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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

First Look: Pixel TR-331 TTL Remote Nikon Triggers

UPDATE #1: Full manual has been uploaded (as a .jpg) here. Off-camera TTL flash is easy to figure out and works pretty well. But iTTL (i.e., master/slave TTL multiflash) continues to elude me.

UPDATE #2: We have our beta tester. Please, no more volunteers...

Just got in an early set of Pixel TR-331 (Nikon compatible) TTL remote triggers. First look, and a call for local Baltimore/Washingon TTL Nikon shooters who might want to give them a test drive this weekend, inside.
________


First Impressions

Right off the bat, they look a couple of notches above the typical "eBay" remotes in build quality. These guys are tight, and built solid.

All TTL connections are hot-shoe based and very solid. There are screw locks and locking pins. Your flashes will be secure.

Right now they only have Nikon models, but Canon are supposedly coming early next year.

They are essentially a wireless TTL bridge, supporting TTL flash and high-speed FP sync. They can also be used in manual mode as dumb triggers. You can use manual mode in FP sync, too.

Quick testing showed them to be pretty reliable. Not rock solid, but neither did they miss very often. I'd put it in high 90's for normal working distances.

I have one transmitter and two receivers, and found I could vary the TTL output level at the physical setting on the flash itself to easily create ratios between the two flashes.

TTL results looked to be just fine, although I am not generally a TTL shooter so I do not know whether the remotes or the internal camera TTL systems get credit for any exposure variances.

I tested it in FP mode and got reliable sync speeds right up to 1/8000th of a sec. Because of the way FP sync works (using pulses) the power levels of the flash were predictably lessened as you walked up the shutter speed scale.


High marks for the supplied sync cord choices. You get two screw-lock PC-based cords which will connect the remotes (in dumb sync mode) to any flash which syncs off of a 1/4" or 1/8" jack.

Frequency on the unit is 2.4Ghz, which means it'll be cool to use anywhere in the world with regard to various countries' radio frequency allocations. But you will also be competing with the likes of cordless phones, wi-fi and microwave ovens. FWIW, I was testing these indoors about 15 feet from a wireless router and getting good sync percentages, tho.

Biggest irk, given that I have not yet been able to test them thoroughly, is that they run on (for me) hard to find CR2 batts. These are sub-sized and 3v.

I spent two hours hitting two Targets and a Wal-Mart with no luck. Finally just had some shipped from Amazon. Pain in the butt. I sure do wish they would sacrifice a little form factor and go AA's. You get way more battery life and universal sourcing on the batts.

Lastly, the instruction manual is predictably funny and confusing -- and replete with (presumably machine) translation hiccups. Actual line in the manual:


"This is electronic products accessories, some of the environment causes may affect the working. However, this is hardly ever to get this situation. Don't Worry!"

Okay! I won't!


Calling Local Beta Testers

[UPDATE: We have our local beta testers all lined up -- to professional shooters in NoVA who use Nikon TTL frequently enough to eval them way better than I could. Thanks to those who volunteered! -DH ]

If you are local to Baltimore/Washington and would like to give them a full test drive, I would be happy to lend them out for a few days. I am booked solid well into next week and will not be able to give them the testing they deserve in a timely manner.

Here is the deal:

1) You should shoot Nikon, and be familiar with Nikon TTL flash. One of my weaknesses in testing these is that I I do not know if any inconsistencies are coming from the remotes, the camera, the flashes or the idiot pushing the button. I am a manual guy. You should be familiar with Nikon's TTL results.

2) You should be willing to pick them up and drop them off in Ellicott City and prepared to shoot over the weekend.

3) You should be willing to supply pics and your impressions of the units' performance.

4) Preference will be given to more than one person who may wish to work together, for diversity of opinion. So if you normally hang with a local meetup group or a shooting buddy, that would be ideal.


For time purposes, I can only choose one beta tester, and will pick from volunteers based on the above criteria by midday Thursday. If interested, please mark your comment as "Do Not Publish" and leave email and phone number as contact. I will update this post after I choose someone. (Got 'em. -DH)

Of course, I will relay the shooter(s)' pics and findings in a future post.


