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June 25, 2014

A Guide to Wireless Flash Triggers

A complementary supplement to "Trigger Happy," our July issue technical breakdown of optical and radio flash triggers

By Stan Sholik

It’s a daunting task to sort through and evaluate the more than 60 models of wireless triggers for electronic flash that currently exist on the market. Despite the large number, they all can be categorized into one of two types: optical triggers or radio frequency triggers. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The majority are radio frequency based. Still, there is no shortage of optical triggers available. Prices quoted are approximate street prices.

Speedlight and hot shoe TTL optical flash triggers

Both Canon and Nikon offer powerful speedlights and non-speedlight hot shoe IR triggers. From Canon the Speedlite 430EX II ($259) and Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 ($220) provide these capabilities. Comparable Nikon offerings are the SB-910 AF Speedlight ($550) and the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander ($250). Other camera manufacturers offer similar models for their cameras.

There are also speedlights with built-in IR wireless capabilities from third party manufacturers for Canon and Nikon bodies. Examples of these would be Metz mecablitz AF 44-1 ($190) and the Sigma EF-610 DG Super Flash ($135).

Non-TTL hot shoe trigger

If your need is for a simple IR trigger for studio flash units with optical slaves, the Wein Sync-Link Universal IR Flash Trigger ($70) may fit your needs. It will also trigger remote speedlights, but does not provide TTL exposure capability.

For Broncolor users, the IRX-2 transmitter ($530) attaches to the camera hotshoe and triggers Broncolor packs, including the Minipuls C, with built-in IR slaves.

Basic radio triggers

Basic radio triggers do not provide TTL exposure control, but can trigger both speedlights and studio flash. The RadioPopper Nano System that operates on four channels consists of two separate units, the Nano transmitter ($70) and the Nano receiver ($70). The system is compatible with other RadioPopper speedlight triggers as well as non-speedlight flash units. The PocketWizard PlusX ($99) is a transceiver capable of operating on 10 channels. 

Radio triggers with separate zones

By assigning remote flash units to separate zones you can test the output of each zone to ensure it is firing, and turn off zones to quickly change the lighting. With the PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver ($150) you can manage four zones, but without TTL capability. The PocketWizard MultiMax 32 Channel Transceiver ($295) also provides this capability along with other advanced capabilities.

TTL radio triggers with separate zones

The ability to assign remote flash units to separate zones gives you the capability to set and adjust light levels in each zone independently of other zones. The speedlights mentioned above provide this capability with IR signals. The PocketWizard FlexTT5 Transceiver ($220) with the PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller ($80) provides this capability with radio signals.

The Quantum Instruments FreeXwire Radio TTL system separately controls several zones of flash, giving you control of flash exposure ratios from each.  Various FreeXwire components coordinate wireless TTL exposures with Qflash 5, Trio, Pilot, CoPilot, and even Nikon and Canon speedlights. The FreeXwire FW89 Transmitter/Receiver Set ($390) provides eight independent channels and, with the appropriate set of accessories, full TTL exposure control with Quantum flashes as well as speedlights.

Hybrid radio trigger

The RadioPopper PX system consists of a separate transmitter and receiver for Nikon and Canon speedlights and provides wireless radio TTL exposure control. The transmitter ($190) attaches to an on-camera speedlight or hot shoe IR transmitter and converts the IR signal from the unit to a radio signal that it transmits to the receiver attached to a remote speedlight. The receiver ($190) converts the radio signal back to an IR signal to trigger the remote flash.

Semi-proprietary and proprietary radio triggers

A trigger system such as the Elinchrom EL-Skyport Trigger Set ($305) consisting of a transmitter and two receivers is semi-proprietary. Used with select Elinchrom flash units you can change the flash output and control the modeling light and flash synchronization from the on-camera transmitter. With an appropriate flash cable you can also use the Skyport to trigger non-Elinchrom flash units attached to the receivers.

The Paul C. Buff Cyber Commander ($180) is the transmitter for another semi-proprietary radio trigger system. The Cyber Commander controls up to 16 lights on 16 channels. The transmitter controls all of the Paul C. Buff flashes as well as speedlights and flash units from other manufacturers. Each remote unit must be connected to a Paul C. Buff receiver ($90).

A system such as the Profoto Air Remote Transceiver ($300) is proprietary to Profoto Pro-8AAir packs and D-1 Air monoblocs. You can use it to control power and modeling light output of the Profoto flash units. Used in conjunction with the Air Sync Transceiver ($225), the Air Remote can trigger non-Profoto packs. The new Air Remote TTL transmitter ($395), for Canon at present but with a Nikon unit available soon, provides TTL exposure when triggering Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units.

Broncolor offers a similar system. The Broncolor RFS 2.1 transmitter ($167) provides wireless triggering and power output control of Broncolor Senso and Move as well as Scoro flash units equipped with RFS 2. When non-Broncolor flash units are connected to a RFS 2.1 receiver ($200) the transmitter operates as a trigger to fire them.

The Bowens Pulsar Tx Rx Set ($210) is available only for Bowens moonlights and only those units with a Pulsar Control slot on the back. The tiny receiver mounts into the Pulsar Control slot and the small transmitter onto the camera hot shoe. The system provides 24 channels. Paired with the Gemini R and Pro Remote Control ($90), you have complete control over power, test flash, modeling lights, and channel setting.

