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Pixel X800C Flash Preview/Review

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Pixel gave me the opportunity to test their newest flash. Currently this is the pre production model so the look and functionality may change.

The Pixel X800C is a Canon ETTL-II flash. It can act as a ttl wireless master and slave via both radio and optical. It boasts guide number of 60 @ 100ISO at 200mm.

Features/Specs:
-GN 60 @ 200mm 100iso
-Manual and auto zoom
-TTL/M/Mult Flash modes
-Radio FSK 2.4Ghz and optical master and slave.
-1-500Hz Stroboscopic flash
-360 degree head adjustment with lock adjustment.
-Manual power 1/1-1/128 in 1/3rd increments
-Recycle time 2.5sec 1/1 power with Eneloop’s
-dot matrix lcd screen
-Power 4xAA batteries
-USB, PC, and Battery pack ports
-EV and FEB 1/3 power increments
-Battery Life 180 flashes at 1/1 with Sanyo Eneloop’s
-USB firmware upgrades

First impressions:

When I got the flash it came in a nice box well packaged. The flash was in its pouch. It was in a bubble wrap protective pouch also. The pouch has been re-designed and now you can wear it on your belt two different ways nice touch. Holding the flash I really liked the size and the improvements it had over the mago. Now it has rubber seals on the sides of the head and a button to press to lock and release the head. This is exactly the way that my Canon 580EXII is. It is a nice and welcome feature. Now heavy modifiers will be more secure. However make sure and press the button to turn it. :)

The locking foot is again the canon style locking foot.. I am not a big fan of dial locks anymore. I guess I have been spoiled. They work but they are a Pain to tighten. I am glad manufacturers are moving toward the canon style lock for third party on camera flashes.

The flash it self is very well designed and has clean lines. The LCD screen seems to have a tighter dot pitch than the mago making it seem more crisper. I also like the size. The flash has all the normal things you would expect of a quality flash.. The head rotation, and the wide angle panel and bounce card use is well done..

img_0001 Large Dot-matrix LCD screen:
One feature I am seeing being added to more and more flashes is a dot matrix screen. While this may be a tad more expensive it really adds to the flexibility and usable interface if designed right.
img_0001_01 Button Layout:
The layout of the buttons seems to be intuitive. The top row you have dynamically depending now hats on the LCD then you have a mode button, the dial and ok, and then of course the on off and lock switch.
IMG_7492 - Version 2 Quick lock lever
One feature that has started showing up in some third party flashes is the quick locking shoe. This one is canon style. That type of locking shoe in my opinion is much better than dial locks.
IMG_7487 - Version 2 Ports:
The Pixel X800C comes with a HV port *need peel brand pack*, PC port, and a thread mount for Canon accessories. It also has a micro usb port for fw updates. I kind of was disappointed we did not see a 3.5mm port here they are much more reliable than a PC port and becoming more standard.
IMG_7485 - Version 2 Battery Compartment:
The battery compartment is what you would expect. The door is smooth to close and locks in place.
IMG_7485IMG_7511 Diffuser panel and bounce card.
The normal diffuser panel standard on many flashes now days so nice to have. It goes in and out smoothly and is not flimsy.

Usage:

This flash like the mago was quite intuitive. I was able to pick up and use. I did have to check to see how to get into s1 and s2 mode in the manual but everything else I was was able to find.

I love the locking head. This helps when using modifiers on camera. The locking head is just like my Canon 580EXII it also has rubber seals on the side. I do not know if it is weather sealed like a Canon flash but I would assume the seals help some if it gets splashed.

I normally take the flash out for a spin in the quick moving situations. What else is quick than my kids playing. I was able to keep up with them in bounce. I had to remember though the head locks and not to force.

One of the things that I do not like and wish could change is for example when you go to bounce with say a Canon 580EXII it goes to 24mm for bounce when the head is tilted up or down.. You can of course bypass this but manually setting the zoom. With the X800C it will not reset the zoom when tilting. It also when in a tilt position zoom with the lens. I normally have to switch to manual zoom to over ride this and get my wide bounce.

I would use this flash fine on paid shoots.

