DON'T MISS: Italian conceptual portrait photographer Sara Lando is coming to the US to teach in Atlanta (8/16) and Baltimore (8/23). Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

UPDATE: Latest on the PW Flex/Minis

UPDATE: For those specifically looking to discuss the Flex and Mini -- especially Canon interference issues and workarounds -- the best place I have found is on the PW Flickr Group.
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For those of you interested the new PW Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 units, some updates on the Canon range issues -- and new features -- inside.
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Signal vs. Noise

First things first, there have been reports of interference shortening the working range with the new PWs and some Canon model flashes. It was surprising to me, as I did not experience any first-hand range issues in my testing of the units I had earlier this year. But I shoot Nikon, of course.

The range reports that were coming in were certainly enough to get PW's attention. And when they looked into them they found that the Canon flashes themselves were putting out some RF interference that shortened the range of the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 units -- and significantly, in some cases.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that not only were some of the Canon units noisy (RF-wise) but there was also a wide range of variability when it came to the magnitude of the RF noise. Some individual units were moderately noisy, and others were more like front-row-at-a-Metallica-concert noisy. (FWIW, PW did not see the problem during development because while they bought a dozen or so Canon flashes for testing, those were relatively new flashes with similar serial numbers.)

"We should have just bought the the flashes off of eBay," joked PW's Jim Clark, noting that the noise range was all over the map depending not only on the flash model, but how long ago it was manufactured.

This radio frequency interference does serve to shorten the range of wireless TTL synching. But since the problems are coming from the flashes themselves, it is now the flashes that get the fix. Rob Galbraith has a very detailed post on his homebrew fix(es) for noisy flashes.



PW themselves have just annouced an "AC7 Shield" which should greatly extend your range if you happen to have a noisy flash. It also doubles as a flash umbrella adapter which gets the flash almost exactly onto the axis of the umbrella shaft. They are sending them out for free to Canon users who are experiencing problems with interference from Canon flashes. Nikon flashes (actually, all other brands of flashes) do not leak RF as do the Canons and thus are not affected.

(NOTE: The photo below actually shows the next-to-last version of the AC7 shield. Minor changes were made to the final version, renderings of which are available on the AC7 announcement.)



Long story short, if your Canon flash is spitting out RF noise, shielding it should bring dramatic improvements in wireless TTL range. PW tests are showing new ranges of several times the distance of unshielded flashes, all other things being equal. Rob put it through its paces, and wrote a very detailed review, here.

For the Nikon shooters, RF noise issues are reportedly nonexistent with the Nikon speedlights. And all seem to get along well with the upcoming Nikon PW models, which are due out soon and available for preorder.


It's a Platform, Not a Remote

If you are using the new Minis and/or Flexes, you definitely want to make sure to use your utility program and upgrade your firmware pretty regularly. They aren't just fixing bugs -- they are improving the feature set and providing new capabilities. (You can always get the latest firmware info at PocketWizard.)

You have to remember that these things are basically black-box Trojan Horses that allow PW to hack (in a good way) into all sorts of features and abilities of the various flash platforms.

Example: One of the more interesting new features is a little timing hack that shortens the length of the pulses that fire in FP mode.

This reduces the amount of energy used by the flash in FP mode, thus giving Flex/Mini users shorter recycle times and longer battery life. FP photogs who are used to waiting for the recharge at high shutter speeds (thus, more wasted flash energy) just got a little bit of their life back.

This is not small potatoes, either. Efficiency gains are reportedly as high as 70%, and this also translates to higher output in FP mode on the various pulsed shutter speed settings. Anyone who has ever pushed FP flash to its limits (not hard to do) will behappy to hear that some camera/flash combos are cranking out up to two more stops of light in that neighborhood. (More details here.)

Also, due to the wide range of max sync speeds and shutter delays of various models, some flashes are better suited to shift from HyperSync into FP sync at different shutter speeds. And PW has given control of that crossover point to the user. You can now choose at what point the remotes will toggle between HyperSync (increased max sync speed) and FP (hi-speed pulsed) sync. If you are hanging out in the grey area on your model, you might choose a different point to make the jump than staying with the previous 1/640th default.

It important to note that anything I write here may well be out of date and eclipsed by the next firmware update. We will not be hitting every update but may set up some kind of an archive table for info or something like that. Especially with respect to the different microsecond delay settings for various camera and flash models for the HyperSync settings.

Shortly after the Nikon-specific PWs are out, I'll put out a call for numbers and we'll set up a comprehensive table/matrix of settings. For instance, someone with a D3 and Profotos will have a totally different ideal sync offset than someone with a 5DII and a set of AlienBees.

This is important information, because it buys you the very best sync speed possible with your camera/flash combo. And higher sync speeds effectively mean greater effective flash range. We'll give the readers a little time to experiment, then crowdsource the info.


Of Mice and Men

Last but not least, remember "Newton," the mouse who invaded Jim Clark's house last winter? He was thusly named because he yielded to the laws of Newtonian physics in the process of being spectacularly captured.

Well, Newton is once again free, looking for another house to invade for next winter.

Freeing him wasn't easy - Newton knew a good gig when he saw it. But he was finally coaxed out of his comfy "jail" and headed immediately for the trees. Yep, he went for the high ground, running right up the side of a tree fast enough to impress Jim, who just might have to engineer Mousetrap v2.0 next winter.