Obligatory Lighting Geek Stuff

Thought some of you might be interested in the makeshift printer paper studio I just used to shoot theses.

Everything is on manual, mostly around 1/64th power. I tripped them with low-power, onboard flash on the Canon G11 point-and-shoot I used to shoot the pics.

If you need to shoot something small quickly, printer paper and small flashes are your friends.


__________

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52 Comments:

Blogger Bob Joziasse said...

Nice first impressions. I'm currently using the Cactus v4 triggers and wanting to switch to PW's (or the Radio Poppers, but they seem a long way from manufactured in an EU version). I'm not really sure these are candidates, but they sound more solid than the Catus triggers. I'll await the testing :)

LOL @ the setup and the idea of actually including it ;)

December 02, 2009 5:17 PM  
Blogger Arne G said...

So - I'm trying to find these on eBay myself... any hints on a keyword to search them out?

December 02, 2009 5:17 PM  
Blogger logic said...

Just FYI: at least around here (Chicago area), any Radio Shack stocks those silly CR2 batteries. They aren't cheap, though.

December 02, 2009 5:30 PM  
Blogger Light Adrenaline said...

I was thinking about getting a set to test as well because I've had a lot of local interest from fellow photogs here in Alabama. If I were to obtain a set and test them in various conditions, would that somehow be beneficial to everyone? It might be some time before they arrive however...

December 02, 2009 5:39 PM  
Blogger Light Adrenaline said...

Whoops. Not the receivers I thought they were sorry. I am going to be reviewing another set - likely less capable - for some friends here. Sorry...

December 02, 2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger Eric Chan said...

Very cool. Looking forward to seeing your test results!

December 02, 2009 6:19 PM  
Blogger Photobby said...

Cool. I like the ~$1k of strobes lighting $200 of wireless triggers tripped with the build in optical slaves....

Kind of a char-coal cave painting of a Ferrari... Or maybe that's the other way round?

Oh and I assume you mean DC? Your killing us up here in the North Wet

December 02, 2009 6:25 PM  
Blogger davidtg said...

If only the Pentax market were big enough for one of the Chinese firms to develop radio TTL for them.

I'm generally a manual guy as well, but it would be nice to have access to off camera high speed sync.

David Getsfrid
studiodgphoto.com

December 02, 2009 6:27 PM  
Blogger TJ said...

They look very cool, very interested to see how they test... id offer to as a Baltimore shooter but i don't mess with ttl enough to be qualified

December 02, 2009 6:52 PM  
Blogger JASPhoto said...

What is it whit these companies and Not using AA or AAA batteries. As a pro I often have people ask "Which Camera?" One of the first criteria I offer is Make sure it uses "AA's"? - I just don't get it.

December 02, 2009 7:43 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

You spent 2 hours going to Walmarts and Targets but not a Radioshack?

RS should rename themselves to Battery Depot.

December 02, 2009 7:46 PM  
Blogger David said...

Just a quick question about that lighting setup: can you do the same thing with Canon flashes? I have a 580EX II (and will probably get another sometime soonish), and I would like to be able to trigger it with another flash (like the pop-up flash in my 50D, or the built in flash in my P&S), but I don't know if this is possible or how you set up the flash to do it...

December 02, 2009 8:32 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I really loathe CR2 batteries and their usage in the cheap triggers. That is one reason I switched to the Paul Buff triggers.

Case in point, I was shooting a wedding and had to pick up some CR2s for the triggers at a local best buy as a backup because they never last all that long and I needed spares. Well, they only stock the lithiums, at $15 for 2 (WTF?!?)

Do that a few times and you just blew enough cash to have upgraded to a better trigger. I suppose you could order in bulk online, but it's those emergencies that will get ya. Try finding them while traveling too.

December 02, 2009 9:02 PM  
Blogger Rey Bugia said...

" They can also be used in manual mode as dumb triggers."

DH - do you mean it only goes in Manual while in slave mode?

