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Hands on testing of the Godox AD 600B for radio remote TTL mobile studio flash, high sync and pushed sync on Olympus OM-D cameras – even works in conjunction with Cactus V6 II system!

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Godox has created a dream come true for many Micro Four Thirds users with Olympus OM-D or Panasonic mirrorless cameras – not only do we now have access to a radio remote TTL flash system but it is easy to use, seems reliable and you can get an amazing very powerful battery operated studio flash with Bowens S mount – the Godox Wistro AD600 / 600B which remotely supports TTL exposures as well as high speed sync (Super FP flash mode in Olympus nomenclature) for flash at all shutter speeds to 1/8000th second (with mechanical shutter).

The instruction manual for the Godox X1TO remote TTL flash trigger can be downloaded here and that for the Godox AD 600B downloaded here.

AD600

 

First the hard bit – upgrading the firmware of the AD600 unit for Olympus TTL capability:

The AD600 does not come with Olympus/Panasonic radio TTL compatibility by default thus you need to upgrade the firmware, nor does it come with a USB cable – but most of us have plenty lying around – you just need to find one that fits the AD 600 USB port.

Next you need to download the Godox firmware updater software from the Godox download web page, as well as the correct firmware for your flash model, noting the G1 install procedure instructions.

You then need to extract the software installation files from  the .rar format for both the updater software and the firmware file – you can use a program such as 7-zip to do this.

Then you run the setup for the updater software installer, however, on the latest versions of Windows 10, BEFORE you can install the USB driver correctly, you may need to Disable Signed Driver Enforcement – see instructions for doing so here. Then you must reboot the computer and then install the software by running setup.exe of the updater software and hopefully all will install properly.

Next you need to TURN OFF the Godox Remote Controller AND DISCHARGE ANY POWER buffered in the AD 600 unit by REMOVING the BATTERY then press OFF/ON Button for 2 seconds BEFORE YOU ATTACH USB cable to computer – otherwise I am guessing you can fry your computer.

If your device driver installed correctly, when you attach the USB cable to the computer, it should be recognised.

Now run the Updater Software and click on the bottom left button to select English.

If you are running a high resolution display, you will not see the bottom buttons which makes life harder – in this case change your display resolution to 1920 x 1080 temporarily so you can use the software better.

Now it becomes obvious that you first press the top left button called Select File and then you need to find the firmware file you downloaded and extracted which has the file extension .fri.

Then you press the top middle button to Connect to the flash unit – if this fails, either your USB cable is not the right one or is faulty, or, you didn’t install the USB drivers due to the issue above.

If the flash is detected then you are ready to upgrade the firmware by pressing the Upgrade button – of course, you do NOT want to disconnect the unit until this is complete!

Configuring the AD600B flash for radio wireless TTL flash:

Connect the lithium ion battery (after you have charged it up which takes 4hrs).

Plug in the globe (many use gloves to avoid skin oils contacting the glass but its not as critical as with halogen globes) – or plug in the optional very useful H600B remote head and the globe plugged into that instead.

Turn the flash unit ON using the On/Off button.

Press the “Z” top middle button on the flash unit to activate the WiFi mode (other options on toggling are Manual mode or optical remote TTL Canon/Nikon).

Ensure the channel is on the desired one (usually Channel 1 by default – press and hold GR/CH button then use the dial to change it).

Ensure the Group is the desired one (usually Group A by default – toggle through the groups by pressing the Gr/Ch button).

The flash should now be able to be fully remotely controlled from your X1 remote controller which sits on your camera hotshoe.

Using your X1T-O remote controller:

You need to purchase the Olympus version which is the X1T-O model (can be used on any Micro Four Thirds camera including Panasonic).

X1

Install two AA batteries then attach it to the camera hotshoe.

Turn the camera on, and I generally set the camera’s PASM dial to Manual so I can choose shutter speed (to control ambient exposures) and the aperture (to control depth of field) and generally set ISO to base ISO of 200.

Ensure the camera’s flash mode is set RC = OFF (RC is for optical remote control which we are NOT using) and to Fill-in flash or similar so that a signal will be sent to the hotshoe. Note , you don’t activate Super FP in the camera – the remote control will do this for you!!!

Turn the  X1 on using the switch on the side, and decide which mode you want to use for the other switch – normal or HSS (Super FP mode) – unless you are shooting in bright sun and need a fast shutter speed to allow a wide aperture, use the normal mode.

Check the LCD screen on the X1 to ensure the channel corresponds with that on your flash unit and use the rear dial to go to the Group – you can then use the mode button to choose TTL  or Manual Flash Output control.

By default, turning on the X1 will activate the flash’s controls automatically (if your channel and group are correct) and so the LED modelling light will be turned on (you will need to go to the flash unit to turn this off manually).

Now the fun part – it just works!

The X1 remote specs indicate you should be able to control the flash up to 100m away – assuming you have no nasty water pipes, etc in the way which block radio signals.

Change your shutter speed to give a desired ambient exposure for a given aperture and ISO.

Take the shot and hopefully it will all work as if you are using a normal Olympus remote flash but without the annoying optical pre-flash signals and with far more flash output and remote distance capability.

HOWEVER, an important point – the camera’s flash settings such as flash exposure compensation and FP mode are IGNORED by the X1 – to set a flash exposure compensation, select the flash group on the X1 then, assuming the flash mode is set to TTL (use the mode button for this),  press GR button then the dial to change flash exposure compensation and then GR button again to save it. As mentioned above, if you want to use FP mode, slide the side switch to H mode.