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82 Comments:

Anonymous james bruce said...

Great info David, but I got lost on how the higher sync speeds make the effective range better. Are you talking about shutter sync speed or better coordination of when the flash fires during the open shutter period since the flash is still shorter in duration than the shutter speed. The follow up is why is that different between different rigs?

May 26, 2009 11:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin Housen said...

I've been pretty happy with the new PW remotes. I haven't experienced the range problems others have, although I haven't tried using them beyond ~50' or so. On the downside, I don't get past 1/250th synch speed with my 5D Mk II.

One thing to watch for - the hot shoe, while metal, can pop off without a great deal of provocation. I had my 580EXII attached to a FlexTT5 just sitting on a counter. It ended up tipping over. The flash was fine, but the torque on impact was enough to pop the shoe off the TT5, and its not easy to get back on. So, its back to LPA for repair.

David: Any word on when the Trojan Horse might be announced?

kevin

May 26, 2009 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

I certainly wish that the announcement is that PW is going to support Sony/KM with these units.. but I am not holding my breath...

May 26, 2009 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Oh Nikon gods, you smile upon me! I've been waiting ever since I heard about the Flex system for the Nikon version.

May 26, 2009 11:51 PM  
Anonymous TC said...

I know it's a small marked compared to Nikon/Canon, but I really wish they would look into supporting Pentax PTTL...

May 27, 2009 12:23 AM  
Anonymous brett maxwell said...

I am disappointed that this is being spun as an acceptable solution. RadioPopper users are having no problems with RF noise using the same flashes, and working at much farther distances than the PW even with the AC7. This AC7 adds much additional bulk for those of us trying to pack fairly light (isn't that the whole point of using small flashes?) and will make many light modifiers difficult or impossible to use.

I'm glad to hear the Nikon versions are not experiencing problems, but the Canon models need to go back to the drawing board.

May 27, 2009 12:32 AM  
Blogger Joe Miller said...

PLEASE let the new thingie be a master/zone controller, so you don't have to waste a 580 on the mini...

May 27, 2009 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Hurtig said...

The Soviet Union were building their tractors out of cast iron, and to tackle the massive weight they needed to build an even more massive engine. The result was a monstrosity which was totally unsuitable to do any farming since due to its weight it just dug deep into the soil.

I personally believe that PW should not follow other major corporations and try to deny when a product is flawed, but instead should issue a recall of all of the latest triggers.

To state that they tried "a dozen" of the latest flashes, when they then try to demonstrate how noisy the 580EX II is not honest. Had they done their homework and tested the product before release, they could have easily changed the internal structure of the recievers.

May 27, 2009 12:45 AM  
Blogger pindman said...

Please put rear-curtain sync at the top of the wish list! I love my PW's (which just arrived), but need to remove them when I need rear curtain sync, which is frequent.

May 27, 2009 12:57 AM  
Anonymous ry said...

so much for PWs giving your setup that visually-professional touch. My scotch-taped on filters look more pro than that.

Still, nice of them to introduce a slanket on short notice.

May 27, 2009 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've spoken with several pros who tried the flex/minis. Without exception, they found these units to be unreliable for day-to-day work. When the rubber hits the road, you can't not know that your flash is going to fire. They all have switched back to the old, trusty PW Plus IIs, which are pretty much bulletproof.

May 27, 2009 1:17 AM  
Blogger Sybren said...

I love how Radio Poppers just use the RF "noise" from those flashes, and apparently aren't negatively influenced by them.

Just a bit off-topic: David, do you have any idea when the Radio Poppers will be available in the EU? I've asked at RP, but I don't get any response.

May 27, 2009 1:57 AM  
Blogger B Steeles said...

So is there any word on release date on the Nikon Specific versions of the Flex and mini? Im ready to invest in some PWs and since I run SB600s i've been dying for a release date...

May 27, 2009 2:02 AM  
Anonymous Markus said...

Are they doing a toaster that can fire out bread from the press of a button 50m away? That's awesome!

You heard it here first.

May 27, 2009 2:50 AM  
OpenID zachgray said...

So stoked for the Nikon FlexTT5s to come out!

I had no idea about the platform updates. PW is so cool!

May 27, 2009 3:11 AM  
Blogger Kvocal said...

David I would like to thank you for the blog. It is an invaluable source of knowledge to me. Please do not take the following the wrong way. This is not one of those I am never going to read your blog again post. I have to say that you seem to be giving Pocketwizard a pretty good pass on the whole performance issue. As a reader of your blog I would hope you would be a little more objective. I understand you do not want to hurt your relationship with Pocketwizard but your readers rely on your objectivity. There are other products in this same space (no need to call it out by name) that your readers my benefit from. Equal time my prove beneficial to your readers.

May 27, 2009 3:48 AM  
Anonymous James Harrang said...

My best guess is that they are releasing their own flash control unit. I was thinking about that very possibility the other day after reading a review where someone mentioned controlling their flash setup through an on-camera unit. I really hope they release a software solution as well as a hardware model so that tethering a laptop as a controller is an option as well. I for one would much rather use a mouse than a frustrating array of buttons.

May 27, 2009 3:50 AM  
Blogger pawdidi said...