December 02, 2009 9:10 PM  
Blogger Davidonabus said...

Hey David .. Check out Empire Magazines photo shoot recreation shots of famous movie scenes. Awesome.

David Pritchett

http://www.empireonline.com/gallery/gallery.asp?GID=2353

December 02, 2009 9:48 PM  
Blogger Seth Bricel said...

FWIW, shopko also stocks CR2s in my experience

December 02, 2009 10:34 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Found 'em on ebay.

December 02, 2009 10:44 PM  
Blogger Photography RI said...

Just so I understand;

Can I use groups and manual power adjustments from commander mode on my DXX body with these? Sort of as a substitute for IR based wireless flash?

December 02, 2009 11:17 PM  
Blogger WHS Young Life said...

It would be nice if everyone with any kind of clout in the photo world would stand up and say, "ONLY AA!" Please. Drives me crazy too.

Just imagine if two of you walked in and said "ONLY AA!"

And then three.

December 03, 2009 12:43 AM  
Blogger Pat Morrissey said...

From the website :
Q:When using the Nikon flash with TR-331, open Nikon’s CLS flash system,flash menu will be hidden?
A:When Nikon flash did not connect with the camera we can’t sure some function are possible for use ( hidden part) ,If we put the flash on the top of camera a part Menu will still hidden suppose camera’s power is not turned on, only need connect the camera with flash then turned on the camera and flash’s power, the available function will not hidden

December 03, 2009 3:43 AM  
OpenID mmknipser said...

"I have one transmitter and two receivers, and found I could vary the TTL output level at the physical setting on the flash itself to easily create ratios between the two flashes."

So, no groups, right? As I understand, you have to walk to every single flash and power it up or down to build a ratio between two or more flashes? If so, I like SU-800 and Nikon CLS way more :-)

December 03, 2009 3:53 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

I know CR2 batteries can be a PITA. But there are rechargeable ones. Sure, the initial cost is bigger. But in the long run it will be more cost effective.

December 03, 2009 4:58 AM  
Blogger marc said...

Blogger Photography RI said...

Just so I understand;

Can I use groups and manual power adjustments from commander mode on my DXX body with these? Sort of as a substitute for IR based wireless flash?


That's what I'd like to know too...

December 03, 2009 7:26 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Love the comment on the instructions...("This is electronic products accessories..."). I have the manual fot eh Yongnuo units on me wall. The cover reads "Unlimited wonderful easily grasp all in Yongnuo"! This is still not as bad as a razor knife I have the reads "Caution: Keep out of children"

December 03, 2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger AdvRdr said...

Hey Seth, David would have to drive 700-some miles to get to a Shopko from his home in Maryland.

December 03, 2009 10:27 AM  
Blogger thomas caleb said...

Here is what i have found to be the best priced, reliable, & Reputable source for batteries such as the CR@, CR123A, Etc..
http://www.batteryjunction.com/panasonic-2pk-cr5.html
(I am in no way affiliated with them, BTW)

December 03, 2009 10:35 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Radioshack is a good source for CR2 bats. I recently needed to pick some up for my Cactus V2s, and I bought all 4 that they had in stock.

4 in stock? OK, so maybe when I said good source I should have just said, "They are a source for CR2 bats."

December 03, 2009 10:47 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Ok here is the big question. Are they avaiable, how much and where can one get them?

December 03, 2009 11:20 AM  
Blogger btdt said...

I see them (transmitter/receiver pair) for $195 on eBay (as of 1030 PST, Dec 3 '09). Wouldn't it be cheaper to just get RadioPopper stuff instead (if not PWs)?

December 03, 2009 1:30 PM  
Blogger jj said...

Hi Everyone ,
I got mine from ebay 2 days back, One TX and Three RX ,I am busy for coming weeks ,I would be glad to lend it if someone live in Charlotte,NC to test it completely ,I was sad when realized that we can not chage the flash power adjustments without reaching out each flash...

email me jispjose@gmail.com

thnx
Jis

December 03, 2009 2:01 PM  
Blogger QuocHuy said...

