By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
If you've been in search of a compact wireless transmission system that fires your camera or strobes, then you may want to consider MicroSync Digital products. I was initially drawn to them because of the small size of the transmitter; it is just a little bigger than my thumb.
The transmitter has an LCD screen that displays the channel you're on and the battery level. There is a button next to the LCD screen that you can use to manually fire strobes (or the DSLR). On the flip side, there is an LED light (visible in image below) that flashes when in use. The transmitter also has an input for a sync cord if you'd like to connect to your DSLR that way, rather than using the hot shoe attachment. This unit comes pre-installed with a watch battery (CR2032); according to my user manual the battery should last approximately three years.
The receiver is larger than the transmitter, but still fit (mostly) in the palm of my hand. It also features an LCD screen and LED light; there is a receiver output and several strobe sync plugs that can be swapped out for compatibility with most lights (mono plug, mini plug, two prong plug). Each receiver takes two AA batteries; these won't last as long as the transmitter's battery, but should be good for about a year.
Receiver plugged into mono plug on a strobe unit (Strobe firing)
Receiver connected to DSLR via cable release cord (DSLR remote firing)
Included in the box are both transmitter and receiver, as well as a few adapter plugs for the receiver. Depending on the type of light you have, you can swap out the appropriate plug on the receiver. MicroSync also sells cable release cords if you plan to use the device to remotely fire your camera. Be aware that not all cameras will work with a specific cord, so make sure to check that your camera is compatible. Both units feature automatic power management, so you never have to worry about turning a device off (or on!) to capture the shot you need.
I was able to use the MicroSync II Digital kit right out of the box. It was very intuitive and I didn't even have to read directions for standard strobe firing. I did consult the manual before attempting to remotely fire my DSLR, but it was easy to set up and use. I appreciate the minimalistic preparation required for this setup to work properly, and I think it's great that there is no on/off button required—the smart power management gives me one less piece of technology to worry about when working with clients.
I loved using the transmitter in the remote DSLR configuration; it really freed me from being stuck behind the camera during my studio sessions. One true measure of a remote camera trigger is a self portrait, so I also subjected myself to the camera (below). I found the response time to be instantaneous and it was very nice to not be tangled up in a cable release cord. One caveat: to use the remote DSLR firing function, you will need to have an accessory cord, which is not included with the kit.
Overall, I was very happy with how the MicroSync II Digital system performed. There was no lag that I could discern, the power management system worked as designed, and I definitely found myself free from extra cables and tripping hazards. I appreciate the small size of the units. Working on location, space can be at a premium and every inch and ounce you can eliminate from your camera bag matters.
To use the MicroSync II package, you'll need a camera with a universal hot shoe for the transmitter, and for the receiver, a power pack or monolight with sync voltage between 3 and 100 volts. The maximum range of the kit is 200 feet; maximum sync speed is 1/200 second for a focal plane shutter and 1/350 second for a leaf shutter. There are a total of 16 channels to choose from, and the units operate on a frequency of 433 MHz.
The Wireless Transmitter/Receiver kit retails for $129.95 from online retailers such as B&H, Calumet, or Adorama. The components can also be purchased individually: receivers at $99.95, transmitters at $69.96. The MicroSync cable release cord I needed for my Nikon D3 was available for around $50. For more information about MicroSync II Digital, or to find where to purchase the products, visit www.microsyncdigital.com. On their website, you can also find detailed walk-throughs on how to fire a DSLR, strobes, or both a DSLR and strobes simultaneously.