Does the Radiopoppers have had any of this problems? I rest my case...

May 27, 2009 4:16 AM  
Blogger Inga said...

This is good news. I just picked up my new PWs and was surprised how horrible the range was. Just was about ready to send them back. Hope it is priced appropriately.

May 27, 2009 4:28 AM  
Anonymous Yoram said...

Bummer really. I've had an occasional No Fire event (using the Minis and TT5s with my 1Ds and EX 580 IIs) but because I'm shooting portraits an occasional misfire is not the end of the world. I feel bad for wedding pros. But it disappoints me in that it undermines my confidence in the gear. Shlepping 3 RF shields does not fit my less-is-more location strategy.

May 27, 2009 5:10 AM  
Blogger Paps said...

Makes me wonder wether the noise also influenced the ebay triggers...

May 27, 2009 5:47 AM  
Blogger Charles Verghese said...

From what I understand, the RF interference is coming from the fact that the freqs are close to the US/Canadian range. I wonder if anyone has checked to see if there is a similar issue on the EU versions.

May 27, 2009 5:55 AM  
Blogger Søren Siim said...

Just curious... how come RadioPoppers have no issues with RF noise and get several times the TTL distance than the PW units, using the exact same Canon flashes for testing? As seen here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJbEsC27Quk

May 27, 2009 6:13 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Good to hear PW are doing something about the RF Issue. I bought a set of 1 Mini & 2 Flexs - and only the thought of ebay kept me from throwing them in the bin, when I discovered the range was feeble...

Looks like I may hang on to them for a little longer.

May 27, 2009 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Quintin said...

I love the site, thanks for all the info.
I am concerned about the issues mentioned on DWF regarding these units not being up to scratch with regards build quality -
www.digitalweddingforum.com/forum/thanks again for a great site.

May 27, 2009 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the update.
I do have flexTT5's, but I have to say, that even with the not noisy flash models like 550ex the range is very dissappointing.
unfortunately i did further testing only after i had them already for 30 days... to late to return, but i am really angry since i can't use them for commerical projects, because they are unreliable.

in one test with newest firmware:
st-2 on 5dmII 550ex, only maybe 30ft distance ... unreliable ... sometimes it works, then not, then the other one, then not.

another test: 3 remotes 2x550ex 1x580ex about 45", outside ... failed.
then tried the cheap cactus from a friend ... worked fine.
I paied x-fold for the new pw - very dissappointing.
I would not recommend buying them

May 27, 2009 7:38 AM  
Blogger carloshauck said...

David,
I just bought the new MiniTT1 and I am going to use them with the old Plus II as a receiver. How do the work? They have the same noise problem as if I was having the FlexTT5 as a receiver or do they work better? I was wondering if its different.

May 27, 2009 8:32 AM  
Blogger Lee Hammond Photography said...

If the reduced PW range was really the fault of noisy flashes, how come this didn't affect Radiopoppers in the same way? The comparison video, that I saw, showed RP with a consistently longer range.

Good for Newton! We too kept a mouse in jail over the winter, after he foolishly came into our house and met our four cats. He gnawed his way out of the plastic jail cell, in the garage, and liberated himself.

May 27, 2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger Joost said...

I can understand this shielding trick works and one could argue that it's Canons fault, but imho it's a rather unpractical solution if you want to work quick and keep your equipment small and light. I hope PW works on a solution to make their product intrinsically more robust.

May 27, 2009 9:19 AM  
Blogger B Steeles said...

Glad to see the develepment of these is still coming along. Has there been any word on release dates for the Nikon version of theflex and mini?

May 27, 2009 10:08 AM  
Blogger David said...

@James-

The new PWs jump the timing on the primary flash sync compared to the standard, in camera timing. The timing of this jump (they call it a hypersync) can be varied, which is necessary due to the different timing architectures of different camera/flash combos.

In addition, the new PWs can do wireless, radio controlled FP flash, which is the standard pulsing flash for very high shutter speeds. And the crossover between the two can now be moved with the latest firmware update.


@Brett; Sybren; Lee-

RP operates in a completely different freq range, so they will be subject to different sources of environmental interference than will PWs. That said, their range out of the box with the Canon units is more robust at this time. But, they do not have the built-in architecture to do what PW is planning to do, IMO. Everything is a tradeoff, and I suspect people will make their choices based on different factors.

@Carlos-

The new PWs transmit on two, simultaneous channels, one of which is user selectable to any channel from the older PW channel set. You select and load in any two channels to be ready to do via the utility program. Check your manual.

@Kvocal-

My reports were based only on my direct experiences with my test units, with which I had no problems. I was uncomfortable in that I am neither a Canon nor a TTL user, so I defer to Rob Galbraith on the more sophisticated tests, as he is both a TTL user and a Canon user.

As for influence, I have been a PW user, almost exclusively, since the early 1990's. And in general, rather than try to write about everything that comes along I write about what I use and know. I do make exceptions for things that I find interesting and think would carry broad interest.

But I do not want Strobist to devolve into just another site that reports on every new doodad that hits. I get pitched several times a week from every direction you can imagine. But I have made a decision to write mostly about what I use and know, and to hit some other areas to broaden my experience base out a bit.

-DH

May 27, 2009 10:57 AM  
Blogger Dusey said...

