DON'T MISS: Italian conceptual portrait photographer Sara Lando coming to US for two weekends of workshops in August.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

CYBER COMMANDER Launched; Flash Remotes Gain Consciousness, Plot Extermination of Humans

Paul C. Buff, maker of AlienBees, White Lightning and various other studio flashes, has just announced the "CYBER COMMANDER™."

This marks the first mass-market radio remote for flashes that actually lets you both control the output of the flashes from the camera via radio signals, and provide additional features to boot.

I, for one, would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new Sentient Remotes Overlords...


From the release:

"Suppose you could control and display virtually every parameter of a complex studio flash setup of up to sixteen light units, right from your camera. Not just the basics – everything. All without wires, from up to 400’ away.

In a single glance you could see and control the relative flashpower and model lamp brightness of all sixteen lights, from 1.56 to 6400WS per light.

But what if you could also see the actual camera f-stop of each light, or of all lights, or of any particular group of lights – from a built-in high accuracy flashmeter that allows setting ISO and exposure time and exact calibration from your lights to your camera?

Say you could then bracket all lights, or any group of lights, in precise 1/10f digital steps, while automatically updating the camera f-stops and power levels without re-metering."

And he is apparently not talking just about Bees and White Lightnings, either:

UPDATE: The CC apparently controls the power levels on Paul Buff brand flashes, but no so other brands.

Release continues:

Say you were using CYBER COMMANDER™ with a combination of AlienBees, White Lightning, Zeus, our upcoming all-digital Einstein lights, other brands and a speedlight or two.

Oh! What if the display told you exactly what light version and head is on each channel and you don’t have to remember what channel number is which light. The naming menu allows you to use names like “Left Main”, etc.

Power is standard AAA batts, expected battery life is six months to two years. They've also lopped off the delay inherent in the electronics, meaning that some of the special DSLRs that can sync at higher-than-posted speeds reportedly wil be able to sync at up to a 1/2500 of a second via these remotes.

Holy crap. I think we have just moved into the next technological era of remotes. Fortunately, they are not actually here yet. Projected T-Virus date is late Nov to early Dec. We still have time to find Sarah Connor.

There's a lot of info to go through on the CYBER COMMANDER page. I am still sifting through it myself.

So, what's your take? Does this change the dynamic in the PW/eBay/Skyport/etc. landscape? Is it a game breaker? Is flash control worth the 400' range limit? Will Ahnold play the CYBER COMMANDER in the movie version?

Step up to the mic in the comments.


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46 Comments:

Blogger Whodat said...

At those prices, it should give the PW's a run for there money. (if it is not vaporware)

November 01, 2008 9:19 PM  
Blogger .felix said...

I don't know guys, if it doesn't move the lights remotely, and sets them up, and gels them, and if you can't fire them from home, or at least over the internet or GPS... then it's not much improvement.
I think we should wait.


;)

November 01, 2008 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I just saw this on hack a day and thought you would like it

http://hackaday.com/2008/11/01/flash-sync-port-hacking/

Mike

November 01, 2008 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Steve Thompson said...

Well, it seems to me that this is a big breakthrough for users of studio strobes. Basically radio CLS-like control of your AB-equipped studio.

No real advantage to a guy like me with the ol' fashioned CyberSyncs and a satchel of SB's, though, right?

November 01, 2008 9:43 PM  
Blogger BigV said...

That is pretty cool. I've used a Compuscene for many years. It is a fantastic piece of hardware but still requires running wires from each light to a central controller.

I've never been big on being an early adopter. I may make an exception this time. For field use I can see this as being a big bonus.

Thanks for the heads up.

November 01, 2008 11:35 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

They have a reputation of setting high expectations, and meeting them. I'm certainly going to be keeping an eye on them for a while. I bought the other trigger that they released to to long ago, and I honestly have no desire to get pocket wizards...

---Alex
http://MooreALX.com

November 01, 2008 11:48 PM  
Blogger David said...

That is cool, Like Elichromes Skyport software but on camera, no need for an assistant to be sitting at a computer or for you to walk over to the computer to set your lights.......What would really put this over the top is the ability to record lighting output for each shot so you can repeat a shot.

So it talks to the camera and record "Image DSC_024: Main(L1)F8/Main(L2)F4/Back(L3)F11" and saves it to a SD card or something. That way when you import you images at the end of a shot you could then upload the lighting info and match it to each file and keep a lighting library.....Hell Paul could sell a piece of software that would in essence be a lighting library with thumbnails and everything!!!!!

For the public record, if Paul comes out with this you will know I had the idea first lol!