Power testing:

I saw that the guide number is 60 @ 200mm and the Mago is 65 @200. It seems to not to be as powerful as I would like it compared to the other flashes I have tested. It is more powerful than the YN568EX but not as powerful at zoom levels than my other flashes. It still is a powerful flash and I do not see any handicap using it.

E-TTL testing:
I wanted to test out the EV accuracy between my Canon 580 EXII and the X800C seemed to perform well. The X800C goes -3EV to +3 EV. Main issue I discovered was when you put the flash in optical or radio master modes. You got a 1 stop in exposure drop.

HSS testing:

The X800C seems to perform will in HSS work. On camera and off camera with my YN622C works well. It has enough power to help in mormal situations. It works with the YN622C fine off camera in TTL with HSS. I was able to use this outside under a pavilion on a bright day to expose the background correctly while lighting the subject.

Multi-mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. The lower the power the more pulses you can get in of course. It seems pretty easy to setup.

IMG_7495

 

Manual mode:

The X800C has power adjustments in the 1/3 increment’s in manual mode. You can also use in s1 and s2 off camera.

IMG_7494

 

Wireless Master and Slave:

One thing the X800C has that even some high price third party flashes don’t have is master mode in addition to slave. Even more impressive is that this can be with optical or radio. You can do X800C to X800C or, you can add in combination of Pixel King and Pixel King Pro system. This is not compatible with the Canon RT system.

You can control the functions through either the flash its self or through the camera flash control menus.

 

On flash control:

Optical
IMG_7496

Radio
IMG_7497

In camera menu control:

VRAM3

VRAM9

VRAM5

VRAM10

VRAM12

TTL Slave Functionality:

You have the ability to set the flash to ttl slave in group A, B, or C across 4 channels.

IMG_7498

S1 S2 slaves:

You have the ability to do standard optical slave modes. One mode is trigger on first flash. The other mode is if you are using t/l flashes also and it will ignore the ttl pre flash.
IMG_7502

IMG_7500

 

 

Over heat testing:

The X800C has a sensor based overheat setup. With sensors in the head and body. I did some abuse testing sorta bypassing the sensors bu opening the bater door. Not a good idea. I have been informed my beta unit was bad and they were unable to duplicate it. However either way I would suggest letting the protection do its job and when it gives you there over heat message let it cool off.

Issues:

As above I saw an exposure difference by 1 stop when switching into optical or radio master.  Pixel is working on fixing this. Also I ran into an issue with getting an ERR20 when firing  the flash on my camera without first wooing the flash to recycle. I had the same issue with my first YN568EX and it was an improper ready signal returned to the flash. I informed Pixel also and they are working on correcting. Also I had to abuse overheat test failure which looks to be my beta unit.

Conclusions:

I really like this flash. Its user interface is easy its a nice size. Has a great display..  It is well built and sturdy. I always love the canon quick releases. The feature set is great for a third party flash. Currently there are more and more flashes with builtin radio. However its nice to see another one and it is my first TTL flash with builtin radio.

Pros:

-Good build
-Large clear LCD
-USB firmware upgrades
-Slide locking foot
-Master and slave modes Radio and Optical
-Sensor based overheat monitoring
-HSS

Cons:
-Proprietary HV port
-Use of PC port instead of the almost new standard 3.5mm port
-No 1/4-20 mount thread on side.
-With YN622C you can not do manual power adjustments
-Will not work with Cactus V6 because digital protocol does not match Canons exactly and no analog quench pin.

Pricing and availability information not available yet.

Voeloon V760 Canon Speedlight review

2

Yet another installment of flash review time, This time I got to test a flagship speedlight from Voeloon. I have been quite impressed with the quality of Voeloon products so far. I already reviewed the Voeloon 331EX and I have been enjoying using it. The Voeloon V760 however is a much more powerful flagship flash model.

