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

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Syncing Your Flash: The Recommended List

Today, I'm going just a little bit out on a limb, making the first-ever detailed recommendations from this site. And we'll be jumping right into the deep end, into the crowded and somewhat murky waters of remote syncing devices.

Recommendations for three budgets -- and why -- after the jump.
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Guidelines

First, this stuff is not carved in stone. It is one person's opinion, based largely on personal experience. Think of it as if we were sitting at a bar, you were about to buy some remotes and you asked me for some friendly advice.

And since you asked me, you would of course be buying the beer. Because as long as I am imagining scenarios, I may as well imagine a free drink out of it. Or two.

Second (and much like the nice, foreign beer I would be enjoying) you don't ride first class on a third class budget. That said, all of these recommended sync methods get triple aces in one key area -- and that is sync reliability.

That's kind of a no-brainer for a desirable quality in a remote, and suffice to say that not all remotes are reliable. That is a deal breaker for just about any photographer -- or should be, at least.

The second quality is longevity. Which is to say that the remote system you buy this year should be expandable next year, and hopefully for several years after that. Additionally, there are other issues (sync speed, battery availability, etc.) But reliability and longevity are the biggies.


High End

For those of you looking to build a long-term system with an unmatched reliability record (and who are willing to reach deep into your pockets to do so) the following should come as no surprise. I recommend the PocketWizard Plus II Transceiver.

(Pocket Wizard Photo by Krazewerks)


Why? Several reasons.

I have used them (and their predecessors) for the majority of my professional life. And I have counted on them day in and day out, for thousands upon thousands of off-camera flash exposures.

And as for range, suffice to say that they give me all of the range I need. And I tend to push the envelope even on PW's occasionally.


Case in point, this air-to-ground shoot of a police helicopter at night. You can see more on that in a two-part, On Assignment post starting here. And it is a great example of what a PW can do when the boundaries are pushed.

PocketWizard or no, you gotta remember that radio is not perfect. Which is to say that there will be environments in which, for some reason, a given wireless remote will not work. The folks who are really serious about lighting sports arenas, for example, will usually opt for hard-corded sync options when possible just for this reason.

But I will say that I have rarely met the environment that will best a PocketWizard. If one won't fire, it generally comes down to a bad battery or a bad cord between the PW receiver and the flash. And I have very occasionally had issues when they were being used illegally in other countries with different RF spectrum allocations in, um, atypical environments.

But, back to the batteries, they run on AA's.

Dear God, why can't all remotes run on AA's? I always have spare AA's in my bag, and you could probably get AA's on the moon if you ran low. Sadly, that is not the case with many remotes. And it is yet another reason why I love my PWs.

So, why PW+ II's and not the new Flex/Mini platform? Coupla reasons, for now.

One, I am not a TTL guy. So I do not need most of the extra features. Two, the Flex/Mini platform is only out for one camera brand. But that is changing pretty soon. (They are pretty complex, and it's basically like a run-thru of the Star Trek episode "Spock's Brain" to integrate a Flex/Mini into a camera brand.

That said, I am a beta tester of the upcoming Nikon model and I am very excited. In the end, I will probably get one or two.

That is as compared to my 12 copies of various standard PW's. (I have +'s, +II's, standards, etc.)

With a Flex unit (runs on AA's, so Flex will get my nod over the Mini) on camera, I can get the most important upgrade -- a higher full-sync speed. And it will transmit that capability to all of my older PW's being used as receivers, thus making every single flash I have nearly twice as powerful. Relatively speaking, at least.

But, that's down the road. Short version: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight: Fedex.

When it absolutely has to sync: PocketWizard. And the PW+ II's are the gold standard.


Midrange

This is where it gets a little complex, because there are variables that will determine what may be a better choice for you. Plus, by talking you through those variables, I could probably stretch this into another beer.

In my experience (and that of friends) I would not hesitate to recommend any of the following, midrange remotes: RadioPopper JrX, Paul Buff CyberSyncs or Elinchrom Skyports.

For those of you using Einsteins, for instance, PCB's CyberSyncs offer significant advantages -- the receivers even drop right into sockets in the top of the Einsteins. A specialized transmitter allows you pretty much full remote access to the flash's controls. Ditto with the Skyports and many Elinchrom lights -- including the punch-above-their-weight Ranger Quadras.

For generic, manual shooters either one will work well. But you may well also consider the RadioPopper JrX's. Since you are on a budget if you have read this far, I would suggest you skip the studio version and go straight for the bare-bones JrX. It's a great, albeit imperfect, little system.

So what's the difference between the PW's and the midrange stuff? Coupla things.

First, the range will not quite be the same. And while you may never need to sync something 1500' away and/or way up in the air, that extra range equals extra robustness at lesser distances.

Other little quirks, too. Just niggling stuff, really. But worth considering, as it may guide you to different models in this range.

First, batteries. CyberSyncs take AA's on the receivers, but button cells on the transmitters. Skyports take button cells, too.

RP JrX's take CR123a batts -- more capacity than a button cell, but hard to find in a pinch. If you go JrX, then I strongly suggest going with rechargeable NiMH CR123s. You can read more here, and my rechargeables have performed flawlessly.

Other stuff: Design, oddly enough. The Skyports have a swivel antenna that is small enough to scare me a little. (Purely psychological, maybe, as I have not heard reports of them breaking off.)

And the CyberSyncs have raised buttons (including the on/off switch, on older models) that you need to mod to keep from being pushed accidentally in your bag. You also have to mod them if you want a lanyard. Else your sync cord becomes your lanyard (not good.)


But What About the Brand X Units?

I hear you already: What about Phottix / Yong Nuo / Gadget Infinity / eBay / etc. remotes?

To be sure, there are some very good remotes being made by the above companies -- at some very good prices, too.

Just a couple of years ago, the so-called "eBay remotes" were somewhat of a joke. A "newb tax," as it were, to be paid by the light of wallet. You buy them, they kinda work, you stay into it, you move up to a better remote within a few months. So you buy twice.

Not any more. The various oriental manufacturers are coming on strong. None are perfect, but many are very good -- and very cheap. But among their flaws is a deal breaker for me at this point, and the reason I would not recommend them to most people.

All of the remotes recommend above have either a demonstrated or presumed commitment to backwards compatibility. Which is to say that next year's remotes will work with last year's remotes. One of the problems with the constant improvements of the various oriental brands is that they have also been (for the most part) jerking us around with model-year-to-model-year incompatibility.

By comparison, I have 15-year old PWs in my bag that I can trigger with my beta Flex units. Even the RP's JrX system was designed to be compatible with their previous, higher-end system. That is, I think, because they are photographers themselves and know how important the continuity thing is. Choosing remotes that will let you painlessly expand your bag in a few years is essentially making a bet on your future commitment.

I expect that the Chinese/etc. remote manufacturers will get this soon enough. And when they do, I will be happy to recommend them providing they have good performance. And to any manufacturer reading this, if you are dedicated to backwards compatibility you should proclaim it on your product page and give yourself an advantage over your competitors.


Bargain Basement

Hello, poor-but-honest starving artists who have read this far. So, you may be long on talent and sincerity, but are presently short on cash. What, for you?

I do not recommend a remote at all. I recommend going hard core, or, rather hard cord.

Specifically, get on the 1/8" sync bus with a set of Universal Translators (only one if you are using, say, an LP160, or AlienBees, for example, as they already rock the 1/8" jack.

So, if you spend less than a sawbuck and get your camera onto the 1/8" standard with a Universal Translator, you do some pretty cool things for yourself. First, you are kinda making a down payment on future remotes, which also work on the 1/8" jack system. In fact, all of the ones I recommend above do just that. That is to say, you are standardizing on a cheap sync cord right from the get-go.