Now for some advanced stuff – over-powering the sun:

On the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mark I and Mark II, you can flash sync up to 1/250th sec in normal mode – the camera won’t let you go faster than that shutter speed unless either:

  • you set the X1 to HSS mode (but this dramatically reduces the maximum output of the flash as shutter speed gets faster), OR,
  • use what I will call “push-sync” (similar to the Cactus Power Sync or Pocket Wizard Hypersync mode) you still use the X1 in normal mode, but trick the camera into firing flash at faster shutter speeds without FP mode by placing a single flash pin hotshoe adapter between the camera hotshoe and the X1 (or connect to the X1 via a PC sync cable) in which case you lose TTL capability but my tests show you can now fully sync at 1/320th sec, and even get to 1/500th sec with some loss of flash effect (black band) on the top 1/3rd of the image – but this could be usable for some compositions in outdoor shots and allow you to over-power the sun.

Using an on-camera flash as well:

If you attach an Olympus TTL flash onto the X1′s hotshoe, unfortunately, the X1′s hotshoe is only a single pin type and NOT a TTL pass through (unlike the cactus V6 II remotes which do have TTL passthrough) and thus the ONLY control over the flash via the camera is triggering the flash.

The flash unit acts like it is connected via a PC sync cable – no auto TTL, no auto zoom control, no RC master capability.

If the X1 switch is turned OFF, then the flash does not fire at all.

If the X1 is switched ON and set to HSS mode, the flash will fire, but at shutter speeds above 1/250th sec, it will not sync properly as the flash HSS mode will not be activated – at 1/320th sec with an Olympus FL-50R flash only 1/3rd of the top of the image receives flash which is the opposite to usual over sync speeds and thus unusable.

The good news is that if the X1 is set to normal mode (not HSS), you can just use the flash in “AUTO” mode (you must manually dial in the ISO, aperture and exposure compensation as well as zoom position), or in Manual mode where you just dial in the manual flash output and the zoom position.

One man band hand held Octabox outdoor portrait shooting:

The Godox AD600B can be mounted to any Bowens S mount studio light accessory (there is a locking device to ensure they don’t fall off) such as the 43″ Godox Umbrella style Octabox softbox for nicely diffused portrait lighting, and usually these are mounted on a lighting stand.

However, the AD600/600B has a wonderful trick in that you can remove the flash bulb, plug in a remote head (the AD-H600B), plug the flash bulb into the remote head and mount your softbox to the remote head.

remote head

This allows you to carry the heavy part , the AD600 itself with battery, in a specially designed shoulder strap case (the Godox PB-600 should case/carry bag), or perhaps in a backpack, hand hold the AD-H600B with softbox attached in one hand and shoot with your light Olympus camera in your other hand.

Tiring – yes, but at least it is possible, and you may be able to overpower the sun!

Need more power? Just buy a 2nd AD600B and attach a 1200Ws AD-H1200 remote head with a 1200Ws bulb and you have twice the output from the one remote flash head!

And of course, you can add other radio remote slave units:

There are a range of other X1 compatible Godox flash units which can be used in the same or in different flash groups (each group will have the same exposure setting).

If the AD600B is too big for you, then you can still get to a Bowen S mount lighting system via the Godox AD-B2 twin head which allows you to use either:

  • power it with either one or two Godox AD-200 units plugged directly into it
  • use either one or two Godox AD 200 flah bulbs, or one Godox AD 360 bulb (which is a little more powerful than just using one AD 200 bulb)

If that is too big, then the very popular Godox Wistro AD360 with separate lithium ion power pack gives you plenty of power in a more speedlight styling although too heavy for on-camera use.

360

 

For additional remote slaves, there are the pocket sized but powerful Godox AD 200 units, or you can go the traditional speedlight route with a variety of Godox on-camera style TTL flash units – some of which are cross-platform for on-camera use on a variety of camera brands.

AD200

Godox also make a range of AC powered studio lights with various capabilities and also the AR-400 hybrid ring flash/LED.

But why stop there – you can even add a Cactus V6II radio remote flash system into the mix!

Now I am really going crazy!!!

Stacking a Godox transmitter on top of a Cactus V6 II transceiver really does work amazingly well to give you TWO SYSTEMS at the same time!

First, insert a Cactus V6 II radio remote controller onto the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera’s hotshoe.

Insert a Godox X1 TO radio remote transmitter onto the hotshoe of the Cactus V6 II and turn it on.

Turn on the camera, and half-press shutter while turning on the Cactus V6 II transceiver to transmitter mode, it should then AUTO-DETECT BOTH the camera AND the Godox X1 as being Olympus TTL devices – now we are cooking indeed!

Ensure the Cactus and the Godox are set to DIFFERENT CHANNELS (and any slave devices for each are set to the appropriate channels to match).

NOW, you can use the Cactus V6 to control your Cactus V6 II compatible transceivers or flash units (and when the firmware upgrade comes this month hopefully, we are promised Olympus TTL compatibility of remote flashes – even Canon/Nikon flashes – until then we have to use manual power control only but there is HSS functionality) PLUS you still get TTL remote control of your Godox mediated slaves including the AD600B!!

Furthermore, if you set the Cactus V6II mode to Normal-HSS so it can automatically use either, the X1 switch of HSS or normal will control the Cactus and the camera as to whether to use HSS or not! Now that is very cool indeed.