What comes in the box:

● Voeloon V760 Flash
● Flash soft pouch
● Flash Stand
● Manual
● Warranty Card
● Flash pamplet

IMG_6020_DxO

Features:
● HSS 1/8000
● E-TTL II For version Canon
● Compatible with Canon/Nikon wireless flash system(master and slave, Can exposure when as wireless master)
● Guide Number: GN60(ISO100, 180mm); GN38(ISO100, 35mm)
● Support Multi function & Front-Curtain/Rear-Curtain sync
● Fast recycle time: 2S(Ni-Mh battery)
● Auto/Manual zoom (24-180mm)
● Dot-matrix LCD & LED backlit
● Support on-camera or wireless TTL exposure compensation & exposure lock
● Equipped with indicator light for wireless remote mode
● Support red-eye reduction flash mode
● F1/F2 optical flash mode
● Support custom menu, memory function, sound monitoring
● Metal hot shoe, Low power tips & key lock
● Overheating protection(Thermal cut-out)
● PC terminal & external power source socket
● Built-in wide panel & bounce card

First impressions:
The flash was nicely and cleanly packed. The box was well padded. Inside everything was layed out nicely.. My first thought when I took out the manual was that it was thick and similar to brand flash manuals. There was a nice warranty sheet with it similar to the ones you would get with canon equipment. I love flashes with flash cases or pouches.. It keeps the flash nice and scratch free in a busy bag.. It has a flash stand that comes with it and fits nicely in a pocket inside the flash case.. The feel of the flash makes you think now this is a good quality flash.

Build Quality:
The flash is built well I would say it is up there with the brand flashes. The build between the Pixel Mago and the V760 is a toss up also.. Seems most flashes now days are getting better and better built catching up to brand flashes. Photographers starting now days are definitely spoiled with the affordable options out there. I do a thing called the squeeze test. It is where I very firmly squeeze different parts of the flash determining the amount of flex it has in it to tell the thickness and build of the flash.. The V760 is about on par with my Canon 580EXII which is basically my base line in testing quality. The V760 has much less flex than my YN568EX flashes. I did notice on the V760 that if tapping the back side buttons they are a tad lose causing them to tilt and move so the text gets out of line. Now that is nit picky but I try and mention every aspect.

<IMG_6089 Large dot matrix screen/Button Layout:
Normaly I am use to orange or green screens this screen is a pleasant sorta neutral grey. It is bright and I am able to view it from an angle that would be helpfully while on stand. The button layout is intuitive and easy to use..
IMG_6080 Quick lock lever
One feature that really lacked on third party flashes is quick release leavers. You always had to fight with the wheel. Voeloon implemented a quick lock lever almost exactly like the Canon leaver. It is a very nice feature I am seeing more and more of this in flashes. It brings a smile to my face when I see this.
IMG_6092 Ports:
The Voeloon V760 comes with a Canon Style HV port, PC port. No thread for mounting canon accessories. As with the Mago I kind of was disappointed we did not see a 3.5mm port here they are much more reliable than a PC port and becoming more standard.
IMG_6090 Battery Compartment:
The battery compartment almost exactly matches the Nikon style compartment. The door is not flimsy and is quality made. The battery symbols are painted white and easy to read what is positive and negative. I like this instead of just engraved only symbols
IMG_6093
IMG_6097
Diffuser panel and bounce card.
The normal diffuser panel standard on many flashes now days so nice to have. I however rarely use it or bounce cards any more. It still is nice to have.

In Use:
I did not have any shoots during my test period, however I had a challenging event. Christmas morning with 10+ kids at a grandparents house. In the pure ciaos of Christmas morning I was using the Voeloon V760 to capture the children opening their presents capturing those special moments.. The flash kept up and I did not really have any noticeable issues with focus acquisition. The flash indicates its dual processor that assists in this and exposure not not sure I can tell a difference but seems to work good. The af focus light has horizontal lines that cover all of the focus points on my 60d. The Lines are much more defined than my Mago focus spread. Also the light is in line with the cameras view unlike my YN568EX and my YN622C which always ends up a tad high.

IMG_6438

IMG_6273

I got to test out the optical ttl slave with my popup master on my 60D which worked well with line of site. I was able to set my Voeloon 331EX and V760 on the floor and do a quick setup photos for the girls for my mom on Christmas. I was also able to get the v760 to work with both the YN622C and the Cactus V6 transceivers. More to come on this..

IMG_6336

Like many of my other flashes when bouncing you need to use FEC, however it seemed like I did not need to use as much as with my Canon 580EXII which normally sits at +1ev all the time… See further down for testing..

