Triggering GH4 Video With Pocket Wizards

 

birdbath.02Birds are like people when they’re bathing: they don’t want strangers standing next to the tub.

But I only want to take your picture. Just a little video, that’s all.

To capture robins, juncos, chickadees, et cetera, cooling off in one of our bird baths, I’d need to position my tripod close and trigger the Panasonic GH4 remotely. Or become invisible. What could I do?

Off-the-shelf corded releases were too short—usually only three feet in length. There was that invisible problem.

I could set up my camouflage photo blind, but it wouldn’t fit in the working space, and I wanted a higher angle to frame the bath.

I don’t own a mobile phone or tablet—if I did, the Panasonic Image App would let me control the camera via its built-in WiFi. But that adds another piece of gear to the mix, and I was going for cheap and simple. Another day, perhaps.

rnt1965-2Then I remembered the set of Pocket Wizards tucked away in a bag in my closet. They’ve long been a standard in the industry for wireless work, mostly flash. Mine are Plus 1s; real Oldies. A transmitter and a receiver. They’d worked well on a Canon 5-Series body with a dedicated PW cord—maybe they made a connecting cord for the GH4? Please.

When I emailed PocketWizard Support the short answer was NO; not surprising, since their products are geared toward Nikon and Canon owners, who vastly outnumber their Micro 4/3 counterparts. But rather than simply saying Sorry…, Heather suggested a cord manufactured by Vello that she thought hoped would work.

Officially, it’s the Vello 3.5mm Remote Shutter Release Cable for Select Panasonic and Leica Cameras. The 3.5mm connection fits into the Camera/Flash socket on the receiver, while the 2.5mm end plugs into the GH4’s Remote, on the right side of the camera body. It’s a slender cord, measuring approximately 16” (coiled) and 36” when stretched, and it doesn’t get in the way. (I purchased mine from B&H Photo for $10.95, plus shipping.)

The Good News is that my Pocket Wizards flawlessly trigger BOTH stills and video on the GH4. Response is instantaneous. Another benefit is not having to push a button on the camera to start the video, which often causes slight motion at the ends of a clip.

If you’re going to use your GH4 in a situation similar to mine, I’ll suggest that you turn the SLEEP Mode to OFF. You’ll find it in the Custom section of the menu, on the third page. Scroll all the way to the bottom, and don’t forget to reset this for regular use.

My set-up at the bird bath was simple. I placed the tripod-mounted GH4 and Olympus 40-150 2.8 lens about ten feet away, made the adjustments to focus and exposure I wanted, turned the Pocket Wizard Plus receiver ON, and went inside the house to watch the birds’ morning activities through a living room window. I could see the camera’s  articulating LCD screen, and when it went to sleep I still had a direct view to the birds. When the morning overcast began to gradually clear, I went out and changed my exposure settings twice. For anything more demanding, when you want to control the camera’s settings, a tablet is probably a better alternative.

Oh, and a robin made the biggest splash.robin

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4 thoughts on “Triggering GH4 Video With Pocket Wizards”

  1. I bought t the 3.5mm cable and hooked it up to my gh4. I have 2 pocket wizard plus III’s. One mounted on the camera and other in hand. I have both set on the same channel, the camera one as Rx and the other Tx. When I press the test button, nothing happens…

  2. I’ll try to answer your question, although I’m not familiar with the Plus III. I read on FStoppers about the Modes, and “maybe” that’s where the problem is. Here’s how they describe them:

    Modes
    A variety of modes let you tailor the unit to the exact function you need.

    TxRx: Transmits and receives. A standard transceiver mode, what you’ll use most of the time when you are shooting with off-camera flash.

    Tx ONLY: Disables all receiving functionality and allows you to use the Plus III only to transmit, best used when sharing the airspace with other photographers to prevent accidentally triggering the Plus III on your camera.

    Rx ONLY: For use in an area where there are multiple photographers or flashes. This will prevent a remote Plus III from performing relay functions when mounted in the shoe of another camera or to prevent a Plus III from triggering other radios when the TEST button is pressed. For example, this would be the mode to use if the PWIII was triggering a remote camera.

    LR (Long Range): Doubles (!) The maximum range of a radio in a given shooting environment. There may be a slight reduction in X-sync speed as a result.

    RP (Repeater): Automatically re-transmits any triggers received on the selected channel. Can be used to dramatically extend working distance with flash or remote cameras when an additional Plus III is placed halfway between the camera or flash and the transmitting radio.

    HSR (High-speed receive): Shortens the contact time of the flash/camera port, allowing for triggering of remote flashes at higher FPS. Up to 14.5, that is. Woah.

    So, I’m wondering if you set them to Rx, as described for a remote camera. Or, a second thought, use the TxRx mode on both; that might be what you need. Again, no experience with the III, I barely used the Plus but it did everything I needed at the time, and does work with that cord on my GH4.

    I’ve also linked to PocketWizard’s Web site in my short review, and they were very helpful. Let me know how it turns out in another comment, please.

  3. Thanks for the feedback! I tried going through every single mode, but no luck. I called up the guys that make the Vello cables, and was advised to test the cable using a paperclip. Doing so, I was able to get the camera to both focus and snap a photo. However, once plugged into the camera, it doesn’t want to play…I’m now waiting on the Pocket Wizard guys to get back to me with what will hopefully be a definitive answer. Right now I’m stuck. Again, thanks very much for your input!

    1. I’d hoped your problem would be simpler, but having the PW folks look at it, I think you’ll have an answer, one way or the other. I’ve never trusted “simple” cords… When you get it working, update here and I’ll put a footnote to my article.

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