Its been FOREVER since I’ve written a blog post, and I have a few more waiting to upload, but I figured Id start with this.
As many of you know, I tend to shoot with strobes….ALOT. Being able to control light is just amazing, and if used correctly, can really add a lot to your image. Also not having to be constrained by the sun allows for a lot more flexibility when shooting outdoors. Naturally I fire my flashes with wireless triggers. There are TONS out there, but which ones should you be using? Well I hope I can answer that for you, and maybe save you some cash too. Now I haven’t used every trigger system out there, but I have used some really cheap, and some really expensive ones, and you might be surprised by the results. So lets start at the beginning and what I used to trigger flash. BTW Most of these are going to be about using studio strobes as opposed to a speed light
First up, these random knockoff brand receivers
Cost: anywhere from $35-$50 each
These go by lots of different names but essential all do the same thing. These are what I started with. The picture shows a receiver, as I’ve honestly lost the transmitter, but it was a flat piece in the hot shoe, with a simple button on top to test. 2 channels, and on/off switch, and a PC sync cable around the side made these perfect for starting out. Also ran off two AAA batteries. I used this with speed lights for about 8 months until I moved on to a better system for studio strobes
PROS: Cheap, will work with any speed light (assuming you don’t need TTL) Small in your camera bag, and simple to use
CONS: Range was terrible, not reliable, sometimes just wouldn’t fire even with new batteries
Next up, the Bowens pulsar system….
COST: no idea was free with my sponsorship
LITERALLY the worst system I’ve ever attempted to use. Notice I say attempted. I say that because I NEVER GOT THEM TO WORK. and no one else could either. Even people at the store that sold these couldn’t figure them out. These were designed for the bowens studio strobe and seemed like a great idea. You put the card in the flash and leave it there. Then you plug the antenna into the sync port on the strobe. You then have to program (yes program) the transmitter to work with the flash through a series of clunky button push operations that make trigonometry look simple. Awful Awful Awful.
Next: Radio Poppers JRX (stock photo as I no longer own these)
COST about $100 USD for each unit.
The Radio Poppers JRX model is an awesome idea. If you use alien bee/einstein/white lighting strobes, you can actually control the flash output power from the cameras transmitter. Amazing and it actually worked since I used paul c buff lighting (white lighting) However for some reason the trigger does not sit well in a canon hotshoe. Numerous google searches about finding a remedy all turned up the same thing. For whatever reason these sit snugly on a nikon hot shoe but not for canon. It would literally fall out if i turned the camera around. So for me, these were a definite no.
PROS: ability to change light output from the camera as well as perform various tasks like turning the flash on and off.
CONS: not designed for a canon hot shoe. felt cheaply built, knobs were loose. Complicated programming to actually get these to work the way you would want them too.
Next: Pocket Wizards (stock photo as I have sold these)
Costs: depending on model anywhere from $100 each to $250 each
I’m not going to go into these, you already know them. Do they work? Yep, are they built well? Sure are. Are they over priced? Quite.
PROS: They work, they work, they work. Built durably, Use easy to find AA batteries, and work as a transceiver meaning you can trigger the camera and flashes with these units
CONS: They are pricey, if you can afford them and you like just tossing cash around then get em, otherwise they’re better options out there.
Next we have the Paul C Buff Cyber Sync.
Cost: Around $80 a unit or so
I’ve used these the most out of all the triggers listed, and to be honest they’re great. They’re pretty reliable (id say flash fires 90% with very few misfires) and they work. However they do have their faults. One, being how small they are. I have large hands so pressing the test button has been a nightmare the same thing for changing the channel. Two, the transmitter doesn’t have a locking screw for your hot shoe. So you’re relying on the tension created by the plastic to keep it secure. Its not loose on the hot shoe, but that tension lead to me break one off the hot shoe when someone bumped me one time. The receivers have the same tiny buttons, and unless you buy a bungo cord have no way of attaching to the strobe. However these are great, and the price is pretty good.
PROS: very reliable, smaller size is less of a footprint in the bag, receivers can take a beating, long range.
CONS: buttons too tiny, transmitter takes an odd battery, and doesn’t lock on hot shoe, i have had misfires and no fires far to much for me to use these at a high level.
Now the winner! which triggers should you be using…..
THE PHOTTIX ATLAS II’S!
These are AWESOME. Build is very durable, nice big buttons, locking screw for hot shoe, uses AA batteries, each using is a receiver and transmitter, and even has a spot on top for a speed light if you need it. They are around the same size as the pocket wizard, and are easily comparable in build quality. each unit as a range of 1150 feet (amazing) and can be extended by using flashes in between, meaning if you had a flash 2300 feet away, you can trigger that by having another flash receiver somewhere between it and you. Price is great for these and they can keep up with a 7fps shutter. Have yet to have a misfire or a non fire, and over all I couldn’t be more pleased.
PROS: They work, are built the same as pocket wizards, use AA batteries, can use a speed light, 4 channels (not sure why you need more)
CONS: remember to turn them off when they’re on, otherwise I couldn’t be happier, BUY THEM!
There ya go, I hope this was informational and hopefully can save you guys a bit of cash and time when buying into a wireless system