Oh yes, we need a table with micro second delay settings that best for each camera/flash combo! that'd be very useful.

I had a hard time doing anything other than basic triggering before this update. Now I'm up to using hypersync but with the flashes still in manual.

Next up is figuring out ETTL - i can't get it to work with any consistancy. Each shot is different from the last. I need to keep playing around and figure out if I'm changing something or what.

May 27, 2009 11:27 AM  
Blogger Tim B said...

David, It's good to see that the folks at PW are continuing their development of the PW firmware. I'm not usually an early "bleeding edge" adopter, so this was a concern for me. I'll look forward to the upcoming announcement.

As to the Canon RFI issues, one could argue for a long time with PW's decision to be backwards compatible with the older PW's. If PW had gone to a different frequency range where Canon RFI was not an issue, many here would berate PW for not being backward compatible.

Either way PW gets beat up. Folks need to look at the pros and cons, recognize the decision that PW had to make, and then make the decision that works for them personally.

I've been working with radio receivers for over 47 years, and even my $6,000 receiver with the latest DSP filters and the most advanced receiver circuit technology available today can not over come a strong local source of RF interference like that generated by some of the Canon flashes.

May 27, 2009 12:34 PM  
Blogger kangster said...

I had the opportunity to try out the Mini and Flex TT units a couple weeks ago. I was suitably impressed with their feature set to want to get my own set very soon, but I have to admit, we did run into the RF issue. We discovered it was worst when we used the flash on the hotshoe of the Flex--to the point where if you were on the opposite side to the antenna it would not fire at all even from less than 10' away.

I have no doubt though that this will all be fixed soon and IMHO the ability to HyperSync with any brand of strobe makes it worth the extra effort.

May 27, 2009 1:51 PM  
Anonymous NGrinerPhoto said...

I used mine for the first time at a wedding this weekend. Range was pathetic. I set a strobe up in the back of a hotel meeting room where the ceremony was. The flash didn't fire one during the processional. I didn't bother putting one at the front of the room while the ceremony was going on because I knew that it wouldn't work.

After the ceremony, I used a strobe with an umbrella (which I stood next to) for portraits. It fired almost every time.

As for the reception, I didn't use them at all. Not because I knew that it wouldn't work, I didn't use them only because the test button collapsed which made them unusable.

I sent the broken one to PW this week. The said that they'll fix it and get it back to me in time for my two weddings this weekend. We'll see if the range is still an issue ...

May 27, 2009 2:38 PM  
Anonymous NGrinerPhoto said...

One thing that I forgot to mention ... The ir focus beam shows up in images while shooting at a high iso. Really annoying.

May 27, 2009 2:41 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

As to the Canon RFI issue - I would think that PW would be keeping tabs on the competition, including the "lowend" "poverty wizard" market.

Anyone who paid attention to Cactus trigger reviews would know that there was something "special" about the Canon flashes RF-wise, since they had a nasty habit of causing Cactus triggers to self-trigger.

May 27, 2009 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Myron said...

Love your blog--one of the few things in life that's free or almost free.

As they say the best things in Life are free it's just all these new flashy things that makes the cash flow go.

What? that their new flash bracket only holds one speedlight not three!

Aren't there any 300 to 600 Ws strobes that will TLL with the Nikon or Cannon systems?

May 27, 2009 3:45 PM  
Blogger Ernie Rice said...

hmmm, I bet they can hack it so that you can use Nikon flashes with Canon cameras and vise versa.... :)

May 27, 2009 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Goran, Novi Sad said...

The idea of timing table(s) is really neat, but be aware that even the same combinations will have differtent timings. E.g. my D3+TT1+SB900+TT5 will have a different timing than your D3+TT1+SB900+TT5. Even more so for Canon. It's all about (tight?) tolerances (and headache).

May 27, 2009 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Wedding Photographer Nice France said...

Some good news for Europeans - apparently the frequency used in Europe by the future PW will not be as prone to interferences as the frequency used in the USA.

Finally a good reason to justify why we're going to pay twice the price :)

Blaise

May 27, 2009 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Carl said...

What are the rumors regarding release of the Nikon-specific magical Pocket WIzards?

May 27, 2009 6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly good news for us Nikonians... "For the Nikon shooters, RF noise issues are reportedly nonexistent with the Nikon speedlights."

May 27, 2009 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Michael Good said...

Got a mini and flex for my canons... haven't tested too much except even getting 1/500 and a useable 1/640 at hyper sync is really useful. Unfortunately the test button on my mini broke the first day so haven't tested out the HSS. Seems the build quality isn't as good as my plus IIs. Oh well that's what happens with all technology early adoption. I won't be building up the kit to replace my plus IIs any time soon though.

May 27, 2009 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

As if Canon didn't have enough PR problems right now...

May 27, 2009 6:50 PM  
Anonymous José Aguiló said...

I am waiting to try this remotes on my nikons sb-800 and sb 900. Did anybody try this system with those flashes?

May 27, 2009 8:27 PM  
Anonymous 3PPhoto said...

I don't really give a rat's about TTL, but am very interested using Hypersync for higher-than-rated sync speed with non-Canon flash equipment (in my case, Vivitar 283/285, White Lightning/Alien Bee and the occasional rented Elinchrom).