E-TTL Exposures:

The Voeloon V760 seems to be exposing subjects quite well with consistent results bounce and direct. When bouncing like all of my other flashes normally you have to add a tad FEC. With the Coellon V760 it seems I did not have to add any more than I have had to add with my Canon 580EXII.

Focus assist:

As mentioned before the focus beam is a nice spread covering the focus points of my Canon 60D. It seems that it is a has the sharp points but yet illuminates more than just the sharp lines.. In testing the YN focus assist lights seem a bit high the others are more to the middle of the viewfinder. Im sad to say but the Canon 580EXII is on the lower end of AF assist spread although it still does a good job.. The YN systems are a tad sharper lights. From my understanding YN uses a laser type of light it looks like unlike the others.

 

Voeloon V760 AF assist Light:

v760

Canon 580EXII Center point/ All AF assist Light:

canonIMG_0011

Pixel Mago AF assist Light:

Avantek DF660 AF assist Light:

avantek

YN568EX AF assist Light:

yn568EX

YN622C AF assist Light:

yn622c

Flash Spread in zoom:

One thing that impressed me was the quality of the flash spread on zoom.. I compared the V760 against the Canon 580EXII. It seems the V760 has a smoother distributed spread in zoom positions than my Canon 580EXII this was a pleasant surprise. See the following comparison.

spread1
spread2
Power Testing:

The Voeloon did very well compared with my other TTL flashes in my arsenal.. I did regionally test against all my flashes including manual but the spread sheet go out of hand so I narrowed it to my E-TTL flashes I have.. Now take theses tests with a grain of salt I tried to keep as controlled of an environment as I could so they should all be the same.. Theses all were measured with a light meter set on 100iso 1/250 shutter speed

flash_power

Tilt head and swivel:

A must have for me in the flash is the ability to tilt and swivel the head. With this flash I am able to angle it and bounce off the walls and roof around me to get the lighting effect I need. The rotation is 270 degrees and 90 degrees up and down.

F1 and F2 slave:

A feature that basically I have come to expect in flashes and actually if reviewing flashes that do not have slave options. I point this out as a must now days to manufacturers. F1 means it fires on the initial flash.. This means that if you are using other manual flashes this is the option you use. If using TTL flashes set it to F2 so the optical slave will ignore the ttl pre flash and fires upon the main flash.

TTL master and Slave:

One really cool feature is the ability to either be master or  slave to canons E-TTL IR flash system. Most third party flashes will allow you to be slave but being the master is a big positive. Having the master control on flash is good. I got to try this out while taking pictures of my Nieces at christmas. It worked really well. You can set the flash on camera to emit or not emit to the scene. Also all the in camera menus work correctly it seems. So you can managed the master functions either through the flash control menu, or from the flash its self.

                                 Slave notify pulse
output_Nnv7aJ

Multi-mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. The lower the power the more pulses you can get in of course. It seems pretty easy to setup.

Audio feedback:

One feature that many brand name flashes do not have but off brand flashes do is a ready beep. This is very important to me during a shoot because I know when the flash is ready to fire again with out having to be looking. When you are sitting there taking photos of your client quickly you do not have the time to be distracted looking for the ready light to change.. With a ready beep you can keep your view focused on the subject through the viewfinder to get the best photos possible. I am however not a fan of a beep each menu change. I believe this needs to be an option difference between ready beep and if you want menu beep.

Over Heat Protection:
The V760 has builtin over heat protection to protect the tube and flash from buying up. The overheat protection kicks in after 25 consecutive full power pops.. It works correctly. I tried to ask if there was a secondary system besides just the count could not get verification. I know some flashes have the number limit then they have a secondary over heat sensor to fully shut it down.. Voeloon said you can turn it off for 5 min and turn it back on.. You can disable overheat protection in the sub menu but I would highly suggest not turning it off. Unless you feel like you want to fry your flash for fun.. I would strongly suggest against it. Turning over heat protection off will shorten the life of your flash or completely burn it up.. I did test the feature and it shut the flash off after 25 shots.

Recycle time:
They indicate recycle time full power with enloop NiMh batteries are at 2 seconds. I have not had a chance to test this. Look back for an update on testing and comparison to there flashes.

Radio trigger compatibility:
Of course one big thing is many of us don’t necessarily want to switch trigger systems.. So it is nice when flashes work with existing systems and this is the case with the Voeloon V760… Of course it will work with all center pin fire triggers. However now days we are concerns with triggers that allow for remote power control.

