Black Fish Coldshoe – a Better Way to Mount Your Flashes

A typical coldshoe mount retails, off-brand, for only a few dollars – and I worry about three failure modes.  Loosening from vibration  / use, stripped threads (many bargain coldshoes are of questionable quality), and just plain not tightening enough in the first place.

"Typical" coldshoe

This typical coldshoe is attached to a Manfrotto 200PL-14 QR plate.

Most things that loosen will flop, pivot, or twist in a way leaves things merely out of place.  When a “typical” coldshoe loosens, your expensive flash falls out and hits the floor – so much for your warranty, and do you have a spare to finish the shoot?.  If it is clamped up in a ceiling at an event, maybe it falls on someone before hitting the floor – causing a mild injury and perhaps a less-mild response from the injured party.

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The Frio coldshoe looks great – it gets good reviews, and would get to my door for about $25.  A competing product, the Black Fish Universal Coldshoe, would get to my door for about $10.  Half-price is half-way to my favourite price, so I tried one.  EDIT (20130525): now that Frio is carried by Gadget Infinity, they come to Canada for about $15 – so I have a bunch, and prefer them to the Black Fish.  Frio’s have been reviewed constantly – suffice to way this way of connecting a hotshoe to a light stand is the way to go.

Black Fish Coldshoe, Top View

Black Fish Coldshoe, Top View

My two concerns were robustness – would it just break in use – and security – would it retain the flash in adverse circumstances.

Visually and physically, the Black Fish is tough.  When I bend and twist with reasonable force, it never seems near breaking.  The threaded insert looks like stainless steel (it is the right colour and barely magnetic – I did not do a spark test), has clean threads, and is undamaged after vigorous tightening.

Black Fish Coldshoe, Bottom View

Black Fish Coldshoe, Bottom View

Regarding retention, I tried to remove a flash by hand, without depressing the release lock or “bending the fishtail”.  This simulated the flash’s locking mechanism failing or just not being engaged.  I used enough force to cause some concern about the integrity of my flash’s shoe, but could not get it to come out of the Black Fish.

As a bonus, there is no clamp-securing screw to loosen and fall out in your kit bag on the way to your shoot, and getting a flash in and out of the Black Fish is quick.

In summary: half-price compared to the competition, strong enough, secure enough.

Here are some closeups showing the cold shoe and locking mechanism.

Black Fish Cold Show Closeup

Black Fish Cold Shoe from the side, in a typical Manfrotto Super Clamp.

Black Fish Cold Show Closeup

Black Fish Coldshoe Closeup Of Locking Mechanism

Black Fish Cold Shoe Closeup

Black Fish Coldshoe – Notice the flash’s metal shoe peeking out from the cold shoe at camera right. If it slides back, it will catch on the stepped ramp and stay there.

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