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HELP: UW Technics Trigger Failure Underwater


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I have been scratching my head on this one so I am reaching out to the global brain trust.

 

Equipment:  Sony a1, UW Technics flash trigger for a7RIV/a1, Nauticam Housing, Inon Z-330 strobes, Fiber connection

 

Issue:  Flash trigger and strobes fires fine in test at home.  Submerge in water (only 10’) and trigger periodically no longer fires.  Housing is holding seal with no leaks.  Return home and trigger fires correctly.  -This has happened 3 times with no pre warning.-  No difference in camera, strobe, or trigger settings, pre-dive prep, etc.  Trigger is set to “0” for manual.  Strobes are not the issue - the trigger is not firing as verified by removing filter cable and viewing housing flash windows.  Batteries were recently changed and are authentic Energizer batteries.  (No generics).  Again, fires correctly in pre-dive tests and then fires correctly in post-dive evaluation, just not underwater on rare occasion.  
 

I have used this exact setup for 200+ dives, but have had the failure 3 times total.  This most recent failure is today, 7 months and roughly 100+ dives since the last failure.

 

I have also replaced the UW Technics trigger with a new one to make sure it was not a defective unit.  I have reviewed with other local photo pros and we are all drawing a blank.  They all love theirs and have no issues.  UW Technics claims have never heard of this.  
 

In frustration I’m even considering replacing my a1 in case it is an obscure short with the hot shoe, but am trying not to go to that extreme.

 

Any ideas or has anyone heard of this weirdness elsewhere? 
#uwtechnics @uwtechnics

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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So when it quits is it out the whole dive?  Or does it come back again?  Does surfacing fix it, or do you have to open the case?  I'm guessing on each occasion it failed that you tested it on the surface first and it stopped when you submerged?

 

My initial thought is perhaps the housing is marginally pressing a button which prevents the flash firing.  I would think that it has nothing to do with water - just the pressure.  Either that or it is random and you use it underwater much more often than on dry land?  

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39 minutes ago, Chris Ross said:

So when it quits is it out the whole dive?  Or does it come back again?  Does surfacing fix it, or do you have to open the case?


All good questions.  Yes, when it fails at the beginning of the dive, it’s out for the entire dive.  Turning the camera off/on has no impact.  I too questioned the pressure aspect, but it’s an aluminum housing at only 10’.  I articulate the shutter, press various buttons, but nothing changes.  I’ve even left it off for 15 mins + and then turned the camera on again.  No change.  
 

I did not test it again in the parking lot before I left.  (I was just a bit frustrated). When I got home I simply turned on the camera did it worked fine.  The housing was still sealed/pressurized.  
 

I also checked the battery spring arm and it is very tight against the batteries.
 

When I use the vacuum pump, I vacuum until the light turns solid green and then about 1/4 of a pump more.

 

I do use this body almost exclusively for uw work.  It’s really a very bizarre mystery. 

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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20 minutes ago, ChipBPhoto said:


All good questions.  Yes, when it fails at the beginning of the dive, it’s out for the entire dive.  Turning the camera off/on has no impact.  I too questioned the pressure aspect, but it’s an aluminum housing at only 10’.  I articulate the shutter, press various buttons, but nothing changes.  I’ve even left it off for 15 mins + and then turned the camera on again.  No change.  
 

I did not test it again in the parking lot before I left.  (I was just a bit frustrated). When I got home I simply turned on the camera did it worked fine.  The housing was still sealed/pressurized.  
 

I also checked the battery spring arm and it is very tight against the batteries.
 

When I use the vacuum pump, I vacuum until the light turns solid green and then about 1/4 of a pump more.

 

I do use this body almost exclusively for uw work.  It’s really a very bizarre mystery. 

Yes, but there is inward pressure on all of the buttons underwater and if one of the clearances is a bit tight it might be enough to activate a button.  The fact it worked again in the housing before re-opening it tends to indicate a problem caused by external pressure and you said you had replaced the trigger once, which tends to indicate a problem somewhere other than the trigger.  It also possible that the camera is not sitting on the camera plate right and you may sometimes have the camera sitting a little further back.

 

You could try to test it by setting the camera up in the housing and taking shots with each of the buttons on back of the camera pressed in turn and checking to see if the trigger fires each time.  This might identify a button to check further. 

 

The fact it happens so occasionally is of course going to make finding the cause difficult.

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8 minutes ago, Chris Ross said:

Yes, but there is inward pressure on all of the buttons underwater and if one of the clearances is a bit tight it might be enough to activate a button.


Hmmm…Interesting hypothesis.  With that in mind, theoretically creating a greater pressure inside by pumping the vacuum an extra pump could create a similar result as external pressure on the buttons. 

