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Captain Fathom

UWT converter random loss of sync, Sony 6400

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Posted (edited)

Thanks to the Covid virus I have not gotten my Nauticam A6400 in the water hardly at all in 2020. But, the few dives I did, more to learn and familiarize myself with the outfit, I found an annoying issue I have not been able to rectify. I have the A6400 set in manual, I have configured one of the buttons to turn on or off the WL command and I am running two Inon D2000 strobes also set in Manual (with magnet switch installed). I have the TTL converter set to 0 which is the hardwired manual condition with no pre-flash emitted by the diodes via internal firmware with the WL command WL to on condition. 

All seems to work fine except that on average, and this with limited use, about every 6th shot there is no sync resulting in an underexposed shot despite both strobes firing. If I shoot again (lol, if my subject is still available!) all is well. But then again, unpredictably, no sync. 

I have also tried the UWT converter set to 9 (S2000 position), then using the WL command to WL on, strobes in manual, A6400 in manual. Again, I get a string of good shots interrupted by a fail to sync shot. And, yes, the D2000 strobes are firing and the diodes are firing.

I have D2000 Inon strobes, the TTL converter does not have the exact program profile therefore I use the S2000 (position 9 on the converter). I do not see this to be the problem as the S2000 is really just a mini-D2000. And in either case, sync is sync, in converter set to 0  position, it certainly should not matter. 

My first UWT converter was replaced under warranty due to a firmware known issue, so this one is number two. I would really like to solve this problem as I love the concept of the UWT converter but the random failure to sync is perplexing. I have some trips coming up and have not yet been able to solve this mystery. But, my fall back is to unplug the UWT converter and revert to onboard flash, which works reliably, produces a lot of heat, sucks down my battery and is functionally slower. 

Thanks for any thoughts. And yes, set up on my dining room table, I find the same issue happening. I hate running my aging D2000 strobes dry, but yes, the random fail to sync does occur dry.

Edited by Captain Fathom

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Have you tried other switch positions for this system, besides the s2000?  I would think of a D2000 as being more like a lower featured Z240.  The other question is how did you confirm that no pre flash occurred from the UWT?  I'm assuming WL command is a fudge to cause the A6400 to shoot in manual (no preflash or TTL) flash?

When you say an under exposed shot - is there any contribution from flash or is it pure ambient exposure?  the standard way of checking this is shooing into a mirror to see if any flash fires at the right time.

One possibility is that the camera periodically "forgets" it is supposed to be in WL mode fires off a pre flash and main flash causing the D2000 to fire twice and the second flash does not have enough power so it either does not fire or fires weakly.  This could be tested by seeing if the behaviour is the same when shooting at  half or full power compared to shooting at something like 1/16 power so the flash has enough capacity for multiple shots. 

If you have tried these out and it persists perhaps PM Pavel if he doesn't respond to this thread.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ChrisRoss said:

Have you tried other switch positions for this system, besides the s2000?  I would think of a D2000 as being more like a lower featured Z240.  The other question is how did you confirm that no pre flash occurred from the UWT?  I'm assuming WL command is a fudge to cause the A6400 to shoot in manual (no preflash or TTL) flash?

When you say an under exposed shot - is there any contribution from flash or is it pure ambient exposure?  the standard way of checking this is shooing into a mirror to see if any flash fires at the right time.

One possibility is that the camera periodically "forgets" it is supposed to be in WL mode fires off a pre flash and main flash causing the D2000 to fire twice and the second flash does not have enough power so it either does not fire or fires weakly.  This could be tested by seeing if the behaviour is the same when shooting at  half or full power compared to shooting at something like 1/16 power so the flash has enough capacity for multiple shots. 

If you have tried these out and it persists perhaps PM Pavel if he doesn't respond to this thread.

 

Mr. Chris, thanks for the thoughts.

The WL command is used by the  firmware within the TTL converter that sees the WL command to not pre-flash. 

The "0" position on the converter switch is irrespective of the type of strobe as it is a hard wire manual. I have available to me an S2000 strobe and the issue does not go away. The operation of the S2000 and D2000 are very similar. The "9" position is for the TTL operation with the S2000 in the sTTL mode. Of course, I am running twin D2000 strobes, but this is not really the cause of the problem.

