LATEST FEATURE: On Assignment: Ben Lurye

Monday, February 20, 2012

PocketWizard Plus III's: More Trigger, Less Cash


(Click pics for bigger versions.)

A couple of years back, as PocketWizard were rolling out increasingly complex remotes featuring wireless TTL and HyperSync and everything else, I sent an e-mail to one of their engineers.

Basically, it said that if you want photographers to love you long time, release a stripped-down "cadet" model that is as reliable as a Plus II, but at a lower price. Because in the end, what we want is rock-solid triggering and non-obsolescence -- at a lower entry point (amirite?)

Turns out they were listening, if only half-way. Because the PocketWizard Plus IIIs are coming, and they are $30 cheaper than the PW Plus IIs.

But stripped down, they ain't. Not by a long shot.
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The Big Picture

Of all of the lighting-related questions I get asked, "Which remotes should I buy?" is the most common.

Start with a wire, is what I usually suggest. PC cords (or better yet, an audio sync cord) is a great way to start on the cheap. And you'll have a solid back-up for later when you go wireless.

But as for remotes, I have two favorites: the PocketWizard Plus II and the RadioPopper JRx. They are both solid-performing dumb (i.e., non-TTL) triggers. While the JRx has an advantage in price, the PWs use more readily available AA batts. And to my experience, they have proven the winner at range/reliability. Plus, they have demonstrated a commitment to non-obsolescence over two decades.

The RP JRx is no slouch, and if money is tight it's still a very good option. But PWs have long been the industry standard for good reason. And yes, there are other brands of remotes available. But most of them do not embrace year-to-year and/or inter-model compatibility. That's a deal killer for any photographer trying to make long-term buying decisions.

With the Plus III, PocketWizard has just lobbed a grenade into that whole second-tier ecosystem. They have taken everything in the +II, made it way better, and dropped the MSRP from $169 to $139. Street prices will likely be a little lower after initial supply issues balance out.


Better, Stronger, Faster, Cheaper

With apologies to Daft Punk, this is not your grandfather's Plus II.

For starters, the channel count jumps from 4 to 32. (The 32 channels are the same ones as on the MultiMax units.) And channels 17-32 also add four zones per channel, allowing all kinds of creative possibilities for multi-light setups and zoned multiple remote camera operations. These things are a sports shooter's dream.

But all of these features don't mean crap of the thing is not reliable. I have shot several assignments with a set of pre-production PW+IIIs, without a dark frame. Not a single one.

Last week, I took them out to a nearby field complex which gives me a visible range of over 1,000 feet. I set up an AB800 on a stand with a VML power supply and started walking. When I got to the end of the field I started popping off frames.

Here's one:



As you can see, that flash is a decent walk away. Three football fields plus. (Click for bigger if you don't see it.)

Here's a string of a few dozen shots (click for the 1600-pixel version) from that same 1,000+ feet range. Sorry for the drunken horizons. There was a slight drainage bulge in middle of the field so I had to Hail Mary the camera over my head to visibly record the flash in the frame.



Note the sequential frame numbers -- zero misfires. This thing is scary robust.


Redesigned Antenna

There's are a lot of new gee-whiz features, but my favorite is the redesigned antenna. It is captive within the hard-shell unit. This removes the risk of a harsh bend in your bag breaking the contact at the bottom (as can happen with the external antenna version). It feels very solid -- not at all vulnerable if you are one of those people who, like me, just toss them in the remaining spaces in a fully packed roller.

This next detail is not in any literature that I have seen, but PW told me the antenna has been tweaked to be more omnidirectional. Theoretically, this means less range, but more mounting/orientation flexibility. What the... the range looked pretty crazy to me, above. So I'll take the positioning flexibility. (FYI, the bulk of the signal energy still radiates perpendicular to the antenna, just less so than before.)


Modes, Modes and More Modes

Where to start? Okay, how about with the modes.

• TxRx: Standard, auto-sensing switch-hitter mode as on the current PW +IIs

• TxONLY: For use when multiple photogs are sharing remote flashes (the other shooters won't trigger your camera-mounted XMitter and trip you into relay mode.) And, speaking of relay mode, it works with a channel step-up function, just like the +IIs.

• RxONLY: For use in a multi-photog/multi-flash environment for your receivers at the flashes. This will prevent them from channel-hopping, transmitting a trigger pulse on the next channel and stepping on some other photog's shot.

• LR (Long Range mode): Double the range, at the expense of sync speed. In practical terms my sync dropped from 1/250th down to 1/125th in this range. But for remote camera firing, a non-issue. Ditto for syncing at long range in conditions other than full daylight. Would have loved to have this for the night chopper shots.

• RP (Repeater mode) For triggering remote cameras, you can bridge multiple PW+IIIs in this mode. Each hop cost you some microseconds, so this is generally not for syncing flashes. But each added unit buys you another full-distance hop. Use TxONLY mode on the original transmitter to avoid setting up a feedback loop. (UPDATE: I now see that McNally has already tested this mode, strapping them to a land rocket in the desert. Figures.)