Second, you are into a system that is for the most part rock-solid. RF interference? No prob. Batteries? Don't need 'em.

Only issues are with range (limited to your sync cord length) and multi flash (I recommend flashes with built-in slaves.) You cord one flash, slave the others, and you are set. You can also move to a remote relatively painlessly later, starting with just two units. Slave your other flashes until you wallet recovers and then grab some more receivers.

And the cord itself? That's the beauty of the 1/8" system.

It gets you out of the grips of the PC Cord Mafia and into the promised land of nearly free, 1/8" sync cords. Seriously, 25-foot sync cord for $1.94, anyone?

You want backups, and reliability? Get five at a time at that price. (Cheaper, actually, if you get 5.) But still, create a little strain relief by rubber banding your sync cords to the light stand to keep them from jiggling and they will last far longer.

And you will always have a backup in the future when your fancy remotes crap out on you because you are shooting too close to Area 51 or something.

But that non-syncing PW may not be your biggest problem problem at that point. I'd concentrate more on the very serious gentlemen in the rapidly approaching green jeep with the .50-cal machine gun mounted up top.
__________


Dang, that was a pretty long post for a Thursday. (I like to coast into the weekend with a short post and a single malt…)

And as I said, this is my opinion alone -- worth what it cost ya. And naturally I got everything wrong, as I am sure many of you are about to tell me in the comments.

But that's okay. And did I mention earlier that I had switched to single malts? Nothing too pricey -- let's call it a 12-year old Jura. (I was educated this spring in Edinburgh.)

But they have been going on your tab for the last 15 minutes.


__________

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105 Comments:

Blogger Jason said...

Well beer would be on me anyway if you were in Dallas, but I would still pick your brain!

I had a set of cactus triggers and they just never worked to full potential. I tried all the mods (some out of necessity like battery door pushing battery too far etc), and it seemed like I owned an old V12 Jaguar. They looked cool, worked right occasionally, but kept me busy worrying about them the whole time I was using them.

I couldnt dig down for PW's, but I am a manual shooter too, so I grabbed a couple of Cybersync RX units and a TX.. For over a year they have performed flawlessly, and Paul buff has revised the button (at least on the receiver, I had to replace one because I dropped it) to no longer get pushed in a tight bag. You can pick up the same combo for just a smidge more than one PW unit, and they are rock solid on reliability.

July 08, 2010 1:09 AM  
Blogger Markus said...

Has anyone tried the Phottix Atlas tranceivers? I've considered getting them (upgrading from the EBay ones...)

They should be PW compatible, and cost around third of what a II+ unit would cost. Also the range, from what I've heard, is at least similar if not better. I'd imagine that backwards compatibility is not an issue as they are supposed to be PW compatible. Also, if I decided to get these, the units would still be usefull once I can afford to upgrade to Pocket Wizards.

July 08, 2010 1:43 AM  
Blogger wilson said...

I, too, would like to see a review of the new Phottix Atlas. Anyone got some ?

12 year Jura, nice. I'm an islands fan too but prefer Lagavulin or Port Ellen.

July 08, 2010 3:02 AM  
Blogger Cher Ping said...

alright. That's definitely worth a beer. or some beer drop me a mail if you are ever in the Cologne/Düsseldorf area of Germany. :P

July 08, 2010 3:30 AM  
Blogger Avi Revivo said...

Hi, why do you suggest to skip the Studio version of the JrX? the ability to control the power of the flash using physical knobs from the transmitter is excellent.

July 08, 2010 3:50 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I got some guys from my networking team to mod my Nikon TTL cord with a break near one end and two CAT5 male connector. They also gave me two double-female blocks.

If I use the one block then my TTL cord is almost the same as stock. However, I can use the second block to patch any CAT5 or CAT6 cable of any length into the middle of it. This setup really came together when I found a long coil of flat CAT6 (I think it is used for hiding cables under carpets and such). The cable is so flat that I can carry it around in the front pocket of my normal camera bag.

Basically this gives me a TTL cord of any length. My second flash is an old Speedlight with optical sync so I can place my two lights almost anywhere. It's ghetto-tastic and fits my budget.

Don't know if I'd send one up in a helicopter like this, though...

July 08, 2010 4:05 AM  
OpenID hallenberg said...

Just a little tip:
I bought the cheap-o Cactus triggers 2.5 years ago (has it really been that long?) and STILL use them successfully. I'm not here to endorse that specific brand though.

I recently got another used SB-whatever (25 in this particular case) for my birthday. Now I have a total of 4 flashes. I also have 4 Cactus triggers, so that would be perfect if it wasn't for the batteries. Out of the four triggers I only had three that actually triggered at one particular time, and no time to get batteries.

What I did was connect one trigger straight to one flash using the hot shoe, and another flash to the same trigger using PC cord. That worked perfectly. Ok, this particular solution requires PC cords, instead of 1/8", but in the end it's the principle that matters.

I would bet that the same idea could be used with other brands (either using PC or 1/8" cords) to get more flashes triggered using the same amount of triggers. If you have optical slaves as well that would give you even more options. All in all, this way you could either expand the number of flashes with the same setup of triggers or increase reliability by giving you more options to connect the same hardware in those cases where your usual setup fails to deliver for whatever reason.

July 08, 2010 4:22 AM  
Blogger Tupa said...

Just ordered them last night, hope they will arrive next week. I'm upgrading from cactus triggers, but I can't afford PW, cause they are little bit too expensive here in Europe (~600-650e for set of 3 units) and I'll rather spend saved money for another strobe (found one used SB28 yesterday:). Will let you know about my test results:)

July 08, 2010 4:22 AM  
Blogger Harvey said...

I think this is might be posted already, but how do you sync up multiple flashes with a single camera using 1/8" cord

July 08, 2010 4:29 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

the problem with your hardwired option, at least for us down here in Aussieland, is that it's too expensive. Far too expensive.

After currency conversion, it's about AU$20 to get a universal translator, and about $20 to get it here. if you need 2 translators, that's AU$60, or about the price of the RF602 with 2 receivers. Or double the price of using PC ports instead ($10 each for PC-sync adapters, $10 for a 3M PC-PC cable)

And if you're like me and have both a camera AND a flash with a PC sync port, that cost does drop down significantly since i only need the 3M PC-PC cable

Sure, it's not the hallowed 1/8" TRS jack (of which i still have serious misgivings about as Sync cords) but for significantly less cost, maybe us Aussies better stick to PC-sync ports...

July 08, 2010 4:34 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

i do agree on the reliability of the Cybersyncs though. 3 friends of mine use them. Rock solid reliable, and relatively cheap. it's just that i can't afford even that...

July 08, 2010 4:37 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Absolutely agree! I use cord and slaves on my Sunpaks because I'm not even rich enough to afford "Poverty Wizards" out of China/ebay.

My set up absolutely work (as long as my workmanship doesn't short out...diy 'translator') with spectacular results. I can shoot at full 1/8000sec sync with full dump of 1/500 sec flash burst!

July 08, 2010 4:42 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

We sell photography gear on eBay UK and have sold 1000’s of PT-04 around 2005 Then PT-04tm. Around 2007 Yongnuo came out with the CTR-301 then the CTR-301P. Now it’s the Yongnuo RF-602 and I believe Yongnuo RF-602 II.
One of the problems as David mentions is backwards compatibility.
Also reliability, they fail. The new ones are getting better. Would I recommend them? Yes and No. They work for now and they are cheap. Are they future proof no.

