Guide to Linked Shot mode

EOS 5D Mark III with ST-E3-RT active as Linked Shot master

EOS 5D Mark III with ST-E3-RT active as a linked shot master

While many photographers have more than one camera, it’s not often that the need arises for more than one to be triggered at the same time. For sport photography it is quite common to have a camera that will trigger another fixed camera with a very different view of the action. Using Linked Shot mode with the Canon Speedlites using radio it is possible to trigger remote cameras directly.

Here’s some scenarios:
  • A photographer shooting a rally car crossing a bridge places a fixed camera in a tree looking straight at the car. The photographer pans with the car from the side with a second handheld camera. As the car crosses the bridge the head-on camera gets another view at the same time.
  • Football photographers may have a camera on the ground behind the goal and one in their hand to shoot the goal action from both viewpoints. In both these situations photographers have generally used a radio transmitter, and almost certainly Pocket Wizards.

Pocket Wizard Plus III

With the radio controlled Speedlites Canon has bought radio controlled multiple camera release to the EOS system too, they call it Linked Shot. There are several important considerations;

  1. You need to have the right cameras and or possibly a Canon SR-N3 release cable too
  2. You need to configure the Speedlite 600EX-RT and or Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT correctly
  3. The range of the radio is limited
  4. You need to be triggering no more than 16 cameras including the master one
  5. You cannot use the Speedlites as flash masters or slaves when using Linked Shot mode
  6. There’s a short time lag between the master and slave camera(s) triggering
  7. You will pretty much be required to use manual focus with the slave cameras

The right cameras

Linked Shot works very easily with the 2012 model EOS cameras – EOS 650D, EOS 6D, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X and EOS M. Linked Shot is also usable with any other EOS camera that uses the N3 type connector for a remote release – pretty much most of the other mid-range cameras over the years. This means your old EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II are still fine to use with it. You just need to use Canon SR-N3 Remote Release cable between each camera and the Speedlite 600EX-RT or ST-E3-RT.

Configure the Speedlite 600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT

Linked Shot combined with stroboscopic flash on the Speedlite 600EX-RT

Linked Shot combined with stroboscopic flash on the Speedlite 600EX-RT

By default Linked Shot is ready to use on Speedlite 600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT. To use Linked shot the flash or Speedlite Transmitter needs to be switched on and in a normal mode. If the Speedlite 600EX-RT is set-up as a master of slave you need to press the Wireless Button to get to normal mode. Then press and hold the Wireless Button until linked shot is shown on the LCD display. First the Linked Shot will be set as Slave mode, this makes the device ready to receive a signal from a master device. If you set a slave to master Linked Shot mode then it will also set any other Linked flashes to slave mode. So it is always worth setting any slaves first and then then the master.

I’m assuming you already have the Speedlites and transmitters all set to the same wireless ID and the same channel – though you can also use auto channel. If you need to set these first go read the manual, or call me for training on Canon Speedlite flash.

Setting Personal Function 07 on Speedlite 600EX-RT

Setting Personal Function 07 on Speedlite 600EX-RT

If you use a Speedlite 600EX-RT as the master or slave you can also configure if it will flash when the camera it is attached to releases the shutter. This is done by setting Personal Function (P.Fn) 07, by default it’s set to 0 and the flash won’t fire but setting it to 1 will enable the flashes to fire. If the flash is set to fire it can be used in E-TTL, Manual, External Auto and Multi flash modes.

Limited radio range

The range of the linked shot cameras is limited, each slave camera needs to be within 30 metres of the master camera. Though my own testing of the flash system has shown me the range of the radio depends on the environment. I have had the flash working reliably  well over 60 metres.

Only 16 linked cameras

Since the radio system only allows up to 16 devices to communicate – probably to avoid overload and lags in the communication – then 16 is the most cameras that can be linked. One camera is the master – there can be only one – and the rest are slaves. Also with the ST-E3-RT around twice the cost of the Pocket Wizard Plus III it is an expensive solution too.

Off-camera flash is not possible, or is it?

Due to the way Linked Shot is configured the linked flashes cannot be used as masters or slaves in the normal multiple off-camera flash way.

However if this was essential then I think that it would work to have an ST-E3-RT configured as a linked shot slave and connected to the camera by the SR-N3 cable, then the camera can have a Speedlite 600EX-RT or ST-E3-RT on the hotshoe and using a different radio ID it would work.

As a further test to try off-camera flash combined with linked shooting I successfully tried a Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3 and Syl Arena’s OCF-33 10-metre off-camera cord with the Linked Shot Slave Speedlite 600EX-RT on my EOS 5D Mark III; the camera triggers and the flash fires as expected. So I now have a way to get one flash off-camera and still use linked shooting 🙂

Time lag

Once the master camera is fired then there’s a time lag before the slave cameras trigger. Using an EOS 7D as a master with the Speedlite 600EX-RT on and then an EOS 5D Mark III with the ST-E3-RT on as a slave I took a picture of a stop watch with both cameras triggered from the master. The results were consistently 0.2 seconds delay in the one from the slave camera. Due to a lack of an SR-N3 cable I couldn’t test it the other way round. The EOS 7D had to be my master in the Linked Shot configuration. If the camera’s were set to Live View mode then the lag was even longer, almost 0.5 seconds.

Manual focus

If the slave camera also has to focus the lens then the time delay often depends on the subject. Given that for most situations the slave cameras are set for specific action then manual focus is often used anyway. If the slave camera is unable to focus then no picture gets taken.

Continuous shooting

If you set the master camera for continuous shooting then the slave camera will try and keep up with the master as much as possible even if the slave is in single-shot mode. In my case I set the EOS 7D to continuous hi-speed (8.5fps) and the EOS 5D Mark III to single shot, and the result was pretty impressive, faster than my finger can press  the shutter in single shot mode for sure. Actually I’m pretty sure that at the slower continuous shooting mode of the EOS 7D (3fps) then the EOS 5D Mark III was happily keeping up.

I have a plan for a shoot combining multiple exposure, stroboscopic flash and linked shot. I just need a few more bits of equipment to complete the set-up 🙂