• HSR (Hi-Speed Receive) Shortened contact time, to achieve some needed non-contact time between flashes when shooting at very high fire rates (like here, for instance.) The trigger/fire rate on the Plus IIIs is good for anything up to 14.5 frames per second. Which is probably faster than your flash will recycle.

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Other Features

• Display is backlit. You can thank McNally for this. I was there when he suggested it in October. Pretty sure I saw Dave (the PW marketing guy) get a Clint Eastwood-style twitch in his eye when Joe suggested it at the manufacturing equivalent of the 11th hour. Couldn't tell for sure, tho. Either way, that was a pretty fast turn on the production line -- it's there in the pre-production units I tested.

• Zones: On channels 17-32, you get four selectable zones per channel with a dedicated physical on/off toggle for each zone on the face of the PW+III. For sports shooters with multiple remotes, this will be golden. Also works for multiple flashes.

• 1/4x20 tripod socket, for mounting at a secure angle -- just like PW+II.

• Better AA batt compartment: Vertical piano-style hinge, opens horizontally and is captive. Easier to get to compared to the PW+II, IMO.

• Three-stage battery meter. (Thank you for this, PW.)

• Two-stage trigger button. (I.e., half-press to wake up a remote camera, for instance.)

• Firmware upgradeable via USB port. Although, what the hell is left to be able to update on a dumb trigger platform is beyond me. Srsly.

• USB port can also power the unit with a standard cord and plug. Good for extended remote flash installations, such as in basketball arenas.

• The power button has a ridge around it to prevent accidental power-up during transit, while it rattles around in your roller. Nice touch.


Why Don't All Photo Companies Do This?



(UPDATE: Just found the above video on the new PW Plus III Microsite.)

Just think of all of the sexy product shots you have seen for photographic gear in the last five years and realize that every one of those was an opportunity to do a cool BTS shoot like this. Lots of info to be gleaned -- light sources include many gridded parabolics, gobos large and small out the wazoo, etc. Neat stuff.

Kudos to PW for this fun layer of transparency. And to the photo gear OEMs around the world: everyone should be doing this, from this day forward. Seriously, you are spending all of that money to try to get photogs to ogle your gear. Let us ogle. Duh.

Plus, it gets the word out your chosen product photographer. Win-win-win. You can check out more of Gregor Halenda's kickass work here.

One other thing: The PW Plus III product shots were lit with ... Broncolor? To international readers that may seem a fine point. But in the US, PW and Broncolor arch rival Profoto are under the same umbrella (via MACGroup US).

So that is a little like the graphics of Windows 8 being designed on a Mac. Which it was. Heh.


Should You Buy?

This is where things get interesting. PW+IIs are almost never available at a discount used, as most people just keep them forever. (What do you upgrade to?) But that is obviously about to change as some people migrate to a full set of PW+IIIs. Here's what to expect.

If PW+IIs are all you need, I'd expect to see them being marked down new (and plentiful used) as we transition to +IIIs. If you have the current Plus II units and want to buy more, I'd probably be willing to go $110 new, $80 used during the transition and after. But beyond that, just go for the Plus IIIs. They are much improved over the already solid Plus IIs.

Remember to make sure your frequencies match if you are buying add-on units. US/Europe/Japan are the three different versions. They different country versions are not cross compatible. (Within the same country models, the +IIIs are, of course compatible with the +IIs on channels 1-4.)

If you were preparing to buy Plus IIs for the first time in the near future, you just hit the jackpot. Your choice, but I'd take the $30 price difference that PW just put on the table and jump on the Plus IIIs. The industry standard, redefined. They are significantly improved in many ways.

If you are shooting RPs and are happy with them, I would suggest staying with what is working for you. They are good units. (But buy some NiMH batts and a charger as insurance against getting caught without power.)

If you are thinking buying about a lesser brand of remote, PW just made a compelling argument to go with the industry standard. Ditto those who shoot "eBay remotes" and were looking to move up. These are killer triggers, at a very decent price. Worst case, you use them for a year and sell them on eBay for 90% of what you paid for them. That's always been the best argument against any reluctance to make the jump to PW.

On a related note, I am betting in less than 3 months you'll be able to buy knock-off, 2.4Ghz Fake Gucci Bag remotes that look just like a Plus III. Good luck with that...

But the reality is, the PocketWizard Plus III is a game changer which will be very disruptive even to the second-tier remote markets.

Their loss, our gain.
__________


Much more info on the PocketWizard Plus III microsite.


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79 Comments:

Blogger robm001 said...

Thanks David for another great post! I love my +II's but will surely look into the new ones when i need a few more.

February 20, 2012 12:21 AM  
Blogger fotoghrafie said...

Thanks for these hot news (probably the first, where the new PW is completely described). As far as I understood the PW III will not be able to support "Hi Speed Sync". Correct? Thus the fastest shutter speed will be 1/250s?

February 20, 2012 3:54 AM  
Blogger JerryPH said...

There were leaks a few weeks back, but it's a great addition to the PW line.

I love the new look!

