Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home

Show Printable Version Search this Thread
05-05-2008, 10:19 PM   #1
Veteran Member
WMBP's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Dallas, Texas
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 2,482
540 FGZ stuck in hot shoe - a post mortem

540 FGZ got stuck in the hot shoe this evening. I put the flash on to take a quick picture at home. I've put the flash on and taken it off hundreds of times. I've heard reports from others of Pentax flashes getting stuck, so I always regarded it as a tricky connection and I've got a careful way of doing it that I use every time. Never mind my good habits. It got stuck any way. And of course this happened completely without warning. I'm glad this happened at home and not while I was working.

This is a post mortem describing what I did.

SERIOUS WARNING. I do not recommend the following course of action. It would be quite easy to wreck the flash and/or the hot shoe on the camera doing this. If you think you want to put any of this info to use yourself, you do so at your own risk.

Pleading didn't work for me

I tried for an hour to coax it out gently. Tried turning the camera upside down. Tried pushing the flash back in, tightening the lock, unlocking and trying again. Nothing worked.

Searched here and found this thread:

Ended up taking the bottom off of the flash by removing the four screws that hold the base of the unit to the body. Boy, that's a pain! I have a set of computer-repair screw drivers. I wish they had much longer handles; would have made it much easier to remove the screws while the base was stuck on the camera.

Inside the flash

Once inside the flash unit, I used a needle-nose pliars carefully to remove the plug that connects the base to the body of the flash unit. It took me a minute of staring at the insides of the base to get a clue what the problem was, but eventually I saw the long pin. There's an upside-down L-shaped metal piece that comes up from the inside bottom of the unit and ends in an O shape that fits over the top of the long pin and seems designed to hold that pin in place. The pin itself has a tiny spring wrapped around it. The pin also has a little plastic piece - sort of an arm - hanging on to it. The arm serves in part to keep the pin from simply falling out the bottom of the unit when the unit is off the camera, but the arm also takes pressure created by the spring and pushes the pin DOWN, so it extends further on the outside bottom of the unit when you slide it into its hole.

The metal piece that ends in the O and fits over the top of the long pin was not quite in what I assume is its proper place over the top of the pin. I don't know how that happened. I can only guess that, as I put the unit on and took it off over and over, the locking pin (the long pin) kept getting stressed a bit and caused this holding piece to get bent a bit. It seemed to me that because this piece was out of place, the locking pin could NOT retract properly.

Problem solved, I hope

To solve my problem - remember, at this point the base of the flash was still stuck on the camera - I pushed the L-shaped metal thingy up and off the long pin. When I did this, the spring popped up in the air. I still don't know where it went. I then pulled the pin out. End of problem - I was now able to pull the base out of the hot shoe.

I plugged the base of the unit back into the body and put the unit back together, putting the four small screws back in place.

I left the long locking pin OUT. I've now mounted the flash in the hot shoe, taken pictures, removed it, and I've done it several times. I assume that the engineers felt that the locking pin was important or it would not be there. But as far as I can tell from my quick tests, the flash unit works as expected without the locking pin. The locking pin doesn't have anything to do with movement of data from the flash to the camera and back, it's just a locking pin. The flash seems to be as securely mounted in the hot shoe as it was before. And I don't expect to have another problem removing it.

My evaluation of the flash - and the problem

I've said here before that the Pentax flash units are the weakest part of the Pentax system, for a photographer who shoots weddings and other events and absolutely needs good, reliable flash. This incident confirms my opinion about Pentax. P-TTL is a mediocre flash exposure system. And if "mediocre" is a tad harsh, I'll say instead that my impression is that P-TTL is a weaker system than those used now in the best camera/flash combinations from Nikon and Canon. The Pentax 540 FGZ isn't as powerful as some of the flashes available for Canon and Nikon cameras. These aren't accidents; Pentax designed the flash this way. I just don't think it's a very good design.

But in addition, the hardware seems less sturdy than it should be. My first 540 FGZ developed a fatal problem - the zoom mechanism froze on me - after I had used the unit only half a dozen times. It had to go back to Pentax for repair at a time when I desperately needed it. And now this problem with the 540 getting stuck in the hot shoe.

I understand that many people use the 540 FGZ without problems. I myself have now used both of my 540 FGZ units without a failure for the last six months, in shoot after shoot.

But the problems I have had were not only real, they were serious - and they're hardly unprecedented. There are plenty of reports from other users whose zoom mechanisms have locked up, and the flash getting stuck in the hot shoe is something about which there are many threads in this forum. If the 540 were an inexpensive unit, sold to amateurs for occasional use, this failure rate would be acceptable. But this is Pentax's best unit and it's not cheap. My flash unit is as important to me as my camera. But the 540 isn't in the same league as the K10D/K20D when it comes to durability.