If I understand correctly, the culprit is noise emitted by the receiving flash? If I am using a Flex TT5 on camera (no flash in TTF shoe) and old reliable Plus II's as receivers (which have exhibited no "noise" issues in the past), can I expect to be problem free in hypersync?

Can anyone report success or failure with this type of setup?

May 27, 2009 8:38 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

I expected to get a higher sync speed for my basketball games. It only seems to work if the speedlight is set to full power. I need the speedlight set to 1/8th or better yet 1/16th power in order to keep up with 8fps. When you lower the power of the speedlights, the curtain starts showing up again in the photo.

BTW, this is with a TT5 on my 1DMkIII and Multimax's on the speedlights.

May 27, 2009 9:38 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

go newton go!

May 27, 2009 10:22 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Hey David (Mr. Do it on the Cheap), I just priced the AC adapter for the MultiMax Transceiver at B&H. They want $62 for an AC adapter. Talk about highway robbery. I can't imagine why they should be more than $12 to $15. Do you have a do-it-yourself cheaper solution? I'd love to hear it.

May 27, 2009 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Brett Turner said...

I got mine early and was sick over the range with my 580exII. I hope the new device helps. The new system does work very well with my 430exII. With the 430exIIs the system is simple and efective. I havent tryed max range but it looks like 50-100 feet is likely. The biggest problme with this system is that it was over promised.

May 27, 2009 11:08 PM  
Anonymous 3PPhoto said...

Ken,

Radio Shack sells power adapters in various voltages for $29.00 (still rather salty, in my opinion). These adapters take a range of plugs including the one for the PocketWizard. (It won't say it's for PocketWizard, but it is a standard style of power plug.) If you are as cheap as I am, and handy with a soldering iron, I'm sure you can find a correctly rated power adapter and a matching plug for considerably less than $29.00. Mind your polarity either way you go, as the Radio Shack plugs can be inserted either way.

I've read that milliamp rating of the adapter is critical for PocketWizard use. Obviously, you need 3 Volts, but I'm not sure what the correct milliamp rating should be. 300mA sticks in my mind, but don't quote me. Some power adapters are switchable, and I have one that switches between 100mA and 300mA, but most are stuck at a single rating.

May 27, 2009 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am truly happy that Newton had a comfy winter and that is now free :)


My best wishes

Eduar

May 27, 2009 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos to PW for bringing out the AC7 to address Canon's engineering issues.

For anyone prepared to carry out the death-defying act of actually opening up a Canon flash, some metallic spray paint on the inside of the casing would probably solve the problem quite effectively -- but you could be taking your life in your hands when you open that unit!

/tim-j

May 28, 2009 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Karen Forsythe said...

Thanks, but no thanks. Buying something else to "fix" the Canon/PW problems just doesn't sound right to me. I'm saving for the poppers, unless PW revamps their Canon version.

May 28, 2009 8:26 AM  
Anonymous 3PPhoto said...

To update my earlier reply to Ken:

I dug out my adjustable power adapter and set it for 3 Volts. I matched an interchangeable plug to one of my PocketWizard Plus II's and checked for correct polarity compared to markings on the Plus II (center post is positive).

With the power adapter set for 100 milliamps, the red LED would flash once when I turned the Plus II on, but it did not flash again and the unit did not respond to signals or button presses. Changing the power adapter to 300 milliamps, the Plus II seemed to function normally.

Based on that, a 3 Volt 300 milliamp power adapter would seem to be what you need. I do not know the designation of the plug. Radio Shack has an array of sample plugs on a key ring type of thing. You should be able to test fit and determine that way.

May 28, 2009 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

There is no doubt, none - that PW is the gold standard in radio triggering for manual control and they will remain so.

That said, I think its okay for Radiopopper PX to be the new gold standard for radio controlled TTL (and manual control via Nikon Commander if you like - and I do). My RP PX’s are like my Apple computer, they just work. I’m not aware of a single failure to fire in two months of use.

I’m excited to be just a few couple weeks (June 8th) away from ordering my JrX’s to go with the PX system so I can add in my Alien Bees into the mix.

It looks to me like the PW guys responded to the RP guys with the mini/tt5 and maybe they jumped in a little too quickly. In the software world, where I live, I see this all the time. Its human nature not wanting to be beat to the finish.

As far as I know there has been no other failure to deliver by PW - I’m inclined to give them a break for a while to work things out.

I wish PocketWizard all the luck in the world to get them working well. There are a lot of people out there who would benefit from a solution as rock solid as their Plus II’s especially when they are able to seamlessly interact with the Mini and TT5s. Backward compatibility is hugely valuable.

May 28, 2009 1:58 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Well, I finally got the high speed sync to work at 1/500. It seems that it's not just the Sync Timing slider that has an effect on how this works. It seems that ControlTL Tx Channel has some bearing on it as well. I'm not sure why since my receivers are Multimax's. Anyway, I think I'm happy now.

3PPhoto, Thanks for the replies. I'll check that out. I did find ac adapters on the web that put out 3V @300mA for $5-7 plus shipping. I'd just have to clip the end and replace it with a mini plug. I'll report back once I get time to try it.

Ken

May 28, 2009 9:43 PM  
Blogger apersson850 said...

Reading Rob Galbraith's article it becomes obvious that he's not very skilled in RF shielding.

