A lot of mystery surrounds PocketWizard’s much ballyhooed sync-timing technique called, “HyperSync.” LIGHTBASICS.com now hosts the first controlled HyperSync tests which finally reveal some answers. The good news is that it works (mostly). First, know that HyperSync performance is highly dependent on both the specific camera used, and the type of flash used. Even cameras among the same brand may have wildly differing HyperSync performance characteristics, since certain cameras simply “work” better than others. But, most importantly, strobes with long flash durations, or large “t = 0.5 values,” are best suited to benefit from HyperSync.
The Nikon D800E HyperSync image above was shot at over twice the D800E’s normal sync speed of 1/250th, at a shutter speed of 1/640th. The main key light was provided by a Speedotron 1,000 Watt-second monolight (with a t.5 value of 1/850th), through a 72″ x 54″ softbox. A PocketWizard Flex TT1 transmitter was mounted in the D800E’s hot-shoe, and a Flex TT5 transceiver was attached to the strobe.
what is HyperSync?
Put simply, it’s a programmable adjustment to the flash-sync timing which allows certain cameras and strobes to benefit from faster than “normal” sync speeds (which is typically limited to 1/250th on pro bodies), and enables you to sync your strobes at shutter speeds as fast as 1/8,000th with little or no shutter-curtain shadow. While there are other methods to achieve this (e.g., “high-speed sync hack” or “HSS hack”), PocketWizard’s Flex TT1 transmitters and TT5 transceivers have been designed specifically to take advantage of this technique, and offer the convenience of programmable sync-timing offsets in firmware.
What are the benefits to increased shutter speeds while still being able to use your strobe? While most view HyperSync as a technique to “overpower the sun,” that’s only one of three applications where HyperSync can be useful:
1. Increasing flash-to-ambient ratio to darken daylight exterior backgrounds.
2. Enabling large apertures when using strobes in daylight, without using an ND filter.
3. Employing high shutter speeds when using strobes in daylight to freeze motion.
HyperSync test series 1: Quantum Qflash
HyperSync test series 2: Speedotron Force 10
how can I benefit from HyperSync?
First, you need to buy at least one PocketWizard Flex TT1, and one Flex TT5 (you can also use two Flex TT5s, but most prefer the smaller TT1 for mounting in their camera’s hot-shoe). If you don’t want to make the investment in PocketWizard triggers, you can also try experimenting using the so-called “HSS hack” (this is where you trigger an off-camera strobe using the PC-terminal on your camera, while placing Speedlight in your camera’s hot-shoe).
Second, to benefit most from HyperSync, select a strobe with a long flash duration, or large “t.5 value.” Generally, any t.5 value of 1/1,000th or slower should provide usable results. Here’s a list of long flash duration strobes, listed from slowest (best) to shortest (worst), compiled from manufacturer-supplied specifications.
longest duration t=0.5 value AC monolights/portable flash units:
[all flash durations are at maximum-power unless otherwise noted]
1. Quantum Qflash = 1/300th
2. Metz Mecablitz series = 1/375th†
3. Lumedyne (various models) = 1/400th w/400Ws Signature-series power supply
4. Paul C. Buff Einstein E640 = 1/540th
5. Calumet Travelite 750R = 1/650th
6. Dynalite Uni400Jr. = 1/675th
7. Elinchrom D-Lite 400Ws RX4 = 1/800th.
8. Lumedyne (various models) = 1/800th w/200Ws Signature-series power supply
9. Speedotron Force 10 = 1/850th [constant at all power levels]
10. Bowens Gemini 500C/500R/Calumet Travelite 375R = 1/900th
11. Elinchrom Quadra S-head: Full-power = 1/1,200th [‘A’ outlet]**
†This value is only an estimate, derived by multiplying the published t=0.1 value by three, and has not been confirmed by the manufacturer.
**Note that there are other monolights with t=0.5 values lower than the Quadra-S head (e.g., 1/950th-1/1,100th), but this is the longest-duration strobe in a major-brand product in common professional use).
longest duration t=0.5 value DC-powered ring flash:
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra 400Ws ringflash ECO:
[for use with Quadra Hybrid RX/ELB 400 power supplies/batteries only]
Maximum power: 1/600th (t=0.5); 1/300th (t=0.1); [‘A’ outlet].
Minimum power: 1/1,500th (t=0.5); 1/1,000th (t=0.1); [‘A’ outlet].
longest duration t=0.5 value Nikon Speedlights:
[Speedlights typically behave the opposite of studio strobes, where their longest flash-duration occurs at their minimum power setting.]
1. Nikon SB-400 = 1/300th
2. Nikon SB-900/910 = 1/880th
3. Nikon SB-600 = 1/900th
4. Nikon SB-700 = 1/1,042th
5. Nikon SB-800 = 1/1,050th