When I say underexposed, I was not clear, thank you for pointing that out. You are correct, in a mirror, there is no visible flash when the condition occurs. The condition is random, I do not seem to be able to tie it to anything in particular. The converter and camera work fine, and then loss of sync. Fire again, it is good!  I am beginning to think you might be on to something in that occasionally the converter does not see the WL command.

The Sony onboard strobe cannot be configured for 1/16 power nor can the pre-flash be cancelled (thus my desire for the UWT trigger). The UWT trigger is a hot shoe connection, the camera strobe is out of the system so setting it to a low power is of no point. The apparent brightness of the D2000 strobe does not visibly differ when the failure to sync occurs. Of course not because the strobe is in manual setting and the power setting is what I dialed in. It just simply is not in sync when it fires on random occasions. 

The position "9" for sTTL does work with the strobes in sTTL position and I am able to control the exposure and I can also revert the strobes to manual and again control the exposure but in both cases, I still get a random failure to sync. Forgive me but I am thinking through as I write. I am afraid I will burn my strobes up just banging away trying to isolate each setting to isolate the problem. I cannot isolate the problem, that as much as anything is frustrating. I do not wish to blame it on the converter, but, right now, it is suspect number 1. 

The good news is that the system, with the UWT converter disconnected, I can revert to the A6400 strobe and all is well in both full manual (strobe and camera) and manual camera and sTTL strobe. 

 

 

Edited by Captain Fathom

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I'm talking about testing the strobe - D2000 at 1/16 power instead of close to full power.  This is to test if the strobe does not have enough power to flash immediately after a pre -flash.  If the strobe is in manual and you fire the pre flash the strobe gives out whatever power you program then tries to do it again a small fraction of a second later.  If you are at say for example half a stop off full power it may not have enough power stored to flash again.  But if the strobe is on manual at 1/16 power it can easily give two flashes.  In your case it may mostly have enough power but occasionally does not so testing it at low strobe power will rule this out.

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Posted (edited)

Okay, I see, I will try that tomorrow, good thought. Thank you.

Off subject, I may purchase new Z330 strobes at some future point. Since they have wired/electric sync capability (as does the Z240) what do I need to run them as such with my A6400 Nauticam?

 

Edited by Captain Fathom

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You should be able to run them optically using the UWT board as well.  Check with Pavel if you need to upgrade anything. 

If you want to run them electrically with associated o-ring maintenance issues you would need to get a bulkhead and connectors. You can get a manual only bulkhead  that connects to a hotshoe or I believe you can get one that connects onto the UWT board.   You then need a pair of sync cables.  I'm not 100% certain about how the Sony A series behave when hooked up to a manual only bulkhead and what happens with the pre-flash.  Again check with Pavel what your options are, he's very knowledgable about this field.

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

You should be able to run them optically using the UWT board as well.  Check with Pavel if you need to upgrade anything. 

If you want to run them electrically with associated o-ring maintenance issues you would need to get a bulkhead and connectors. You can get a manual only bulkhead  that connects to a hotshoe or I believe you can get one that connects onto the UWT board.   You then need a pair of sync cables.  I'm not 100% certain about how the Sony A series behave when hooked up to a manual only bulkhead and what happens with the pre-flash.  Again check with Pavel what your options are, he's very knowledgable about this field.

I have not done your experiment yet, I had to go into work but I will. That is a good thought.

But, to answer, I am interested in a manual only (which most photogs prefer) electrical solution that does not use the UWT board because it is not, thus far, reliable. So I am looking to do something other than a flash trigger board. This being board number 2, different issue on the first one, I have sort of lost faith given the cost of the unit.  It is not my camera and if it were a firmware issue on the Sony side, whatever that might be, the trigger board is going to have to work with that because Sony will not address such an issue with a niche UW flash board. The problem lies with the board, my camera is not faulty. I find a one FTS in six average not an acceptable outcome.

Using the camera strobe, as Nauticam intended, works fine, I just wanted a way to trigger without pre-flash and and without the battery drain of the onboard flash as a trigger. Functionally it works great in manual, manual with strobe TTL and full TTL. But I like the concept of the board.

I see the parts I need on the Nauticam and Reef sites for wired electrical X- sync.