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Just now, ChipBPhoto said:


Hmmm…Interesting hypothesis.  With that in mind, theoretically creating a greater pressure inside by pumping the vacuum an extra pump could create a similar result as external pressure on the buttons. 

Theoretically, but practically the setpoint is equivalent to about 2m depth and the efficiency of the hand pumps is pretty low so I don't think you can get too much lower is pressure.

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Sounds like a fiber optic cable failure to me. The cable could be deformed under pressure and if there is a crack or break it may not work under water when it does in air/low pressure.

 

I would try a couple of things:

 

* While at depth unplug and reconnect each cable end point to ensure there is no bubbles between the connectors. I have had this prevent a strobe from firing on occasion.

* Swap out for a fresh set of multi-core fiber optic cables. See above.

 

Edited by Dave_Hicks
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18 minutes ago, ChipBPhoto said:


Good suggestion.  Actually I remove the cable underwater and see the trigger itself inside the housing is not firing.  

Ahh, I missed that part in your description.

 

The other option is that there is a short on the trigger board. Either moisture or a physical contact. Try putting some black electrical tape over the trigger and then insert it. If you can sort of lightly shield both sides with tape you can prevent any errant contact. 

 

Additionally, clean both the cameras hotshoe contacts and the hotshoe cable connector with contact cleaner and Q-Tip. A weak connection could be a transient issue. I've actually had hotshoes spontaneously form visible corrosion from exposure to sea air. One of my topside cameras that spent a week on a dive boat got totally encrusted.

 

 

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This is a picture of my D500 hotshoe from a few years ago. It was not used in a housing, but as a surface camera on a dive boat for about a week. After the trip I put it in a dry cabinet where my cameras live. Sometime later I found it like this!

 

An extreme case, but the point is that buildup and corrosion can form even if your gear is well cared for and not directly exposed to water.

 

Hotshoe Corrosion.jpg

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I agree with Chris and Dave, i would also first of all assume a problem with the contacts in the hot shoe connection, and also check the buttons under pressure on the depth.

 

The Sony MI shoe has 24 contacts, very thin and weak. Unfortunately, this new Sony MI shoe turned out to be quite unreliable for peripheral devices. However, the Sony company does not care about this.


For a problem to occur, it is enough for just one necessary contact to become slightly deformed or corroded. Most often it is corrosion from sea air saturated with moisture and salt. If there is corrosion or salt deposits, the effect may appear from time to time, as well as with a slight displacement of the camera body under pressure (at depth). Sometimes salt deposits are invisible to the eye, but they are there. You need to thoroughly clean the shoe contacts with a cotton swab and alcohol. But the main thing here is that you need to firmly move the plug on the camera connector several times until it stops, back and forth, in order to mechanically remove possible corrosion.
And one more piece of advice: every time before closing the housing, check how deep the plug is pushed into the shoe socket, since people often do not push this plug all the way in - this is the most common reason.

 

       If corrosion (or salt) has already occurred inside the plug, then you will not be able to clean it properly, and then only replacing it (plug with cable) will help. If you ultimately come to this conclusion, please contact us by email and we will send you a new plug.

 

Less likely, but possible, is that at depth some button on the camera is pressed, preventing the shutter from being released. Well, this is easy to check - listen with your ear when that malfunction occurs, is the sound of the shutter release (mechanical shutter) heard at depth?

 

The least possible reason, but still possible, is a deformation of PCB (mounted by 2 bolts), because of the mount. Try to mount the board significantly weaker, to prevent any possible deformation at the depth. Check if this has an effect.

Edited by Pavel Kolpakov
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Thanks all for the good comments and attempt to assist.  The upside is it is a head scratcher for others as well.  At least I haven’t missed the obvious.
 

Attached are images of the hot shoe.  No corrosion apparent.  I have also inspected the board and it also is corrosion free.  This trigger is less than a year old as it was exchanged in an attempt to test if there was an issue with the first trigger.  
 

The shutter does function correctly, both in manual and electronic, when the trigger does not fire.  This is verified by reviewing the images immediatly following each shutter actuation.  The shutter speed is 1/160 or less which is within all parameters. 

 

It would seem that if the shutter is functioning every time, external pressure could not be partially depressing a button that would interfere with the flash trigger firing.  

 

I checked the 2 bolts holding the board and found they were simply finger tight to hold in place.

I keep circling back to perhaps the extra 1/4 - 1/2 pump of the vacuum after the leak indicator light turns solid green may be contributing?  @Pavel Kolpakov Any thoughts on this?

 

IMG_5672.jpeg

IMG_5671.jpeg

IMG_4215.jpeg

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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11 minutes ago, TimG said:

Do you get the same problem if the UWT is not there?


