Canon files patent for radio-control system

Canon has filed a patent for a radio-based flash control system. What does this mean, and what are other companies doing in the meantime?

Patent diagram of a Canon radio system

Patent diagram of a Canon radio systemVarious technology web sites are reporting that Canon has filed a patent for a wireless flash control system based on radio transmissions like those used in Wi-Fi routers. Such a system, if developed, would be free of some of the limitations faced by the current infrared-based signals. It would also render 3rd party relay systems such as RadioPopper PX and PocketWizard Flex obsolete.

Nikon Corporation filed a patent mentioning a similar principle in May 2009.

[0060] … In this light emission control system, a camera to which an electronic flash device (a master electronic flash device) is fitted and one or more external electronic flash devices (remote electronic flash devices) are connected together via wireless communication using ICs for wireless communication via wireless LAN, Bluetooth, ZigBee or the like.

It is always worth noting that patent applications are not necessarily the harbingers of actual products. On the other hand, abandoning infrared for radio seems like a no-brainer for camera manufacturers. Third party companies are attempting every possible kludge, while wireless light control is already relatively widespread in the studio lighting market.

At the moment, Quantum Instruments already offers radio TTL for its own brand Qflash units via FreeXWire. Yongnuo has revealed its own plans for a 2.4GHz Wireless Commander system in the YN460-TX and YN460-RX.

David Selby
David is a keen photographer and has been editor of Lighting Rumours since 2010. When not writing about lighting, he works as a data scientist at the University of Manchester, UK.