February 20, 2012 4:19 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Great, that just makes the decision on whether to go for the "smart" flex units or stick with my plus IIs even harder. I was only going to use the flex mostly for zone controls on manual anyhow. I have to figure out if the occaisional ttl useage is a big enough factor to go smart now!

One thing though David, don't you mean 2.4Ghz for those knock offs?

Tim

February 20, 2012 4:39 AM  
Blogger jrsforums said...

Looks good...

However, the real "game changer" could be the rumored RF flash from Canon....if the rumor is true.

John

February 20, 2012 5:30 AM  
Blogger R. Kneschke said...

Thanks for the great review.

Just to make sure: The new Pocket Wizards Plus III do NOT have TTL-Support?

Thanks, Robert

February 20, 2012 5:30 AM  
Blogger GrumpyOldMan said...

Hey David, thanks for your review, but I hate to say, I have one question. Are these TTL? I get the impression they are, but I'm not 100% as it is not explicitly stated.

Thanks and thanks for your blog generally.

February 20, 2012 5:42 AM  
Blogger Fraccion Trash said...

As someone who just purchased a Flex tt5 and a Mini tt1 I am very curious as to whether these will work with their new system as well. Most of my adjustments are manual anyway so spending a fair bit less on a +II sounds great.

February 20, 2012 6:06 AM  
Blogger Alchemist Creations said...

hello there .. i just invested in a set of phottix odin's I'm loving them so far ... never had a miss fire nor any probs setting up or anything really ... i was wondering how the pocket wizards plus III's compare ... they are at similar price ranges .. thanks ...

February 20, 2012 6:44 AM  
Blogger jason anderson said...

well this sounds great i just used yesterday some wizards that were about 7 years old , still solid to make this shot .https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150632464453588&set=a.10150632462688588.411171.180274168587&type=1&theater maybe ill get some new ones in a couple years ...

February 20, 2012 6:50 AM  
Blogger Kevin B. said...

With the IIIs being such an improvement over the IIs, I don't see how it would be economically viable for PW to even keep producing the IIs. I take it they will soon discontinue manufacturing them.

February 20, 2012 7:12 AM  
Blogger Richard Kizirian said...

Thank you for a thorough review.
Do the PW ll's work with the PW lll's?

Thanks again, Richard

February 20, 2012 7:36 AM  
Blogger Mike Loizzi said...

This is awesome, any word on the release date?

February 20, 2012 8:00 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Looks interesting but honestly to me it seems like for the most part they simply (finally) fixed the major bugs in the II, and caught up to other manufacturers with features. Adding the unique PW touch of the modes is certainly sweet, but for many shooters not something we use often, if ever. They are still missing a HUGE feature that others have had for quite some time, remote power adjustment. I'll gladly still stick with my RadioPopper system and love every click (which I bet would perform identically in that field if you ever go back to test).

February 20, 2012 8:10 AM  
Blogger didymus said...

Sweet!
The price is moving in the right direction, too!

February 20, 2012 8:16 AM  
Blogger Wally said...

I don't see the III's as a game changer, at least not from a serious advanced hobbyist perspective.
I can afford most any trigger out there and have been giving the ControlTL stuff a serious look but they still seem to be a iffy thing as far as working all the time. I just bought a set of 4 triggers to trigger my camera and flash units outdoors per an idea I came up and total cost was $120. I'll probably not use them again or I may but I don't see me buying four of the new III's to do the same thing. For studio flash I'm don't see them unseating Profoto's AIR or EL-Skyport's. At least for those that like to adjust power remotely.
I love the expanded tech, I love the price reduction but none of that really matters to moi and I don't think I'm alone. I mean, with all the cool tech why not have a hot shoe for triggering a flash? I guess they want to protect the Flex sales.

February 20, 2012 8:23 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

They still lack the killer feature of the JrX units -- remote flash power adjustment. This makes these two products quite different. Would love to see RP repackage the JrX's in a chassis as robust as the PW's.

February 20, 2012 8:59 AM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

Modes and more modes: Personally, what I need is a JWD mode -- "Just Work, Dammit!"

Seriously, it's easy for me to get so stressed out while shooting that I can screw up the settings on a II+; I shudder to think what I'm going to be able to mess up with all these extra buttons on the III+.

February 20, 2012 9:01 AM  
Blogger BallardFamily said...

As a CLS user, I have held off on buying any type of trigger device in that I don't see the point in running back and forth changing power settings on my flash. And some have said that iTTL is sometimes unreliable. I love being able to adjust power from the camera. But I sure don't have the range of triggers. I want a trigger that will communicate with my flash as to what power I want, and then be able to adjust it if I want something different. What are my options?

February 20, 2012 9:02 AM  
Blogger Daniel Cormier said...

I might be missing something, but these sound like redesigned MultiMax's. It even supports letting a remote camera fall asleep and waking it up later, just like the MultiMax (though the two-stage Test button is new). Don't get me wrong, that's pretty great that they did that and I look forward to cheaper remotes. The MultiMax's were close to $300.

