06 Nov Wireless Flash – PW FlexTT5
A wireless flash trigger system, ya gotta have it. A must have with on-location lighting photography, but I’d argue almost a must have in the studio as well. No one needs to be tripping over those old dinosaur sync cables now-a-days. Of course we all want them, it’s just a matter of if you can pony up the dough for a couple.
Pocket Wizards, if you know anything about flash photography and the technologies used to talk to your lights, I’m sure you’ve heard that name. It’s the Cadillac of wireless flash, an industry standard in pro photo, and they are not cheap. They fire from a 1000 feet away (don’t ask me when you’d ever need such range), you can fine tune them using your computer for super specific needs, and they can carry your camera’s flash settings wirelessly to hot shoe flash units from across the room. There are a ton of photog geeks out there writing post after post about these little gadgets, not to mention the manufacturer’s site where you can read up on the fine details, so I’m just gotta give you the easy-peasy, simple, practical use for these things, while trying to leave out as much geek speak as I can.
With that said, if you are interested in using a wireless flash system, you don’t have to fork out over $200 bucks a pop for Pocket Wizards, and yes, you need to buy at least two to make it work (one for the camera, and an additional one for each flash unit). There are many solutions out there that are much much cheaper. I, for example, started out with a $40 solution (one transmitter, one receiver – had about a 30 foot reach), it got the job done. The simple jobs that is, cause you’ll need to have multiple receivers if your lights are spread out too far (typically flash units can be told to fire if they see another flash in the room pop, so one light setup with a receiver could theoretically also trip numerous lights to fire too if they can see the first light pop off). But if you get away from walls or get your lights spread out over more than 15-20 feet, those other lights are gonna have a hard time detecting that other flash, hence the need for more receivers. Long story short, I upgrade fairly quickly. Started with two, now I have four of these buggers.
Now I haven’t jumped on the whole hot shoe flash bandwagon, I still always use larger studio strobes, even on-location. Hot shoe flash units already have a diehard, cult-like following, who will argue they can do the job of a larger strobe. I’m sorry, but a Honda will never be faster than a Lambo, I don’t care how many racing stickers you slap on the thing, and the same thing is true with lighting. Bigger lights, more power, will always have a lighting advantage over the hot shoe flashes. With that said, the little guys definitely have their place in the world, many practical uses. Light, easy to use, and small. I haven’t come across a client where the needs required little flash guys, in fact, they usually require the big boy lights. I’m sure the day will come where I’ll own a small fleet of hot shoe flash units, due to client demands. Anywho, these particular pocket wizards can accommodate a hot shoe flash, fire the flash, and relay flash information to and from the camera remotely. Pretty cool stuff, the people who have had to go without this functionality for any period of time know how valuable this is.
So you have your two typical situations, receiver needing to attach to strobe light or your hot shoe flash. To connect to your strobe lights, you’ll need to get a cable that is compatible with your lights. My alienbee lights are just a simple mono cable plug, same with the pocket wizard side, so I just get a mono to mono cable (pictured setup with large strobe). I think they are like 3 bucks at radioshack. If you are connecting up to a hot shoe flash, you just simply slide it onto the pocket wizard (as shown above). The PW even has a thread on the bottom of it so it can be mounted on your common light stand.
If you are just an occasional hobbyist, get the simple, easy, and cheap $40 solution, it’ll work just fine, trust me. If you are working paid gigs and your ass is on the line and need the lights to perform near perfection, get the PW.