25 Apr PocketWizard’s AC3 ZoneController
I don’t know about you other photographers, but the vast majority of my photo shoot time is spent setting up and configuring lighting. There is a reason for that, right? Good lighting = good photograph. Carelessness = crappy light = crappy photo. It’s simple math, really, but that math adds up fast in the form of a lot of pacing back and forth from shooting position to light. Unfortunately, this back and forth dance is necessary in order to get all the lights and their powers set correctly. It seems with the addition of each extra light that the overall setup time increases exponentially. What if there was a device that could control your speedlites and your studio strobes right from your camera? Good news for the PocketWizard shooters, there is. It’s called the PocketWizard AC3 ZoneController. It works with MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio trigger system. Below is a video that goes into detail about the system and briefly discusses the power and convenience the AC3 will bring by adding it to the existing PocketWizard system. I’m sure after watching the video, you’ll have all kinds of ideas on how this could improve your photo shoots.
From my own experience I can tell you that the AC3 has doubled my shooting efficiency. If you shoot with the MiniTT1/FlexTT5 system, you are out of your mind if you don’t integrate the AC3 into gear set… like now. It will make that big of a difference, I promise.
[jwplayer mediaid=”5161″ width=700 height=418]
Additional PocketWizard Tech Details:
The MiniTT1 is a transmitter, meaning it will only send radio out, so it can only be used on the camera end of things. The FlexTT5 is a transceiver, meaning it can pull double duty sending and receiving, so the Flex can mount on the camera end, is the only one that can receive radio, and it will always be the unit attached to the lighting gear. This means that you can have a Mini and a Flex working together, or you can have two Flex’s paired (of course, you can have many radios all working, but the minimum is two, and only one Mini because it goes on the camera). The Mini is only $25 cheaper than the Flex, but it is smaller which makes it nice when mounted on the camera.
ZoneControlling A Speedlite:
2 – PocketWizard Radios
1 – AC3 ZoneController
ZoneControlling An AlienBee:
2 – PocketWizard Radios
1 – AC3
1 – AC9
ZoneControlling An Einstein:
1 – PocketWizard Radio
1 – AC3
1 – PowerMC2
ZoneControlling An Elinchrom:
1 – PocketWizard Radio
1 – AC3
1 – PowerST4
*** Important note – AlienBees require both a FlexTT5 and AC9 together to enable ZoneControlling on the light. Einsteins and Elinchrom lights do NOT require a PocketWizard FlexTT5 on the light, just the PowerMC2 or PowerST4 unit. Booyah!
While talking about the AC3 controls on the video, I talk about the 3 modes each zone can be in – off, manual, and auto. Off and manual are pretty self explanatory. The auto mode will allow you to use a PocketWizard feature called “power tracking.” Power tracking will allow you to set your lights to automatically adjust with any Aperture or ISO changes you make on the camera. For example, if you are shooting at F4.0 but then decide to shoot at F5.6, your lights will automatically add a stop of light. I don’t use the power tracking mode, but i’m sure there are a lot of people out there that will find it handy.
There are so many ways that the AC3 can improve your entire photo shoot. I barely touch on this in the video, because quite simply, I could go on and on about it. Even on those shoots where you are laying on the ground to get that interesting perspective and you find you need to adjust your light power. Without moving, just spin the AC3 dial, done. This is where I would like to point out that, yes, I’m voicing all of these things as “convenient” scenarios which the AC3 provides. The truth is if something is easy you are WAY more likely to do it, rather than if something was harder to do. Make sense? Let’s take the laying on the ground and shooting example I just gave. If you are on the ground and notice your light is not providing the right exposure, are you going to continuously get up, change the light, shoot, get up, change the light? I bet not as many times as you would if you could just spin a dial on the top of your camera, getting your exposure exactly where you want it. There is a limit for all of us in most real world situations where we draw the line as to what we feel is “worth” doing or even repeatedly doing, and the rest are “corners” that we cut. If the AC3 can make some of those time consuming things, like eliminating a 50 foot walk every time you need to adjust the power on your backlight, you’re much more likely to fix it until it’s perfect, rather than settling for something that is tolerable. Often times it doesn’t even boil down to our own limits, but time. Time is usually a pressing constraint in all corners of life, and the AC3 literally seems to rip a hole in space-time, allowing us to get so much more out of two hours of shooting.
So, the AC3 makes us more efficient shooters, allowing faster and better photos with less work, and ultimately fabricating more time to use as we see fit, whether that is spending more time with the client to make more amazing photos, or if that is relaxing at home. When I first started shooting with the AC3, my thought was, “gee, this is nice.” I didn’t feel like it wasn’t life changing, I didn’t feel like it was a big deal, just nice. But… the full realization to understanding how much faster and easier the AC3 made my shoots was clearly apparent when I tackled a shoot without the AC3 after getting adjusted to using it for a couple months. I had forgotten how much footwork the AC3 eliminated from each and every shoot. It’s like the rest of things in life, I guess, you don’t miss it until it’s gone. You can better believe I was packing that AC3 the very next shoot. I can easily say the AC3 was 80 bucks very well spent. Once you get comfy using the AC3, you’ll feel stupid that you ever shot without it.
If you have questions about the AC3 or any of the other PocketWizard gear that is required to make your specific lighting setup work with it, hit me up with a comment below, or see pocketwizard.com.