Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flash Series Part 5: Remote Adjustment Radio Triggers

This post picks up from Part 4: Triggering Your Hotshoe Flashes by mshafik, where we saw some of the advantages of a radio trigger.  In this post, we discuss radio triggers that allow remote adjustment.



As was mentioned in the previous post, radio triggers are very reliable and can work outside the line-of-sight, but generally, they perform only one function -- triggering the slave flash.  There are, however, radio trigger systems that can allow remote adjustment of slave flashes.  Here, I'll mention the ones that are of greatest interest to hobbyists and amateurs (in no particular order):
1. Radiopopper's X System (PX and JrX)
2. Pocketwizard's ControlTL
3. Paul C. Buff's CyberSync
4. Quantum's FreeXwire

RADIOPOPPER JRX STUDIO
  • Summary: inexpensive all-manual system.
  • Compatible cameras: any camera with the standard hotshoe or with a sync port.
  • Compatible slave flashes: Alien Bees or White Lightning monolights; any Canon or Nikon TTL speedlight with a TTL quench pin (RPCube or substitute required - see below). Cannot control Einstein E640.
  • Available wireless modes: Manual.
  • Transmitter: JrX Studio transmitter (sold as part of a kit).
  • Receiver: JrX Studio receiver.  In addition, controlling a Canon or Nikon speedlight requires an RPCube module (specific to Canon or Nikon) that attaches to the speedlight's hotshoe.  Alternatively, Nikon speedlights with the Nikon 3-pin TTL port can also be connected via a special 3-pin TTL to miniplug cable directly to a JrX receiver without an RPCube.  The cable is available on eBay or flashzebra.  There are also instructions for a DIY RPCube or 3-pin TTL cable.
  • Groups: Up to 3 groups.
  • Channels: 4 channels.
  • Notes:  The JrX controls monolights using the RJ-11 port of Alien Bees and White Lightning units.  In the case of speedlights, JrX works by controlling the TTL quench pin of old flashes.  With old flashes, the camera would send a signal to the quench pin to stop firing when the correct flash exposure is reached.  JrX re-purposes this quench pin to control the flash output of the flash manually.  So from the camera's position you can steplessly adjust the slave from full power down to 1/32 power (for studio strobes) or 1/128 power (for speedlights) simply by turning the dial for a group.

RADIOPOPPER PX
RadioPopper PX Transmitter (US/CA)


  • Summary: repeats the camera's native wireless TTL signals as radio signals; also able to control JrX and older P1 units. 
  • Compatible cameras: Canon, Nikon.
  • Compatible slave flashes: current Canon E-TTL or Nikon i-TTL speedlights with wireless TTL capability; can control JrX slaves with the same capabilities as the JrX Studio (see above).  Cannot control Einstein E640.
  • Available wireless modes: TTL (for TTL speedlights), Manual (for any compatible slave).
  • Transmitter: PX Transmitter.  Any unit can be switched to work with either Canon or Nikon.  The transmitter must be mounted to a commander-capable flash (including a popup flash or infrared commander). 
  • Receiver: PX Receiver.  Any unit can be switched to work with either Canon or Nikon.  However, in addition, a bracket is required, and the bracket is specific to Canon or Nikon.
  • Groups: Up to 3 remote groups in addition to the master flash.  
  • Channels: 16.
  • Notes:  With the PX system, the transmitter has no direct connection to the flash.  Instead, the transmitter detects electromagnetic radiation pulses from the commander flash whenever it fires.  That's why it's only connected via velcro instead of cables.  The transmitter acts like a repeater and "translates" the the electromagnetic pulses as radio waves.  The receiver then re-translates the radio signals into light.  That's what the bracket is for -- it positions the receiver's light directly on top of the slave sensor.  The light from the receiver is detected by the slave sensor and to the slave it looks just the same as the master flash's signals.
  • A PX transmitter can also control JrX Studio receivers, with the same functionality (except that power output is set by buttons instead of dials).