YN622C:
The Voeloon V760 seems to work fully with the YN622C Manual and E-TTL control. FEC does not show actual on the flash adjustment however the flash output still changes so as fully as I can tell the YN622C is fully compatible.

IMG_6765

Cactus V6:
The Cactus V6 you can not manually create a profile because the V760 uses a digital protocol, however there are existing profiles that work with the V760. To use the V760 with the Cactus V6 you need to be at Cactus V6 FW level v1.1.006. It seems some older and newer FW versions do not work.. I am going to address this with cactus but v1.1.006 does work. You can use the Godox v860C profile or the YN568EX* profile. I would suggest using the Godox v860c profile because the flash power is a closer match on the v860 than the YN568EX..

IMG_9014

Voeloon future Canon TTL trigger:
Voeloon developed the 810-RT trigger for Nikon they are currently developing one for Canon that will work with their E-TTL flashes among others. I may be reviewing this later on so more to come.

Summary:
The Voeloon V760 is a good well built flash. Its price point is in the mid to high 100$. I would expect the flash to be of quality and it does not disappoint.. It has some touch competition now days. I feel my self putting this flash on my camera just as much as my Canon flash.. It is powerful and able to keep up with the situations I need it for. The power output and performance of this flash I have no problem using it in professional use.

Pros:
-Well built flash, seems good quality in construction
-Feature packed
-Large LCD screen that is easy to read
-Intuitive controls and use.
-Manual and E-TTL
-HSS
-Cactus V6 and YN622C compatibility *see review text for Cactus V6 FW notes*
-Canon like quick lock shoe

Negatives:
-Lack of usb port for firmware upgrades
-PC port instead of 3.5mm
-Lack of 1/4-20 mounting thread “I always want a 1/4-20 thread on the side Like RF60 and LP180 for stand mounting but that’s picky.”
-Price *I feel that the quality of the flash the price makes sense*

Price: ~169 on ebay ~189-200 on Amazon..

Voeloon 331EX Speedlight review

IMG_6032

I got the opportunity to test the Voeloon 331EX flash. Now most of the time I test manufactures flagship most powerful flashes. I will be testing the flagship Voeloon v760 also so you will get that type of review coming up. Please understand this is a smaller compact speed light. Even though its small it is still a well worth it lash. I normal walk around with a large speed light on my camera when I have my Canon 60D without the battery grip on it almost seems over bearing. It swing around violently. What is neat with this speed light is it is smaller and more compact while still producing great results. Now this is not necessarily the best speed light if you are going shooting with high ceilings at weddings. However for general use as the average every day photographer this may be for you.

One thing that is neat with this speed light is that it has a built in LED video light like the Pixel Mago I tested earlier. This is very cool especially when I want to quickly get a video of the kids in a low light environment.. This gives more versatility to the flash. More to come on this later.

What comes in the box:

– Voeloon 331EX flash
– Flash soft pouch
– Flash stand
– Manual
– Warranty card
– Flash pamplet

IMG_5973_DxO

Lets get down to the features..

-This is a TTL flash the canon version is E-TTL II..
– HSS 1/8000
– LED Lamp
– Can be master and slave for Nikon and Canon systems..
– GN of 30 at 100iso and 50mm.. GN: 23 at 100iso and 24mm
– Manual zoom 24-50mm
– Recycle time of 2 seconds with Ni-MH batteries
– S1/FS optical slave
– Dot-Matrix Back lit LCD.
– Rear and Front Curtain sync.
– Exposure compensation and exposure lock local and wireless
– Ready beep, and custom memory
– Metal shoe with canon style locking mechanism..
– Over heat protection
– Wireless indicator light

This seems like pretty much the standard ttl flash list plus a few more niceties that many brand name flashes don’t have like F1 and F2, and ready beeps.. I like both of theses so you can easily add them into existing flash setups. Now days I almost demand those features in new flashes.. F1 and F2 slaves when testing the Pixel Mago I basically indicated to be valuable this is a must in today’s market. They listened and added it later in firmware.

The following table shows the full specifications together with Speedlights.net test results for the 2 mid-range speedlite offers from Canon: 320EX vs. 430EX II.