Bottom line

My next flash unit will be a Metz.

Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K20D  Photo 
05-05-2008, 10:56 PM   #2
Veteran Member
Torphoto's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Trinidad W.I.
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 619
and I was so going to get a 540, Metz 48 for me.
05-05-2008, 11:28 PM   #3
Veteran Member
Kguru's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Perth - WestAust
Posts: 602
Doesn't sound like a problem caused by normal wear & tear. More like a poor design that I reckon Pentax should do a recall to rectify free-of-charge, regardless of warranty status.
05-06-2008, 01:10 AM   #4
Veteran Member
fearview's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Jakarta
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,067
a very important post from you for us dude..


Kudos for you

05-06-2008, 01:15 AM   #5
Veteran Member

Join Date: Sep 2006
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 5,713
Just a suggestion to check your flash from time to time while using it.
Make sure that it isn't falling off the camera at the worst time.

My Sigma uses the same sort of pin design, so I'm expecting the problem sometime in the future.
When I'm shooting important events I have it mounted on a side grip and triggered remotely.
So there's no chances of it getting stuck on my camera then.
05-06-2008, 06:39 AM   #6
Veteran Member
WMBP's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Dallas, Texas
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 2,482
Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by little laker Quote
Just a suggestion to check your flash from time to time while using it. Make sure that it isn't falling off the camera at the worst time.
Stu, yesterday's incident occurred after I had put the flash on (with my habitual care) and used the camera to take about 3 quick photos here at home. There have been events where I was working hard, turning the camera frequently, two cameras around my neck possibly knocking against one another a bit, and so on. But yesterday wasn't such a shoot. I simply put the flash on, took a few photos, and two or three minutes later I tried to remove the flash. I don't know whether the thing got stuck because the pin/holding bracket/spring dealy had been stressed in earlier, more rigorous shoots and simply took this moment to fail, or whether I put the flash in "wrong" yesterday. But I do have to ask, how is it possible to put the flash in "wrong"?

I'm always careful, of course, but hey, I bought the K10D and the K20D in part because of their sturdy build. The 540 doesn't seem to be sturdily built.

My Sigma uses the same sort of pin design, so I'm expecting the problem sometime in the future. When I'm shooting important events I have it mounted on a side grip and triggered remotely. So there's no chances of it getting stuck on my camera then.
Well, I don't want the flash getting stuck anywhere!

05-06-2008, 07:18 AM   #7
Veteran Member
WMBP's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Dallas, Texas
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 2,482
Original Poster
Addendum to my original post

Addendum to my original post, written the morning after the problem I described

I am not trying to discourage anybody from buying a Pentax. I know my report may have that effect, but let me try to be clear about this, and fair to Pentax. Equipment fails, that's a fact of life. My personal feeling is that my experience with my two Pentax flashes has not been good. Both flashes are less than a year old. If I'd had these items for a couple of years and they failed or developed problems, well, I'd find that less disappointing. And while my use of the units has been regular enough for me to know very well how to handle the equipment and to have developed habits for doing so, I want to add that I'm not a full-time photographer and my use of the units has certainly not been excessive (whatever that might be). My wedding/event business is growing, and I find these incidents discouraging because, if I run into these problems shooting just one event a month (say), I'm not sure I can count on my equipment if I have to shoot two or three events a month. This month, as it happens, I have a LOT of shoots scheduled, almost all involving flash, and this incident is making me really nervous.

I also said that my next flash will be a Metz, but I'll back off that statement just a tad. I actually bought a Metz last August when I had the first problem (the auto-zoom motor failed). I was impressed by its apparent build quality. Just felt more solid than the 540. But I used it only for a couple of days of testing and sent it back, mainly because it could not do P-TTL. Metz of course has a great reputation and my guess is that a Metz really would be better built. But I am sure that Metz products fail, too. If I do buy a Metz sooner or later, it will not be because I believe Metz products are problem-free, it will be because I hope Metz products have a lower failure rate, so my odds of having a problem are lower. If I get a Metz, I'm sure I'll report on my experience with it here.

So I offer my little narrative just for what it's worth. Please do not take my bad luck with Pentax flashes as proof that the Pentax units are lousy products. I do personally believe that, in terms of build quality, the 540 FGZ is not worthy to sit on top of the K10D/K20D. But I don't know that there is anything available for Pentax cameras that's much better, other than one or two Metz models, and they're more expensive.

