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Review: OCF Gear TTL Cords (Canon and Nikon)

by Chris Gampat on 02/18/2012

In today’s high technology photo world, I often state on this site that we sometimes need to return to basics. After reviewing the very excellent Phottix Odin TTL triggers and Vello’s Freewave Fusion wireless triggers, I contacted Syl Arena about his very own OCF Gear TTL cords that he developed by himself.

Syl was kind enough to send them to me in both Canon and Nikon and over the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of testing them out during other different reviews. So can they really outdo today’s complicated wireless radio triggers?

Gear Used

Canon 5D Mk II

35mm f1.4 L

580 EX II

430 EX II

OCF Gear Canon TTL Cord

Impact Light Stand

Nikon D5100

Rokinon 8mm f3.5 fisheye

Nikon SB-600

Gorillapod

OCF Gear Nikon TTL Cord

Ergonomics

As seen in the lead image, these cords feature one end that goes into the hot shoe of your camera and another end that connects to your speedlite (or speedlight depending on which brand you’re using.)

The bottom of the cords feature connections. One end lines up accordingly with the pins of your camera’s hot shoe for full e-TTL or i-TTL communication. The other is a tripod mount. That makes it much easier to put your flash on a light stand of some sort.

While these babies are around 33 feet long, they can curl up to become relatively compact even when properly wrapping the cords up. Yes, there is a wrong way to wrap a cord. You’re supposed to wrap a cord up with its natural coil. Going against this coil can often damage the cord and cut down its effective lifespan.

Be careful though, because otherwise they can become a bit tough to manage. I learned this when trying to unwrap Jill. I also realized first hand just how long these are.

In Use

Using these cords is fairly straight forward. What they do is let you place your flash anywhere within range of your camera. The first thing you’ll expect from them is to not have to worry about metering or adjusting the output of your flash when you hook them up and are ready to shoot.

I’m proud to say that when shooting in TTL mode, both Canon and Nikon flashes work terrifically. The two photos above were shot with Nikon’s system during the 8mm f3.5 fisheye review. I love the way that Nikon’s i-TTL system works combined with Nikon’s sensors and Rokinon’s lenses. The colors pop so well and thankfully, very little effort went into this shoot as far as technicalities go.

Since I own two Canon flashes, I decided to get a bit more complicated. The photo above had one flash camera left and above hitting Jill. However, on the right is a 430 EX II set to slave mode. That means that my 580 EX II was wirelessly setting off it’s little sibling.

To learn more about how to do this, we have a whole intro to Canon’s Wireless Flash System and we’ve answered a question on how to exactly set the flashes off wirelessly.

The TTL system still seemed to work effectively, but it wasn’t really doing what I wanted it to to get the creative effect I wanted.

In order to achieve that effect, I had to set the 580 EX II to manual mode and kept the 430 EX II as a fill in flash. Luckily, when the cord is connected to the camera, the camera thinks that a flash is in the hot shoe, and not a cord. Therefore, I was easily able to change the settings using Canon’s menu system within the camera.

Later on in the shoot, I decided to test out how the cords worked for high speed sync shooting. Once again, they impressed me and didn’t fail once. That’s how I was able to get the look above.

Then I tried a different set up. I aimed the 580 EX II up top to light the part of the Jill that is camera left. And then for some extra fill, I made sure that the 430 EX II could, “see” the 580 EX II’s flash output. The flash patterns of both flashes can be seen in the photo above.

As an extra note; the 580 EX II was so powerful that the light was visible to the 430 EX II. Additionally, both flashes were set to TTL mode.

Indeed, I was still very impressed with the results. Use of either cord requires some knowledge of the company’s TTL system and how it works. Once you understand the system, it will be very easy to use it. In general, Nikon’s is easier to get a hold of. Once you get a hold of Canon’s though, you’ll begin to understand how very underrated it is and in some way’s better than Nikon’s.

Conclusion

Syl put a ton of work into these cords, and that is very evident with how the results look. Personally, I’m much more a fan of the Nikon cord than I am with the Canon one. The reason for this is because of the fact that once it comes to multiple flash setups, it is much easier to just use wireless radio triggers vs using an infrared triggering system. But if you’re doing a one light setup, then these cords are magnificent.

Further, Nikon’s system is once again easier to use at certain times. When it comes to direct flashes, Nikon’s iTTL metering system wins over Canon’s eTTL system. When it comes to bouncing lights off of ceilings, I feel that Canon generally has the advantage.

When it comes to using light modifiers, I’ve also generally preferred Canon’s system.

However, in the end I still personally prefer the convenience and portability of radio triggers. You need to carefully manage cords and ensure that no one trips over them on a set. Plus they need to be wrapped up a certain way that won’t necessarily fit easily into a camera bag. And that’s my only major complaint: portability.

Otherwise, Syl’s cords are highly recommended at the price point if you want affordable flexibility with a TTL camera system.

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