Model information
Brand Canon Voeloon
Model 320EX 331EX
Class mid-range mid-range
First introduction 2011 2012
Available new? yes yes
Output specs
Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
24 23
Flash duration spec
(full power)
unspecified unspecified
Recycle time spec
(full power)
2.3 sec 3.0 sec alkaline, 2.0 sec NiMH
Wireless Flash
Manual power settings No Manual settings 1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 in 1/3 stop increments
PC sync port no no
Optical slave no Yes F1/F2
Other trigger Canon wireless TTL slave mode Canon wireless E-TTL Master/Slave mode *Canon version of flash*Nikon wireless i-TTL Master/Slave mode *Nikon version of the flash*
Standby mode configurable (C.Fn-01) configurable (Normal, Short. Long, off)
Flash features
Swivel flash head -180 to +90 degrees -180 to +90 degrees
Flash head tilt 0 to +90 degrees 0 to +90 degrees
Manual zoom head 24 + 50 24 + 50
Auto zoom 24 + 50 (no auto zoom, manual slideout) 24 + 50 (no auto zoom, manual slideout)
Bounce card / 2nd reflector no / no no / no
LCD display no yes
Flash foot material, type metal, standard ISO (Canon) metal, standard ISO (Canon)
Power supply
Batteries used 4 x AA 4 x AA
External power source no no
Nikon TTL
D-TTL na na
i-TTL na yes *Nikon version*
CLS wireless slave na yes *Nikon version*
CLS wireless master na yes *Nikon version*
Canon TTL
E-TTL(II) yes yes *Canon version*
E-TTL(II) wireless slave yes yes *Canon version*
E-TTL(II) wireless master no yes *Canon version*
TTL features
AF assist beam yes (flash tube / LED in live view) yes (flast tube or LED video light)
Stroboscopic mode no Yes 1-90 times 1hz-199hz switches to 25times starts droping times from 90 after 5hz.. Max times at 199hz is 25.
Exposure compensation on the flash no -3 to +3 EV
Sensor size detection no no
Modeling light yes yes
High speed sync yes yes
Price ~199$ ~149$

First impressions:

When I got the package it came in a nice box. It was well padded and packed.  The  flash came with a full well written manual,  a warranty card similar to what you get with old canon equipment and lenses.  It comes with a flash stand and soft flash pouch for protection and travel. The flash is neat.. I am use to a large flash so it is kind of cool to have a more compact and flexible flash. This is something easy to throw in a smaller bag or fitting into your pocket while still having the options to be able to provide full use and much of the same features in larger flashes. I think I will be using this often for every day average use. It is a flash you can just throw in your pocket or bag grab your camera and go take pictures.

Build quality and Physical comparisons:

The build quality on the flash is very good for third party flashes. It has none to very very little play when squeezing it unlike my YN568EX which has a decent amount of play. It looks well polished.. Looks to basically be biased off the Canon 320EX design. There are however some differences.  Mainly theses differences include that the  331EX has quite a few more features.  What is noticeable by just looking at the flash is that the Canon 320EX has a manual switch settings on the back of the flash. The Voeloon 331EX has a full LCD interface with intuitive controls and a dot matrix LCD screen.

In use:

Using this speed light is nice. It is one of the first ones I go in grab because of its size.  I thought a purfict time to test would be the rush of kids opening up thier Christmas presents.  I only braught the Voeloon 331EX and the v760 with me on my trip out of town. No other flashes.  The Voeloon 331EX by default when trying to focus lights its LED light up illuminating the subject so focus can be obtained.  It worked pretty well much less annoying than with the built-in popup flash that pulses like a 1970s disco on drugs when it is trying to obtain focus..

It is easy to quickly adjust the FEC when needed on the back of the flash of course you can do this on the camera also. All you have to do is hit right or left on the buttons to increase or decrease the FEC in 1/3 stops.. It is very intuitive and easy.

TTL exposure and use:

TTL-E meetering seems to be quite accurate. Like many other flashes I use bounce mainly as expected like with others I had to add +.3-+1 exposure compensation to around for the changing bounce. However this is normal and I even need to do it on my Canon 580EXII..  I used it for fast moving christmas photos of kids to test its flexibility in the craziness.

