Wireless flash setup for Canon help

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by thomahawk, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. thomahawk macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2008
    Osaka, Japan
    I want to get into lighting portraits or what not. I've come across a block in finding the right equipment to create a basic light setup.

    For umbrellas, softboxes, and stands - I know what to do and what to get.

    But for the wireless setup in flashes is what I have a problem with.

    I'm looking into getting a regular Canon flash like a Speedlite 430EXII or a 580EXII (but more on the 430 for financial reasons). I wont be getting into hot lights or strobes just yet.

    I want to have a off-camera flash setup - wirelessly.

    I've been looking at PocketWizard so far. But I don't understand the terms of the receivers and transceivers.

    Anybody here who runs Canon equipment and speedlites wirelessly? Your experiences and advice would no doubt be highly valuable for me.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    The Canon ST-E2 might help. It the speedlite wireless transmitter. It's limited in terms of distance, also the flash and transmitter need to see each other. Though with the twisting heads on the flash guns it usually works for most situations.

    There are some basic triggers on ebay, but these will just fire the flash at whatever manual power setting you have.

    Might be worth checking out the Strobist blog, most questions can be answered better than I can.
  3. ComputersaysNo macrumors 6502


    Apr 15, 2010
    Cheap triggers on ebay tend to flash randomly and on a Canon 5D causes banding.

    pocketwizzards are known for their reliability and workingdistance but are expensive. Also, there are some problems known with version 2 and the 580EXII. There is supposed to be some sort of shield available to reduce interference problems.

    The ST-E2 works briliantly indoors, outdoors the workingdistance is reduced a lot and even less in full sunshine.

    I've never heard anything bad about http://radiopopper.com/ (and no, i don't have stock or work for them) They work with ETTL and are less expensive than Pocketwizzards.
  4. thomahawk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2008
    Osaka, Japan
    I'd like to avoid the Canon ET-2 as it is infrared. I'm looking for a wireless radio solution.

    I'll check out that radiopopper.
  5. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    I would not buy Canon strobes to use wirelessly off camera. Buy manual flashes (like vivitar 285 HV) for ~$100/flash. You will be manually setting up anyway, to the ETTL is a huge expense for not a lot of gain. As someone already pointed out, check out strobist.blogspot.org for many great ideas.

    A 430 will not have enough pop to properly light a large soft box. I'm not sure about a 580. When I started playing with studio lighting, the small battery powered flashes were just not cutting it and I had to buy proper lights. For instance, if you want to shoot a high key shot and blow the background, you need 3 or more hotshoe flashes just for the background and it becomes cheaper to run proper lights.

    Old pocket wizard Plus's had a transmitter (camera mounted) and receiver (flash mounted), the Pocket Wizard Plus II's are transceivers (they can go on the camera or flash). If you have 4 Plus II's you can do two cameras and two flashes or one camera and 3 flashes or 3 cameras and one flash. The multi-max's are transceivers also and basically just have a lot more channels than the Plus II's. If you are shooting something with more than 4 other photogs using PW's, they can be helpful, but most people don't need them. The newer PW's (the mini TT1 and Flex TT5) can do a lot of cool stuff, but I am not impressed. As someone already said, they have interference problems and need shields around the outside of the body, they need a computer to program their channels and there is no auto-off so if you forget to turn off the switch, they will be dead the next time you use them

    If you are shooting in a controlled environment, something like peanuts are a cheap way to fire flashes. You put a peanut on each flash and when one flash fires (I just use the on camera flash on low power), the peanuts see the flash and fire the attached strobes. They don't work well in bright sunshine or with multiple people with cameras.

    The radio poppers have a strange control system for the flash (basically converting the radio signal to infrared at the receiver and firing it into the flash). The flash thinks it is being controlled by the ST-E2 or 580. It seems to work, it's just a strange way of tackling the problem.

    Before I invested in anything, read through the strobist stuff, it really is helpful in teaching about small strobe flash use.
  6. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    I use these units regularly, and I can tell you that almost none of this is true (it is, at best, misleading).

    There is a well-documented interference issue with the North American units using the Canon 580EX and 580EXII. The 430EXII puts out less than a stop less light than the 580EXII, and does not suffer from any of the interference issues. A 430EXII-FlexTT5 system is a great (though not cheap) way of getting into wireless flash. AND, even if you don't like off-camera ETTL, you can still benefit from the other features of ControlTL (ever tried high-speed sync with your Vivitars?). And while it's a bit cumbersome, the AC3 shield works VERY well, and my 580EXs are now working beautifully at long range with the FlexTT5.

    You do need a computer to program the channels (though presumably anyone reading this board has a computer...), but you can also "train" the units to see ANY channel from ANY PocketWizard without using a computer. The units will work out of the box, without issue.

    Finally, I don't know what units you have used, but my MiniTT1 and FlexTT5s turn off just fine when not in use.

    The FlexTT5/MiniTT1 system is the first iteration of PocketWizard's next generation. There were growing pains, but most of them have been worked out, and while they're not cheap, they do provide incredible bang for the buck.
  7. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    I am glad your experience has been better than mine. A friend bought a set (used with a 580 II) and we have had nothing but challenges with them. As they weren't mine, I never researched the problem so I didn't know that the 580 was part of the problem. He now has the shields and things are better, but it sucks that the "premium" dependable brand needs a tinfoil cover to make it work properly. I expect that from ebay triggers, not PW.

