Sunday, March 21, 2010

Abandoning PC Sync for 1/8" stereo jacks

After reading David Hobby's recent post regarding his dislike for the antiquated PC Sync socket I sat laughing and saying to myself I couldn't agree more. This poorly designed connector has been around since the 1930's, it doesn't lock in place, and they wear out quickly. If you're unfortunate enough to break one or wear it out to the point it is unusable its next to impossible to find a replacement socket. I've worked in the electronics field for nearly a decade now and pride myself on being able to source obscure parts yet I still can't find a decent source for these.

Anywho as Mr.Strobist himself said its time for the PC Jack To DIE!

I recently picked up some new (to me anyway) White Lightning studio strobes which came with some rather well used cords, one of which was completely ready for retirement. I decided to just make some new cords but thought I'd improve the design. The existing cord was a 1/4" mono jack to a PC sync jack, I opted to make a new set but replace the PC sync end with a readily available 1/8" stereo jack instead.

In for a penny, in for a pound I decided to convert most of the rest of my equipment to 1/8" as well. When you're out shooting a gig the last thing you want is unreliable equipment and to me anything that is connected via PC sync cables is unreliable.

First up is my PT04-TM "poverty wizard" wireless triggers. These were nice and easy to mod because there is quite a lot of room inside. I didn't have any 1/8" sockets lying around but I did happen to have some stereo "Y" adapters that I could part with so I hacked them up.

If you're going to attempt something similar I'd advise you make note of the polarity, some devices work fine either way but I know my triggers are polarity sensitive. Inside the PT04-TM receiver the wire going to the center pin of the hotshoe is positive the the one going to the collar is negative. On the 1/8" jacks the tip is positive and the sleeve is negative. In my case I used stereo jacks because that is all I had lying around so I just tied the ring and sleeve together to make it mono. The photo at the top of the article shows the almost finished product, later I added epoxy where the wire entered the case of the receiver. This ensured the wire couldn't accidentally get yanked out and tear a bunch of the wiring.

Closeup of 1/8" socket mod of the PT04-TM receiver

Here is a zoomed in photo of the internal wiring, these particular PT04-TM receivers already had a PC Sync mod done to them when I got them. The heat shrink on the cables wasn't crucial but its better to play it safe when possible.

Next up was my hotshoe-to-pc sync adapter (shown in top picture), for this one I rummaged around until I found an old Sony Walkman I had lying around and gutted it for the 1/8" headphone socket. Normally I would have just went to one of the local electronic supply companies but it was the weekend and I couldn't bring myself to pay 5 times as much at Radioshack. Luckily the adapter was one of the larger ones so there was ample room inside to fit the socket, unfortunately I didn't take a photo of the internals. The process is the same anyway, center pin is positive and collar is negative.

Two Seagul SYK-3's modded with bypass switches and 1/8" sockets

The final gear to mod were two optical slaves I had purchased here for dirt cheap, when I picked them up I had this mod in mind since they're the cheapest hotshoe housing I could find ($5.55) with the added bonus of being optical slaves. The only issue is that I needed to add a switch to turn off or on the optical slave part. I could have just placed a piece of electrical tape over the sensor eye to disable it however I needed to electrically disconnect the slave circuit if I wanted to use this on my 580EXII. For some reason the 580EXII doesn't like cheap optical slaves and will only fire once, the flash then has to be turned off and on again before it will fire again.

I've finally cast off the shackles of the PC sync socket, all that lay before me is reliability and reasonably priced cables ;)

On a side note I picked up some sweet cases from Don's Photo in Saskatoon, these were in the bargain bin for around $10. They come with customizable foam and are rock solid little cases. I was tired of my triggers getting banged around in my bag so I thought I'd protect them a little.

My PT04-TM's and a few odds & ends housed in a Vanguard Swing 8 hard case.

Hopefully if we shout loud enough about how much the PC sync connector sucks the manufacturers will finally start to include 1/8" sockets in their products. Heck even a mini 2.5mm socket like most cell phones have would be fine, as long as its a connector that is abundantly available. Now if only everything would start using mini-usb connections for charging ports...

1 comment:

Jay said...

Very nice mods!

I saw those cases but figured they were not better than my current PW holders so I left them for you. :P