 

Focus assist light:

The focus assist light normally for bigger speed lights is a ir light or for like popup flashes you have the pulse of light to gain focus. The 331EX gives two options. You can choose style rapid pulse of flash to gain focus, or you can chose the default option of the led video lite lighting up the subject to obtain focus. This in my opinion is better than the pulse of flashing light.  However the or light with focus patterns of larger speed lights in my opinion is a less distracting and better option in use.

IMG_6077

Remote shutter release:

One interesting feature I noticed was the ability to use the flash as a remote IR shutter trigger with compatible cameras.  This is kinda cool for those that do not already have a trigger. However it is just a single trigger you do not have the option of a 2 second delay like canons standard IR trigger.

IMG_6056
Locking shoe:

What is really cool is instead of using the locking dial that most third party flashes. The 331EX uses a locking lever. This looks to be well made and very very similar to the Canon version. I really like locking leavers. They are much better than having to tighten the dial never knowing of its tight enough..

IMG_6034

LCD screen:

The LCD screen seems clear and easy to read. Visibility though starts to suffer if looking at it from more than a 45 degree angle from any direction. So don’t expect to be able to read it when your looking up  at it from directly below unless it is tilted toward you.

IMG_6051

Flash Head Zoom:

The flash head has two positions wide and telephoto. Those are set at 24mm and 50mm.  Because of its size there is no auto focus motor in the flash it seems. so you have to manually slide it in and out. Most of the time I bounce and stay at 24mm so not to big of a deal with me.

Tilt head ans swivel:

A must have for me in the flash is the ability to tilt and swivel the head. With this flash I am able to angle it and bounce off the walls and roof around me to get the lighting effect I need. The rotation is 270 degrees and 90 degrees up and down.  This is standard for a mid range flash and well welcome feature.

IMG_6078

F1 and F2 slave:

A feature that basically I have come to expect in flashes and actually if reviewing flashes that do not have slave options. I point this out as a must now days to manufacturers.  F1 means it fires on the initial flash.. This means that if you are using other manual flashes this is the option you use. If using TTL flashes set it to F2 so the optical slave will ignore the ttl pre flash and fires upon the main flash.

TTL master and Slave:

One really cool feature is the ability to either control or be a slave to canons E-TTL IR flash system. Most third party flashes will allow you to be slave but being the master is a big positive. Having the master control on this small of a flash package is good. I got to try this out while taking pictures of my Nieces at christmas. It worked really well. You can set the flash on camera to emit or not emit to the scene. Also all the in camera menus work correctly it seems. So you can managed the master functions either through the flash control menu, or from the flash its self.

Multi-mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. The lower the power the more pulses you can get in of course. It seems pretty easy to setup.

Audio feedback:

One feature that many brand name flashes do not have but off brand flashes do is a ready beep. This is very important to me during a shoot because I know when the flash is ready to fire again with out having to be looking. When you are sitting there taking photos of your client quickly you do not have the time to be distracted looking for the ready light to change.. With a ready beep you can keep your view focused on the subject through the viewfinder to get the best photos possible.

Video Light:

One feature that is pretty cool and I have not seen on any other flash besides the Pixel Mago that has the LED light built in. It is a cool addition to use in a pinch. However like the Mago you can not have the LED light and the Flash at the same time. So it is not suitable for use as a modeling light in say a softbox. In practice this light is handy for normal use. I used it getting video of my kids opening presents on christmas and you could drastically see a difference in with the light and without it. It is definitely useful. Don’t expect a very powerful light but it serves the purpose.

Conclusions:

For the price and size this flash is a good value.. It is very much feature packed and easy to use.. It was definitely model after the Canon 320EX however they have majorly improved upon it the desing. It is a very featured packed flash far exceeding the feature set in the Canon 320EX flash. They have added a whole new control interface and a LCD interface.  The build quality is actually on par with the Canon flashes I have.  I am decently impressed with this flash and it is a perfect all around flash for mid range use. Now I would not go and shoot a wedding with this flash because of the midrange power of it. However for every day use of pictures I need it is perfect light weight and useful.