November 02, 2008 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave..it's not April fools yet..or is it??
It looks nice anyway :)

November 02, 2008 1:21 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Watching how McNally did in his shoot, I can see it being a part of a pro's workflow ... but for an amateure like myself, learning to light, this is way above the top.

Also, the Nikon system that McNally used was running from TTL ... something that this system distinctly lacks.

On 99.9% occasions it would be just as easy to walk over to the strobe and adjust it manually rather than faff around with a load of button presses. For the 0.1% of occasions, it isn't worth the cost.

The other thing I don't like is the tie in to a particular manufacturer of strobes. Whether the specification is open for others to manufacture kit would be of concern to me.

Also, Alien Bee's attitude to oversees buyers is a very, very big turn off for me.

Nah ... this isn't going to find its way in to my equipment bag anytime soon.

November 02, 2008 1:23 AM  
Blogger melon499 said...

What's the difference between the Buff system and Quantum's QFlash TRIO (recently announced - http://www.qtm.com/Trio/)? Also, don't RadioPoppers allow you to do the same with the Canon/ Nikon eTTL/ CLS system? Am I missing the point?

November 02, 2008 3:20 AM  
Blogger Pat Morrissey said...

My bro brought me Cybersyncs from the US during the summer. They're great - if this new piece of kit overcomes the limitations of manual settings I'll fly to the States myself to get one. It would probably be cheaper than airmail and tax!

November 02, 2008 5:43 AM  
Blogger michalgarcia.com said...

I have mixed feelings about an item like this. At first, it makes me want to burn some $$ and try them out. But then, I feel I'd rather regress technologically and go lomographic style and tear Alien bees a new pinhole. That would be art, yeth.
---
---
btw, totally hilarious on the Terminator connection :-)
great blog!

November 02, 2008 6:24 AM  
Anonymous gnb40 said...

David, you might have missed an important item... the CST transmitter. With it ($59.00) and the receivers, you have the same function as PWs at half the price. This is a good option between the cheap eBay units and PWs that gives you the ability to upgrade to the Commander if you get lights that it supports. Also 2.4 ghz technology works... it revolutionized the RC plane market where radio interference could cause some expensive planes and dangerous toys($500-3000) to crash!

November 02, 2008 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Pablo said...

David

First, as this is my debut posting, many thanks for such a fantastic site - and philosophy. It has truly changed the way I work, and what a liberation!

I guess thats the essence of my point. The whole Strobist mentality is about 'less gear more brain' is it not? Cool and fascinating as this piece of gear looks, and it does, it seems to take away from the simplicity of working, portability and just the 'light anywhere' nature of the Strobist philosophy.

I don't see this giving PW a run, as it's fundamentally different. With a PW I can trigger _any_ flash, _any_ brand, speedlight or studio strobe - whatever. The same goes for the eBay triggers, just without the bullet proof-ness. Even in the studio setting (where I must confess I'm using the speedlights more and more - too easy not to), as .felix said they only do half the job. I don't know about you, but I normally reset the lights, position, gelling etc for each segment of a shoot.

I guess YMMV, but these seem to be solving diffent problems than the ones I face in a Strobist context.

P

November 02, 2008 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Pablo said...

First, as this is my debut posting, many thanks for such a fantastic site - and philosophy. It has truly changed the way I work, and what a liberation!

I guess thats the essence of my point. The whole Strobist mentality is about 'less gear more brain' is it not? Cool and fascinating as this piece of gear looks, and it does, it seems to take away from the simplicity of working, portability and just the 'light anywhere' nature of the Strobist philosophy.

I don't see this giving PW a run, as it's fundamentally different. With a PW I can trigger _any_ flash, _any_ brand, speedlight or studio strobe - whatever. The same goes for the eBay triggers, just without the bullet proof-ness. Even in the studio setting (where I must confess I'm using the speedlights more and more - too easy not to), as .felix said they only do half the job. I don't know about you, but I normally reset the lights, position, gelling etc for each segment of a shoot.

I guess YMMV, but these seem to be solving diffent problems than the ones I face in a Strobist context.

P

November 02, 2008 6:59 AM  
Blogger Michael Tapes said...

I worked with Paul Buff back when he was innovating in the Pro Audio field. He brought a lot of innovation into Pro Audio, and with WL and AB he has made his mark in Photography.

I have no doubt that this latest innovation will live up to his claims. I will be watching closely and no doubt reaching for my credit card.

Way to go Paul..

Michael Tapes

November 02, 2008 7:30 AM  
Blogger mr_chompers said...

Not to argue, because it is a cool product, but the elinchrom skyport system has been able to do this for a while. No display on the remote, but you can adjust the output of up to 4 flashes independently (from the on camera trigger), as long as they are elinchrom brand flashes (which this one appears to be proprietary to Alienbees stuff)

November 02, 2008 7:39 AM  
Anonymous LightlyS said...