Everything functions correctly with the exception of the trigger firing.  Even yesterday when the trigger did not function, I still captured images, adjusted settings, reviewed images, etc. just as normal.  

Edited by ChipBPhoto
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The loss of contact in this case is associated with a change in pressure, this is obvious. Generally speaking, this shouldn't have that much of an impact. But the contact is loose somewhere. I think it happens in the hot shoe. To clarify it some better, try diving without pumping out air at all, look at the effect. And before closing the housing push the shoe plug firmly into the socket until it stops, this is the most important thing.

We can replace the TTL Converter of course, but the issue can be another.

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I’m definitely good about both firmly inserting the shoe plug and testing/verifying once sealed before I leave my house.  I do not open again until I am back in my home or hotel room.  The frustrating part is it is extremely intermittent.  I have gone months and roughly 100+ dives with no issue since the last occurrence.

 

I’ll try with no vacuum pressure, continue to monitor, and let you know.

 

Thanks again to all!

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47 minutes ago, Pavel Kolpakov said:

You dived 100+ times after the last occurrence, and everything worked normally all 100 dives?


Yes - thats why it’s such a huge mystery. There has been no change in the camera rig parts.  This happened with both the original trigger and the replacement trigger.  I exclusively use authentic Energizer brand batteries; never generics.  
 

I have an idea to test, hopefully tomorrow.  I’ll let all know. 

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Hi Chip, First the UWTechnic triggers are outstanding and I have used them with both the A-1 and A7R V in both Nauticam and Marelux housings. I have also done hundreds of dives with both cameras in Marelux and the A1 in Nauticam with zero problems. I have always tended to overdue on pulling the vacuum and on Marelux I use the auto vac which makes it even easer to do again with no problems. Pavel has been nothing short of outstanding in responding to any questions I have had including additional info beyond specs for some articles I had written. 

 

On a recent trip to Bali I also used the UWT trigger with two Backscatter MF-2's to test the HSS for macro and wide use. I was shooting the A7R V in both wide and macro (much more in macro) and again no issues between the 1/250th max (mechanical) and I topped out at 1/800th. I have never used electronic and god forbid manufactures all go that way without globel shutter.

 

On a personal note, will you be at the Feb 6th meeting I have some Nauticam items for you. 

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I agree it’s a terrific product; that’s why I bought it.  It does not, however, negate the very real, head-scratching challenges I have experienced.  This seems to be unique to me for some reason.

 

If I didn’t connect it correctly, the batteries were dead, etc., etc., etc. would be completely understandable and something we all could do at some point.  The fact I tested it pre-dive, for no apparent reason it did not function during the dive but the camera was still able to otherwise fully function, and then once returning home and without opening the housing it once again functioned is nothing short of baffling.  Especially since this has happened several times with large numbers of dives in between with no issues.  Head scratching for sure….

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Guys, it is not the vacuum - pulling more vacuum and diving deeper are exactly the same thing, all that matters is the differential pressure.  Slightly less air in the housing doesn't mean a thing.  Do you want to do 100 dives without using vacuum to attempt to eliminate it as an issue - that's what would be required.  There's no mechanism that vacuum impacts apart from buttons and diving deeper has the same impact. 

 

You are assuming that because the shutter works it can't be a button problem _ I would suggest that you should never assume.  If you you are going to solve a problem like this you need to systematic about trying to repeat the problem.  I would suggest going through and trying each button in turn to see if it stops the flash firing.  If the button stops the shutter releasing it's not the problem logically as the shutter works when this issue appears.  Once you've done that it is ruled out or you have a potential cause.

 

I agree the contacts look good, but the experience is they are unreliable and I can see why this might be the case.  Just to confirm that you routinely test fire before every dive to confirm that the flash fires.  You say you do this at home - do you do on the boat?  I would suggest developing a routine to test fire strobes before you jump and before you submerge.  You said that the board of the UWT trigger was replaced, did you also replace the hotshoe cable with it?

 

Another thing to check - can you twist the hotshoe connector in the hotshoe.  I have little mini flashes for my olympus cameras and one of them allowed the connector to twist in the shoe, so it would lose contact sometimes.  I marked that one and don't use it in the housing any more.  That should of course stop it working till re-inserted but worth checking.

 

I didn't realise Sony used a system like that for hotshoe communication to me that would go on the "Con" list for using in an UW housing.  Seems like a problem waiting to happen.

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Hi all - Just as an update, I took the rig for another dive today.  All functioned as it should.

 

I’ll reach out if I see any other developments or irregularities worth reporting.  I definitely have some ideas to trouble shoot real time should it happen again.  
 

Thanks again for all your comments and suggestions! 

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