A few cautions:
Effective shielding requires the shield to be grounded to some base, common to the supply ground of the components/machines involved.
Shileds may contain holes (that's why a mesh shield can work), as long as the holes are small in relation to the wavelength of the interference. Slits in the shiled render it more or less useless.

Fortunately, it seems that the AC7 shield they've come up with doesn't violate these rules. But Rob's home-made version has potential to be a bit more effective if it's done properly.

May 29, 2009 7:59 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Pocketwizard has been a rock for many years. But the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 releases were handled so poorly, it's inexcusable. They were obviously trying to get some product excitement at WPPI to counter the Radio Popper PX system and brought a product to market that should have remained in development for quite a while. RF issues aside, the products are poorly designed with a plastic foot on a cantilever design that is prone to breaking during normal use on-camera with a master flash attached. Their prototype RF shield removes all convenience of the product design (small and easy to mount) for Canon users and adds yet even more weight to the already brittle plastic foot.

Yet, they continue to sell this product. And people continue to buy them. This perplexes me to no end. Why do people continue to buy this obviously flawed product? If you want to send a message to PW, stop sending them money! I'm sure they will work out a proper solution, but people need to stop taking this stuff lying down. Force PW to recall and redesign the Mini and Flex units. PW have been around long enough and should be held to a higher standard.

I know the reporting by Dave on PW is because he uses the product and they sponsor the site with their ads. But Dave, I would expect you to be a little harder on them. Posts about the PW problems seem a little apologetic and posts about RP PX's seem a little like you're dismissing them prematurely. PX's just work... no excuses needed. I for one would love to see more on the RP PX's here, especially with all of the genius that seems to flow from yourself and the readers.

May 29, 2009 1:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

Joe-

As I said above (not sure if you read it) I am neither a Canon user, nor a TTL user, so my results were only defined by my testing, which was admittedly limited and clunky.

My main interest in either system is getting a Nikon-flavored TT1 or TT5 to get the sync boost out of every camera I own, with every flash I own -- speedlights and monos. For me, that is the most valuable part of the system, and that is how I plan to integrate the new PWs with my old ones.

I do have a set of RP's and try to let TTL'ers play with them in teaching / meetup environments. Being a manual guy, I tend to sit back and watch.

But it is hard for me to write in-depth on them (RP, PW or the new AB's) because thus far, none of them has brought their feature set into my personal workflow.

-D

May 29, 2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger JerryKur said...

Dave,

I know you are a manual guy, but have you tried the remote manual controls or high speed sync features of the PW or RPs. I am too dumb to try to outguess ETTL so I am mostly manual. But, I am also almost too lazy to climb up a ladder and reset the power on a flash. So being able to do this from a "base" unit has great appeal. Also, being able to shoot flash with minimal regard for shutter speed would be great.

Jerry

May 29, 2009 5:06 PM  
Anonymous John M said...

I don't have one of the new pocket wizards, but I do have a suggestion of a quicker and lighter fix. I'd like if someone with the range issue could try it out. Instead of attempting to shield the flash from the PW just remove it from the interference slightly. Try connecting a PC cord from the PW to the flash at attach or hang the PW 3 feet below the flash. This should get the PW out of the near field of the flash (assuming 350 MHz) and drastically reduce the noise it sees. The signal level from the transmitter should not be effected much; therefore the signal to noise ratio should increase. Let me know how it goes, I'm betting it will work.

May 30, 2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Sink Photography said...

I ordered one TT5 to start with, I'm not super concerned with radio TTL yet, I got it for the hypersync option with my AlienBees. I also plan to utilize this setup at a wedding with a Bee providing a rim-light while a 580ex II is used in a bounce configuration on camera for fill.

No worries in this aspect. Nikon users, I do envy you (a little) on the no RF noise front... Oh well, maybe Canon will make the 580ex III a little quieter...

By the way, thanks David for what you do for this community.

Michael

May 30, 2009 10:42 AM  
Blogger Koopy said...

I just received my 3 Flex's in Canada yesterday(finally!), and was well aware of the issues from such sites as this one, Rob Galbraith's and the Pocket Wizard group on Flickr (which has regular contributions from Patrick Clow of the company itself). After downloading the software utility program and plugging each in to make they were up to date and properly configured, I started firing away in both TTL and full manual. Other than my own rookie mistakes (need the 580EX II on camera as master to ratio on manual, each flash needs to be set to high-speed sync to go over 1/250, etc), it worked like it should...other than RF interference. I went out to my spacious backyard with a 580EX and a 430EX II mounted on stands with common configuration and equal height. The 580 stopped triggering after approximately 40 feet, but I ran out of room to find the limits for the 430 (I have over 1.5 acres of property, but would guess I was 300-400 feet away, across my long yard, over the road and standing in a parking lot). I also agree with other posters that having to buy and carry this plastic shield is less than ideal, but it's probably either that or selling my original 580s for new 430EX II's. You Nikon buggers win...yet again! All the best David, you're a real inspiration!

May 30, 2009 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

David,

Above you said -

"I do have a set of RP's and try to let TTL'ers play with them in teaching / meetup environments. Being a manual guy, I tend to sit back and watch.I hope you're not missing what I think it the best part of the RP functionality. They do manual control via the Nikon Commander or SU800. You can manage any SB800/600/900 you've got and get HSS too. If Radiopopper holds to the latest schedule you'll be able to get that out of you Alien Bees and White Lightnings very soon too.

