RadioPoppers: Not Just For Wireless TTL

I had had lunch with Kevin King on Friday in Phoenix and got to play with a set of RadioPoppers.

Given that I am not really much of a wireless TTL guy, I did not think that I would be that interested. (For myself, anyway.) But I am most definitely gonna be getting a set. And I'll bet a lot of other Pocket Wizard-toting pro shooters will be, too.

More after the jump.

First of all, you will remember that many people said that the RadioPoppers could not be real because the technological problems were too great to solve. Short answer is, they were almost right.

But they did not count on the tenacity of Kevin King. I know just enough about electronics to be dangerous, and listening to Kevin tick off all of the reasons this could not be done -- and how he solved each of them -- was amazing. Suffice to say, do not ever tell this guy he can't do something.

They definitely work. But since I use Nikon's CLS in the TTL mode very infrequently, I did not think I would be interested in a set for myself. Until I thought about something else my Nikon D300 can do wirelessly at close range: Ultra high-speed sync.

To me, synching a flash over the hybrid IR/RF RadioPopper at a 1/8000th of a second seemed like much more of a challenge than merely running TTL through the new RF range extenders. But when I asked Kevin about that feature, he didn't even blink.

No problem, he said.

(Okay, now I am interested.)

The Achilles heel of FP (focal plane, high-speed) synching systems is the flash-to-subject range limitation. As the shutter speeds move up the ladder, you get less and less range out of your flash, due to the fact that the slitted shutter (at high speeds) is not catching much of the energy put out by the flash.

So, your flashing range at 1/4000th of a sec is far less than the range at, say, 1/500th of a sec. Combine this with the range limitations of straight CLS-type systems, and you can get squeezed on each end.

But if you can move your flashes close to your subject and extend the wireless communication range of your high-speed FP flash, you buy yourself lots more flexibility in your shooting. Think telephoto portraits shot wide open at 1/4000th of a sec to blow out the background focus -- yet still lit with a nearby flash, for instance.

This means you could shoot outdoor portraits with your flattering tele at noon on a sunny day with both controlled light and a nice, soft background.

We were both pressed for time, so didn't really have time to play much. But as a range test, the photo above was shot with high-speed FP flash at a 1/2000th of a second with a D300 at over 100 feet with a telephoto lens.

I was shooting straight TTL wireless flash at about 250-300 feet away earlier, too. The RadioPoppers were working just fine. And if you exceed your range, your transmitter will tell you. It has a "link status" light that tells you when everything is hunky-dory -- and when it is not.

I'll give up my Pocket Wizards when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers. But I'll be making room in my bag for a set of RadioPoppers, too. Congrats to Kevin for pulling off an engineering feat to make any DIY'er proud.

:: RadioPopper Main Website ::
:: RadioPopper Blog ::


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