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What is a hot shoe?
A hot shoe is a fitting on top of many cameras designed to attach compatible accessories, like a flash unit. It looks similar to an angled metallic bracket, with a metal contact point in the middle. This allows for an electrical connection between the camera and the accessory for seamless flash synchronization. This way the flash can be triggered wirelessly. As voltage and form are not standardized, there’s a chance of incompatibilities between brands.
Hot shoes can also be used to attach a viewfinder, rangefinder, or GPS unit.
How to use a hot shoe
They are easy to use! Most DSLR cameras have a hot shoe on the top, directly above the pop-up-flash. The device you are trying to attach needs to have a connector plate on its bottom, which fits in the hot shoe’s bracket. Then, with the help of a wheel or lever, you can tighten your flash or another accessory to your camera.
Visit this site for a more in-depth guide on how you can use your hot shoe flash.
Hot shoes vs Cold shoes
A cold shoe is like a hot shoe, except it doesn’t allow communication between the device and the camera. Instead, the connection is established through wires. The cold shoe’s only purpose is to fasten add-ons to the camera and keep them towards the gravitational center. This means your camera won’t be unbalanced. You should consider using cold for devices like external microphones, a flash connected by cable, or GoPros.