We have stopped selling these because we just can’t handle the amount of returns. Also the wholesale price is the same as the retail price eBay HK so with UK import duties its not financially viable to import these in bulk.
The alternatives are so expensive and unless you are a career photographer PW’s etc. are too expensive. You need one for every flash.

Personally I use the Nikon SU-800 and cannot recommend it enough. It has some range limitations but if you're shooting in a reasonably confined area and don't need to shoot through walls etc. its fantastic. You dial it the output of each flash right there. Love it!

Jason
fotobyte-uk

July 08, 2010 5:08 AM  
Blogger Gene said...

After reading your post (awesome, btw), I went to the PW website, and I had a question: Does the PW Plus II transmitter allow high speed sync? It appears it doesn't, but I wanted to see what experience you had with this particular aspect, particularly regarding your HSS images in the past! Thanks for your input!

July 08, 2010 5:58 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

refer from Phottix AD
they do not support any high speed sync

July 08, 2010 6:15 AM  
Blogger bencki.pl said...

3 Beers from Poland for
For me sync cord with TTL work's really fine in range of 5m.

July 08, 2010 6:46 AM  
Blogger Don said...

My noob tax was steep indeed, I went with a FlashWaves at about 40% of the price of PWs and now I'm agonizing over 'having' to replace them. Don't get me wrong, I've had 1 issue in the last year and a half (maybe 30K fires) but they only sync at 1/200th tops. I bought them when I was a Pentax shooter (who sync at 1/180th) and just wasn't thinking...

FWIW, I'll likely go Phottix Atlas. I'm trying to find out if you can use them in full manual with on-the-fly exposure comp so I can stand in one place and adjust them. I don't mind setting the ratios manually at first, but I'd love to drop exposure for a few shots of 'wide open' aperture.

July 08, 2010 6:50 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

We sell photography gear on eBay UK and have sold 1000’s of PT-04 around 2005 Then PT-04tm. Around 2007 Yongnuo came out with the CTR-301 then the CTR-301P. Now it’s the Yongnuo RF-602 and I believe Yongnuo RF-602 II.
One of the problems as David mentions is backwards compatibility.
Also reliability, they fail. The new ones are getting better. Would I recommend them? Yes and No. They work for now and they are cheap. Are they future proof no.

We have stopped selling these because we just can’t handle the amount of returns. Also the wholesale price is the same as the retail price eBay HK so with UK import duties its not financially viable to import these in bulk.
The alternatives are so expensive and unless you are a career photographer PW’s etc. are too expensive. You need one for every flash.

Personally I use the Nikon SU-800 and cannot recommend it enough. It has some range limitations but if you're shooting in a reasonably confined area and don't need to shoot through walls etc. its fantastic. You dial it the output of each flash right there. Love it!

Jason
fotobyte-uk

July 08, 2010 6:50 AM  
Blogger Tristan Fewings said...

Excellent post and very timely seeing as I'm about to part with my hard earned cash on triggers. Torn between Elinchrom Skyports and Pocket Wizards. PW's seem to be very robust and I like the fact that I can also trigger my cameras with them if needs be - very much a believer in kit being able to do more than one job! The Skyports are excellent on price - can get one transceiver and two receivers for a lot less than the price of two PW's but they do seem to be a bit flimsy although I know a lot of photographers who use them with no problems. Hmm which to go for...?

July 08, 2010 7:23 AM  
Blogger Hunter said...

I have the skyports and love them - mostly because my Elinchrom gear works with them.

Concerning the antenna, it is not a risk. The little things are flexible and will bend before they break off. Furthermore, the antenna does not extend the range much when standing. So, I just leave it folded down by the transmitter/receiver body. Works like a charm.

I have also used Cybersyncs. Personally, I thought they were fine. Compared to skyports, they are more bulky and room in my bag is like real estate in Hong Kong - damn expensive.

July 08, 2010 8:07 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I paid the Cactus remote tax before upgrading to PWs. I use 430EX Speedlites, which have no sync jack, so I now use the Cactus remotes as adapters to my PWs. Modding the 430s is still on my list, though.

July 08, 2010 8:24 AM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

I'd also suggest using a wired sync cord over cheap wireless. That cord is my in-the-bag backup for my pocket wizards. So starting with that is a really good first step. And those Radio Popper JR-X triggers seem to be a good bang-for-the-buck. But I'm sticking to my rock-solid never-let-me-down Pocket Wizard II Plus. Just having the ability to pull AA batteries from one flash to power a trigger saved me on a paid shoot, while I sent my assistant to the store for more AA batteries (long story). I love them and they return the love.

July 08, 2010 8:38 AM  
OpenID sednaphotography said...

When I first learned about off-camera flash, I bought a flash and two PW's. I jumped in with both feet without even knowing about the cheaper options. I have no regrets whatsoever, (except the looks my wife gave me when I told her the price of these magical little things). They are brilliant!
I just blogged a couple lines about this last night, and so I'm happy you mentioned it today because now I can refer people to someone who knows more than me.
As the months pass by, my wife and I have started to get a little more serious about photography, and she's starting to see the light in terms of how fantastic the PW's are. I'd just like to say, if you can afford it, go with the PW's! As well, I'd like to thank you, David, for sharing all your experience with the photography community throughout the world. Excellent job, and it's much appreciated.

July 08, 2010 8:54 AM  
Blogger James said...

i have gone for a Radio Popper JrX system. I modified the my Vivitar 283s flashes, a stereo jack cable is soldered to the inside of the thyristor plug holes, this is routed through the front facia and plugs into the Radio Popper. I can now control the output level of these brilliant old flashes remotely on from the camera. They also sync with my Nikon D70s upto 1/2500, not bad for wireless, and of course Vivitars 283s can be had for peanuts.

July 08, 2010 9:03 AM  
Blogger Jan Winther said...

Great rundown of the remote triggers!! I know what I want for Christmas now.

Question:
Lets say you took that same friend to the same bar, and he bought you some more (foreign) beers, and he would ask you what kind of strobe to buy, could you give him a similar rundown based on your experience? :) - and then maybe post them here?

Thanks for some great info David.

Jan

July 08, 2010 9:08 AM  
Blogger dboes77 said...

Cheers! Drink up! Great input. I think I am going to move up to a cable like Syl does to keep my high speed synch and E-TTL until I can afford the next step.

July 08, 2010 9:13 AM  
Blogger dboes77 said...

Cheers! Drink up! Great input. I think I am going to move up to a cable like Syl does to keep my high speed synch and E-TTL until I can afford the next step.

July 08, 2010 9:14 AM  
Blogger James said...

I've gone for RadioPoppers with modified vivitar 283s. I have soldered a 3.5 stereo jack cables to the inside of the thyristor socket of the 283, then routed the cable through a small hole in the facia. This cable then plugs into the the RadioPopper.

Net result is the I have three 283, (that I got for £25 each), I can control flash power wirelessly from the camera and sync with my Nikon D70s up to 1/2500.

July 08, 2010 9:22 AM  
Blogger ...number88 said...

I had to sell a house before I could afford PW+IIs using the change (seriously, I'm not kidding). But they've made a massive difference to my outdoor work. I used to use Canon's ST-E2 system, but it failed me so many times in daylight.
Once I had the cash, I bought 4 PWs and have no regrets. They've worked flawlessly apart from on one occasion where interference from the flash unit blocked the signal (the PW was being handheld right next to the flash).
Awesome yet amazingly simple bits of kit. Do it!

July 08, 2010 9:32 AM  
Blogger Parker said...

What about the RadioPopper PX line of products?

As a Canon flasher, I find that even if I'm shooting manual flash, the convenience of tweaking the power levels remotely is golden.

July 08, 2010 9:40 AM  
Blogger Scott E. Detweiler said...