Review: FathomFocus In-Person Sales App

By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

These days, projection sales are the norm, but is your software limiting your sales experience for your client or even you? Being able to use today’s technology to offer a stress-free sales experience is important, and FathomFocus is a software solution that does just that. It’s an in-person sales app that allows you to use your iPad (2+) in conjunction with your projector to conduct ordering appointments, and it has a number of promising features.

Getting started is pretty easy. You install the app on your iPad, and the correlating desktop software to the computer you will have connected to your projector. There’s also a way to use Apple TV with the iPad directly, but I don’t have the hardware to try out that technology, so I’m going to cover the more standard method.

Once I had software installed on both devices, I went to the desktop interface to set up my first client.  FathomFocus has you first select the screen that it will display the previews on (top dialog box), and then create a new session (or select an existing one). Enter a session name and navigate to an image directory. Note that the browser (in Windows at least) will not display any image files—only folders—because you are supposed to select the folder you want FathomFocus to pull images from rather than the images themselves.  

Windows Firewall did block some features, so I had to allow access via the dialog box that opened after I clicked save on the new session (bottom dialog box). If you’re reopening a session, you’ll be prompted to browse to the *.ffs file that FathomFocus created within the image folder.

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At this point, your desktop should be ready and waiting to receive input from the iPad, so it’s time to switch devices. Select a session to get started. Assuming your computer and iPad can communicate via your network, you’ll be able to select the session you just created. I ran into some problems here; my devices couldn’t see each other, and I couldn’t determine a reason despite referring to FathomFocus’s support page on the subject. After some on-the-phone problem-solving with FathomFocus tech, we determined that the cause was twofold. First, my firewall or antivirus software had prevented something from installing completely on the desktop; second, the mobile hotspot I was using for Wi-Fi connectivity was causing some delays in initial loading. Once we got those two things straightened out, everything worked like a charm.

Continue reading "Review: FathomFocus In-Person Sales App" »

Domke Chronicle Is A Rugged Descendent

By Joan Sherwood

The Domke Chronicle, part the Next Generation Journalist series, has to be one of my favorites of the many camera bags I’ve tried in recent years. I’ll admit, though, that my love for the bag is based largely on aesthetics and my partiality for rugged canvas material that will age and soften over the years. There’s a romance to its texture that ripstop nylon just doesn’t deliver.

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Domke bills the Chronicle as the grandchild of the F-2, the bag that Jim Domke had custom made for his own use in 1976 and which is still one of Domke’s most popular bags. The Next Generation Chronicle inherits the side pockets, non-slip Gripper Strap made of durable cotton webbing, and the steel snap hooks from the F-2.

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The current Domke F-2

Modern modifications include double-zipper top access, expandable zippered side pockets, expandable snap front pockets, a web strap across the back for mounting on a rolling cart handle, a padded zippered tablet sleeve that fits devices up to 11x8 inches, side rain hoods, and the removable padded shell and three dividers from the Domke GearProtex Insert System.

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The GearProtex shell is actually five separate rectangles of padding that attach to each other and to the interior of the canvas, so you can use the whole thing or just the panels you want or remove it entirely. It also comes with a .5-inch-thick bottom-stiffening foam pad that adds a layer of impact protection for your gear.

I’m very impressed with the divider system. Even though the attachment surface is only along the edge of the divider instead of the half-inch flap most bags use, it’s extremely secure. It’s so grippy, in fact, that it can be difficult to place the divider exactly where you want it. Try folding a piece of paper around it until you get it in the right spot and then remove the paper barrier between the hook-faced edge and the padded wall.

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Each of the pocket flap hook and loop fasteners come with a Quiet tab that you can fold back, which eliminates the fastening element, but also does away with the riiiiipp noise also associated with hook and loop closure systems. The side pocket flaps can also easily tuck into the pockets for easier access to those compartments. I use one of them with the flap tucked in and the zipper expansion unzipped to hold a large 24-ounce water bottle, but it could just as easily hold a lens that you wanted fast access to during a shoot.

I can’t say I think the side rain flaps would be impervious to foul weather, but they are definitely better than not having them.  The non-slip Gripper shoulder strap is my favorite so far of the non-slip strap designs I’ve tried. It’s grippy enough to stay on one shoulder, but not so grippy that it rips the hair off the back of my neck if I decide to wear it in a cross-body configuration. However, the plastic attachments for the shoulder and grip straps are substandard in comparison with the rest of the bag’s materials, construction, and design. I would happily pay more to have these swapped out with metal hardware. Twice when I’ve used the grab strap, the plastic clip has come undone on one side, and this without even a moderately full load of gear in the bag. That could be disastrous if you weren’t paying attention right in that moment of lifting. The problem is that the thinner plastic of the clip can easily move to the side and slip off the attachment ring. The shoulder strap clip is more beefy and doesn’t have this problem, but I’d still rather have metal than plastic.

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This is a rugged, functional bag that has just enough compartments and features to make it cool but not overly complex. Granted, at a $349.95 street price, I believe you’re paying a little more for some status and style on top of that functionality. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the investment for you. The Chronicle comes in Canvas Khaki/Black, Cordura Black, RuggedWear black, and RuggedWear military.

About June 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in June 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2014 is the previous archive.

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