I have tested this with a Cactus controlled remote Olympus FL-600R flash in manual output control at the same time as remote controlled AD600B in TTL mode and it seems to work very nicely, even in HSS/FP mode.

This should then allow 8 groups of flashes to be remotely controlled from your camera at up to 100m away, with each group having their own power output setting, and once the Cactus firmware is available – all with TTL and HSS functionality, even if they are Canon or Nikon flash units (just need a cactus V6 II transceiver for them).

If you have a Sony A7 II full frame mirrorless camera as well – just buy the Sony versions of the transmitters to go on the camera and all should be well.

Likewise for your Canon, Nikon or Fuji cameras (although for these you only need a special Godox transmitter as the Cactus V6 II will fit all except Sony).

Enter the new world of cross-platform radio remote TTL flash compatibility!

For more information on the Godox and Cactus systems see:

 

 

A break from the artworks – lets look at the exciting world of cross-platform radio remote TTL flash for Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Pentax users – our world has changed!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Until recently if you wanted to do radio remote TTL flash, you needed a Canon dSLR with a Canon-compatible flash and a radio remote system, or a Nikon dSLR with a Nikon-compatible flash and a radio remote system.

Initially these radio remote systems were provided by companies such as PocketWizard or RadioPopper, and then a couple of years ago both Canon then Nikon added their own radio remote TTL flash to their latest cameras and flashes.

The PocketWizard system particularly became very popular with the professional photographers and is renown for its reliability, build quality and the early ground breaking ability to not only provide remote TTL flash and HSS flash and pas-through TTL to a top-mounted hotshoe but also its proprietary HyperSync which allowed full output flash at marginally faster than usual shutter speeds without the power output loss that HSS flash caused.

Unfortunately, Pocket Wizard failed to recognise the ground swell of mirrorless cameras and increasing cross-system ownership that has resulted and although they did create a remote system which supported the Panasonic GH4, in general their receivers would not fire Olympus flashes even in manual mode let alone TTL mode with Olympus cameras, and of course if you owned a couple of camera systems you had to have a different set of Pocket Wizard units (Flex TT5/TT6/MiniTT1)  for each camera system, and there was, and still is, no mix and matching of systems in TTL mode.

But its now mid-2017, and we are in a totally new scene thanks to Cactus V6 II remote system and the Godox remote system – both of which offer cross-platform radio remote TTL flash albeit with different approaches.

If I were to buy a flash unit or studio flash now, I would strongly consider how it would be used for my Olympus, Sony and Canon cameras with either or both of the two new systems – neither of which are perfect but a vast improvement on what we currently have, and far better than the rubbish optical remote RC mode of the Olympus system (yes, I love Olympus but I am not paid by any company including Olympus who have never offered me any freebies or special discounts and so yes, I am able to call them out when I feel it is appropriate – that said perhaps they have done us all a big favour in allowing these new third party solutions to come to the party and solve our problems).

Let’s compare the two cross-platform approaches to radio remote TTL flash:

The Cactus V6 II approach:

This is the more cost effective approach, particularly if you have existing flash units – you just buy 1 transceiver to mount on the camera and another to mount on your digital-TTL capable flash (the flash will need to be either Canon, Nikon or Olympus digital TTL capable – not Pentax unless you are also using a Pentax camera, and not Fujifilm unless you are also using a Fujifilm camera).

These transceivers are able to AUTO-Detect the camera or flash system (although there are a few gotchas and workarounds – see later).

This means IF it all works as the manufacturer suggests it will, you could buy 5 units, place one on your Olympus camera’s hotshoe (which can optionally also mount any digital TTL flash unit as outlined above) and attach one to each of a Canon 580EXII flash, an Olympus FL50R flash, a Godox TT685 flash and a Nikon SB-900 flash and ALL will fire with radio remote TTL exposures with flash exposure compensation in 0.1EV increments and separate for each (if they are assigned to one of the 4 possible radio groups)  and optionally in HSS/FP mode for faster shutter speeds and wider apertures, or one of the two Group Sequence modes, remote manual flash zoom, and even in the Cactus proprietary Power Sync mode which allows a slightly faster than usual shutter speed at full flash output – and yet there is much more it can do including display all flash unit power outputs, Delay mode, AF assist light and remote camera shutter release!

Decide to use your Canon dSLR to shoot instead, cool, just turn the transceiver off, put it on the Canon, let it auto-detect and away you go.

Working in an environment with lots of other photographers using the same system which is causing cross firing – no problem, just set all your transceivers to the same 4 digit RADIO ID value.

If you are running a workshop and want other users to fire your flash set up – no problem – just make sure they are using the same radio ID and turn on Multi-Master mode each photographer can choose their own exposure compensation settings – just try to avoid firing at the same time as someone else!

As an alternative, you can buy a very affordable Cactus RF60X flash unit which already has a remote transceiver built in so this saves you money and complexity.