From their documentation (PDF link):
"If the transmitting PocketWizard radio in your hands is a Plus III, you can pre-release the remote camera by pressing the TEST button half way. This wakes up the remote camera and lets it respond more quickly and consistently. It can also engage autofocus."

February 20, 2012 9:51 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

With all those zones possible, no one has yet to say the most important questions to someone who shoots in an arena with a lot of people shooting a lot of strobes and a lot of remotes:

Are these things able to be delayed?

If I want to sync four remotes with speedotrons at the Staples Center, I need to be able to do that. If its true, I'm buying 10.

February 20, 2012 10:09 AM  
Blogger Louis said...

Will the sync timing work with flash for the latest leaf shutter lens at 1/1600?

February 20, 2012 10:21 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I just wish they would make them with a sony hotshoe. None of that built in reliability matters when it has to pass through a $10 junk hong kong adapter that breaks every time you look at it...

February 20, 2012 10:36 AM  
Blogger CJ said...

Looking at the photo, it appears that you have to turn the camera to the right to be able to see the PW III display and make adjustments. I'm guessing that it has to do with increasing the range of antenna, but it doesn't make it very user friendly.

February 20, 2012 10:42 AM  
Blogger PaulL said...

$30 less of a price difference between PWs and cheaper options does make the decision harder...when I can get 6 cheaper remotes for the price of 1 PW, I'm more willing to put up with some cheaper quirks. At only 3 to 1, the quirks seem more annoying :)
I have to think, though, that the proliferation of cheaper triggers cutting into PW sales had something to do with their new pricing. Competition is good for all of us.

February 20, 2012 10:43 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

To everyone asking if the PW +III's are TTL:

No, they are not. (They woulda mentioned that if they were.And I probably woulda mentioned it too.)

Similarly, the +III's also don't have lasers or built-in espresso machines...

February 20, 2012 11:18 AM  
Blogger Lyle Denman said...

Competition: still good for consumers.

February 20, 2012 11:21 AM  
Blogger Puggle said...

Looks great, but for Canon users, rumor has it they are just about to announce a new flagship speedlite system that has radio rx tx built-in!

I'll wait to see what Canon does before I make any new purchases.

February 20, 2012 11:45 AM  
Blogger layzieyez said...

My big question is will this work with the transmitter module for my Sekonic L-358. I'd love to know this for sure before I buy in and buy the transmitter unit for my light meter along with these Plus III's.

I'm glad the cheapo triggers I bought from YongNuo helped me manage to hold out long enough for these Plus III's to be released. I always intended to upgrade and now might be the time.

Thanks David for the review and thanks PocketWizard for selling cheaper.

February 20, 2012 11:54 AM  
Blogger Dan Lubbers said...

I have 4 Plus II's I've been using for 2-3 years now and have been contemplating upgrading to the miniTT1 and the FlexTT5's, but still haven't upgraded. What would be the main differences between those and the new Plus III's? What would you suggest?
Thanks!

February 20, 2012 11:57 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

I just ordered the phottix odin trigger system. After reading this description, i am glad i ordered the odin triggers. These dont have ttl, ability to remotely set power levels, or HSS.

February 20, 2012 12:01 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Dave,

Saw this here on Strobist, first! Great write-up.

I have two questions: how do you feel about not being able to remotely adjust power? If the +3's could do that, I would probably sell my Flex units and get these instead. I'd even get an extra zone, which is phenomenal, as 3 zones sometimes leaves me making compromises that I'd otherwise prefer not to make. The only time I use TTL is when I'm using a ring flash on camera as fill and moving around a lot.

Secondly: Is there any sensible way to integrate these with the Flex units, or should I just continue on with the Flexes? I assume I wouldn't be able to use Zone D, and I'd need adapters for my SB-700's, etc. Probably not worth switching? But my Flexes sometimes mysteriously stop firing and I need to recycle power, causing unnecessary anxiety and confusion. These also look pretty slick and have a battery indicator.

Thanks,
Kyle

February 20, 2012 1:34 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

Of course I just bought a set of Plus II's last week. Figures...

February 20, 2012 2:00 PM  
Blogger dh said...

Hello Mr Hobby

The PWii's had a really cheapo hot shoe connector, are these any better?

thanking you!

dh

February 20, 2012 2:26 PM  
Blogger ken said...

Why no mention of/comparison to the PCB Cyber sync system?

February 20, 2012 2:37 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Do you have any financial link at all with PocketWizard or their retailers David?

February 20, 2012 3:20 PM  
Blogger dh said...

On my PW ii's, I usually hang the unit on a lightstand knob or on the knob of my alien bees. I don't see a string/loop on these, and I don't see any thing on the microsite about this feature.

Small feature but absolutely indispensable. Or did they dispense with this?

Anyone? Bueller?

February 20, 2012 3:57 PM  
Blogger Josef Samuel said...