They seem great, though I personally prefer CLS/AWL or RP JrX Studio to be able to control the flash output power remotely.

December 03, 2009 2:35 PM  
Blogger киромн said...

Is there an option for fast FP and non-nikon flashes (studio flashes etc.)?

December 04, 2009 7:11 AM  
Blogger Alexander said...

a) the manual states a "power zoom" feature, p. 13. That would be cool if it meant that whenever you adjusted the zoom lens to another focal length, the flash on the receiver would adjust accordingly.

b) CLS/AWL master: I would assume that, since they call their product "wireless TTL cord", you can have one SB-800/900 as master on a receiver as you could have one on a real TTL cord. With that master you could control the usual SB-900/800/600 in Nikon's remote mode via light pulse. You could NOT put the remotes on receivers, because the Nikon CLS/AWL information does not get passed around via hot shoe but via light pulses. I guess, multiple flashes on receivers would only act exactly like twins (or triplets etc.), not as master and slaves.

December 04, 2009 7:54 AM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

David asked:
"Just a quick question about that lighting setup: can you do the same thing with Canon flashes? I have a 580EX II (and will probably get another sometime soonish), and I would like to be able to trigger it with another flash (like the pop-up flash in my 50D, or the built in flash in my P&S), but I don't know if this is possible or how you set up the flash to do it..."
Canon flashes do not have built in optical slaves, nor do Canon cameras have a built in system like Nikon's CLS. So, to do this you would need to trigger with either an on-camera 580 EXII or a Canon ST-E2 trigger ($220). (or a bunch of radio triggers.) BTW, the ST-E2 uses one of those dreaded CR2 batteries!

December 04, 2009 8:02 AM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

Oops! I made an error in my recent post. The Canon ST-E2 trigger does not use a CR2 battery, it uses a 2CR5 battery, which is an equally abhorrent, oddball battery, IMHO.

December 04, 2009 1:10 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I have just bought a set of these on eBay and they are due to arrive in 48 hours (according to UPS). I'm happy to post some comments/images as I have a couple of low key shoots this weekend that I intend to use the triggers for. I regularly use iTTL on location so I am eager to see how these puppys perform...

December 09, 2009 12:46 AM  
Blogger dddman said...

Heh Tim have you got those flash triggers yet?
How does the manual mode work? Can you adjust the flash power from the transmitter? (I'm surprised this wasn't confirmed in the test above)

I have the latest RF-602 from Yongnuo (same company?) whihc also work on 2.4ghz - very reliable even at 100 mt plus.
PS I'm over in Melbourne!

December 14, 2009 1:35 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I have not tried these triggers on manual mode - I have a half a dozen of the brilliant Bowens Pulsar radio triggers for that (Bowens Pulsars are the UK equivalent of a PocketWizard Plus II). I have however managed to have a play around with the TR-331 triggers on i-TTL with my D700 and a SB-900 this evening in my office and they are about 90% reliable. To test the 2.4gHz theory, I am sitting next to my wireless router/modem and it doesn't seem to be causing too many troubles. From my experience using CLS [i-TTL] with a Sb-900 as master and another sb-900/800/600 as remote yielded about the same accuracy- the exposure is correct about 90% of the time.

I had only initially bought one TR-331TX and one TR-331RX as a set so I have not been able to test CLS to see if it works. From what I have read it doesn't seem to work according to a couple of different blogs (other than this one!), but these also said that the Tr-331RX & TX will not do proper TTL in that there was no perceivable pre-flashing going on. I have dispelled this theory as they are definitely pre-flashes happening, even slow sync rear-curtain works and pre-flashes can be clearly seen at shutter speeds of more than 1/2 sec or so.

Finally, for better or worse I have actually just bought another set of triggers, this time a TR-331TX and 2x TR-331RX's so I will be able to try out the CLS thing hopefully next week when they arrive (although I actually purchased and paid for them like 2 days ago on eBay and have not heard a peep from the seller [Pixelhk] yet...)