As someone that has owned ebay triggers, pocket wizards and the buff cyber commander, I would agree with the pw being #1. However, the cyber commander is my favorite now. It is reliable and the fact it has a meter on it and can adjust the lights is priceless.

July 08, 2010 9:52 AM  
Blogger C said...

recently purchased some from "ishoot" its an ebay company. got a tran and 4 receivers for £34 UK. have tried them out on my Canon and a friends Nikon - worked well. Didn't work on a Sigma flash though.

July 08, 2010 10:19 AM  
Blogger Royuncg said...

I'm going to have to speak up for Yongnuo's RF-602. I have a set, and for less than the cost of a 16GB CF card you can go wireless. I have used them for over a year and have not had any real issues. The only thing I would suggest they do, is to make the transmitter stay in the hot shoe better. I understand that PW's are the "gold standard", but for someone who is just starting out who cares about backwards compatibility, because its all new to them anyways!!! I really think that for the cost, the rf-602's can't be beat.

July 08, 2010 10:24 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I have been using my Cactus V2s and they have been ok for what I have been doing so far; mostly product photography, and close portraits. But I recently picked up the Cyber Commander and 3 receivers that plug into Einsteins (only received one Einstein thus far), but I am intrigued by the new Pocket Wizard that can control Einsteins, so I may pick one of those up and try out the Flex system. Can you tell me if the PW Flex can send Hyper Sync signal to the CSXCV Transceiver Module?

Also, you come through Dallas (as said above) and I'd be more than happy to take you out for some Scotch. Trinity Hall is the best Scotch and beer tavern in town.

Trinity recently had the Isle of Jura rep, Willy Taite, out to do a tasting. The 16 year is magnificent.

July 08, 2010 10:42 AM  
Blogger HarryR said...

Tell you what, if you are ever around Naperville, IL, I will buy you a beer (maybe two).

Thank you for your blog and all the tips and techniques.

Harry R.

July 08, 2010 10:50 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Nice round up, but.....what about the cheapest sync of all? The one built into the system that McNally uses? You can do full manual or ttl as your heart desires, it's all aa driven and comes free with your flashgun! Yes, there are limits, but I've been using the popup flash on my D700 to control 2 x SB800 and 1 x SB600 flashes manually and in TTL.

July 08, 2010 11:59 AM  
Blogger Phat Baby Photographer said...

Totally agree. PW II are awesome and never miss a beat. Flexes are great if you need to take advantage of higher sync speeds and are willing to do some technical ninjitsu troubleshooting.

July 08, 2010 12:12 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

RE: Elinchrom Skyports.

We also use them because of their compatibility with our Elinchrom lights (I made this decision after using PWs with the same lights, and after using Skyports and their extra perks with Elincrom lights ie: being able to adjust the power remotely) I gotta say Skyports win over PWs...

Design wise though, I like that the Skyports are smaller, but if I had to go into battle or stop a bullet, I'd take PWs. They just seemed bombproof.

RE: the antennae...yes, a few of my skyport antennas have cleanly snapped right off ... but instead of fixing them or buying new ones, it was quite evident I didn't need to because I cannot tell the difference the antennae made. The system still works great without those finicky little antennaes.

All in all, if you have Elinchrom studio strobes, I would suggest the skyport system over PWs...if you have any other flash units, go with PWs, by far.

July 08, 2010 12:23 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Currently looking to get into getting my first flash and I'm checking out flash sync options, so I'm fairly new to all of this. This article couldn't have come at a better time.

I'm looking at the Universal Translators, but I don't understand how they work. I'm currently checking out Lighting 101, and in the second part it already talks about the Universal Translator. Could anyone enlighten me on its function? Like where do you mount unit, where do the cables from the 3.5mm jack and or PC jack go to and come from. Do you need a pair, or only one?

Anyways, I'll be very grateful to anyone who can help me untangle this mysterious world of flash syncing and such!

Thanks in advance!

July 08, 2010 12:34 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

Thanks for the link to CyberSync button mod! They are still hanging in (on?) there, and I don't pull my CS's out of the bag with dead batteries any more.

Nice post, good to have some good advice across the price range in one place. I'll buy you a well-deserved beer when you are in northern Virginia....

July 08, 2010 1:03 PM  
Blogger Gary S said...

Why no mention of the MultiMAX?

July 08, 2010 1:37 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

I don't have the Atlas, but I do own the Phottix Aster trigger with 2 RX units. They are, of course, manual only, but the build quality is surprisingly solid given the price. They get only occasional use, but every time I take them out of the bag I think to myself, "I really should use these more often."

July 08, 2010 1:38 PM  
Blogger Gary S said...

Why no mention of the MultiMAX?

July 08, 2010 1:38 PM  
Blogger Frederick said...

David,

I think you got it right, so buy another and put it on my tab.

There is one additional feature that should be considered for all the products reviewed: SUPPORT.

Yes, it might be implied in your Fedex analogy, but I think the PocketWizard support team needs to be called out as another -- and maybe THE -- compelling reason to have PW in the bag. Cracks me up how there are so many comments in the strobist and pocketwizard flickr forums about PW this and PW that where the evidence is clear that PW support has not been contacted. In a word, they ROCK! Need a part, Rita will get you set up. Have a question, Zack is there. Have a feature/enhancement idea, they listen. There is a reason that integration with PW is embedded in so many brands of flash.

BTW, yes, the battery in the Mini is DUMB!!!!!! Rechargeable AAA would have been better. But, the Mini form factor.... Once you've tried one, you will curse the battery but love the Mini.

July 08, 2010 1:46 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

@ those questioning the 1/8 jack...

I was a tried and true PC sync user and hardwired cable believer. However when it comes to availability, (at least in the US) 1/8 CANNOT be beat. I was heading to a gig on a Sunday (when no camera store is open) and after driving 20 miles there, realized I had ONE 1/8 to 1/8 cable in my bag. I had pulled my others out and put them in aother bag for a gig I shot two nights before and forgot about them being there. Problem is, I was outside in bright sun,slave wouldnt work, and had no time to drive or send someone back to get them. I went half a mile up the road (thank you google maps on the iphone!) to a radio shack and bought a couple of cables for $3 each.

I also modded my flash shoe adaptors (because I shoot Sony and have to have them) to eliminate the need for the pc jack found on these since I already owned several. It cost me just a few $$ per shoe to do the mod shown here

July 08, 2010 1:48 PM  
Blogger Geoff Shaw said...

I've been using the RadioPopper JrX Studio versions since they were released and they've worked flawlessly for me. I use them with Alien Bee's in the studio and I use them with my Nikon flashes otherwise. I couldn't wait for RadioPoppers to release their RPCube and so I went the DIY route using Nikon AS-E900 ($5-$10 at B&H) adapters with self added stereo miniphone jacks. Being able to control the power level of the Alien Bees and Nikon flashes from my camera is great (if not lazy) at times at half the cost of PW's. As David mentioned the downside is the CR123A batteries. The other thing I miss once in a while with them is high speed sync. I also added bright white paint start, middle and end dots to the transmitter analog controls to better gauge my power settings.

Hey David, my great great grandfather was from the Isle of Jura. I wonder if he had anything to do with the great brew. :-)

I enjoy your insightful blog immensely. Thank you!

July 08, 2010 2:17 PM  
Blogger theChipmunk said...

Two things:

1) For what it's worth, I've been using Cactus V4s for nearly a year now and have been very happy with their performance and quality.

2) Jura!? No, no, no, no, NO! The Scottish can't even spell whiskey correctly! Try Bushmills. Mainly because my father has been the distiller there for over thirty years. If you ever head to Northern Ireland, give us a shout and proper whiskey can be arranged!

