Frio Cold Shoe Review – Expensive bit of plastic or essential accessory?

The Frio Cold Shoe adaptor in all its glory!

I’ve been doing a fair bit of work for a corporate client recently (which I’ll blog about when the job’s all done) which has involved using off camera flash. Speedlights, Pocketwizards, Umbrellas, Softboxes – the usual sort of thing.

Now, what people don’t give too much thought to is how the trigger or flash mounts to their light stands – you’ll usually use the cold shoe (so called because it doesn’t actually trigger your flash) that comes with your umbrella adaptor or softbox mount. They’re supplied with it, therefore they do the job – right?

You’d hope so, wouldn’t you… Read on!

This was my coldshoe, the one that I used up until today. In actual fact it’s not the coldshoe that came with my umbrella mount, and it’s not the coldshoe that came with my softbox mount. It’s a coldshoe that I specifically bought to replace the ones that came with my gear.

Clamp Type Coldshoe - Useless

I bought this specifically because of the ‘clamp’ like style. The theory is sound – you slide the flash / trigger in, you tighten the clamp, your flashes remain safe, secure and on your light stand. It’s the same concept my tripod quick release plate uses and it works on that.

But I was doing a job last year, and after a quick change of setting and after I’d moved my lightstand complete with umbrella and flash to a different location, my flash decided to commit suicide. It jumped out of the clamp coldshoe and hit the concrete floor. The battery door broke open and the IR panel scuttled a few feet down the path. Nice. Fortunately it was only a Yongnuo YN460-II flashgun which only cost £30 and was mounted on a Yongnuo RF602 receiver (again inexpensive) so whilst I was miffed I wasn’t too annoyed. I just put this down to not tightening the clamp fully.

Skip forward to this year, and I’ve got rid of the YN460-II’s and am using Canon 430EXII’s (which are around £200 each) and I’ve invested in a set of Pocketwizard FlexTT5’s (which are around £200 again). Now we’re talking of around £400’s worth of equipment mounted on the clamp coldshoe.

So last week when I was working on this corporate job and moving my gear around I was horrified to note that the Pocketwizard holding my 430EXII had made its way halfway out of the clamp and was only minutes away from a rapid descent onto the floor. Ok, I’m insured, but I really don’t want to have to waste my time with a claim! Needless to say I checked the tightness of the clamp, and was horrified to note that even fully tightened I could slide my Pocketwizard holding the 430EXII on and off with ease.

Naturally, the past few days have been spent trying to source a new type of coldshoe, one which I can trust to take my equipment.

And that’s how I ended up with the Frio (top picture).

I’d spotted the website at and had a good look. It seemed ingenious – a plastic catch which pops up behind your flash (or trigger) after you’ve slid it on, thus preventing your equipment from falling backwards and onto the floor – and even better was the inclusion of a little hole at the front, ready to receive the locking pin built into most flashes and triggers these days for an extra layer of security. Ok, the RF602 doesn’t have a locking mechanism, but the height of the plastic catch will easily prevent that trigger from falling off. Whilst the Frio itself is made from plastic, the standard 1/4-20 thread is all metal so it’s nice and strong and should cater for years of use.

The underside of the Frio - note the metal thread!

The only problem is that these things cost £13. That’s a serious amount of money for what is essentially a two inch long bit of moulded plastic with a metal socket. I loved the concept of it, I loved the ‘why on earth did nobody make this before?’ simplicity but £13 is ridiculous – especially when you consider that you won’t be buying just one. There will be the one for your umbrella bracket, one for your softbox bracket and so on and so on and then those £13’s have mounted up. A fiver makes it an instant purchase, thirteen quid gets you thinking… By way of comparison, in the USA these things are $14 – which equates at today’s prices to £9. The UK price equates to $20.

But then you have to remember that (in my case) this will be supporting (and protecting) over £400’s worth of equipment and it makes a little more sense. You have the dual locking mechanism ensuring that your equipment is staying where you want it.

So yesterday I ordered two from Premier Ink as I have a shoot tomorrow at the location where my YN460-II attempted suicide. I didn’t want to go through all that again! Premier Ink are a good retailer who I’ve used a few times now. As I was mail ordering I had to cross my fingers that they’d be delivered today – with no actual expectation that they would be – but to Premier Ink’s credit they arrived safe and sound.

Naturally, what with them only arriving today I’ve not had time to try them out in the field, but from first impressions they promise to do everything it says on the tin. I’ve mounted my Pocketwizards on them, and although the form factor of the Flex TT5 makes it a little bit of a pain getting it on, once it’s on and locked in with the pin it doesn’t budge at all.

Canon 430EXII mounted on the Frio Coldshoe

As you can see from the picture above, once the flash is mounted in, the plastic catch will stop it from falling off the Frio. If I’d turned the lock switch on the 430EXII then it would have been even more secure. But I didn’t… Apparently they also cater for the oversized foot of the Nikon SB600 – but I’m not Nikon and I don’t have an SB600 so don’t go quoting me on it!

I’m not sure how durable the Frio coldshoe will be – I suspect that if you were using an umbrella and a gust of wind took your equipment hurtling to the ground then the Frio would snap without hesitation. If these things were a fiver then you wouldn’t be so bothered about replacing them, but at £13 a pop… Obviously I’m going to be using these ‘in the wild’ for the first time tomorrow so I’ll be able to give more real-world feedback after then.

But for now, I’m quite positive about the Frio coldshoe – they’re manufactured well, they’ve been carefully and cleverly designed, and they certainly look like they’ll do everything needed of them. If only the price was a little more sensible!

Feel free to leave your comments below!