I’ll wager that the part about off-camera flash that photographers hate the most is the connection between the Speedlite and the lightstand. Yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Coldshoe. Either you’re made of metal (which can short out the pins on the bottom of my flash) or you’re made of plastic (which means that I’ll strip your threads eventually).

Meet the frio™ — an ingeniously designed coldshoe from the makers of the orbis™ ringflash adapter. For me, it was love at first sight. Upstairs, the frio™ is durable plastic — which means that the pins on my Speedlite’s foot are safe. Downstairs the frio™ has a robust 1/4-20 metal socket that I’m thinking will stand up to any amont of torque that I choose to apply when tightening it down to my grip gear.

The frio™ is designed for the safety of Speedlights. As you can see at left, from the side, the frio™ resembles the Starship Enterprise (o.k., you might have to squint to see it). The long aft deck is there to provide another of the frio’s unique features: a pop-up clip that will keep your flash from sliding out accidentally (see below for comments on a small issue when used with Canon EX II Speedlites.)

The top of the frio™ has a recessed well into which the locking pin of a Nikon Speedlight will drop. This provides yet another layer of security against your flash tumbling out of the coldshoe. To my eyes, as a Canonista, the well is just a bit too far back to catch the pin of a Canon Speedlite. I’m not concerned about this in the least. Canon’s locking pin is spring loaded, so it is out of the way when in cannot find a compatible socket — which is what happens when you use a generic coldshoe anyway. When the locking collar (EX models) or locking arm (EX II models) is tightened, my Speedlite is not going to disconnect anyway.

The front of the frio™ has three loops molded into the body. So, if you like to keep your kit tied together, the frio™ will fit right in. Another option would be to keep a gaggle of frios™ linked together with a thin, snap ring — like keys on the belt of a janitor. Also, if you look way below, you’ll see a pic of how I’m using the loops. Yes, I think of the frio™ as a cool, new toy. So I want to have it in my pocket all day.

After the demo model of the frio™ arrived from New Zealand a few days ago, I’ve put it to a variety of tasks on shoots for my Speedliter’s Handbook. Despite the small design issues that I discuss above and below, I’m enthusiastically a fan. The frio™ is robust, quick to use, and has no small parts that will get lost. When the frio™ starts distribution later this fall, I will likely discard all the metal coldshoes in my bags and replace them with an army of frios™.

So what about availability? Good things come to those of us who wait. Fortunately we won’t have to wait long. I’m told that the frio™ will start shipping soon. For more specifics, check out the official frio site (here).

Canonistas: The frio™ is great. But it’s not perfect. Yet.

If your Speedlite has a weather-seal around the base, as Canon’s 580EX II does, then you’ll find that the back edge of the weather-seal rubs on the deck — making it more difficult to use with Canon’s newest generation of Speedlites. Also, as you can see above, the frio’s clip will not pop up after an EX II is positioned. If the clip was just a bit farther back, it would pop up as it does normally.

A couple of fixes come to mind for the EX II shooters. First, you can pull the weather-seal off the EX II. Then the Speedlite will slide in without issue and the clip will pop up. I’m not going to be doing this. Rather, I’ll keep the weather-seal in place and modify the frio™ by snipping off the back deck. Heresy! I know. But, modding the frio™ this way will give me what I desire most in a coldshoe: a robust connection to the lightstand and a non-conducting base for the Speedlite. Frankly, I’d love it just as much if it came without the back deck and clip in the first place.

The other thing I’d like to see in a future frio™ is yellow, or orange, or red. I’m told that “gunmetal blue” was selected for the original version because it’s non-reflective and it’s not black. For me, I don’t have an issue with my grip gear reflecting light into my shots. I do have serious issues with losing little dark-colored objects into the recesses of my gear bags. I carry my AA batteries in yellow caddies for the very same reason.

The folks at enlight photo have said that they’d consider adding a colored version in the future. So, IF YOU AGREE, add a comment below.


17 Responses to frio™ Hands-on: The World of Coldshoes Just Got Hotter

  1. Derek says:

    Great idea, but another example of a company seems to not have offered the product to REAL working photographers to test. You could have offered your two valuable suggestions. Engineers at Canon, Nikon, Westcott, EVERYONE in the photography world are in such an upsidedown isolated place its a wonder most products are useful at all.

