Today, the tech geek in me is coming out with this post. This post is about off camera flash and even more specifically radio triggers. Radio triggers allow photographers to send a radio signal to fire their flash units.
Typically, there are two ways of setting the flash power:
- Manual : The Photographer sets the desired power of the individual Speedlite or strobe.
- TTL(Through the Lens) : The camera sends a signal to the Speedlite to set the flash power based on camera settings and light levels.
Typically, there are two ways to sync firing the flashes with the camera:
- Normal Sync: A camera has sync speed specification. My Canon 7D has a 1/250 second sync speed. So normal sync would be 1/250 or slower shutter speed to flash the Speedlite with one burst of light using my camera.
- High Speed Sync (HSS): Some Speedlite/camera combinations allow sync-ing past the normal sync speed by using multiple burst of the light. The downside of using HSS is that output of the Speedlite reducing dramatically.
There are many good sources on the internet to go deeper into the above just ask Mr. Google.
Until recently, camera manufacturers only used “infra-red” communication(relies on line of sight between the camera and flash) in order to trigger their off-camera Speedlite(no sync cord) using HSS and TTL. Canon now has Speedlite that uses radio to communicate between camera and flash, but they are expensive.
In the past few years, third party manufacturers like Radio Popper(PW system), PocketWizard(ControlTTL), and now Phottix (Odin) have products/systems that will trigger Speedlites using HSS and/or TTL using radio communication. Radio communication is not limited to line-of-sight or bright sun light and can function at greater distances.
Typically, flash trigger manufacturers have two product lines:
1) Manual/Normal sync products(basic triggering): The flashes must be manually set to certain power and the trigger work at the camera’s sync speed or less. Examples: Radio Popper JrX , PocketWizard Plus II/III, Phottix Strato I/II. Radio Triggers for normal sync and manual power output have been around for a long time.
2) TTL/HSS sync product (Advanced triggering): These systems typically include functionality to adjust the flash output either manually(fixed output) or adjust TTL from the camera. Examples: Radio Popper PX system, PocketWizard ControlTTL (w/ AC3 Zone Controller), or the Phottix Odin system. In many cases, these advanced triggering system can trigger flashes using the “basic triggering” receivers.
I have been using the PocketWizard Canon ControlTTL system since it was released in 2009. This system can be used to trigger my Canon flashes and also my Paul C Buff studio strobes. When the system works it is an awesome system. The problem is that it does not always work(misfire and non-fire) especially due to radio interference with certain Canon Speedlites so I have to fiddle with it at times to make the flashes fire. The Nikon version does not have this issue. These issues are well documented with solutions on various photography forums and the Pocketwizard support site.
As a Raleigh portrait and event photographer, I need a reliable radio triggering system. Recently, I ordered the Phottix Odin system and received it yesterday. I wanted to try an alternative to the PocketWizard ControlTTL system. Plus I always like to have backups to my gear to make sure I capture that special shot.
All I can say is that I am really impressed with the Phottix Odin system. It fires flawlessly and it very easy to control an off-camera Canon flash using the commander unit on camera.
My neighbor and his son Daniel were playing catch in the circle. This was a perfect opportunity to test out these triggers TTL and HSS capabilities.
The first shot could have been done with either a basic trigger or advanced trigger since Daniel was posing and I did not need to worry about freezing the action with a fast shutter speed. The sun was coming in behind him to make a nice rim light. I used a Speedlight in a small soft box to light his face.
The following shots I used a 1/500 shutter speed with both TTL and HSS. Daniel is not posing for these, but practicing his pitching motion with his father. The Sun is coming over Daniel’s left shoulder and my TTL/HSS Speedlite is coming from camera left. Now this could not have been done easily without HSS.