    My channel problem goes more the other way. If there is already someone using a channel and we want two, we need a computer to switch to the third channel. We have run into this in a number of locations, but never needed more than the 4 channels of the Plus's (although it certain busy situations, the multimax's could become important). I typically don't bring a computer to shoots so we end up using other (theoretically less reliable although they work for me) wireless triggers.

    For any studio work I have ever done, high speed sync was not required (although I can see a few situations where it would be helpful).
  8. panoz7 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 21, 2005
    Raleigh, NC
    I'd take a look at the cybersyncs by paul c. buff. They seem to bridge the gap between the pocketwizards and the cheap ebay triggers. I've found them to be very reliable and I haven't found a situation where I've missed the extra range of the pocket wizards.

    I'm not as familiar with the newer pocket wizards, and I'm not sure if with some of the newer models you can adjust power remotely. With the cybersyncs you definitely can't, which might be a deal breaker. Personally I don't mind it much. If you do get a 430 you'll need to get a hot shoe with a pcsync in since the 430's don't have that port. I highly recommend flash zebra if you need to purchase one.
  9. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    For studio work, where conditions are largely static and controllable, AND where manual flash rules the day, I completely agree that the FlexTT5/MiniTT1 system is probably not necessary (although, PW has just introduced a system where certain Elinchrom and AB strobes can be synced such that they follow changes in aperture and ISO...sorta, kinda automatic mode for manual strobes).

    However, try shooting outdoors on a summer day at high noon (sometimes we can't wait for the golden hour...the kids are asleep). High-speed sync will save your a**. Sunny 16ths says f/2.8 at ISO 100 is 1/1600, which is a lot faster than any X-sync speed I've ever seen.

    You can get into X-sync issues even with indoor event shoots, where I know I need 1/300 or higher to get really sharp images at 200mm (some of us drink too much coffee and consequently have shaky hands...); in this case, the ability to have HSS flash (again, even in manual mode!) is a huge deal.

    I completely agree with the Strobist/low-cost-manual-flash/cheap-wireless-trigger philosophy. But we should acknowledge that it has limitations that make it less than ideal for certain situations. Horses for courses, I guess.
  10. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    They can, with a compatible Canon flash unit and a PW AC3 Zone Controller.
  11. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y

    I am a strobing noob, but here is what I did.

    -Cactus V4 transmitter and 3 receivers- Been using them for a few months now with no issues, except for some occasional misfiring with my Canon 430EXII flash. Very cheap.

    -Canon 430EXII- No issues, got it to use on my camera years ago.

    -Nikon SB-28- Got it on ebay for dirt cheap. Works fantastic, no issues at all.

    -Vivitar 285HV- Dirt cheap on craigslist. No issues whatsoever.

    All in all, I don't think I spent more than $300 for three flashes, a trigger, three receivers, and 2 stands + umbrellas. (Amazon.com, Cowboy Studios)

    The gear has worked great with my 50D.
  12. nicque macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2006
    Check out the brand Yongnuo, they have a lot of nice, cheap flashes, and cheap transmitters/receivers.
  13. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    you sure you want to use hotshoe flashes? monolights are much easier to work with for a lot of reasons. what you lose is something that works on the hotshoe, and something that's much smaller. you gain modeling lights (BIG help when learning about lighting), shorter recycle times, more power, and you don't have to worry about overheating the flash bulb (if the light is fan-cooled).

    if you're set on hotshoe flashes, I would get one Canon or Canon ETTL-compatible flash (Nissin Di866, Metz flashes), and buy manual flashes for the rest. this is so you have an on-camera flash for when you can't use off-camera.

    triggers are up to you. you want radio, so your choice basically depends on you budget. PocketWizards, RadioPoppers, Elinchrom Skyports, and Alienbee Cybersyncs are all popular, high(er)-end triggers. if you want cheap ones, I would get a Yongnuo RF-602 or CTR-301P from HK.
  14. thomahawk thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2008
    Osaka, Japan
    I want hotshoe flashes (speedlites) because I don't want to carry such a large sized light. A lot of people tell me speedlites are good way to start.

    However, thank you everybody for your input. I'll definitely check out all the options to achieve a wireless off-camera flash setup.
  15. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
  16. funkboy macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2008
    I've seen plenty of 550EX flashes going for a little less than 200€, & I recently bought two of them in very good condition with 3-6 month warranties. Remember that this was Canon's flagship flash until not very long ago.

    World of difference compared to my old 420EX, which I now no longer use as getting the power ratio balanced between the 550 & 420 was a pain (guess why I bought the 2nd 550 :). Given the number of 550EXs I've seen in shops in the last 3 months, you should be able to shop around until you find a few in really good shape. One of mine looks almost new.

    You'll notice that that's also about the price of an ST-E2, which is another reason why I don't own one...
  17. mahood macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2009
    Ditto - never had a misfire except when I first started. And I found that lifting the little antenna on the transmitter actually made things worse! Since I left it lying alongside the transmitter, every shot has worked. That said, I don't tend to fire very fast, so maybe I'm not stressing them.

    Also I've used them with the (included) cables to fire all sorts of studio strobes with no problems either - for the money, they're unbeatable!


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