latency would be great, but I really don’t want to implement my own coding scheme for transmitting to them.

      1. alex.s.myopenid.com says:

        You pointed out one with 1/250 sec syncing just a year ago… Did you forget already? ;)

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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