Some gotchas and workarounds of the Cactus V6 II system:

  • there is a special Sony version of the transceiver (V6 IIs) which is required if you wish to attach to either a Sony camera or a Sony-mount flash, but it can essentially achieve the same as the above.
  • requires firmware upgrade for cross-platform compatibility, the Olympus/Panasonic/Micro Four Thirds compatibility should be available August 2017.
  • as with the Godox system, it operates in the 2.4GHz radio frequency range and this may have issues with interference at times and is generally limited to 100m
  • READ the MANUAL: to auto-detect camera system, half-press the shutter release of camera while switching on the V6 II to TX mode
  • Power Sync may require the user to adjust the sync time in order to eliminate any banding issues (black line across the image).
  • “Power Sync” may not give you much more and there is no option to go less than full power output – but then you usually want full power output in these situations unless you also need short recycle times.
  • Cactus V6 II does not work with Cactus V4, V2s or V2 flash trigger models (but is compatible with V6 but not in HSS mode, and with V5 for basic non-TTL modes only including flash triggering and shutter release triggering)
  • there is a limited range (currently 60 units) of currently available flash units that are automatically usable with this system – others will require you to create your own custom flash profile on your computer and upload it to the transceiver (this can store up to 10 such profiles) and then you will need to manually select which profile to use for the flash.
  • some cameras have a  thicker than usual metal spring plate in the hotshoe which can interfere with the flash contacts and this may need to be removed (easily done) – examples include some Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Fujifilm models – this does not appear to be a problem with my E-M1 mark I or mark II
  • the hotshoe locking pin position is optimised for Canikon and thus there may be some mechanical instability on other systems, when using Olympus flashes, moving it 0.5mm may remedy this, but there may still be issues on the camera and this becomes more risky if you are mounting a flash onto the camera-mounted transceiver as the weight may cause it to fall off – this does not appear to be a problem with my E-M1 mark I or mark II
  • the latest July firmware has issues with TTL passthrough when used with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II (mark I seems to be OK in brief testing)
  • there is limited compatibility with some cameras including:
    • Nikon D600 and Panasonic GX-8 camera are not fully compatible with HSS mode when used with a Cactus RF60 flash (but presumably the RF60X is OK)
    • high-speed sync modes not supported on Fujifilm X-E2 / XE2S, Fujifilm X100T cameras, and, Fujifilm flashes do not support HSS capabilities.

The Godox X1 approach:

Godox have really taken massive strides towards world domination of enthusiast and pro lighting (and their sudden rise in popularity perhaps may be part of the reason for Bowens lighting company apparently going out of business – although the Bowens name will live on thanks to the Bowens S mount which is one of the more universal lighting accessory mounts – including for the Godox studio style lights).

In the first instance they brought to the market their lovely, powerful and versatile portable flash units with lithium ion batteries and battery packs which have made strobists all over the world jump for joy.

Next, they upped the ante substantially this year when they announced cross-platform support.

Unlike the Cactus system (other than the dedicated Cactus V6 II Sony module), the Godox remote transceivers require a system dedicated transceiver attached to the camera hotshoe such as:

  • for Olympus or Panasonic cameras either:
  • for Canon cameras, X1C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Nikon cameras, X1N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Sony cameras, the X1S TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Fuji cameras, the X1T-F TTL Wireless Flash Trigger

Each of these camera mounted X1 triggers have a TTL-pass-through top hotshoe.

Like the Cactus system with their Cactus RX60X, there are Godox flash units with inbuilt receivers and a very nice range of units there are such as:

  • Godox Wistro AD600 portable 600Ws lithium ion battery studio flash with ability to be used with either a 600Ws or incredible 1200Ws flash head (this requires two AD600′s to power it), and optional lithium ion battery pack and Bowens or Godox mount studio lighting accessories such as softboxes
  • Godox Wistro AD360II - a more portable option but it is regarded as too heavy to mount on a camera, usually used with hand grip and power pack and strobists accessories
  • Godox Wistro AD200 pocket flash
  • Godox Wistro AR400 ring flash
  • Godox V860II-O - similar to an Olympus FL-50R in that it can use the Olympus optical RC system as master or slave, but in addition it can be used as a slave (and perhaps as a master according to web page specs) for the Godox  X1 system, and it uses a 2000mAh lithium ion battery pack for 650 full power shots per full battery charge

Unlike the Cactus system, if you wish to fire a non-Godox flash unit in remote TTL mode, you will need a different Receiver unit and specifically, one that matches the flash system, thus, for a Canon flash you will need the X1R-C receiver to attach the the Canon flash.

A brief side-by-side comparison:

 

Cactus V6 II Godox X1
Price $US95 per transceiver
$US46 for transceiver
types of units needed only 1 type BUT need a different one for a Sony camera or flash need a different one for each camera system, and a different receiver for each system of non-Godox X1 flash, for example, a XTR-16, XTR-16S receiver
radio frequency 2.4GHz, range up to 100m
2.4GHz, range up to 100m
radio groups 4
5
radio channels 16 32
Radio ID 4 digit
No
HSS / FP mode most cameras (except Fujifilm flashes)
most cameras except Fujifilm?
front/rear curtain sync Yes
Yes
Multi-flash strobe mode Yes
Yes
flash exposure compensation Yes, +/- 3EV in 0.1EV increments
Yes, +/- 3EV in 1/3rd EV increments
remote manual zoom control Yes
Yes
AF assist lamp Yes 1W LED
Yes manual open
Multi-Master mode Yes, up to 20 photographers
?
Power sync mode Yes but needs user to configure
Can sync E-M1 to 1/320th in PC-Sync non-TTL mode
Flash delay mode Yes 1msec to 999 secs
0-10msec for synch delay adjustment
hotshoe locks into Olympus cameras to avoid slippage Maybe (lock pin slightly out as optimised for Canikon) Yes (X1T-O)
PC sync socket Yes
Yes
USB firmware upgradeable Yes Yes
Can remotely trigger camera shutter release via cable Yes “Relay mode” – also available is a laser motion detection trigger to radio remotely act on the V6 II ?
power supply 2 x AA batteries 2 x AA batteries
size 72x72x42mm, 96g
72x75x52mm, 90g
ease of use must set to auto detect when starting, but otherwise fairly universal plug and play
camera-dedicated transceivers do not need to auto detect
low power output for short flash exposures 1/256th output
1/128th output only?
lock flash exposures Yes ?
display power of each flash unit Yes displays exp. compensation or power output fraction only
compatible flash units 60 plus ability to store 10 custom profiles which user can create, or Cactus V6 II specific units such as RF60X
system-specific flashes for the receiver, or Godox X1 compatible flashes including Wistro studio flashes
flash system for TTL mode when mounted on the transceiver on camera any compatible flash – should Auto-detect?? no passthrough TTL – single pin hotshoe only