  2. qixotic says:

    Please make this in bright colors. Aging eyes have enough challenges with photography these days, finding our gear in the bottom of black bags need not be one of them. But what if I get one of those yellow lined Kata Bags…?

  3. Morgana says:

    I use a hotshoe that allows me to plug my pocket wizard into the hotshoe rather than straight into the Flash unit. I find this solves all my problems. :)

  4. Gary says:

    …to boldly go where no cold-shoe has gone before… I need two of these.

  5. Glen Champion says:

    Colour is better. However, if one uses Canon RP cubes, there is no need for Frio, no?

  6. Gregor Z says:

    I quess yellow ones only fit on Lamborghini car keys :)
    I would like an orange one.

  7. Stuart Mackenzie says:

    I'd be interested but they'd have to make it work with the exII, That they don't is a huge omission for me at the moment.

    I quite like the coloured ones for the idea of being able to colour code your groups as well.

  8. Mark Nolan says:

    Interesting because I have a 580EX (mk I) which always locks-up whether triggered remotely by a Skyport or a E-TTL cord. It drives me crazy and makes it virtually unusable, I've even had it serviced but nobody can find a problem.

    I suppose the one common factor is that it's mounted on a metal hotshoe (although I have no problems if it's mounted on the cameras hotshoe) – I wonder if the Frio could be the answer. I did try a strip of masking tape over the contacts once but that didn't seem to make any difference. Would love to hear if anyone else had the same problem.

    Regards colours, yes something bright makes it easy to find but can look a little tacky – depends on the hue I guess, yellow or orange could work well.

  9. Pete says:

    Bright colours are good. Not only are they easy to find in the bag, but are also less likely to get lost.

  10. Zac says:

    Looks very promising! What are those great rechargeable AA batteries that you carry in your little yellow caddies?

  11. hi all ! just thought i'd pop some comments up here (i'm the inventor and developer of the frio™ and orbis™).

    first up… rest assured that the frio™ was developed for over a year with a team of photographers, ranging from amateurs through keen pro strobists right up to full-on "$100k++ of gear" studio gurus. as you say derek, there's no point doing this in isolation.

    as for the 580exII, the great thing about the weather seal is the friction it provides. once you've slid a 580EXII onto a frio™, it's solidly held in place without the need for the thumblock thanks to the extended deck on the frio™. then engage the 580's pin lock and it's as safe as houses. changing the thumblock would have meant the frio™ only worked with the 580… this way it works with every flash.

    finally colours. a great suggestion! we tested the frio™ with brighter colours and it looked a little wierd, but i'm going to start a poll on connectcombinecreate.com and if i get enough interest then colours are totally easy to do. i love the idea of a yellow frio™. over to you!

  12. Mac says:

    I’ll take 4, maybe 6 just in case. And yeah yellow would be great or a tan colored one for the series II’s. Thanks for the frio write up.

  13. circlew says:

    I do not use cold shoes anymore. My Speedlites aare attached to Pocket Wizard Flex TT5's and I use a 1/4-20 stud to attach it to the Manfrotto Lightstand Umbrella adapter that mounts on my lightstands or other grip items. While it looks neat If you are using the PW's it is not needed. (ps) I haven't had a problem with range issues yet.

  14. What a great idea. I look forward to trying these out. I agree that brighter colours would be better. Thanks for the write up Syl!

  15. [...] “The frio™ is ingenious. For me it was love at first sight.” – Syl Arena [...]

  16. Raphael says:

    After reading this and checking my 580EX II, I see that the rubber weather-seal is very easy to remove and to put back on if necessary, so no problem there. I read someone that the weather-seal was only really practical when used with certain weather-proof Canon EOS bodies.

  17. David DuPuy says:

    I just got one of these from the PDN Expo and put it on my Canon 600EX-RT…and now it won’t come off. Looks like the torque is going to break the bottom off the speedlight!
    I must be doing something wrong, so if anyone had any ideas on how to get this $3 item off a $579 flash let me know!

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