05-07-2008, 12:53 AM   #8
Veteran Member

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 812
Will, thanks for sharing your latest experience with the AF540FGZ.

I have wanted to add one or two of these to my bag, but keep hearing stories of inconsistent QC and user troubles, so I've held off, hoping Pentax will improve the product quality. It's not an inexpensive flash unit, after all. Still, like you, I want a P-TTL capable flash, so there's not much to choose from on the market. Wait some more, is all I can think to do for now.

05-07-2008, 04:51 AM   #9
Veteran Member
vievetrick's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Easthampton - Massachusetts - USA
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 5,175
Good post but I am not faint of heart. I did get the 540 recently from a forum member that never had an issue with it. I had it for a week or two with no issue. Until of course I went on vacation. needless to say it is still stuck and actually I am dropping it off at a certified Pentax repair shop in CT . before getting on a plane for SC. I will be taking the DS for this trip (so glad I didn't sell it) Anyway, my point is that is is sad this issue has come up and they have not just done a recall. My K10 has a few other issues so overall this works out as I can get several birds with one stone. Good luck to all and I will keep you posted on my repairs if your interested.
05-08-2008, 01:06 AM   #10
Veteran Member

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 439
All this is making me more inclined to pre-emptively remove the pin from my 540 and avoid holiday heartache.

I'm a big fan of Pentax, been using their SLR stuff since 1993. But I'm not loving the 540, with the occasional alarming reports of it sticking in the hotshoe, and the fact that it has no clue about getting exposures correct on the default settings. How does a flash unit with a guide number of 54 so consistently underexpose my shots?
05-08-2008, 07:24 AM   #11
Veteran Member
WMBP's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Dallas, Texas
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 2,482
Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by G M Fude Quote
All this is making me more inclined to pre-emptively remove the pin from my 540 and avoid holiday heartache.
I have two 540's. As reported above, one of them now lacks a pin. The other still has its pin, but of course I'm thinking about removing it. If anybody who hasn't had this problem wonders why I would remove it preemptively, the answer is that it's massively easier to do this when the flash is NOT stuck in the hot shoe. If the flash is off the camera, dealing with the 4 screws that hold the base of the flash unit to the body is a piece of cake. When the flash is stuck on the camera, dealing with those same 4 screws is a serious headache - and if you're not really careful, you could strip the screw heads doing it.

So I have a question for anybody who's a serious hardware type - or for any engineers who might be lurking here. Is there any downside to removing the locking pin? As far as I can tell, the flash without the pin is working absolutely normally - and it also seems just as securely seated in the hot shoe. But as I said earlier, I assume that the Pentax engineers thought there was a good reason to put that pin there. What the heck is that reason? Anybody, anybody?

05-08-2008, 07:47 AM   #12
Inactive Account

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Portland, Maine
Posts: 218
QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
What the heck is that reason? Anybody, anybody?
They had to give the junior engineers something to do...
05-08-2008, 09:16 AM   #13
Inactive Account

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: James City County, Virginia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 322
Does the 360 have the same issue?
05-08-2008, 11:23 AM   #14
Veteran Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,563
A VERY good post Will,


- Bert
05-08-2008, 11:29 AM   #15
Tom S.'s Avatar

Join Date: May 2008
Location: S.E. Michigan
Photos: Albums
Posts: 4,306
QuoteOriginally posted by squarerigger Quote
Does the 360 have the same issue?
Yes, as it uses the same lock pin set up. I took mine out and counting the time it took me to find my little Phillips head screwdriver, total time was under 10 minutes and is something anyone who knows the fundamentals (lefty-loosey, righty-tighty) should be able to do in a similar time frame. A magnetic screwdriver will help immensely as the screws are tiny.

My 360 fits tight to begin with, as others have noted, and the lock collar still tightens against the top of the flash shoe. I think the lock pin is a really a case of over engineering.

  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
base, bottom, camera, fgz, flash, pentax, piece, pin, shoe, tripod, unit
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Wanted - Acquired: Wein Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe Safe Sync HSHSB 990-560 excanonfd Sold Items 0 08-26-2010 10:56 AM
Wein Safe-Sync Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe Iowa Tom Pentax DSLR Discussion 1 09-12-2009 09:20 PM
AF-540 FGZ vs AF-360 FGZ wiseman Pentax Camera and Field Accessories 13 01-16-2008 07:54 PM
AF 540 FGZ for wireless in concert with the AF 360 FGZ Ed in GA Pentax Camera and Field Accessories 10 05-08-2007 09:45 PM

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 09:57 PM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]