 

Which system should you buy?

If you need to purchase new flash units, and in particular, the awesome units such as the Wistro AD600 or AD360II, then it makes sense to go with the Godox system as you just need the flash units and the system specific transmitter for each camera system you own.

If you already have a mix of flashes, or you wish to use the special features of the cactus system such as Power Sync, then the Cactus V6II transceivers would be the way to go, although you may be wise until Cactus finalises all their TTL firmware and it is found to work as advertised.

It would not be entirely crazy to have BOTH systems for different needs.

It does alter which flash units I would invest in though, and perhaps the 3rd party flashes may be the best approach although there is always a risk the camera manufacturers introduce incompatibilities, but it is likely that Cactus and Godox will be able to address these through firmware updates.

Many pros will stay with their tried and true Pocket Wizards which do use a different bandwidth and are system specific with no cross-platform TTL or HSS capabilities – and there is no Olympus version as yet – ah yes, I have been waiting nearly 10 long years for an Olympus version and still there is no word.

For more information on remote TTL flash, see my wikipedia pages.

Another nail in the coffin of Canon/Nikon relative duopoly – Cactus introduces cross-platform radio remote TTL flash system

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Since the 1960′s, Canon and Nikon have enjoyed a relative duopoly in the world of system cameras, especially amongst professional photographers.

In the late 1980′s, Canon took the lead with their totally redesigned lens mount system allowing fast AF, and it is only in the last decade or so that Nikon has again taken the lead with their even better AF tracking and metering technologies.

But as Olympus has shown with their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, the advantages of the Canon and Nikon dSLR systems are rapidly being lost to ever improving technological advances, especially with sensors, AF and mirrorless systems which, particularly in the case of Micro Four Thirds, offer adequate image quality (often better edge to edge image sharpness) , smaller, lighter, less expensive kits more suited to our travel and hiking needs, more accurate and often faster AF, faster burst speeds with accurate continuous AF, much better image stabilisation, hand holdable super telephoto reach as well as better run and gun hand holdable 4K video.

Part of the successful marketing strategy of Canon and Nikon is keeping their users loyal to their brand – once they have invested into their system, much like Apple users, they are generally too heavily invested to swap brands or even to use other brands with different user interfaces or incompatibilities.

If you had, or wanted to use Canon lenses to their full capability, you had to buy Canon dSLRs, likewise for Nikon.

If you had a Canon system, you had to buy Canon-specific flash systems if you want TTL or remote radio TTL flash – likewise for Nikon.

Canon dSLR owners could use other lenses, even Nikon lenses but with sacrifice of fast AF.

Nikon dSLR owners could not use non-Nikon mount lenses due to a physical design issue – the distance from sensor to lens mount is too long.

Enter the new world of cross-platform utility

My last blog post espoused the potential utility of using Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with a Sigma MC-11 adapter which at last provides fast AF with most Canon EF mount lenses on Sony cameras, but in particular, the Sigma branded ones.

This allows photographers increased choice – they could get a mirrorless full frame camera with a different sensor characteristics plus sensor based image stabilisation and face AF for their Canon lenses with better feature sets at the same price as the entry level Canon 6D dSLR- seeing that Canon has not shown interest in creating such a camera.

Now, Cactus has massively increased cross-platform utility by announcing a free firmware upgrade to their Cactus V6 II radio remote control flash system, which allows Canon, Nikon or Olympus flashes to be used with most other brand cameras with either on-camera TTL or remote radio cross-TTL capability!

This is awesome, but wait, there’s more, the Cactus V6 II x-TTL also allows:

  • remote control of flash unit output, even below 1/128th level for ultra short, motion-stopping shots
  • automatic zoom level control of flashes
  • Super FP or HSS mode (but Pentax and Sony cameras need a brand-specific flash for this to work)
  • Power Sync mode to allow a faster flash sync without losing flash output as occurs in Super FP/HSS mode
  • two unique new flash exposure modes:
    • Flash Compensate – store a desired flash exposure that will automatically adjust according to changes in camera settings.
    • Flash Power Lock – lock flash power output after a desired TTL exposure is achieved, for consistency in repeat shooting.

See my wikipedia page for more information of remote control of flashes.

 And, of course, this also also fantastic news for Micro Four Thirds users who can now have radio TTL flash on their Olympus and Panasonic cameras – even with Canon flashes!

Elinchrom announces an Olympus version of their Skyport HS studio remote flash transmitter

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Elinchrom announced this week an Olympus compatible Micro Four Thirds version of the EL-Skyport Plus HS remote studio flash controller.