I disagree Michelle..I've been using Alien Bees for a while now and would find the ability to remotely control them incredibly handy - especially when I have one on a boom or high up on a stand! I use Nikon CLS as well and love the ability to control strobes from the camera - always in Manual though as I find the TTL unreliable.

Also, I live in a small city in Australia and have had nothing but the most incredible service from Paul C Buff and his team. Sure they're not a global giant but they bend over backwards to make sure I am happy.

November 02, 2008 7:51 AM  
Anonymous tekdiver500ft said...

The 400' range is for one transmitter to one receiver. When you add additional receivers, you get additional range, as they will re-transmit the trigger signal. There is at least one guy over on PCB's forum that is getting ranges of over 1/3 mile out of his, shooting trains at night. Yes, these will put the bite on PW and Compuscene, et al.

November 02, 2008 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Norbert said...

Hi everyone,
Gathering from what they wrote on their page, those little guys appear to be able to work with just any kind of light - the thing being that you can get all the special FX with their lights only. With the others - especially strobists' favorite SB's - they will do everything we want them to: "remote tripping, grouping and the camera f-stop metering and display." (Copied from their website)

The only thing that could be lacking is the control of the output.

Thank you David for a wonderful site! I keep learning!

November 02, 2008 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

As a big fan of available light who is debating getting into strobes, a tool offering this level of control and flexibility goes a long way in persuading me to take the plunge.

Thanks for the fantastic site, by the way - the effort that went/goes into this is clearly enormous.

November 02, 2008 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Harry said...

Awesome, I've been thinking about buying the controller that's hard wired to the AB strobe but this is so much better.

November 02, 2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Michael Durham said...

Pablo

Your post above is essentially incorrect. I own PW and have recently purchased a series cybersyncs (the simple version - not this newer deluxe version). The cybersyncs have a bit less range, but otherwise will trigger any flash that PW can - and they can use the same adapter cords as PW.

Additionally, they have quite a few more channels to choose from.

Finally, they are smaller than PW, very well built, and considerably more affordable.

I have used them on several rugged travel assignments, and they have performed 100 % in every situation to date.

November 02, 2008 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Zeke said...

Very, very interesting.

November 02, 2008 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Steve Thompson said...

@Norbert - I saw that on their site, but it seems to me when you think about it, there's not much there for SB users.

"remote tripping, grouping and the camera f-stop metering and display."

All triggers (assuming they work) offer remote tripping. I can see the camera metering on the top display of my D300 or in the viewfinder - that just seems like a redundant convenience. Grouping without power control for each group doesn't seem very useful unless you plan to use several setups at once (If I only had enough SB's!) and want to turn various sets of strobes on and off.

I'm not knocking the system, it looks great, but I really don't see anything compelling over the regular CS's other than bling if you are small strobe user.

November 02, 2008 1:49 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

I owned a set of four of the earlier models of Paul Buffs slaves. They were mated to 4 Alien Bees (which I love!) I hated the slaves because on the rare occasions when they did fire, not all of them would. I spent hours on the phone with their troubleshooting folks. They were very polite, but unable to rend any meaningful advice on how to get the remotes to function as advertised. They eventually sent me an entire new set, but these were not any better.

I would have to see some serious experience from other users before I would ever consider giving Buff's remotes again. I'll stick with PW's and put up with manually adjusting my strobe output.

November 02, 2008 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Mr Hutt said...

David, these are *not* the first transmitters able to control light output from the camera position. The Elinchrom RX Skyports control output levels for their RX line of packs and monolights from the camera position as well. They've been doing it for a year.

November 02, 2008 4:50 PM  
Blogger Aaron Potter said...

Oh boy!

I can't wait to get my hands on these.

I've been waiting and watching the technology of remote triggers for a long time. I've used PW's professionally - but these ARE better than PW's. The flexibility and ability to SEE and change the output is huge. I can't tell you how many times I've had a light WAY up high and wanted to change the output and had to take the light down and HOPE that I put it back in the right spot.

I will be combining this with SB-800's and Alienbees in the near future...

Thank you Paul - your a true innovator.

November 02, 2008 8:02 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

@Jerry

I have a set of the CyberSyncs that I got from PCB after trading in my old, unreliable triggers from them. Were you aware of the trade-in program? The CyberSyncs are rock solid performers. I have absolutely no problem recommending them to you or anyone.