Two points where I can see improvement, coming from a full time wedding photographer. First, the foot. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I see the same plastic screw foot that's come with every pocketwizard so far. How is it possible that they didn't make a locking foot similar to a 580EXII? As a wedding photog, I would love to see the locking foot instead of having to screw the time-losing, flimsy plastic foot which easily breaks. I would pay extra for this feature. Secondly, the physical size is a deterrent to me. I can't have a huge thing sticking out of my camera while I'm trying to be discreet taking pictures at weddings. Right now I use a miniTT1 to trigger a PlusII (using the Flex was too unreliable) So I don't mind not having TTL since I shoot everything manual, but the less prominent, the better for me and every photojournalist out there. I hope they can make these suggestions a reality for future models!

February 20, 2012 4:10 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@jrsforums-

I am curious about the Canon RF flash control myself. Mostly to see how they get around the various spectrum allocations in different countries. Could get messy. I am expecting country-specific flashes which are not cross compatible. But we will see...

@Tim-

As someone who does not rely on TTL, the choice is easy for me. (And yeah, 2.4Ghz. Thanks for the fix!)

@All who asked-

Nope, no TTL.

@Alchemist-

Dunno about the Phottix Odins. I have never used them. I have passing experience with a lot of bad triggers (or reports from other people) but I have in particular found the PWs and RPs to be very robust. This is not an all-encompassing review blog. God knows there are plenty of those around. I tend to talk about and focus on my own personal experiences with gear.

@Kevin B. -

I have no inside track on this, but yeah, I would expect the Plus IIs to go away. And maybe pretty cheaply, at that. Could be a good opportunity.

@Mike-

March 15th is what the various pre-order pages are saying.

@Bryan and Stacey-

The RP-style remote power adjustment is limited to previous generation flashes (SB-800, not SB-900, etc.) which use a quench pin protocol. Beyond that, that you have to start doing it by aping the various wireless protocols. To my mind, that can get overly complex WRT to robustness. JMHO, tho.

@Ranger-

I hear ya. In practical use, these are pretty simple and intuitive. There is also a "reset to defaults" button press, although I have not needed it. FYI.

@layz-

These are same channels (1-4) as PW Plus II. And same channels (1-32) as PW MultiMax. Can't imaging it would not work with the Sekonics.

@dh-

Yes, this mount feels more solid.


@Ken-

I have no experience with the PCB units. Also, see above WRT a full-spectrum review site.

@Robert-

No relationship with PocketWizard, nor their retailers. The umbrella group that distriutes PW (along with a dozen or more other brands) is an advertiser on the site. But if they were calling the shots (which they are not) they probably would not be too happy with the positive mentions of two of their direct competitors in the post.

FWIW, I value my independence above all. I would throw any advertiser on this site under the bus to protect it. They know that, and actually respect it.

My use of PocketWizards as a photographer goes back over 20 years -- long before this blog was even a gleam in someone's eye. Based on what I was seeing from the people who were using them, I switched (from, at the time, some pretty crappy remotes) the day I was able to scrape up the money to do so.

February 20, 2012 4:24 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@dh-

Yes, there is a lanyard mount. Bigger; stronger.

@Josef-

Foot is plastic, but is beefier and stronger. No locking pin.

February 20, 2012 4:46 PM  
Blogger Clement said...

How about the max sync speed? Did you get a chance to play with them at 1/800th of a second with your Phase One?

February 20, 2012 5:09 PM  
Blogger jrsforums said...

@DavidHobby

I am curious about the Canon RF flash control myself. Mostly to see how they get around the various spectrum allocations in different countries. Could get messy. I am expecting country-specific flashes which are not cross compatible. But we will see...

I suspect that using 2.4 Ghz would get them around it. I think that may be universal....but not longest distance and potentially prone to interference.

February 20, 2012 5:12 PM  
Blogger Zac said...

David says "No relationship with PocketWizard, nor their retailers."

MPex, your major sponsor sells Pocket Wizards. You seem to have forgotten this!

February 20, 2012 5:29 PM  
Blogger Leo said...

No hotshoe to mount speedlights on means using unreliable PC cables.

Radiopopper, Cactus etc do it better!

February 20, 2012 5:31 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Zac

True. My bad. But I generally do not think of MPEX in terms of being retailers of specific gear. By the previous commenter's implication I would thus be beholden to nearly every single gear manufacturer. I can assure you that is not the case. In fact, I have never done well with authority, real or perceived. Good or bad, I am my own person...

February 20, 2012 6:35 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Can these do high speed sync and be used to have the camera go faster than 1/250??.....if so, how would that work?

February 20, 2012 7:04 PM  
Blogger dh said...

@ David h -- thank you for answering my questions about shoe and lanyard


IMHO, a misstep putting controls on the side. Shooting on a tripod you now have to crane around to see what's up. I think they made an unfortunate design decision here.

February 20, 2012 8:04 PM  
Blogger RB said...

Just wondering why you would even make a trigger without ttl nowadays...I have a bunch of flextt5s and while I only use ttl half the time, why would I buy something without it?

February 20, 2012 8:11 PM  
Blogger Zac said...

Mpex just happen to sell the 2 brands of triggers you recommend : Pocket Wizard & Radio Popper.