Transmitter allows manual power output control of up to 10 Elinchrom lights over 20 channels in 5 groups with ability to use manual exposure High Speed Sync to 1/8000th sec as well as their OverDrive Sync (ODS) which allows up to 2 stops more light at higher shutter speeds above the x-sync.

Units will cost $US249.

New Chinese wireless TTL flash triggers for Canon and Nikon

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

It had to happen, a cheaper version of the Pocket Wizard wireless TTL flash triggers is coming onto the market by Christmas 2009.

Canon version

The new Pixel Enterprises TR-331 (for Nikon) and TR-332 (for Canon) consist of a transmitter only (TX) component and a receiver only (RX) component which use CR-2 lithium batteries but no transceiver to allow use of the speedlight on the camera itself (which is a real pity – I hope they will make a transceiver version).

They differ from the Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 in that they use the 2.4GHz radio frequency and thus do not need different models for each region of the world (but perhaps there may be interference with other 2.4GHz devices such as portable phones), and although they support High Speed Sync (HSS) flash to 1/8000th sec, they do not appear to have Pocket Wizard’s Hypersync mode, and they do not appear to require use of a laptop and USB connection to program them (but I presume they are much less sophisticated devices and thus less versatile).

They have 15 channels, and are said to operate up to 65 metres, support auto-focus assist, and also have a PC sync socket to fire studio strobes or manual flashes

Now if only they would bring out a much needed Olympus model.

More information on their website.

UPDATE March 2010:

Jack from Pixel Enterprise informs me that he can supply these Pixel TR-332 radio triggers directly and currently will cost a very reasonable $US180 for the set of transmitter and receiver for a Canon e-TTL with postage charge of $Us25 by Express mail to USA or Australia (can pay via PayPal) . If you prefer you can search for them on Ebay, or if you are a distributor, you can purchase them in bulk at a reduced price.

New Pocket Wizard “Zone Controller” to make remote flash even easier

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

LPA Design has announced a new accessory for their new remote radio wireless TTL flash system which I have previously written blogs on – the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 – a simple to use Zone Controller.

Pocket wizard zone controller

Pocket wizard zone controller sitting on a FlexTT5

Now unfortunately, the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 still has not reached Australian shores so I have not been able to try one, let alone buy them for my Canon system, but I am very keen to do so as they add some nice functionality, not the least, high speed sync at full flash output.

The main problem with this new system is that to change the settings, you need a laptop, and to set zone output levels, you need a flash like the Canon 580EXII sitting on top of one.

The new accessory, the Zone Controller helps make life easier by sitting in the hotshoe of a camera-mounted FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 unit, and then each of 3 zones of remote flash units can be easily controlled with 3 main modes:

Auto:

  • this allows you to dial in a flash compensation value in 1/3rd stop increments to +/- 3EV and in addition, takes into account the camera’s FEC setting which will apply to all 3 zones.

Manual:

  • this allows you to dial in a manual power output of each flash down to 1/64th power.

Off:

  • not surprisingly, this means that zone is not triggered.

For simplicity, there are 3 thumb dials to control the level for each zone and a switch for each zone to set the mode.

If you want to have a flash on camera, then a 580EXII on a FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 will probably suit your needs better than the Zone Controller, but for other purposes, the Zone Controller will be very nice indeed.

It is expected to be available in the US for Canon systems in August/September 2009.

Ring flash and TTL remote key flash – what options for portraits?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Most portraits are lit by at least 2 light sources:

  • a main or key light which is usually off-axis to the camera – for example 45 deg from the subject’s nose and above eye level, or directly in front of the subject’s nose and above eye level.
  • and a fill-in light which ideally should not cast distracting shadows, and thus should either be a very broad light from behind the camera (eg. bounced flash off a wall), or on-axis flash such as a ring flash. Furthermore, we need to use ratio control so that the fill-in effect can be automatically adjusted to our liking.

For the purposes of this thought exercise, let’s say we would like to create some type of ring flash effect and have a remote TTL flash/speedlight/strobe as the main key light.

You could buy a camera manufacturer’s macro ring flash, but in general, they are expensive and have a small internal diameter restricting size of lenses which can be used. The Olympus ring flash does not allow remote TTL flash for a second flash and has limited lens compatibilities (an upgrade must be coming soon). The Canon ring flash does allow remote TTL flash but is not a complete ring and has adapters for 52mm, 58mm and 72mm filter threads. Nikon do not make a ring flash. If you already have a couple of speedlights, then a ring flash adapter for one of these may be an affordable option.

What if you do not wish to buy a true Ring flash but use a Ring Flash attachment to your flash?

The first ring flash attachment was the Ray Flash which clips onto your speedlight with your speedlight sitting in the camera hotshoe but unfortunately, this design precludes use of ratio TTL because the Ring Flash accessory obstructs the main flash infrared wireless TTL control system, and currently, there appears to be no version which would allow the accessory to fit a speedlight mounted on a FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 unit which is in the camera hotshoe – of course you could try hand holding it using an off-camera TTL cord but this Ring Flash accessory was not designed for ease of handholding. Furthermore, this design requires a different version for each camera-flash combination – see here.

The Orbis, a newer ring flash accessory looks to be more versatile as it should fit most camera-flash combinations (except older flashes such as Metz 45 series) and you can use ratio control TTL either by:

  • infrared TTL from the flash – as long as you don’t cover it up with your hand, or
  • RadioPopper PX attached to the flashes with off-camera TTL cord, or,
  • off-camera TTL cord from a FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 sitting in the camera hotshoe

The main downside with the Orbis is the need to hand hold it (at least until they release their camera mounting kit later this year), but the great thing is that it will work with most brands including Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Pentax, Panasonic Micro Four Thirds, etc, and the internal diameter of the ring is 85mm (actual ~86-87mm) which means my version fits on my Olympus ZD 7-14mm super wide angle to get some unique creative shots.

