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UPDATED! Top Seven Reasons Canon Speedlites Misfire when using RadioPoppers and How to Fix Them

June 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

UPDATED with new information. See Point 1 below.

Have you ever been using your Speedlites in wireless mode and the slave flashes do a full power dump, blowing out your photo in near-pure white (and burning through your batteries)? Or sometimes they just won’t pop at all?

I love my Canon Speedlites and my RadioPopper PX triggers. So much so that I recently sold off my Quantum T5d-Rs, and I’ve almost fully transitioned to using just Speedlites for all aspects of my wedding & portrait photography.

I typically bring 10 Canon Speedlites – all triggered with RadioPoppers – to wedding, engagement and portrait shoots and I use them in wireless mode all day long.

I guess you could call me a #Speedlite #Strobist.

I’m pretty sure I’ve run into (hopefully) every kind of misfire and malfunction one can experience when using Canon Speedlites and RadioPopper PXs, and I’m pretty sure I know what to do to fix them on the spot.

What do I mean by “misfire”? I’m referring to either a total dump (when your flashes fire at full power), or unexpected results (too little light or too much light pouring out of your Speedlites), or where your Speedlites just won’t pop at all.

If your Speedlites and RadioPoppers are misfiring, this is how to fix them, in order of likelihood of source of trouble and ease of fix:

  1. BATTERIES!: change all batteries, in Speedlites and in RadioPoppers. NOTE: I am updating this post to reflect just how important your batteries are, and how likely they are to be the point of failure. Recently I’ve started using expensive Lithium AA and AAA batteries in both my Speedlites and RadioPopper triggers. Not only do I know get lightning fast recharging and availability time from my flashes, but virtually all of the instability (full dumps, no firing) goes away with fresh Lithium batteries. Lithium batteries also last much, much longer than either Alkaline or rechargeable, and they are noticeably lighter. While their two disadvantages are big (expensive and not rechargeable), Lithium batteries in your Speedlites and RadioPoppers offer big enough advantages that I have decided to always use them going forward for any jobs that generate significant revenue, like commercial, wedding, elopement, editorial and headshot jobs. If you’re just starting out or experimenting probably better to stick with rechargeables.
  2. Blocked Infrared Port: check if the foam doughnut has slipped and is blocking the infrared port on the RadioPopper PX receiver.
  3. Reset Poppers: reset all of your RadioPoppers back to factory settings using the following steps from Page 15 of the RadioPopper user manual. For the PX Receiver / PX Transmitter (with the RadioPopper turned on)
  • Press “X” once
  • Press “P” seven times / eight times
  • Hold down “X” for six seconds
  • Power up your RadioPopper PX once, then again. Done! You’ve reset to factory specs.
  1. Loose Hotshoe: wiggle your master flash in the camera body hotshoe to reset it as snugly and tightly as possible.
  2. Broken Hotshoe: hotshoe on either camera body or on master Speedlite is bad, and needs to be repaired. Send to Canon Professional Services :-(.
  3. Slave Speedlite Not In Slave Mode: it’s easy to accidentally knock the slave mode switch off with the 430ex. It’s easy to forget to put canon’s other Speedlites (430exII, 580ex, 580exII) into slave mode.
  4. Master or Slave Speedlite in Wrong Channel: Much harder to accidentally put either the master or slave in the wrong channel, but once you’ve temporarily changed channels (say to divide lights between 1st & 2nd photographers at reception) it’s easy to forget to set them back. I have.

Notice that of these seven causes of misfires only two are the fault of the RadioPoppers. In my experience misfires are usually caused by my batteries, my gear or my error, and the radiopoppers are simply passing on bad information.

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