July 08, 2010 2:29 PM  
Blogger Barney said...

There is another new brand that I went with that has been very good for me. That's the Seculine Twinlinks trigger and receivers. They have very good range and use infrared for LOS and RF. They come with a ton of accessories.

July 08, 2010 2:42 PM  
Blogger magi9112 said...

Sending you a micro brew from Colorado. I currently use Radiopopper JRX Studio remotes. They work flawlessly and you can use them with Speedlights and White Lightning strobes at the same time. You can also vary the power right from the top of your camera which makes it convenient when shooting and "chimping".

July 08, 2010 2:47 PM  
Blogger Joe Holmes said...

I've been using Nikon's commander mode with the pop-up flash for years, but sometimes it just doesn't work -- like when the flash units are set up behind me.

So last week I discovered an ultra-cheap system that's working well for me so far: Adorama's FlashPoint 4-channel remotes. Button-cell transmitter and one AAA-battery receiver for $30. Additional receivers for $20 each, so I gathered a total of three receivers.

Manual-only, of course, and I'm sure the range is severely limited (I haven't used them farther than 40 feet away).

But they worked perfect for me so far.

And at $70 for triggering three off-camera flashes, it's hard to go wrong.

July 08, 2010 2:52 PM  
Blogger James said...

I found this site a few months back and since, I have been fascinated with the topic. I have read several books (my favorite is Light: Science & Magic) and I have purchased the 3 PW (Flex TT5 & TT1). The past few days have been a blast learning.

Next step, back tracking the lessons here.

Thank you for such a great site!

July 08, 2010 3:29 PM  
Blogger Allan said...

I star in the world of off camera flash with a elinchrome skyport and a metz flash... and I suffer a lot, miss fires, problems with the connection cables, etc... and every time that I want to buy a new flash the cost of the new reciber send my back, so I look at ebay and found great reviews about yongnuo and buy a RF-602RX and a YN460 and I very happy after a few days I sold the skyports and that pays for my previous order and a new order of 2 recivers and 2 more flashes, yes there are not perfect but there right for the money I say that fires like 98% of the time and if they broke or what ever I can buy with out really making a big sacrifice when I'm reach a much greater level of income and the money is not a problem I switch to PW but for now this are great in every way that I need it

July 08, 2010 3:29 PM  
Blogger Peter J. Hart said...

I had terrible results with Cactus V2s, have had no problems with Cactus V4s so far.

July 08, 2010 3:46 PM  
Blogger Erin Johnson said...

pocket wizard question... please email response to erin@erinimaging.com

If I am shooting a wedding, will a pocket wizard prevent grandma's camera from trigger my speedlights?

Thanks.

July 08, 2010 4:03 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

The options for wireless triggers at the moment is pretty pathetic IMO. Why on earth is there *still* no Nikon compatible TTL radio triggering solution available in Europe?

At least now we don’t have to spend hundreds on poverty wizards that just do dumb sync because there is finally some competition but this is 2010 guys, just being able to trigger a flash remotely isn’t enough. At a wedding with often very limited time I can’t go running about to and from my flashes tweaking the power up and down like a crazy person, I just want to be able to adjust the flash power from my camera, why is this so hard!

Let’s look at the options:

Pocket Wizard: Canon version had (has?) some major issues seriously tarnishing PWs reputation as the gold standard in reliable flash triggering and justifying the accompanying hefty price tag. Nikon version is currently undergoing an extensive testing phase, communication from PW is good but it’s taken years to get this far. Will be very expensive.

Radiopopper: repeated false promises about a euro version on their site with no explanations as deadlines lapse. Now no news at all and comments on their website are removed and emails unanswered. Nice.

Nikon CLS: so so frustrating because it is SO close. Inside it works like a dream even with a popup flash but outside on a bright day or hidden in a Westcott Apollo good luck. Not reliable enough.

Paul C Buff: No news or interest in TTL triggers presumably since he sells monolights

July 08, 2010 4:50 PM  
Blogger David Solo said...

Nice to see you took us seriously at the mixer in Edinburgh!... remember don't put anything in it except water.. :-) God invented both...

July 08, 2010 4:54 PM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

i'm a broke bastard so i am using cords. i have a 25ft 'Y' cord to trigger 2 strobes and it works just fine. for other times i use the optical slave on my sb26 and sb800.
no problems for me,,,

July 08, 2010 4:59 PM  
Blogger Joe Riley (.co.uk) said...

I've been a Yongnuo RF-602 user for some time now. I'm a senior press photog in the UK. I have 4 receivers and a trigger and they get abused every day. They are very reliable with good range. The only problems I've ever had with them are when I've accidentally switched the swith to OFF instead of ON, or when I forgot to turn the bloody flash on!! Today I fired one consistently through a thick glass window from behind a concrete pillar at a distance of over 30ft. Even I was shocked! I use Nikon flashes, mainly SB-800's with a couple of older ones, I've had no problems with any of them.

For the price, in my experience, they can't be beaten.

July 08, 2010 5:31 PM  
Blogger Graham C said...

RE the Atlas triggers, Charles Verghese did an intesive 3 part review on them:

http://charlesverghese.blogspot.com/

Enjoy.

G

July 08, 2010 5:38 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I paid the newb tax and then within 2 months broke down and bought Mini/Flexes. I was torn between Radio Poppers and the PW system (based on other articles written here.) I liked RP Studio concept but I really didn't want to worry about reliability. PW's announcement of the AC3 made the decision pretty obvious to me. While they are having schedule issues, I still think it is the best system. The Mini/Flex allows me to learn how E-TTL works (the good and the bad) in addition to practicing manual flash.

Oh, and after getting my Einstein strobe, I'm glad I still have my "poverty wizards" so I can get further than 6 feet away (until they fix the RF issues.)

July 08, 2010 6:48 PM  
Blogger Andy Hart said...

What about the new TR-331/TR-332 triggers from Pixel Knight for both Canon and Nikon respectively?
I'm considering selling my two Pocket Wizard Plus II's for three of these because they allow a ttl flash on-camera (my Orbis ring-flash for instance) and as far as the information i've seen, also allow remote ttl and remote power adjustments. Any objections?

July 08, 2010 8:07 PM  
Blogger Jun Madayag said...

I recently bought Atlas Phottix and it all worked well. I used it combining with Elinchromn Ranger Quadra triggering it through its eyecell and it worked perfectly during our Hong Kong Strobist Meet Up.

July 08, 2010 8:25 PM  
Blogger lfasnacht said...

This is my first post. I have read almost everything on this site. Awesome!

I am very interested in the question Parker asked. I have Nikon gear and love the CLS indoors. Outdoors, with sun, forget it.

I am torn between the New PW's, old PW's, and the RadioPopper PX system. They are too expensive to purchase experimently. I am leaning toward the RadioPopper PX system because it maintains all of the functionality of my camera gear.

Dave I know you have used all of these. If money wasn't an object, and you liked the TTL/adjust from camera/control three groups/ what would you recommend?

Maybe I should concentrate on learning how to run them manually?

So far though, I love the results I am getting. Very cool look.

And thanks for the Blog. I will gladly buy you a beer the next time you get to Omaha.

July 08, 2010 8:50 PM  
Blogger BJO said...

Or the 4th option, if you are nerd enough, DIY Radiopopper JrX that can set flash power manually and wirelessly up to 9 groups. Pls check below :P

http://www.flickr.com/photos/bennyjo/4500105992/

Cheers.

July 08, 2010 8:51 PM  
Blogger Edward said...

YongNUO seems to care about backward compatibility with some of its triggers at least.