So for combination of price and versatility, my vote currently goes to the Orbis and perhaps the Pocket Wizards as the remote TTL device – although if you can get adequate line of sight, infrared remote TTL may be adequate for your needs.

I shall be putting my order in – may be I will need to work out a way of not accidentally dropping either the Orbis or the flash as there is a significant risk if trying to juggle those two plus your camera and adjust settings and take the photo.

post-script:

bought the Orbis, but no wonder they seemed coy about the degree of light reduction – it seems you lose 5-6 stops!!

Testing it with a Canon 580EXII on full manual and on maximum zoom 105mm as recommended by Orbis, gives a flash meter reading at 2m and ISO 100 of f/2.5. Without the Orbis using same settings on the flash, gave me ~f/19. No wonder they recommend using ISO 400!

I will do more testing.

Radio triggers without the hastles and expense of TTL flash

Friday, April 17th, 2009

From my last post on Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 and RadioPopper PX radio triggers which both have remote TTL and HSS flash capability for remote flash trigger with certain Canon or Nikon dSLRs and flashes, you may come to the conclusion that perhaps the complexity and expense and perhaps reliability issues is just not worth it for you, or perhaps you would also like to use it on your other cameras and your film cameras, and anyway, you would prefer to have full manual control over your flashes, so what options does that leave us with?

Most amateurs would probably opt for the cheap Chinese models on Ebay made by YongNuo. Pre-2008, these models tended to have a poor reputation for inconsistent shooting and poor range, but reports of the newer models seem much more positive and range is said to be 30-50m outdoors.

The newer models include:

  • RF-602TX – 2.4GHz, 16 channel, Canon, Nikon or studio flash trigger, wireless shutter trigger. Apparently RF interference with digital sensors is not an issue with this model.
  • PT-04 CN low profile model which has 4 channels and will sync to 1/320th sec if the camera-flash combination allows it, and you can purchase an optional PL-04C receiver which has a 6.5mm plug to connect to studio flashes.
  • PT-04 TM CTR-01 which is a low profile version of the PT-04 TM but not compatible with it. It is 4 channel and has an added optical trigger mode
  • PT-04 TM which has 4 channels but no optical trigger mode
  • Cactus V4 which has 16 channels and an external antenna but you can’t mount a flash on the transmitter, and receiver can be connected to high voltage flashes such as old Metz 45CT-1′s, although some flashes such as SB-600 have trouble mounting on its hotshoe due to the pins of the flash – see here. Some have suggested that RF interference may introduce image artifacts in some digital cameras with certain transmitters including Cactus V4.

Another option is the South Korean My Slave 100 triggers:

  • 10 channels, sync 1/180th sec, 433MHz, distance up to 50m
  • receivers look similar to older Pocket Wizards

More models sold on B&H Photo include:

    • Dot Line Corporation’s RS-RT03K:
      • 4-Channel Flash Trigger Kit w/ Hot Shoe & Umbrella Mount, receiver has a PC outlet and a mono synch jack for studio flash units along with an adapter for 3.5mm synch flash units.
      • The wireless signal from the transmitter is encoded to help protect the unit from radio frequency interference, ensuring that your flash unit fires only when you want them to. Range 85 feet.

RS-RT03K

    • Seculine TwinLink T2D:
      • 16 channel radio transmitter and receiver which use a combination of both 2.4GHz radio and IR technology to allow a range of up to 150′ (45.72 m) indoors and 600′ (182.88 m) outdoors
      • receiver has a built in flash hot shoe so that it can be used to attach and trigger your standard camera flashgun, allowing a way to creative lighting, especially with its facility to be mounted directly onto a tripod head. It also can be attached magnetically to the housing of a studio flash head and has 3.5mm jack and a 6.5mm connector suitable for most studio flashes.
      • transmitter is also equipped with an intuitive LCD display which shows operation modes and system status information and can use PC sync

T2D

    • Impact PowerSync10:
      • A 10-channel selector on its underside keys into the corresponding dial on the receiver to trigger the connected flash or camera without interference from other devices. Range to 200 feet at max. sync 1/180th sec.
      • receiver has hotshoe, tripod mount, 3.5mm mini as well as a PC jack.

Pwersync10

Elinchrom provide another option – their Elinchrom EL Skyport trigger set:

  • 8 channels and 4 work groups, distance up to 50m in studio and 120m outdoors

The above units are just flash trigger ONLY, but are extremely simple to use and cheap – just ensure the channel switches are the same, place the transmitter into your camera’s hotshoe, and attach a receiver to your flash (either hotshoe or PC sync connection). Of course, adjusting the manual outputs on the flash units is up to you to do – so you might need a flash meter, or do a bit of trial and error exposure adjustment.

Radiopopper has announced their new JRX radio triggers which add more range and the ability to adjust the manual output of up to 3 groups of compatible flashes such as Alien Bees, White Lightning and Canon or Nikon flashes, and they have compatibility with the PX system so that you could potentially fire studio flashes in HSS mode when used with a PX transmitter.

The Pocket Wizard fans will still love the range and reliability of their 4 channel Plus II transceivers which are still compatible with the FlexTT5 but just not in TTL, hyper-sync or HSS modes.