Edited by Captain Fathom

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9 hours ago, Captain Fathom said:

Using the camera strobe, as Nauticam intended, works fine, I just wanted a way to trigger without pre-flash and and without the battery drain of the onboard flash as a trigger. Functionally it works great in manual, manual with strobe TTL and full TTL. But I like the concept of the board.

I see the parts I need on the Nauticam and Reef sites for wired electrical X- sync.

Which I why I suggested you check how your camera responds when using a simple single contact two wire hot shoe - if it still pre-flashes through a wired connection you need the strobe to ignore the first flash. 

I know my Z-240s "ignore" it as in don't do anything based upon the first flash but the they still trigger on main and pre-flash - I've tested my Z-240s - the way to test your strobe is to have the strobe on manual, magnet in set it to  a low manual power, then trigger it with the onboard flash in TTL and in rear curtain sync and set the camera up to a slow shutter speed.  In this situation the pre flash goes off, the shutter opens and just before it closes the main flash goes off.  The slow shutter speed (1/2 sec plus) will allow you to see both the pre flash and the main flash distinctly, so you can check how your strobes respond.  It might be an issue with my strobes which Is why I suggested you check.

As to whether or not the A6400 will flash twice through a two wire bulkhead, I would post a separate topic to ask that question, I'm sure someone will know.

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8 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

Which I why I suggested you check how your camera responds when using a simple single contact two wire hot shoe - if it still pre-flashes through a wired connection you need the strobe to ignore the first flash. 

I know my Z-240s "ignore" it as in don't do anything based upon the first flash but the they still trigger on main and pre-flash - I've tested my Z-240s - the way to test your strobe is to have the strobe on manual, magnet in set it to  a low manual power, then trigger it with the onboard flash in TTL and in rear curtain sync and set the camera up to a slow shutter speed.  In this situation the pre flash goes off, the shutter opens and just before it closes the main flash goes off.  The slow shutter speed (1/2 sec plus) will allow you to see both the pre flash and the main flash distinctly, so you can check how your strobes respond.  It might be an issue with my strobes which Is why I suggested you check.

As to whether or not the A6400 will flash twice through a two wire bulkhead, I would post a separate topic to ask that question, I'm sure someone will know.

Still working on thsi Chris. One thing, rear curtain sync is not available with the WL command on. With the magnet installed I am getting a single flash from the strobes, not two.

Best I can determine, I get a single flash but when the FTS occurs, that single flash is simply not occurring when the shutter is open. I will get six or seven good exposures, then a badly under exposed, ambient only shot. 

Strobes in Manual

Camera in Manual

WL command on

Magnet installed

Flash Fill setting

I am beginning to think that the WL command is simply not a stable camera setting or not stable in the UWT board. For whatever reason, the camera does not issue the command or the trigger ignores it and the UWT board is firing the strobes out of sync as a result. I am very confused. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Okay, here is what I did. I removed the camera from the housing. I also then removed the UWT board from the housing by gently prying it out. I affixed it atop the camera and then pointed the camera at a mirror. And predictably, about every sixth shot, give or take, randomly, the LEDs do not fire and are not visible in the photo. When all is working well the LEDs are clearly visible in the shot. 

I guess I am the only person with an A6XXX camera and UWT board, lol. I would be curious if others have the same FTS at random times? I would be challenged to believe my camera is defective. I just think it not to be a stable operating condition, that being using the WL command to ignore a pre-flash via trigger board firmware. 

I could almost ignore it except that sometimes it will do this two or even three times in a row and then a string of good shots. The "one" shot will of course be the one the malfunction occurs on and therefore is unacceptable to me. 

So, I was incorrect, the board is NOT firing and I thought it was. You would think this easy to verify but it is not apparently for me. It is not perhaps a failure to sync but a failure of the board to fire the LEDs.

 

Edited by Captain Fathom

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Curious. As Chris has suggested, why not drop Pavel a message at UWT? He's terrifically helpful and may well be able to figure out what might be going and what, possibly, could be the solution. 

 

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1 hour ago, TimG said:

Curious. As Chris has suggested, why not drop Pavel a message at UWT? He's terrifically helpful and may well be able to figure out what might be going and what, possibly, could be the solution. 

 

Tim since you ask as did Chris, let me respond to you both in regards that question. Why would I not seek the experiences of other A6XXX camera users with the UWT trigger? Why would I not and why would it be expected that I would not? I am not understanding why I am being asked this? Is this not a legitimate forum topic?