The new YN-04 II trigger is fully compatible with the CTR-301(p) triggers, and have several improvements... hot shoe lock down on Tx as well as TTL pass through hot shoe on top of Tx. I've found my ctr-301p set pretty reliable. many fires, cant think of any misfires... Batteries are a PIA though.

July 08, 2010 10:17 PM  
Blogger bessonettlcb said...

I have just a few weeks ago purchased the Interfit Strobies iSync 4 for $60 dollars and so far it has worked flawless in every situation. The transmitter is compact and the receiver is nice and flat with a hot shoes top and a 1/8th cord hole and a light stand thread on the bottom. It has four channels of radio and the option to be switched over to a slave (which I have not tested yet), only thing I am unsure of is battery life. Extra receivers are 30 each and I can assure you I will be ordering one shortly. I highly recommend them as they also claim a 100ft range but I have tested it at about 150 with no issues.

July 08, 2010 10:23 PM  
Blogger ASciutto said...

There were a ton of comments, so sorry if this has been asked before.

With the cheap option, would it be possible to trigger multiple flashes (at least two) with a series of y-adapters + couplers?

Also, would it be cheaper to do it this way then with his PC to AC adapter guide?

I know that's a REALLY cheap way of getting external flash.

Thanks!

July 09, 2010 12:06 AM  
Blogger Robert Orsa Photography said...

Here's my experience with radio triggers:

I started with ebay triggers. They were miserable and failed often.

So I got 3 Pocket Wizard Plus II's. They worked great but then one of them stopped transmitting and could only be used as a receiver. I was quoted a minimum of $100 just to have the Mac group look at it or they'd swap it for a new one for $140. TOO MUCH.

So I sold my 3 PW's on Craigslist for $350 (remember one no longer transmitted) and purchased Paul C Buff's CyberSyncs. I got 3 receivers and 1 transmitter. And I got all for $280. So now I can power one more strobe for less money. And they preform flawlessly. I can't see going back to PW.

July 09, 2010 12:23 AM  
Blogger jphphotography said...

I just thought I'd point out that you can virtually eliminate the risk of failure of the cheap triggers by purchasing extra for redundancy. For example I went with the YongNuo (aka Jiansi/Fotga etc) PT04-TM triggers and have 4 transmitters and 6 receivers, all for under $100. At $10 a pop for the receivers its not that big a dent in the wallet, if you're really strapped just order 1 or 2 a paycheck for a month ;)

PS I've been using these triggers for 2 years now and finally had my first one die two weeks ago. Other than that I've had zero reliability issues.

July 09, 2010 12:38 AM  
Blogger Cody said...

I, like many others, have gone through the remote right of passage. Started with cactus that were okay, went to Yong Nuo RF-602s which were very good albiet a bit slow. To today where I just got my first whole set of cybersyncs. This is in preperation for receiving my einstein(hopefully) in the next month or so along with probably an AB800 to use in the meantime. What shots I have done with the cybersyncs have been 100% reliable to full camera sync speed(1/250th).. something the cactus or rf-602's could never do for me.

So yeah, this is a longwinded way to say I love my cybersyncs and plan on sticking with this unless I really need to start triggering lights from 1000+ feet away. :)

Oh yeah and the beer is on me if you are ever in Southern Oregon... :)

July 09, 2010 2:28 AM  
Blogger LR said...

Backwards-compatibility is irrelevant when the triggers are ridiculously cheap. Plus, PocketWizard may have made a mistake in dedicating themselves to backward compatibility, as if they had moved to 2.4GHz they wouldn't have problems with Canon flashes and Einsteins.

RadioPoppers and CyberSyncs are irrelevant to European readers.

I first had the PT-04TMs and they worked fine, but fell apart due to terrible design and build quality. Now I have Yongnuo RF-602s and have no problems whatsoever. No, I haven't had them for 15 years, but they haven't been out for 15 years!

I wrote in a bit more detail on different eBay triggers and other syncing methods in the LR Flash Triggering Guide.

July 09, 2010 3:43 AM  
Blogger His Waldrake said...

Just wanted to throw my hat in with the RF-602's. I'm a photojournalism student and I simply can't afford the "long-term" options right now. I got a transmitter and three receivers for $70 and they've been 100% reliable (minus the few times I'm dumb and forget to turn something on myself) within a 100 feet - I've personally never had a need to go further, so they might even work beyond that. I was lucky if I could get my first set of Cactus V2's to work half the time. As a Canon shooter, my flashes are a 430EX, a Nikon SB-24, and an old Minolta 320X. The Canon and Minolta flash don't have PC-synchs, so the hot-shoe connection on the RF-602's really come in handy.

When I can afford to do so, I think the only reason I'd upgrade would be to work with a system that lets me change the flash settings from the camera... running around to adjust three different (brands, even) of flashes can be a pain, but it's still entirely doable.

July 09, 2010 4:05 AM  
Blogger Seferman said...

And what do you think about the las model of PHOTIX ATLAS?

Review of Photix Atlas

July 09, 2010 5:07 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

One more thing to think about is support for your gear. When the product breaks down, will the company be there a year later, or five or ten?

I bought Elinchrom Skyports (after the newb tax of cheap chinese remotes). Found quickly they were not much better than the cheap Chinese remotes.
In discussions (almost arguments) with Elenchrom about functionality and specifications for months.
(arrogant, unhelpful lot)

A year later, the remotes stopped working. The manual stated two year warranty. The support tech refused to honor it because they only had a one year warranty.

After pushing the issue and FAXing my own copy of the manual (what? they have no copy themselves?!?!) they did the warranty repair.

I sent in both Xmitter and receiver. The shipped them back with the same problem.
Sent them in again, and received only the the receiver.

I finally got them back, but not all of the controls are functioning properly.

In general, the support is lacking.
I've had similar problems with other Elinchrom products, so be wary of a company and do not base your decision on ten year old reputation.

For 1/10th the price, and nearly the same capabilities, I will choose eBay remotes next time.
(or I may simply save up for a while and get the best -- i.e. PW)

July 09, 2010 6:07 AM  
Blogger Markus said...

Thanks for the Charles Verghese link Graham! Looks like thePhottix Atlas matches very equally against PW. I certainly will consider getting a set of those, once I get a few hundred extra to spend on camera stuff.

The EBay triggers are serving me reasonably well, but there are just too many minor annoyances with them.

July 09, 2010 7:42 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Question from a newbie poster: Why do I not see any mention of the Quantum Radio Slave. I have been using a RS4 for years and have found it very reliable. The synch speed is not the highest but the newer version is good for 1/500 with fp shutters. The RS4 can be found on Ebay for cheap and I would highly recommend it as a low cost flash trigger for those watching their bucks.

July 09, 2010 9:20 AM  
Blogger David said...

To those asking about the Phottix Atlas-

Being PW-compatible, they might be a good midrange option (or easy entry into PWs later) but until they are approved by the FCC and available in the US, I cannot really make any judgement.

And as for CLS / eTTL, yes, they do work with line of sight and at limited ranges. IMO, more useful for people who are willing to put up with the limitations of light-based triggers for TTL or HSS purposes.

-DH

July 09, 2010 10:53 AM  
Blogger LightandPixels said...

David,

Thanks for the great post. This is a topic I've spent too much time and effort with. I like many used the ebay triggers and paid the newb tax too. They were "okay" when the batteries were fresh but not reliable enough. I later paid them forward to a friend who has used them to great benefit.

I'm a pretty big fan of the RadioPoppers. I'm lucky enough to have both JrX Studios and PXs system. Both have been great. I know the JrXs don't have the range and maybe the reliability as the Pocket Wizards but I can't remember them not triggering my flash. Add to that the ability to manually adjust power on my ABs and my Nikon TTL and they seem like a huge bargin.