In addition, the top of the range Pocket wizard manual triggers is the 32 channel, 4 zone, Multimax which has some extra-ordinary capabilities mentioned in the last blog.

Lastly, you CAN use a PocketWizard FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 in basic manual mode as above with almost any camera and flash combinations – but you will need to set this mode using a laptop – this is the only option which allows placing a flash on the transmitter.

For instance you could place a FlexTT5 on an Olympus dSLR and place the Olympus macro flash controller on it, use the Olympus Ring Flash in manual mode as a fill in, while the PocketWizard triggers a Metz flash in a Westcott Apollo softbox to give a nice portable portrait lighting solution.

Whatever you buy, make sure it is the correct frequency for your country (eg. 433MHz for Europe and Australia; 340.00 to 354.00 MHz FCC/US and 315.50 – 317.00 MHz for Japan).

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:

The brilliant CyberSync system as previously discussed in a much earlier blog.

This system which operates on the 2.4GHz radio band is primarily designed for controlling Alien Bees, White Lightning, Zeus, Einstein studio lights and mixing with any strobe/speedlight.

It is quite unique in that it has a built-in flash meter and can display a number of features on the CyberCommander transmitter including the f-aperture exposure of each studio light or strobe, and can even do so using modeling lamps to provide perhaps the best studio control set up there is (if your studio lights are compatible), and allows your camera’s high speed sync.

And now at last, Alien Bees will be manufactured for global distribution with voltages not only the US standard, and thus this system may become a very versatile one even for us here in Australia. In particular, the new Alien Bees Max monolights allow use of low cost AC-inverters – see here.

Off camera flash undergoes a revolution – the new Pocket Wizards

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Presumably due to international differences in radio frequency usage, the camera manufacturers use infrared technology for triggering and syncing their off-camera flashes – including Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony and Pentax.

Whilst this is OK indoors with direct line of sight, they fail when used in direct sunlight, at distances > ~10m or so, and if the off-camera flash is not in a direct line of sight.

This has been extremely frustrating.

There are many third party devices that allow radio wave triggering of off-camera flashes, but these did not allow TTL-exposure until RadioPoppers hit the scene last year.

BUT now Pocket Wizard, which has produced professional line of radio triggers for some years, has just trumped the scene technologically with its new products – the PocketWizard FlexTT5 and MiniTT1.

These beautifully designed products do away with cumbersome wires to connect to your flashes and are backwardly compatible with older Pocket Wizards (just not for TTL) but revolutionize off-camera flash by allowing:

  • full TTL control even at distances up to 240m (in practice perhaps only 40 feet), in bright sunlight and no line of sight required
  • maintains the camera’s high speed sync flash (focal plane flash) capability so that if you system allows it, you can shoot off-camera flash in bright sunlight at 1/8000th sec shutter speed
  • an exciting new capability – “hypersync” – a user customisable functionality that allows you to adjust the timings of the flash so that you can increase the sync speed of your camera by 1 stop (eg. to 1/500th sec) without losing any flash output power as you do with “high speed focal plane flash mode”
  • mode 2 hypersync that simulates FP flash on non-FP flash systems
  • allows 8fps ttl flash if your system can cope
  • allows a flash to be mounted on it either at the camera’s hotshoe or on a lighting stand
  • can use with the new Bowens Gemini R flash units – see here

Now the bad news:

  • as they use the same camera flash pins, they are specific for ONE brand of camera
  • initial model is ONLY TTL compatible with Canon EOS
  • although they will be releasing models for other countries and for Nikon, there is no guarantee they will do so for other camera systems such as Olympus, Sony or Pentax
  • for these devices to work together they MUST be running at the same radio frequency – thus do not buy one made for US (which uses 344-354MHz) and expect it will work with one made for Australia, Europe, India, China, Malaysia, etc which run at 433.62-434.22MHz or one made for Japan which runs at 315.5-317MHz – see here for details
  • range may be substantially reduced when used with certain Canon flash guns due to their RF interference – see here – essentially you only get 24-31m with 580EX II in US and 52m in EU version, 6-12m with 430EX in US, but 207-259m with 430EXII in US, and 290m with 550EX as it produces almost no RF interference BUT unfortunately, there appear to be incompatibilities with the 550EX. You can double the range of a 580EXII by using RF shielding fabric around it – see here
  • initial version has had multiple issues, which hopefully have been resolved by this firmware update, see also here

Where does that leave Olympus, Sony and Pentax users?

Assuming Pocket Wizards are not made specifically for these brands, I suspect, one can still use them on your camera (perhaps via a normal hotshoe adapter that only passes the main flash sync and ignores the other pins).

You will of course lose TTL flash capability (no big loss really, as manual control is often better anyway), and you lose high speed FP flash, but you will have off-camera triggering in direct sunlight, at a distance and not have to be in direct line of sight, PLUS you should hopefully still be able to program the hypersync mode to work – now this will be a BIG BONUS for outdoor flash as it will allow you to open up one more stop of aperture for more shallow depth of field or allow more underexposure of ambient lighting.

There is also a mode 2 hypersync that simulates FP flash on non-FP flash systems which may work.

More information:


RadioPoppers still may be more desirable for those who have both Canon and Nikon systems as the one product will work on both brands (as I understand it), and you get full TTL and high speed flash sync, and in addition remote control of some studio flash systems BUT you will not be able to have access to the hypersync capability of the new Pocket Wizards.