Phottix Mitros [Nikon] Review: The Real Deal
Big changes continue to ripple through the high-quality, 3rd-party flash industry this month. To wit: I've been testing a new $299 Phottix Mitros [Nikon] flash for several weeks now.
Here's the five-word short version: "Nikon, you should be very afraid."
Why? Because this solid, Manual/TTL/CLS/HSS flash delivers all of the punch and practically all of the functionality of your flagsship Nikon SB-910 for about half the price. With twice the warranty.
Put differently: as soon as word gets out, the days of the high profit margin OEM speedlights are numbered.
(More words, getting out, below…)
A Full Line-up of OEM Speedlight Hurt
Big picture first: with the arrival of the LumoPro Lp180 and the dual-brand model Mitroses, (Mitrii?) the lineup of choices is now complete for anyone wanting very high quality speedlights without paying luxury car payment prices for them.
At the full-featured, TTL end of the spectrum, the Mitros Canon version has been out for a while now to solid reviews. The [Nikon] version is just now arriving. And to show Phottix are serious about quality (as well they should be) they have
You just want full manual? Instead of getting an SB-910 get a LumoPro LP180. Hell, get two and have money left over for light mods. You want full TTL? Get a Mitros, now whether you shoot Canon or Nikon. (And soon, Sony.)
In short, this one-two punch could well lay waste to the high-margin, OEM speedlight landscape.
Mitros [Nikon] vs. Nikon[Nikon]
Alrighty, let's talk features and get that out of the way first.
So, how much time do you have? 'Cause Phottix threw in everything. It's probably easiest to just directly compare the Mitros to a Nikon SB-910 at first, then we'll add a fuller list.
Here's what the SB-910 has that the Mitros lacks, to my knowledge:
1. 200mm optical beam zoom
2. Special shaped gel/filter recognition
3. Internal beam shaping.
And I think that's it. Is that worth twice the price? I don't think so.
Here's what the Mitros has that the SB-910 lacks:
1. 3.5mm (⅛") sync. Hallelujah.
2. Battery meter.
3. Better thermal management.
4. Double the warranty.
5. Way less money.
Here are the highlights:
1. Two-year warranty (most important)
2. Three-way sync (optical, hot shoe and 3.5mm jack)
3. 2.5-sec recycle with NiMH
4. Dual-status LED (recycle and full exposure indicator)
5. HV battery port (Phottix proprietary, but includes Nikon adapter.)
6. Power equivalent to OEM flagsships
7. Focal plane sync/HSS
8. Rear-curtain sync
9. Sleep mode (switchable)
10. Intelligent overheating (it slows down, not shuts down)
11. Master or slave CLS compatibility
12. AF assist light
13. Auto and manual zoom 17-105mm, wider w/panel
14. Battery meter
15. 360-degree rotation
16. Slave/TTL eye in front (I prefer this.)
17. Supports FV/FEC lock
18. Backlighted display
19. USB firmware upgradeable
20. Latest-gen fresnel pattern
21. Settings saved through power off
Geez, what else do you want?
Essentially, if you decide to go "system flash" (i.e., CLS with Nikon or eTTL with Canon) you will pay a tax on those capabilities every time you add a flash. Looking at OEM flashes, the tax get ridiculous pretty quickly.
And in the LP180/Mitros arena, the tax is still $100. (Manual LP180: $200, Mitros: $300.) You get the idea. And it is a choice — a perfectly valid one. Just look at what McNally does with CLS.
So, the Mitros does everything you need if you are comparing it to an OEM flagship. The build quality is right there, too. You give up nothing here.
Physical features are everything you'd pay for and expect from an OEM. Right down to the metal foot and rubber skirt: smooth, solid, confidence-inspiring.
As for sync, Mitros is embracing the (admittedly still small) wave of speedlight manufacturers who are eschewing the PC jack in favor of the 3.5mm jack. Bully for them.
Nikon's SB-910 has a PC jack rather than a 3.5mm. Nikon's $327 (street) SB-700 doesn't even have a sync-cord port at all. (WTF.)
What's Not to Like?
No flash is perfect. That's why they keep improving. But to find something not to like about the Mitros, I say you have to look pretty hard.
Here's what I am down to: user interface, (or UI).
Some background: the Nikon and Canon versions of the Mitros share the same external physical attributes. So the physical UI will necessarily be a compromise between the two versions. And the physical will drive the button sequence and interface. Which means fewer dedicated buttons than the OEM flashes, for instance.
As a result, the UI does not feel very intuitive to me. I'd go further and say you will not just pick up this flash and learn it without studying the manual. Which, for us guys at least, could be a thing. (You women admittedly are much smarter about that than we are.)
And to be fair, the Mitros' UI is what it is. It is not supposed to ape Nikon's UI. But because of that, the more intuitive you are with your current Nikon UI (Sb-800 or '900 or whatever) the more foreign the Mitros' will be to you.
If you are new, it is just an interface to learn. No biggie. But if I were a Nikon speedlight shooter I would not just pull it out of the box on day one and head right out to a shoot. There will be a learning curve.
But once you learn the interface, it is every bit the flash the OEM flagships are. And in some ways, better.
(To help you decide/research, I have posted a PDF of the Mitros [Nikon] user manual here.)
And it is worth learning. There is a lot there — including an extensive custom function menu.
And this is just UI, mind you. As for functionality, I can't break it. Meaning, I cannot make it not work exactly like a Nikon flash in wireless/TTL/HSS/Master/Slave mode. It's the rock-solid, functional equivalent of an OEM model.
What You Get
The Mitros ships with a flash stand, a dome diffuser, an HV battery port adapter (Phottix -> Nikon), a manual (on a Phottix USB thumb drive!) a USB cable for firmware upgrades, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm sync cable and a case that can honestly be described as "swanky."
Seriously, the case is a well-constructed palette of textures and surfaces, with pockets and loops and velcro — and it feels positively sexy. Phottix should sell this as a separate item, if they don't already.
July, 2013 was an awesome month for value-conscious off-camera flash photographers. And I just do not see major improvements happening from here anytime soon. You can buy an LP180 or a Mitros (either version) with confidence.
I just hope Phottix and LumoPro can make enough of them to keep up with demand.
Phottix Mitros Product Page: [Nikon] [Canon]
Order page: [Canon (shipping)] [Nikon (preorder)]