I'm all about manual power control (thanks to you) and with the Nikon commander mode working in my favor the Radiopopper PX system saves me a lot of time walking and tweaking individual flashes. I can just adjust all of my lights from right where I stand. David, that is HUGE and so far, it's flawless.

You need to wrestle those away from the TTL guys and use them in manual.

Tom

May 31, 2009 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Chicago photographer said...

Lovin' my new PW flexes. I'm using them with older 550EXs and have had no trouble with them. Though the farthest I've placed them is about 50 ft, they were positioned behind two sets of walls, with duct work inside the walls. Dunno how that compares to others' experiences.
Also, anybody got some optimized setting for trigger timing with the Canon 1Ds3? I'm still trying to dial mine ini. Will share when I get some better numbers, but so far I have only gotten it up to 1/320 sync.

June 01, 2009 1:32 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

David,

I use the Radio Popper PX's with manual flash as Tom described. It's nice to be able to control all of your remote speedlights from the master flash/SU800.

If you haven't given them a fair shake, please do. I'd love to read your thoughts.

June 02, 2009 10:24 PM  
Anonymous jan said...

hello dear strobists around the globe,
can anyone say something about compatibility with metz af58 or 48 on canon? the official PW information is something like "may not work :)"
-the german version of flex/mini is´nt released yet, so there arent´n so much good ol´metz-users yet????

greets from metzland ;)
jan

June 03, 2009 7:09 PM  
Anonymous KevinW said...

My fill flash routine has been to use Sekonic flashmeter with PW module to adjust MANUAL modified flash to deliver either 30% of light (in fill situations) or 70% of light as a main. However, now that I've solved the range/RF issue with my 580EX2 by using the OC cord/ferrite choke (they really do help), I've found the wireless ETTL in conjunction with FEC + or - settings are easier and more effective.

June 07, 2009 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This noise interference whilst using Canon's 580 EXII flash is disappointing and does not speak well of Pocket Wizards quality assurance and product testing. Very disappointing to say the least. They should give these shields for free to anyone that has purchased the PW. Canon's flashes have been ion the market for a longer time and PW had the opportunity to thoroughly test and integrate their new flagship product with canons pre-existing flash. This adds more weight and an inconvenience based on the initial thought process that I went through to determine what product to go with. Solely my thoughts ..

June 10, 2009 7:16 PM  
Blogger Rod said...

Jan,

the metz 58 af-1 does not work at this time. I know i have one and have tried in numerous different combinations. I will not work on any hostshoe mounted configuration regardless of how the flash is set (ettl - M). Pocketwizard does know of this and has stated that they are working the issue.

June 12, 2009 1:18 AM  
Blogger laird said...

Break my heart! I read a couple days ago on the PW site that the Nikon version of flex/mini has been pushed off until Fall. Ugh! Come on guys, we're waiting. That was to be my birthday present ...to myself!

June 16, 2009 6:52 PM  
Blogger AA Imaging Wedding Photography said...

I am super excited about my new flextt5!!! I wanted to save money so I did not purchase the Mini TT1...yet.
That said, I tried it out last night and it works great on my 20D and it syncs with my off camera 580ex with a pocket wizard hooked up. Even better I set the 580 to Master and it popped my 480s that were set to slave!!!! I thought it wouldn't do that but happy that it does.
Granted, I have not tried the hyper sync yet, but the instructions say if I have the tt5 on camera, it will sync to higher SS used with older pocketwizards!!!
I am going to be trying that next.
Can't wait for my next wedding!!!!

June 18, 2009 11:20 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

David. I hate to show you this... I have not found any other release of the info nor any news on PW site. But DPReview has released news on the Zone Controller. I have to say WOW! I am no longer waiting for Radio Poppers JRX units.

Manual control and TTL+-3EV is way more control than my camera. With custom triggering in FP for more light and +3EV, should prove to add way more light in full daylight.


I only have a Nikon SB 24 and a SB26 (currently triggered w/ extension cables and HH shoes) and Canon 550exs. Wise purchase I think. The 550ex are just a little bit less power than the 580ex, albeit a little more clumsy in control but less than half the price. and also cheaper than 430ex. Best bargain I can think of for wireless. I'm Now looking to step it up. Go PW. Go Strobist!

dan@rickfamily.net

June 18, 2009 11:52 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Well here is the PW announcement. I missed this in my last post.

June 18, 2009 11:57 PM  
Blogger F said...

David,
I've invested 5 or 6 hours now in trying to get my brand new FlexTT5 to work consistently. Were I to have to rate them now, I would say that the new device is not something that I want in my bag.

I have three. Two for flash and 1 for the camera. I'll wager that careful consideration of the Mini will lead most to pick the Flex over the Mini every time. The Mini may not be used to trigger the camera. No outlet for a cord. And, the Mini has that mini battery required to make the small form factor possible. The manual confirms that using the Mini as a remote trigger comes at the expense of reduced battery life. And when it is dead, and you reach in the bag for a replacement, those AA batteries rolling around in the bottom of your bag won't do you any good. You will need to have a mini battery in the bag.