The RadioPopper PX is in my mind the superior choice for TTL for several reasons. The range is crazy good and they work for either Nikon or Canon right out of the box - just make one simple setting change and you're good to go.

My radio trigger experience has been documented on my website over time and some of the folks here may benefit from the posts if you care to share.

RadioPopper JrX Cube For Nikon DIY

Color code your RadioPopper JrX Studios

RadioPopper PX Distance and reliability testing

Cheers,

Tom

July 09, 2010 10:53 AM  
Blogger David said...

Oh, and as for recommending the basic versions of the JrX's, the price difference is $20 for the upgraded set, plus $20 for each receiving flash when you account for the RP Cubes.

I was looking for reliability and bang for the buck in the midrange area. Thus the suggestion to get up and go change your flash settings yourself. ;)

-DH

July 09, 2010 10:56 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

In my opinion, the value winner here are Cyber Syncs. I got a set for my daughter, and they work flawlessly, AND used with a Nikon D40/50/70/70s, can sync up to 1/2500th of a second as seen here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/robmulliganphotography/4179589975/

Personally I use an SU-800 and a clot of SB-600's because I like the control from the camera position, but for Margaret and her 285's the Cyber Syncs are da bomb!!!

July 09, 2010 11:49 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Can you hook multiple flashes up to the Universal Translator?

July 09, 2010 2:36 PM  
Blogger Tibor said...

Great post, David. However, I think you`ve missed it on the high end of the spectrum. PW Plus IIs are definitely midrange, PW MultiMAX (with USB) and ControlTL system (Mini and Flex), also with USB, are at the high end part of wireless triggering IMHO.

Here`s why:
- future proof (USB firmware upgradeable)
- triple (ControlTL) or quad (MultiMAX) triggering
- rear curtain sync
- Sekonic lightmeters compatibile

I am using 2x 580EX IIs, 2x 430EX IIs and a Profoto AcuteB with a Mini on camera, flashes on Flexes and AcuteB on a MultiMAX. I can set the flashes in 3 groups (A, B and C) and AcuteB to group D then meter every group individually with a Sekonic L-758DR :)

Also, with Flexes there is no need for sync cables between the flash and the PW therefore one less possibility for failure. For Canon shooters this is of great importance since only the 580EX II has a PC port.

OK, I understand your statement that ControlTL is only for Canon system as of now (not entirely true though, see http://tinyurl.com/32bw9x3) but making it for Canon and Nikon users covers approx. 70% to 80% of the world DSLR market.

July 09, 2010 2:47 PM  
Blogger Lou said...

Great post. :)

I'm of the light-of-pocket group (or at least have been--divorce=win! oh the irony), and I got a set of the Cactus v4 triggers. Got to say, pretty reliable. The one little annoyance is that i'm noticing that with my super old Minolta 118x flash, it's a tad loose in the receiver hotshoe, so depending on how it sits, it may not trigger due to lack of contact. And I've only noticed that in the past few weeks when I was using it hand-held.

I'll be moving up to some PWs or RP units within the next six months though, just so I can get some more features (high-speed sync is making me giddy).

But for the el-cheapos, the v4 can't be beat.

July 09, 2010 6:41 PM  
Blogger gh said...

Missed FlashWave III.

http://www.amazon.com/FlashWave-III-Wireless-Receiver-Remote-Trigger/dp/B003K811DY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1278744290&sr=8-1

July 10, 2010 2:47 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Another vote for the RF602 for those on a budget that precludes PW. Mine so far have proven reliable (had to replace the provided batteries fairly sharpish), only real annoyance is the transmitter runs a CR battery which are more costly/less easily sourced in a hurry (three chemists and 2 supermarkets before i got one in an emergency). As time goes by, yes, i will probably switch to PW, but I wanted to play NOW, not wait a yr or so til I could afford the 'Real' thing. £70 got me 2 transmitters and 6 receivers - and I can use the spare transmitter as a remote shutter release.

July 10, 2010 2:56 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

David, for once I disagree with you. It sounds like you are yet to try a Cactus V4 or Yongnou 602. Both are great triggers, extremely reliable and incorporate a hotshoe - something that the PW lack. The reliability issues of the V2s and their clones are long gone.

Try them... I think you'll be surprised.

They fit the minimalist, low cost, great performance strobist credo perfectly IMHO!

July 10, 2010 6:11 AM  
Blogger Gene's Pentax said...

I'm surprised that you don't know about Flashwave/Flashwave-2. I think it's truly the best midrange option. Not only is it the smallest of the three (smaller than Radio Popper, Cybersync, or Skyports), but it has a built in hot shoe in the receiver which makes it super easy and fast to set up. In fact, my Flashwave-2 receivers are permanently attached to my flashes. Not only that, I can connect up to 3 flashes to a single receiver ... if I wanted to do that. But the biggest advantages are its reliability and convenience. Sure, it's range is not enough to trigger an IED, but for 90% of the users, I don't think it's an issue.... It's never been an issue for me during the last 2 years I've used them. If you really need those longer ranges, I guess you should get Flashwave-3 that someone mentioned above.

As for sync speed, their spec is rather conservative. Even though the spec is 1/200s, I've been able to sync at 1/250s consistently with a Canon 40D.

It really is a great choice, better than the ones that David mentioned.

It's really difficult to understand why folks want to mess with wires and adapters when they talk about wireless triggering devices. If you add up the cost of adapters and wires that are necessary for using Cybersync, Skyport, etc., they really do cost a lot more than Flashwave.

So, in terms of reliability, convenience, and cost, Flashwave seems to a no brainer choice.

More reviews of it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/FlashWave2-Wireless-Remote-Trigger-System/dp/B002X246BW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1278799844&sr=8-2

July 10, 2010 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jon Woodbury said...

I own the PW TTLs, the Cactus V4s, AND the Cybersyncs. When I need high speed sync, I go Pocket Wizard, when I need reliability, I go Cactus. The Pocket Wizards are like a bad relationship. They are just cool enough that I keep coming back fail after fail. The range is awful, they crap out randomly, and everything is overexposed. The Cactus v4s fire every single time. They don't fire 8 times a second like the PWs do (actually, neither do the PWs, I don't know where they came up with that number.) but within their specs they're rock solid.
The Cyber Syncs work basically perfectly as well and I love them but I hate dinking around with with cords--just too many pieces to work with on the go. I use them in the studio but not in the field. Honestly, if I had to choose, I'd go with the V4s.
It's a lot of fun to be able to fire 6 flashes from anywhere in a reception hall and have transmitters for all 3 of my cameras, all for under $150.
The Pocket Wizards have gotten slowly better as they improve the firmware but they still aren't reliable. (He'll change and stop beating me, honestly he will! He's just so sweet when he syncs my speedlites at 1/2000 on the beach!)

Jon
http://www.jonwoodbury.com

July 10, 2010 8:50 PM  
Blogger Tony Boros said...

I too have had great success with the Catus V4 triggers. I use them with 2 550's and 2 580II's to shoot real estate. I will be adding two more 580II's for a total of 6 speedlights. I have found the Cactus V4's to be VERY reliable, and INEXPENSIVE. One should not dismiss these triggers because of their low price, or the bad reputation of their previous versions.
The V4's are great.

July 10, 2010 11:10 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

My money is on the Radio Poppers, because of its ability to trigger canon speedlites and other flashes like dynalites so that both sources of light will be visible in the final image. For technical reasons only known to extraterrestrials, that doesn't happen with other triggers.
Also, the unreliability of Pocket Wizards with Canon speedlites has driven me so batty I even wrote a post on my blog about it - "The Limitations of Small Flashes" at www.chicagotribune.com/assignmentchicago - for what it's worth. I also admire the total control that Radio Poppers gives you behind the camera..