They don't sell the brands you love to hate : Yongnuo and similar

Co-incidence?

February 20, 2012 8:21 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Zac-

Great logic. MPEX does not sell cheeseburgers and I love cheeseburgers. How do you explain that?

And FWIW, the fact that I am not a fan of YongNuo gear has more to do with their quality control than anything else.

February 20, 2012 9:52 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

David, can you do a review of the phottix odin triggers? They appear to have all the same capabilities of the pw plus several more.

February 20, 2012 9:57 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Brad-

If you Google the Phottix Odins, there are already plenty of reviews out there. Nothing long-term, tho. In that area, they are untested. Nor do you know if next year's model will work with this year's model. (Hint: The anecdotal info says "nope.")

FWIW, I have been using PWs -- reliably -- for 20 years. The Plus III's will trigger the original PW model, and every model in between. Reliability and long-term compatibility. That's all I want.

There are a lot of decisions in my life I revisit; stuff I try to fix or improve. But the decision I made in the early 90s to go with PW ain't one of them.

;)

February 20, 2012 10:20 PM  
Blogger Bryan Mitchell said...

I've considered PW's and this might put them back on my radar but I have always been happy with Cybersyncs, I use them for portraits, sports like HS basketball, weddings, mountain biking, remote cameras and more. They have never failed or disappointed me.

February 20, 2012 10:54 PM  
Blogger anotherview2 said...

The rave over the PocketWizard Plus III may appeal to the crowd who needs a 1000-foot reach from the transmitter to the receiver to trigger a flash unit, along with plenty of channels, etc. I bought the Flex and the Mini with the AC3, and found the setup unreliable and flaky, even after upgrade downloads. Maybe I did not ascend the learning curve far enough. Meanwhile, needing a trigger system for my home studio in which I use 508EXII flash units, I read a little online, and decided to buy the CowboyStudio NPT-04. It uses a simple FM radio signal from the hotshoe-mounted transmitter to communicate with the receiver, which in turn triggers the flash unit mounted in the hotshoe of the receiver. It works every time. The transmitter uses a flat battery that supposedly has a life of 30,000 signals. The receiver uses two AAA batteries. Yes, I have to adjust the flash unit power output manually, but once I have the power settings done, I just take pictures. The transmitter has a button topside for testing the receivers to see if they indeed trigger the flash units. Amazon sells a trigger set that includes both a transmitter and a receiver, for under $20.

February 21, 2012 12:41 AM  
Blogger jgphoto said...

Nice looking units. I just bought an Odin TCU and a couple receivers when they were released. Wanted to notes that Phottix did made sure these were backwards compatible with their previous triggers, the Strato line. I'm not sure what indication there might be for a compatibility loss in their next release, but there is some history here that should be awarded some credit. They have not been around as long, of course - but I am quite happy with the performance and haven't found myself wanting for much of anything.

February 21, 2012 12:59 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

Thanks for another great blog post Dave. I'm excited at the prospects of these, the grouping feature is a winner for me - shooting weddings, I've often wished I could fire groups off.

I'm making a big assumption here... that I can buy one PWIII and use it as a master commander with my 4 old PWII's. Scenario GroupA: 2xPWii - channel 1, GroupB: 1xPWii - channel 2, GroupC: 1xPWii - channel 3.

Then add and subtract which groups fire as and when I need them?!

If so, I'll order my first PW3 as soon as my next pay cheque (check) rolls in!

Luke

February 21, 2012 2:49 AM  
Blogger Zac said...

David - you are missing the point. I don't remember you ever tearing shreds off a product MPEX do sell. Feel free to post a link if I'm wrong.

As other posters have mentioned TTL PW and Canon 580s don't work together reliably. Incompatibility with the world's most popular speedlight in triggers designed solely for speedlight use is a major issue that PW don't seem interested in fixing.

February 21, 2012 3:58 AM  
Blogger Opt said...

David, you say remote control of new flashes is possible only by aping wireless protocols. But the hotshoe TTL protocols also have the camera controlling the power level of the flash: there's some fancy preflash exposure calculations going on inside the camera, yet at the end of the day, the flash just gets a hotshoe command to fire at a given power level.

So a receiver unit can manually control the power of a TTL flash in its hotshoe using the same protocol, by feeding it some manually-set level instead of an exposure-calculated one.

This should be more reliable than faking wireless signals, and more compatible and portable than the quench pin. And since the hotshoe TTL protocols are already reverse-engineered by quite a few manufacturers, I wonder why this hasn't happened yet.

February 21, 2012 4:22 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Hi David,

Good to hear that they are going into the right direction. The first PW finally become affordable for the thrifty amateurs on the bay.

I have a question regarding the faster sync mode. Does it increase the signal relay speed as well? Do the triggers sync fine with your Mamiya now, or do you still have troubles at 1/800? I'm asking, as this would be quite interesting for all the hybrid-shutter camera users (D40, D50, D70, 1D).