Oh yeah, these triggers DO NOT work on any of the 4 Fujifilm bodies that I have (S5's and a S3) despite the manufacturer stating that they will work with these bodies. My Fuji bodies just lock up when I turn the triggers on, regardless of whether I am using a SB-900, SB-800 or SB-600...

Ok, I'm done... more to follow when the other set arrives...

December 15, 2009 10:40 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Sorry, forgot to add one more thing. As David said, to adjust flash output I first tried adjusting the flash itself (SB-900) and that worked, but I also tried +\- flash compensation on the D700 and that worked too. All the other features of the SB-900 appear to work, the flash head zooms wirelessly when the lens is zoomed, focus assist LED on the flash works, the camera body even knows when you've put a color gel on the SB-900...

December 15, 2009 11:05 AM  
Blogger Off Script Shooting said...

I'm curious to try these. I use either an all-speedlight setup, or sometimes a mixed speedlight/studio (speedotron) setup. Will the units be able to trigger the mixed environment reliably?

December 16, 2009 3:05 PM  
Blogger Inam M said...

I just wan to ask, if some one has tested them in different tempratures ..
last week i was shooting using other ebay trigger Cactus V4 and getting hard time in outdoors under -4c temp ...... like out of 20 shots 1 fire other miss ........


kindly let share if anyone has test in cold

December 17, 2009 1:13 PM  
Blogger JdoubleHcubed said...

If you need CR2 batteries, I have a secret, 100% free source: old motherboards. Every computer has a CR2 battery to power the CMOS, just pull it out any time you come across a junk computer or motherboard. I used to spend $5 a piece on those things, but now I have a whole box of them stashed away.

December 17, 2009 1:42 PM  
Blogger Ed from Ohio said...

DealExtreme.com just started carrying these for $140.

http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.31920

December 18, 2009 11:16 AM  
Blogger Søren said...

Just tested a set of transmitter and 2 receivers. One of the receivers was a bit unstable, many times just blowing off full power, set to ttl.

Found out why today, when I tilted the flash on a tripod - the hot shoe on the receiver just fell off !.

There is a reason it is cheaper thaan the rest - it is build cheaper ;o)

December 18, 2009 6:03 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

RadioShack claims they have a store within 15 minutes of anywhere, and any RS manager that doesn't have a LR2, CR3 or any other lithium battery in stock should be fired on the spot.

January 10, 2010 11:06 AM  
Blogger Clark said...

@Nicholas... Amen!

For those that have taken the plunge, any updates on how they're holding up? Build, reliability, batt usage, range, CLS vs manual. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I'm about to cut the cord and have had my eye on the RP PX series but that's a whole lotta money for iTTL.

January 11, 2010 7:59 PM  
Blogger dimo said...

Would love to have one!!
Need to shoot in sunlight soon, Fp-sync could be the only way (don't want to use nd-filters) to sync to flashes ...
Great chinese!!

January 15, 2010 3:05 PM  
Blogger Ovidiu GROVU said...

Is there any possibilities to trigger two flashes by only one receiver, and still have ETTL and FP sync? I mean that one flash triggered by RX's hot shoe, and the second one by the included cable.

July 07, 2010 6:45 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

It seems a few people had their hands on this product but no posts on their experiences yet...
So
1. Can you adjust remote flash power from the transmitter or the camera using this gizmo?
2. Are pictures properly exposed (=results match your expectations) ?

February 11, 2011 2:11 PM  
Blogger @sk said...

Hi, All. It seems TR331 have been out for quite some time already, and still very little info about them. Also would like to know, if there are any updates?

How much control over flashes is possible from the body in manual or in iTTL/CLS modes?

February 13, 2011 8:40 AM  
Blogger Wojciech said...

J have conected SB 900 with Pixel by pc to pc cord and it is not working.Any ideas

April 15, 2011 2:45 PM  
Blogger cannydia said...

I have the manual fot eh Yongnuo units on me wall. The cover reads "Unlimited wonderful easily grasp all in Yongnuo"!

May 30, 2011 3:27 AM  

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