July 11, 2010 2:28 AM  
Blogger Jason Anderson said...

Very good write-up, and it's amazing that even as technology changes, the more things do change, the more they stay the same.

Our own Colorado Strobist group had a post in their Flickr threads a while back that I *still* reference to this day...and it pretty much echos what you are saying here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/coloradostrobist/discuss/72157607960025324/?search=Pocketwizards+oh+my

And it looks like I'll be seeing you in about 3 weeks! :)

July 11, 2010 5:47 AM  
Blogger Swannie said...

I just picked up the Elinchrom Skyport system (upgrading from Cactus triggers which hardly ever worked for me). I used them for the first time yesterday and apart from a sync cord issue on my Vivtar 285HV (easily fixed with an elastic band), they were perfect! I was very happy to finally have some reliability in my off camera strobes.

I share your concerns about the antenna as it's a super thin piece of material, but from all the reviews I read, no one has had any issues with it. I'll be sure to post up the second I break one! Thank you for the review and your next beer in Tucson is on me (try 1702 on Speedway Blvd)

July 11, 2010 3:39 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I've used the RadioPopper JrX Studio for almost exactly a year (and the Cube for on-camera control since it came out). One transmitter, three receivers/cubes for my SB-24s. The system works beautifully.

The CR123A Duracell batteries can be found readily and inexpensively here: http://www.batteryjunction.com/duraacell-cr123a.html

I also bought a partitioned plastic case that holds six of them for almost nothing at the same online store. Can't complain. Don't think I've ever had a misfire with them.

July 11, 2010 5:07 PM  
Blogger johnf said...

Wow. I've been offline workin on the daughter's grad party and just saw this. Exactly what I have waited for. Thank you for all the research and opinions!

July 11, 2010 7:52 PM  
Blogger Joey B said...

I did a simple mod on getting my Paul C Buff Cybersyncs staying put to my flashes/monolights... I simply cut a small 1-1/2" strip of velco, put the 'prickly' side on the battery back panel of the Cybersync, and the 'fuzzy' side on my flashes/monolights. Most of my mods for my flashes have velcro strips of some sort on them anyways, so now I have a good continuity going on with my mod gear.

Hope this helps out someone!

July 12, 2010 12:23 AM  
Blogger Rolsted said...

Have been using Cactus v4 triggers for the past year or so. Mainly because budget didn't allow for PWs since I sometimes use three or four SBs at a time. Must say that I am quite impressed with how the Cactuses have been working. Really just had one trigger not working and that was because it was dropped to a concrete floor twice... No misfires etc.
I mainly shoot in manual mode anyway when using multiple flash set-ups, so all in all it has been the right thing for me, considering needs and budget. Would love to have the new, rock-solid PWs with i-TTL capabilities of course, and will definitely get them when I can afford them.
But so far, I am satisfied with this cheaper solution.

July 12, 2010 4:05 AM  
Blogger end said...

THANK YOU!!!!!
Where you reading my mind?

THIS is the exact reason i came to your site today, to try to research for my best options... BUT YOU HANDED IT TO ME ON A SILVER BLOG POST PLATER! <3

July 12, 2010 11:48 AM  
Blogger J D said...

What do you think of the CowboyStudio NPT-04 4 Channel Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger and Receiver? It seems like a good budget wireless solution.

July 14, 2010 10:27 AM  
Blogger David said...

Cowboy? I'm thinking it is probably a rebranded mystery name Chinese remote.

Wonder how long "Cowboy" has been in business under that brand name, and whether they will still be in business after the supply of rebranded remotes sell out.

(I say that as someone who has paid the newb tax more than once... :) )

July 14, 2010 12:55 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

RE CowboyStudio NPT-04?

These sound like PT04s which were V2 compatible... ie the original temperamental remotes.

Don't bother. Get Cactus V4s or Yongnuo RF602s instead. Similar price but actually work every time :)

July 15, 2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Great article. Temporarily being in the last group of shooters, I thought of the same idea that you had. And you even took it up a level. The 1.94 25' cord sold me instantly. But I also wanted instant gratification. I couldn't wait for the Universal Adapters and wires to be shipped so I hit the pavement today hoping to find everything. No such luck. After walking to different camera shops in center city Philly for about 2 hours, I gave up. Now I will order online. And I'll never buy cheap triggers again!

July 17, 2010 3:49 PM  
Blogger photoguy2354 said...

ok, let me start this with two things, one, the question I ask might be answered by someone else in these comments, but I am a photographer in the navy and deployed, and the internet sucks, I don't have time to read all the comments like I would if I were at home. Two, I am totally new to pocket wizards, I have lived and breathed Nikon's CLS, but I bought three PW II's (lovin' that deployment savings, or now lack thereof) out of irritation at the limitations. Pushing the limits means breaking the limits, and sometimes the bank.
Now, these questions are lame I know, but I am confused a little and need to clarify at the process of PW II's:

One goes up top in the hotshoe, hotshoe triggers the PW to fire the others off, no sync cord needed from the camera to the PW?

Receiving PW's are connected to (in my case) SB-800's from a mini (3.5mm mono jack)on the PW to the flash with a PC sync connection.

Now, is that all there is to it? Set the flash on M and have a hayday? There was a post awhile back about a little hotshoe thing from mpex.com that had the 3.5mm mono jack on the hotshoe, can the PW be plugged into those, thus eliminating the crappy PC sync? or will that somehow defeat the connection? Hopefully I am making sense here in my questions, I've been working all day and am rather tired. Look forward to responses. Thanks in advance.

July 19, 2010 10:12 AM  
Blogger leif said...

i got a pair of TF-361 from dealextreme for $50. they're the non-ETTL type. dealextreme doesn't appear to offer just the receivers alone (must buy pairs, grr) but they seem pretty decent. i'm not achieving full sync on a t2i (syncs at 1/200 in on-camera tests, and with these i am getting 1/125), but i didn't expect wonders for $50. their range is pretty decent -- advertised as "80 meters or above" -- and around 55m just now in a test. they're a big step up from cactus on range if nothing else, since i've had those as well, but i agree it's all noob tax... which brings me to a question: is it only RF interference from the 580ex ii that has people concerned about the PW flexTT5? i thought i saw someone on a different post state that that had fried his flashgun.

tia.

July 19, 2010 7:21 PM  
Blogger leif said...

update: given that my test yesterday was only paced off, i re-tested the 361-tx 2.4GHz radio trigger (noted above) under more controlled circumstances and got a fairly impressive result: 115 meters. i was well past the daylight range of my bosch laser rangefinder so had to use my GPS, whose accuracy today was +/- 8 feet. i walked the route twice and had the same results. the real measure could actually be between 112 and 118 meters, line of sight. i had a few pops beyond that, but they weren't reliable.

it's certainly not sufficient for a helicopter shoot, haha, but 115m does take it well beyond the range of a 70-200 if you want to frame your subject in a full head-to-toe portrait. even with an added antenna, my cactus couldn't do anything beyond about 10m. my conclusion is the 361tx is easily worth the 1.35x price over the cactus, and thus reduces the noob tax a bit.

July 20, 2010 7:50 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

i was constantly holding out until i could afford triggers in the pw or radiopopper price range. something always came up and funds were not available. i went the universal translator / 1.94 miniphone route, and i am super pleased. and like you said, its also an investment since i will need those translators anyway.

question: for a second flash, would i have to resort to the more expensive pc cord for the other side of translators? or, do you know some other inexpensive fix?

September 22, 2010 2:17 PM  

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