Cheerio,
Mike

February 21, 2012 5:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

David, Can you please test every photographic product ever made, in any country what-so-ever, and then tell me what to buy? But please make sure the one you recommend is the cheapest one, preferably made by a Asian country with no real support available in the USA. I know that you are really just a corporate shill, and that you'll only recommend the one that gives you the biggest kickback. But if it happens to have a built-in satellite receiver, espresso maker, and will do my taxes, that would be awesome.

Thanks!

February 21, 2012 8:04 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Just to note, MPEX sells the Strato as well, Phottix's dumb trigger. So MPEX does sell chinese triggers. Not that there is anything wrong with this :)

What I would mark as a game changer would be the shift in thinking of the Chinese manufacturers regarding product quality and reliability. Things have been getting much better over the last year or so. Phottix Strato II's have a very nice build quality and for me so far have been 100% reliable.

I like to see what others use, and speaking only of my part of the industry, weddings and events, the breakdown of trigger type and usage for my local Austin, TX community looks like this:

1. Phottix Strato (I or II's)
2. P. Buff Cybersyncs
3. Radiopoppers

The stratos and cybersyncs run head to head with almost equal numbers of users. The poppers take a slightly distant 3rd.

It is a RARE day that I come across a wedding 'tog that still uses PW's, old or new. I don't know quite what to make of the trend as I have seen it, but it's worth pondering about. I don't think it's a cost thing, since these are photographers that own a lot of quality glass and gear. My guess is that it comes to down ease of use, ease of setup, and bulk of product once you get reliability taken care of.

February 21, 2012 10:08 AM  
Blogger Ministrobe said...

Hi David,

Great article!!!

Just one question:

Will the +3's make espresso in TTL mode???

That would be really great. I am SO TIRED of having to walk over to the machine adjust the strength of my coffee. If it would just pour directly out of my lens into the cup that would be a real "game changer" for me.

If not, surely PocketWizard will go out of business soon, since they just don't seem to listen to their customers...tsk, tsk...

Please report on this feature immediately. Thanks!!!

February 21, 2012 2:42 PM  
Blogger Opt said...

@Ministrobe-

Why do people whine about walking over to adjust flash power? I'll bite.

As we're taught, balancing flash and ambient is all about light ratios, and there are two controls we have over it: shutter and flash power.

So tell you what, let's switch. You get to control flash power from the camera, but the shutter dial is now up on a pole 12ft away. Same balance control, and hey, you're actually *better* off now, because you got multiple controls (one for each flash) in exchange for one measly dial. No big deal walking over when you need to adjust shutter speed, right?

What, no? You insist on quick access to the shutter? Are you sure your reason doesn't apply just the same to the flash power people are whining about?

For me, the "game changer" would be the ability to quickly change light ratios under time pressure, e.g., in events and with impatient subjects. I do that with CLS all the time, but reliability sucks.

February 21, 2012 3:27 PM  
Blogger FireguyBry said...

David,
Your opinion please sir. First time long time by the way. Your site has single handedly invigorated my photography and on-site lighting! Given the drop in pricing on the PWs do you think that will drive the prices of other products down as well? I am seriously looking at Impact Powersyncs, namely as they are reasonable and have received excellent reviews for build and reliability.

February 21, 2012 3:46 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@JGPhoto -

Very pleased to see that Odin has embraced backwards compatibility, even if for one product step. Very much hope they continue to respect their customers enough to keep it up. That is very encouraging news. Thanks for the heads up.

@Luke-

I would re-read the post above. Zones are a new feature, and are only on ch. 17-32. The PWIIs do neither zones nor ch 17-32. The PWIIIs are backwards compatible to the PWIIs where channels overlap. But the PWIIs are not automatically graced with new super powers to be fully forward compatible with the PWIIIs. ;)


@Opt-

You are correct. There are two stages: 1. TTL exposure determination, and 2. Delivery (wireless, corded, light or RF of the exposure power level to a given flash. Take out the first step, and I would think a remote power level control would be more reliable. The PW AC-3 does this. I own one, but rarely use it. I just find it faster to teak my flashes as I set them up. Guess I'm old.


@Mike-

There is a delay inherent in *any* radio trigger process. On the PW+III, that total process takes 1/1200th of a second. Spec is 1/250th focal plane, 1/500th leaf shutter. If you need faster than that, I'd either use a PC cord, or a corded flash that is positioned to slave other flashes.

@FireguyBry-

Honestly, I don't think PW will drive the others' prices down. Their prices are set by economics. I think it may be a little harder to compete. We'll see. But some people will always be motivated primarily by price. So there will always be a market for the cheaper triggers. No question.


@Zac-

No, I get your point. And frankly, I am getting tired of you repeatedly accusing me of bad ethics. To answer the questions in your most recent accusatory comment,

1. I do not "tear shreds" off of MPEX as you put it, because they have proven to be not only honorable but in many cases ridiculously focused on customer service. That's why I have partnered with them for so long.

2. As for the problems with PW's Flex platform and the RF noise emitted by some Canon flashes, I wrote about that here. Being a Nikon user, I was unaffected. But I wrote about it for the benefit of Canon users. The point being, I am not sweeping stuff under the rug.