I've shot about 150 frames since I purchased my devices last Saturday and in less than 20% of the cases did both flash (580EX II) fire correctly. As of this morning (spent another hour last night trying my hand at some Bootcamp II images), I am ready to take my FlexTT5 back and exchange them for the tried and true PocketWizard Plus II or MultiMax. It makes no sense that I should have to invest even 1 hour trying to get something like a remote trigger to work.

The interesting thing is, if I'm a real strobist, then I why would I want the ETTL capabilities anyway, right?

Happy Friday

June 19, 2009 9:41 AM  
Blogger F said...

Here is an interesting little tidbit: something about VeilShield makes it "not suitable for prolonged skin contact". http://responsivetextiles.mica.edu/node/247

It is polyester fibers coated with Nickel blackened Copper for better corrosion resistance.

June 19, 2009 7:53 PM  
Blogger — B P R — said...

After having the Mini/Flex set up and trying to figure them out for the past few months, I've decided to ditch them in favor of Canon's native wireless with an eye towards eventually getting the Radio Poppers (after I sell the PWs). I just got tired of the seemingly endless troubleshooting the PWs required and their frustrating unreliability. I want something to work consistently and not have to wonder what's wrong THIS time.

Yesterday I decided to test Canon's native system in direct sunlight (albeit at 6:30 in the evening, so maybe it's not as prone to interfering with the Canon system as, say, noon) and I discovered--with the 580 as the master on camera and a 430 both alone and through a white umbrella--that, as long as I made sure the sensor was pointed in my direction (therefore having to tilt the flash head where I wanted it to light), I could get the 430 to shoot from 45 feet away. On second thought that was through some shady areas. If the sensor was in direct sunlight it wouldn't go off more than 10 feet away...until I shifted the sensor just a wee bit, and then I regained the longer distance.

That may seem inconvenient on it's face, having to account for the sensor's direction visa vi the master flash -- and I used to think so too, which is why I tried the Flex/Mini set up -- but it's far less inconvenient than the flash not going off at all, and wondering what the h*ll is wrong this time.

Having said all that, I did purchase a 430EX II and I can verify the lack of RF noise it emits does make a difference in reliability. I set both my 580EX II and my regular 430EX across the room 30 feet away on a Flex right next to the 430EX II, and while both of those were inconsistent in their firing, sometimes shooting for several clicks but suddenly not going off for several more, the 430EX II shot every time with no worries.

So it seems to me that if you want consistency, you'll have to switch over to the 430EX II (and therefore lose the power of the 580s, not to mention the money and time spent in buying however many 430s you need, but also the hassle of selling the 580s if you wanted to make up the money), or go out and buy the $70 cord to separate the Flex from the RF noisy flashes, not to mention a ferrote (sp?) choke, or get the VeilShield to wrap around the flash, or get the forthcoming shield PW is developing, or...

Starting to seem like more trouble than it's worth, to me. Especially when Canon's native system will work just fine if you can work within its limitations and the not-so-inconvenient-after-all effort of making sure the sensor is turned toward the master flash (and even if the off camera flash is behind or to the side of the master, I've found that simply turning the master head backwards or towards the offcamera works, although that means sacrificing the master flash as a fill, which is generally fine with me). And eventually getting the RPs will eliminate the line of site issue, but for now I can happily live with it.

Now I realize that method won't work for a lot of shooters depending on their needs. And maybe the old PW Plus IIs are the more reliable option, although I have a set of those, too, and had my own issues with inconsistency and at any rate I demand the high speed sync and the old PWs simply don't allow it, not to mention the ease of being able to remotely control the power output without having to walk over and change it.

June 26, 2009 12:12 PM  
Blogger MGutierrez said...

I downloaded firmware 4.3 and have had good results shooting with a TT1 on a 5dMkII and a 580EX(I) mounted on a TT5.

Last night and again this morning I did some testing with an unobstructed line of sight between the TT1 and TT5. The 580EX was mounted directly on the TT5 (no use of a cord). I did not change any of the factory settings using the Pocket Wizard utility. With the TT5 antenna in the down position I was able to get 0% misfires out to 60 feet. With the antenna up the range increased to 100 feet. By following the directions in the user manual (antenna perpendicular to the flash), the range increased to 200 feet with 0% misfires. When adding a cable between the TT5 and 580EX, the range increased to 300 feet. When using a cable the manual recommends placing the TT5 above the flash. I tried placing the TT5 above, below and level with the flash without a change in performance.

My next task is to use the system in an actual shoot.

July 14, 2009 7:36 PM  
Blogger Michael Gunter said...

I had issues with the TT5 this weekend and have been searching for answers today. The reason for this is something is wrong with the AC7 image. The umbrella is not in the correct spot for the stand adapter. Is this photo Photoshoped?

July 20, 2009 12:37 PM  
Blogger Adrian Henson Photgraphy, Inc. said...

I know have a big issue with PW. I bought a miniTT1 so that I could have an on camera fill. I use it totally in manual mode and only use it to trigger other PW PlusIIs. Friday I broke the hot shoe, OK, I have broken hot shoes before, just call and order another one... Nope! They don't sell them! It is an in house repair! This is unacceptable. I totally understand designing the feet to be the weakest link but if that is the case, then make the part user replaceable and available. Be aware that if you break your foot you will have to send it back for repair.

August 16, 2009 9:36 PM  

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