Further, I will contact Pavel, a super nice man. I wanted to have more knowledge on my part before contacting him a second time. Yes, as I indicted up thread, this is my second UWT trigger. The first trigger had two failure modes:

1. The first trigger would randomly going into an uncontrolled firing mode and would not stop firing until I cycled camera power.

2. The first trigger also had the same or similar issue I am having with my second trigger that I started this thread over, random failure to drive my strobes. In the first trigger I never explored this issue much but it does seem to be the same issue I have with trigger number two. I was just distracted by the larger issue of my strobes firing continuously, that sort of got my attention as it would yours. 

I was incorrect, in my earlier saying it was a failure to sync, it is a failure to sync because the LEDs do not fire so of course my strobes do not fire. I apologize for that confusing distraction. As I dig further into this problem I understand more. 

I am sorry, if the threads I started are inappropriate please have them deleted. I was interested in and requesting experiences of other users with this product, I thought that was a reasonable quest.

James

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6 hours ago, Captain Fathom said:

 

Best I can determine, I get a single flash but when the FTS occurs, that single flash is simply not occurring when the shutter is open. I will get six or seven good exposures, then a badly under exposed, ambient only shot. 

 

What I was referring to was to use the built in flash to trigger to test how your strobe performs - this is a fundamental problem as it effectively locks out a full power flash is you need it.  If you are buying new strobes to use with the Sony, this may influence your choice of strobe.  It is also a reason to persist with the board troubleshooting as it gets around this limitation of the strobes.

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2 hours ago, Captain Fathom said:

Tim since you ask as did Chris, let me respond to you both in regards that question. Why would I not seek the experiences of other A6XXX camera users with the UWT trigger? Why would I not and why would it be expected that I would not? I am not understanding why I am being asked this? Is this not a legitimate forum topic?

..........

I am sorry, if the threads I started are inappropriate please have them deleted. I was interested in and requesting experiences of other users with this product, I thought that was a reasonable quest.

James

Hi James, there is no problem seeking advice of other A series users and it is always possible someone has seen the problem before.  We simply suggest this because no one else has responded and these issues can be very involved to troubleshoot.  Pavel designs the board and should immediately be able to tell you if what you are seeing is normal.  We have good knowledge of strobes in general and can suggest ways of testing but not always knowledge of the intricacies of each individual camera/trigger combination.

The thread is not inappropriate and I'm sorry you got that impression, we are only suggesting you contact Pavel as not everyone knows they can do that and believe he's probably in the best position to help in this situation.  Please report back if you get resolution on this - others may benefit in the future.

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Hi James

As Chris says, your questions are not inappropriate at all. Far from it. It's just, as Chris says, Pavel is the expert in this area and it's a board he may well have designed. No-one so far has been able to help resolve the issue for you - but Pavel may well be able to do just that. Hence our suggestion. 

If you aren't comfortable contacting him, that's fine. Entirely your call. It could be that at some stage someone does have the solution or a good suggestion and will respond here. 

Both Chris and I are just trying to help.

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4 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

What I was referring to was to use the built in flash to trigger to test how your strobe performs - this is a fundamental problem as it effectively locks out a full power flash is you need it.  If you are buying new strobes to use with the Sony, this may influence your choice of strobe.  It is also a reason to persist with the board troubleshooting as it gets around this limitation of the strobes.

Chris and Tim, thank you both. If I seem cranky, it is not you guys, it is me, I am getting frustrated. But I may be making some progress, at least at understanding what is going on, thank you both.

Chris, I did your set up and the A6400 using the onboard strobe works fine. The Inon strobes produce a pre-flash and properly sync in sTTL mode and in Manual mode with the magnet switch removed I get good sync. I see two flashes when I use the rear curtain sync and slow shutter. In both strobes manual and sTTL I am able to control my exposure from light to dark using the strobe power dial and as well in sTTL mode using the camera +/- EV flash control. When shooting my strobes in manual mode I run the EV control down to -3 stops to conserve battery power. Since the Sony cameras cannot cancel the pre-flash I just have to live with that when using the onboard flash as the trigger. But functionally it is fine. 

I will contact Pavel, I am just trying to get to the facts and was hopeful others had some direct experience as well to give before I contacted him. This being my second board, both with a similar issue, I am concerned.

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