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Thread: Weighing wireless flash control options.

  1. #1
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Weighing wireless flash control options.

    Hey, gents. I'm in the middle of selecting a wireless flash system for on-location portrait and figure photography. I think I have a decent handle on the trade-offs in the two systems I'm considering, but I'm interested in which one you'd choose. My goals are a totally portable flash system requiring no AC power during use, a flexible RF trigger system, and good performance per dollar. Bonus points for adding RF shutter capability.

    System 1
    On camera: Vello FreeWave Transmitter ($30)
    Flashes: Canon 580EX II Speedlites w/Vello FreeWave receivers ($469 + $70 = $539)

    This system gives greater triggering range (100m instead of 30m) flexibility (I can mount any flash on the FreeWave receivers), and works with my current flash (580EX II). Downsides are lots of individual parts, requiring 3 kinds of batteries (flash AA, receiver AAA, transmitter CR2032), and less flash output. Works as an RF shutter.

    System 2
    On Camera: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite ($600)
    Flashes: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites ($600)

    Using 600EX-RT flashes with their built-in transmitters and receivers is a more powerful, professional, and well-integrated setup. The major downside is cost. I'd need one 600EX-RT on the shoe at all times as the transmitter, which seems to defeat one of the major points of a wireless triggering system - getting the flashes off the camera to make the photo look more naturally-lit. If I turn the output on the shoe flash way down, I can achieve the same effect, but then I basically have a $600 transmitter and one less remote flash. Compatible with ShutterBoss or separate RF shutter. Not sure if a more streamlined setup and only having to worry about one battery type (AAs, which I carry already) is worth the drawbacks and additional cost.

    I'm leaning heavily toward system 1 (more triggering range, greater flexibility, no need for a separate RF shutter, less cost, but higher-maintenance and somewhat less flash output), but before I pull the trigger, what do you think? Did I miss any important features or functions?

  2. #2
    Markvetnz's Avatar
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    Re: Weighing wireless flash control options.

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    Hey, gents. I'm in the middle of selecting a wireless flash system for on-location portrait and figure photography. I think I have a decent handle on the trade-offs in the two systems I'm considering, but I'm interested in which one you'd choose. My goals are a totally portable flash system requiring no AC power during use, a flexible RF trigger system, and good performance per dollar. Bonus points for adding RF shutter capability.

    System 1
    On camera: Vello FreeWave Transmitter ($30)
    Flashes: Canon 580EX II Speedlites w/Vello FreeWave receivers ($469 + $70 = $539)

    This system gives greater triggering range (100m instead of 30m) flexibility (I can mount any flash on the FreeWave receivers), and works with my current flash (580EX II). Downsides are lots of individual parts, requiring 3 kinds of batteries (flash AA, receiver AAA, transmitter CR2032), and less flash output. Works as an RF shutter.

    System 2
    On Camera: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite ($600)
    Flashes: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites ($600)

    Using 600EX-RT flashes with their built-in transmitters and receivers is a more powerful, professional, and well-integrated setup. The major downside is cost. I'd need one 600EX-RT on the shoe at all times as the transmitter, which seems to defeat one of the major points of a wireless triggering system - getting the flashes off the camera to make the photo look more naturally-lit. If I turn the output on the shoe flash way down, I can achieve the same effect, but then I basically have a $600 transmitter and one less remote flash. Compatible with ShutterBoss or separate RF shutter. Not sure if a more streamlined setup and only having to worry about one battery type (AAs, which I carry already) is worth the drawbacks and additional cost.

    I'm leaning heavily toward system 1 (more triggering range, greater flexibility, no need for a separate RF shutter, less cost, but higher-maintenance and somewhat less flash output), but before I pull the trigger, what do you think? Did I miss any important features or functions?

    Check out the Phottix Odin. Full ettl fundctionality. Good range (100m). I use this system with 3 x 580 exII flashes and it works well. All flashes can be controlled independently from the camera in manual or ettl mode. Also has high speed sync and 2nd curtain. It won't break the bank either. Your other options are the Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5.

  3. #3
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Weighing wireless flash control options.

    Is there a particular reason you need to go wireless? I find that with my system, optical slaves are more than adequate for that type of short range work using Speedlights. I have trouble picturing doing portraits from 30m (100ft) much less 100m / 330ft away from my lights. For that "natural look" the light source has to be very close to the subject, and with small flashes I tend to use either a reflector or shoot-through umbrella for this type of work. I tend to shoot with either a 105mm fixed focal length lens or a 70-200mm lens, so I really am never that far away from my subjects.

    The only time I use wireless is when I use studio flash and it is too much of a pain to raise and lower the lights to adjust settings or trip over the flash cord. I have PocketWizard miniTT1 for that work, but their products are quite pricey.

    I don't know Canon well enough, but I think they do it as well. With Nikon, I can control up to three independent flash output zones from my camera using the built in flash as the trigger.

  4. #4
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Weighing wireless flash control options.

    The Phottix looks nearly perfect, especially for the price, but with their IP-infringement history and current made-in-China product line I'm not sure I want to give them my money.

    I'm not necessarily going to go RF right away, but I want to make sure that whatever setup I have is RF-ready when the time's right. When I buy gear, I try to make sure I'll always be able to use it, and I won't obsolete anything with upgrades to other bits. For instance, all my lenses are EF (in anticipation of an eventual move to full-frame), despite my camera's APS-C sensor. Realistically, optical slaves are fine for now, and Canon's in-camera remote flash controls are excellent, if a little hard to figure out.

    Once the time's right, I'll revisit RF. I think I'm going to save up for a Pocket Wizard system on the strength of what I've read here. For now, infrared will do.

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