FWIW, this is the last accusation I am going to indulge you. I spent 20 years in newspaper, and I pride myself on my editorial independence as a result of that upbringing.

If you think I am acting unethically, you know where the door is. Don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out.

February 21, 2012 10:35 PM  
Blogger anotherview2 said...

Zac: You made a good point about the incompatibility of the PW (Mini and Flex) with the 580EXII. I struggled to make the two work together, and could not get reliable results or repeatability. Reading the manual proved a nightmare. All the issues and fixes proceeded the useful text -- a bad omen. For now, I will stay with my CowboyStudio radio triggers and manual adjustmet of the flash unit.

February 21, 2012 10:43 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

DH-

I hate to break the news to you man, but it looks like MPEX is now carrying cheeseburgers...

http://mpex.com/cheeseburger.html

make sure you know what your sponsors are selling before you throw comments like "MPEX does not sell cheeseburgers..." when they really do.

Thanks,

Oh by the way, I ordered one, they're pretty good for the $. You think they compatible with the PW +III?

February 22, 2012 2:02 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

There is one query I have about the frequencies used in all the mainstream radio triggers that I've never been able to get to the bottom of.

We all know about the issues of using radio triggers in shared space with other photographers and although there are loads more channels available on the +3 I've never quite worked out why some quality manufacturers haven't adopted 2.4ghz ( or maybe they have and I've missed them) to utilise something known to an model aviator., shared spectrum technology. On switch on both tx and rx units bind with each other then set of on a channel hopping adventure together so as not to clash with other controllers on the same frequency.

This allows model flying clubs to reduce the need for frequency control that went hand in hand with the 35mhz band. Issues of range have been mentioned but this doesn't seem to be an issue for the RC lot. And even if it was limited I' think I'd rather have a camera/ flash trigger that was not impacted by other users accidentally ( or deliberately) triggering my gear over a shorter range.

Anyone know why this tech isn't used more?

Tim

p.s. just realised that I may have given myself away as a closet radio controlled aircraft geek.

February 22, 2012 7:50 AM  
Blogger Zac said...

@ Anon

Thanks, you made my day!

February 22, 2012 8:18 PM  
Blogger sephiroth911 said...

I'm pretty happy with my phottix atlas units, but maybe I'll buy a PW IV once those die ;)

February 25, 2012 2:33 PM  
Blogger F8 Studio LV said...

I would love to purchase these but they are out of my budget range. Pocket Wizard should have a line of products of the money conscious customers.

February 25, 2012 5:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

An awful lot has been said here about ethics. IMO it is impossible not to be a little biased about those with whom one has a business relationship but I thing DH does his best. I do question the juxtaposition of the PWll arial blog with the announcement of the PWlll, in which the arial had been "tweaked"according to a verbal comment to DH. The whole thing was a bit like the disinformation we are treated to by politicians.
Amateur or pro I believe should still take a hard look at the alternatives and believe what you see, not what you hear.

February 29, 2012 1:50 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Unknown person-

Actually, that subject had been an "evergreeen" in my post queue for quite a while. The relative testing on the Plus IIIs (plus the impending shelf life of the post) is what prompted me to write about it then. No Triggerati Conspiracy involved. I am a pretty straight shooter on that kinda stuff.

February 29, 2012 2:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

ok, just for grins, as a beginner - have been shooting for a while as a enthusiastic hobbiest, I would like to get my flash off my camera and am interested in the Pocket Wizards. What will be the best combination for me without breaking the bank. When looking at the web site it is over whelming as to what version, model to get. I believe a I need a trigger and a slave???? but what models will work for a beginner that I can grow with and grow out of?

March 01, 2012 10:20 AM  
Blogger fsm vpggru said...

Hi David, great blog as always!
I'm still messing around trying to find ways to trigger my PW+IIs into firing on the second curtain from a Canon 550D, I wonder if I could ad a PW+III on camera to take care of this?

March 02, 2012 8:27 AM  
Blogger Sanukuttan said...

This is great news, I was thinking of PW or buy more of Phototix Atlas (which apparently has been doing well)

March 12, 2012 8:35 AM  
Blogger Martin Morris said...

I wanted PWs for ages, had the eBay triggers die on me not too long ago. After reading this article for the 50'd time, I wanted the III's... I just ordered the first set of three :D

June 19, 2012 4:34 PM  
Blogger tonyarrj said...

Thanks David. Great article. I bought three of them from B&H and in my first photo session I had troubles with my Elinchrom Dlite4. almost 30% of misfires. =( anyone had this trouble too? I pressed test button (on the camera unit) and nothing, press test on the flash unit and it works, press again, this time the camera´s shutter and it works this time. is like they falls sleeps and had to wake them up every time I have to shoot.

Am I doing anything wrong?

Cheers. Tony.

July 24, 2012 9:29 PM  
Blogger Helmut Luttenberger said...

Thanks David for this wonderfull post. I love my PocketWizards III Plus

May 01, 2014 4:25 AM  

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