PAUL C. BUFF CYBERSYNC:

  • Summary: wireless control for Paul C. Buff strobes, with cutting-edge features.
  • Compatible cameras: any camera with a regular hotshoe or a sync port.
  • Compatible slave flashes: Paul C. Buff strobes (Alien Bees, White Lightning, Einstein E640).  Cannot control speedlights.
  • Available wireless modes: Manual; control of modeling lights.
  • Transmitter: the CyberCommander.
  • Receiver: for Einstein, CSXCV receiver (under $30!). For Alien Bees or White Lightning, CSR+ (AC-powered) or CSRB+ (battery-powered) receiver.  The CSR+ has a pass-through so that it can be plugged into a strobe, and the strobe's power cable can be plugged into the CSR+'s pass-through cable.
  • Groups: Up to 16 lights.  
  • Channels: 16 frequencies.
  • Notes:  The CyberCommander has a unique feature: it includes an accurate flashmeter.  The idea is to use the CyberCommander to take flashmeter measurements, adjust the power while at the subject's position, then when all measurements are taken and output levels are adjusted, the CyberCommander can trigger all the lights at the measured output.  The CyberCommander has other features, including bracketing of any combination of lights; exact digital readout of the camera f-stop, t.1 flash duration, color temperature, modeling watts, flash WS and the relative flashpower; and the ability to store up to 50 lighting setups in a MicroSD card.


POCKETWIZARD CONTROLTL:
Pocket Wizard Flex Transceiver TT5 -801150 Bundle With Mini TT1 Transmitter -801140 & AC3 Zone Controller -804706 for Canon DSLR Cameras
  • Summary: reads the native wireless TTL signals and converts them to radio.
  • Compatible cameras: Canon, Nikon.
  • Compatible slave flashes: current Canon E-TTL or Nikon i-TTL speedlights; Alien Bees or White Lightning (with AC9 module); Einstein E640 (with PowerMC2 module); Elinchrom RX (with PowerST4 module).
  • Available wireless modes: TTL (for TTL speedlights), Manual (for any compatible slave).
  • Transmitter: FlexTT5 transceiver or MiniTT1 transmitter (specific to Canon or Nikon).  In addition, you must attach a commander unit (e.g. Canon 580EXII or Nikon SB-900) or an AC3 Zone Controller.
  • Receiver: FlexTT5 transceiver.  In addition, studio strobes require an additional module (see slave flashes above).
  • Groups: Up to 3 remote groups in addition to the master flash.  
  • Channels: For TTL, 20 channels are available.  For manual, 32 channels are available.
  • Notes:  The ControlTL system works off your Canon or Nikon's native wireless system.  The camera thinks that a regular commander is attached to the hotshoe.  The transmitter units intercept the electrical signals sent between the camera and the commander, reads those signals, then transmits the information via radio.  The receiver then receives the radio signals and translates it back to electrical signals that control the slave flash.  With ControlTL, you control the slaves the same way you control them using the native wireless TTL.  So you can change from manual to TTL, adjust flash exposure compensation, etc.
  • ControlTL adds some features to studio strobes that would not otherwise be available such as high-speed sync (HSS) and power tracking (when you change your aperture or ISO, the strobe's power will be adjusted proportionately to maintain the same flash exposure).

QUANTUM FREEXWIRE:
Quantum FW-89 FreeXWire Digital Set with FW9T Transmitter, FW8R Receiver, 434 Sync Cord, & Mounting Kit.

  • Summary: the first wireless TTL system.
  • Compatible cameras: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Contax, Leica, Pentax, Rollei, Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya, Contax 645, Mamiya 645.  Each system requires the correct adapter.
  • Compatible slave flashes: Quantum Qflashes, Canon and Nikon speedlights (via the recently announced QLINK).
  • Available wireless modes: TTL, Manual, Auto, TTL ratios.
  • Transmitter: The commander is either a Quantum TRIO flash (non-Basic version with built-in radio TTL), Quantum Pilot commander (specific to either Canon or Nikon), transmitter, or transceiver.  In addition, the 5D-R units (X5D-R and T5D-R) can commanded with Canon and Nikon's native wireless TTL via a QNEXUS decoder/receiver.
  • Receiver: TRIO flash built-in radio TTL, transceiver, or receiver.
  • Groups: up to 4, plus local.
  • Channels: 8.
  • Notes: Quantum flashes are robust, dependable, have great light quality (thanks to the bare bulb design), more power than speedlights, and have some very useful features (can you tell I drool over them?).  Plus it's made in the USA.  But it's not cheap.
  • For more information on Quantum, see this chart of possible configurations and this video made by Adorama:


    MY CHOICE
    I chose to go with RadioPoppers JrX!  Will post a review soon.