First Look: Phottix Juno



A value-priced, all-manual flash with a built-in radio and a real warranty? Yeah, I'm interested.

Today, a first look at the new Phottix Juno.
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An All-Manual Flash



At $139.95, the Juno's price, warranty and built-in remote puts it right in the wheel house of many Strobist shooters. Whether it is right for you will probably depend on how you prioritize features and controls.

In short, the Juno is a well-built, reasonably-priced manual flash with a quality built-in remote. Significantly, it is backed by an outsized warranty. Phottix offers a 2-year warranty on the Juno, which is twice as long as even the top-tier OEM flashes. So if there is a quality problem with the flash, it is on them rather than you.

To be sure, the Juno includes some nice touches. The front fresnel lens gives zoom coverage from 20mm-200mm, which is very thoughtful. There is a flipover auxiliary panel that will get you out to 14mm if you need it.

There are also the expected features, including a head that swivels 180 degrees in each direction, built-in slave (never buy a flash without this feature) and lever-locking hot shoe, etc.

Tested recycle time for full-power settings was ~4 seconds for NiMH rechargeable batteries. If you need more speed, there is a (Canon-flavored) high voltage port included.


Integrated Remote

The built-in remote transceiver is of course the standout feature for the Juno. The included remote is a transceiver, meaning both transmitter and receiver. (It's an Ares II, which means it also has access to Stratos II frequencies.) This means a Juno can be used to trigger another Phottix Juno, a Mitros+ or even their bigger Indra model location/studio flashes.

This is very useful if you are committed to the integrated Phottix lineup; less so if you are using one brand of flashes for speedlights and another for big strobes.

I don't personally use integrated radio remotes, as I own and use a variety of brands of flashes. But if you are going down the integrated route, Phottix's platform is probably the most flexible. You can always add an external Phottix receiver to other models of speedlights or big flashes—or simply use a slave on non-Phottix lights.

The integrated remote within the Juno is solid, both in terms of range and speed. They advertise 200M range, and I was easily getting that during testing in my neighborhood.

But even better was the sync speed ceiling. In normal, manual pops (as opposed to gimmicky, power-robbing HSS) I was able to sync up to 1/800 of a second on a leaf-shuttered Fuji X100F. Note that this was at 1/4 power, and higher power settings would be limited by the t.1 (flash puse duration) times of the flash itself.

The fact that the Juno's embedded remote is a transceiver (both transmit and receive) opens up good possibilities for on-axis fill. For instance, you can fill with an on-camera Juno that will also radio-trigger a bigger Phottix Indra as your off-camera main light. You could use this combo with any brand of big light by adding in an external Ares II or Stratos II receiver as well.


Quickie Lighting Tip:

Using an on-camera speedlight as fill can take away a lot of the harshness of a necessarily hard off-camera key light if you are trying to stretch the capabilities of your key. For instance, when shooting into the sun, a bare speedlight can serve as a pretty effective key light in terms of power. But even positioned correctly, it will still look harsh because of the depth of the hard shadows.

An on-camera flash, dialed down maybe two stops, will raise the shadows and remove a lot of the harshness. You can see an example of a full daylight, two-speedlight, 19-person group shot using this method here (scroll down).


Yes, you could also trigger your key with a slave as we did in the linked example above. But that requires line of sight between your on-camera fill and off-camera key. This can be a problem outdoors, in terms of key light positioning or opaque modifiers such as beauty dishes or soft boxes.

If you are prepared to marry into a Phottix Ares II or Stratos II platform, the Juno's on-camera-flash-as-transmitter can be a good solution. Your on-camera fill doubles as your radio transmitter.


User Interface



One area where you do pay for an integrated radio transceiver is user interface. Ideally, a well-designed UI on a (radio-less) manual flash is so intuitive that you don't even have to look at it to adust it.

If I am shooting you with an LP180 flash, for instance, I can reach up and add or subtract power from my flash without breaking rhythm, or even eye contact. My thumb just finds the D-pad and presses the up or down buttons as needed. Ditto the flash beam width, by hitting the left and right pads.

It's harder to design this kind of UI simplicity into a radio-embedded flash. You have too many things to controls and too little real estate. So you solve this with a multi-button sequence approach.

I think the Juno solves this as well as can be expected. To raise or lower power you need to hit the button in the center of the dial, and then move the dial up or down as needed. To zoom you need to hit the zoom button (on right) and then move the dial. It's best case for a radio-embedded flash, but not as fluid as a traditional manual flash.

One thing I do like about the Juno's control wheel is that it does not flip over at end of range. For example, say you are trying to dial a lot of power out of your flash. If the wheel flips over, with one click beyond 1/128 power you are back to 1/1 power. Probably not what you want. If you dial past 1/128 (or 1/1) the Juno just stays at those limits.

One more control of note is the power switch. (Seriously? Yes, seriously.) It's a real switch and not a push-and-hold button. Again, this goes to operating speed/fluidity. You turn it on, and it's immediately on.

A word of warning: After overnight testing, the hard switch does not appear to facilitate an auto shut-off feature. If you leave your Juno on after you are done, it's gonna drain your batteries.


Quibbles



First, the Juno does not have a 1/8" sync jack, which in 2017, feels like a step backwards. Yes, a radio is built-in. But they still included a PC jack while omitting the 1/8" jack. Given the choice, I would have loved to have seen the reverse.

Second is the placement of a 1/4" x 20 mounting jack. As seen above, it is at the bottom of the flash. I'm not sure I understand this choice. I believe it would have been better to put the mount at the central hinge of the flash.

It's not that I worry about the added stress on the mount because of its location. I assume that Phottix has compensated for this in the structural design of the flash. It's more that the 1/4"x20 mount is about better positioning your flash into an umbrella— i.e., very near to the axis of the shaft.

You can do that with a Juno. But as a result of the location of the mount the flash head is pushed awkwardly into the umbrella, which is not ideal. It's as if the socket location was chosen by an engineer rather than a lighting photographer.

Update: Strobist reader David Jones points out that the Juno shares the 1/4"x20 mount location with some Canon flashes, with it being used for a flash bracket mount.

Well, okay. Except that a full manual flash specifically not a great model to use with flash bracket style shooting, which is generally mobile. But it *is* well-suited for off-camera lighting, which is generally stationary.

I remain confused as to why they would want to place it there.



Bottom Line

While not perfect, at $139.99 the Juno is both a solid manual flash and a value-priced gateway into the Phottix system. The embedded radio is reliable and has very good range and speed. If you see yourself expanding into, say, an Indra-based big light setup, this is a good entry point to consider.

For those who already use a radio system (that is not Ares II- or Stratos II-based) you should realize that radio-embedded speedlights are necessarily more complex in their UI than straight manual flashes. So that is something to consider.

Finally, Phottix's warranty protection and after-sale support set the Juno apart from a sea of inexpensive Chinese competition. Your camera will be obsolete in a few years. But a good flash can last for decades. At this price, there is little reason left to roll the dice on one of the sub-$100 "disposable" Chinese flashes.

More info: Phottix US Juno Page


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