November 02, 2008 9:44 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

This will be a must have for any small studio. yes its easy to walk over and adjust the lights BUT with this it can be quick and accurate. No need for the assistant. AND MOST OF ALL, not having to have your subject stand in a pose while you play around with the light sittings. Hurry up PAUL give us the full system already... :)

November 02, 2008 10:14 PM  
Blogger the manbagaholic said...

did i miss something or does the info suggest that this can be used to remotely control speedlights too ? canons and nikons ? any ideas ?

November 03, 2008 4:17 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

I'm glad to see PCB produce these, but I won't be a customer. The features only work on PCB strobes, all others only get trigger. Since I use Hensel studio strobes and SB-800s, these are nothing except triggers for me.

And that's the real problem. When you mix brands/types of lights, we end up going back to manual/on flash adjustments. What we really need is a standard. I would love for Nikon to produce a SB-1000 with a well-documented port that allows third party electronics to control the strobe. If they do the same for the hot shoe, then we could see third party triggers that extend CLS by radio. If they could get Hensel, Profoto, etc. to adapt the standard, we'd be in business. Perhaps Pocket Wizard could develop the standard.

Anyway, for now I'll stick with my PWs because I can mix and match my strobes and the workflow is exactly the same no matter what strobe I use.

Of course, if PCB came out with a SB-style flash that worked with the CyberSync, that could be a game changer. I find it odd that none of the studio strobe guys with remote control/trigger offer a SB-style portable flash.

November 03, 2008 6:43 AM  
Anonymous arun said...

Great news. I was about to change my studio lights to bees and this comes as perfect timing. Wireless - sweet !!

November 03, 2008 7:24 AM  
Blogger jimmyd said...

Might not be long before photography sheds the need for a photographer.

You might be right. Sarah Connor where are you?

November 03, 2008 11:02 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

@ken,

then we could see third party triggers that extend CLS by radio

www.radiopopper.com

November 03, 2008 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hensel Wireless trigger lets you do this as well, modify power of the lights remotely. Not that new really.

November 03, 2008 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's up with the radio popper Jr? No news and no updates. Are they still in business?

November 03, 2008 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Scott Fischbein - Wedding Photographer said...

I'm very excited about these. I use two AB800s at weddings during the reception to light the dance floor (currently with PWs). It's a real hassle having to move back and forth between the lights if I want to adjust their relative power or turn one on or off - the ability to do this remotely is very appealing. I'll be getting some of these for sure if they act as described - which, considering PCB's track record, I think they will.

November 03, 2008 1:26 PM  
Blogger David said...

For those people pointing to Skyports and Hensels, these things do a lot more than just control the light output levels. Might want to click through for a thorough read.

_D

November 03, 2008 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Alan Lapp said...

Even if they perform only as a trigger for me, using shoe-mount strobes, I'd still buy them since they come from a known producer of quality gear, and at a reasonable price.

I was wondering why radio trigger MFGs hadn't jumped on the 2.4 ghz band, but I guess it has taken a while to develop the product. IMHO, all triggers will eventually migrate to 2.4 ghz operation.

Of course, I just dropped nearly $700 on Pocket Wizards..... wait for it.... 20 minutes ago @ BH. Where's the "banging head on the wall" animated gif when I need it?

Clearly, I read my web pages in the wrong order.

November 03, 2008 8:29 PM  
Blogger Wink of an eye Digital said...

What I like is you can mix different equipment....speedlights and AB800 etc and to control them from the camera is going to save a lot of time.

This could eliminate a photographer as a model could set up the shot and move to camera front.

Be scared ...be very scared.

November 04, 2008 6:32 AM  
Anonymous Pablo said...

@Michael Durham

Michael, I'm not sure my earlier post was fundamentally incorrect, but your points are taken seriously. I looked a little further into the standard product and have ordered a complete outfit of them on your recommendation. Hope you're right!

P

November 05, 2008 5:21 PM  
Blogger Philadelphia Wedding Photographers said...

So I just ordered the CYBERSYNC CST (the cheapies $60 for the transmitter and $70 for the reciever.)

They sync super fast on the D70S. How fast? 3200th of a second wirelessly with a D70S - twice as fast as Pocketwizards.

Photo proof and exif:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3220/3007527804_3647bb4846.jpg

November 06, 2008 12:52 AM  
Blogger dv8or said...

Hensel has had a remote that adjusts power output for some time but only with their own system.
Marc

November 14, 2008 10:49 AM  
Blogger Kurt @ freedivephoto.com said...

10/7/09 update: http://www.paulcbuff.com/pcb2009/progress-report.html

October 13, 2009 2:40 PM  
Blogger superkev said...

I just got my Cyber Commander a couple of weeks ago after having used the Alien Bees RR1 system for a couple of years. It's a big step forward, but not without its glitches. I'm hoping future firmware updates will address these, because it's a promising start.

November 16, 2009 3:44 PM  

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