 

Positives:

-Smaller flash
-Feature packed
-LCD Interface
-LED light
-Intuitive controls
-Build quality
-Manual power Levels.
-TTL
-Cactus V6 and YN622C flash trigger compatibility. *Note make sure and update the Cactus V6 to latest firmware and use Canon 320EX profile

Negatives:

-Mid range power
-No IR focus assist in lue of LED or pulse focus assist
-Manual zoom adjustment

 

Where to buy:
You can find the 331EX on Amazon and Ebay most ship from china.. Prices ranged from 148$ – 168$ US

Pixel Mago Flash Review

Danbo and the Pixel Mago

As you know I do the occasional beta test and product review of photography equipment. I was given the opportunity to test and review the New Pixel Mago X-600 speedlight. I was excited because it looked very promising.

The Pxel Mago is a Canon ETTL-II flash. It can act as a ttl wireless master and slave. It boasts guide number of 65 @ 100ISO at 200mm.

Features/Specs:
-GN 65 @ 200mm 100iso
-Manual and auto zoom
-TTL/M/Mult Flash modes
-1-500Hz Stroboscopic flash
-360 degree head adjustment.
-Manual power 1/1-1/128 in 1/3rd increments
-Recycle time 4sec 1/1 power
-dot matrix lcd screen
-Power 4xAA batteries
-USB, PC, and Battery pack ports
-EV and FEB 1/3 power increments
-Battery Life 150 flashes at 1/1 with Sanyo Eneloop’s
-LED fill light for video..
-Over heat warning on flash tube, lcd video light, and battery’s
-AF assist beam
-s1 s2 optical slave modes..
-USB firmware upgrades

First impressions:

The flash came in and I of course tore in the package like a kid at Christmas. However I was like wait, I need to do unboxing pictures first. :) My first impressions of the box was it is very colorful. Inside the flash is protected by a very well designed padded air bag. The flash also is in a flash case. It came with a flash stand, diffuser, flash, case, and manual. My first impression of the the flash was wow this is big. Next thought was cool a Canon like locking foot and wow look at that lcd. The build is quite solid. I would say on par with my RF60 and close if not the same as my Canon 580EXII, and SB24. Giving it the head squeeze test. It did not flex like my YN568EX flashes on the head. Next I noticed that the rotation of the head is not all clicky like most flashes. It takes a little pressure to turn but not bad.There are minor resistance ports to get an idea on where you are on the head adjustment. The resistance will be good with heavy modifiers. There is a grove that looks like it would be a place for the weather seals on a canon flash. I pointed this out. I don’t know if they modified an existing case. Or if they are planning seals. I pointed this out.

I did notice that the off/on/lock switch takes a bit of pressure to turn on. More than my Canon 580EXII.. The adjustment dial moves a little easier than the Canon 580EXII. It has the usual battery pack port, pc sycn, and canon accessory thread. However the Battery pack is not Canon compatible. You have to get a Pixel specific battery pack.

IMG_0240 - Version 2 Large Dot-matrix LCD screen:
One really cool feature that we are starting to see in flashes is LCD screens that can be modified via firmware. One of the most flexible ways is by using a Dot-matrix lcd screen. The Pixel Mago has this. I hope it is used in the future for refinements and so on.
IMG_0343 (1) Button Layout:
The layout of the buttons seems to be intuitive. The top row you have dynamically depending now hats on the LCD then you have a mode button, the dial and ok, and then of course the on off and lock switch.
IMG_0341 (1) Quick lock lever
One feature that really lacked on third party flashes is quick release leavers. You always had to fight with the wheel. Pixel implemented a quick lock lever almost exactly like the Canon leaver however if you look at the action it is slightly different. However still works good. I tried to force the flash off. It seems to hold well.
IMG_0342 (1) Ports:
The Pixel Mago comes with a HV port *need peel brand pack*, PC port, and a thread mount for Canon accessories. I kind of was disappointed we did not see a 3.5mm port here they are much more reliable than a PC port and becoming more standard.
IMG_0344 (1) Battery Compartment:
The battery compartment is what you would expect. However Wait a second is that a USB port.. Yes thats right kiddies firmware upgrades.
IMG_0352 Video Light and Panel:
One unique feature is the video led up front. It gives another quick light source with the ability for modern DSLR’s to capture video. In addition we have the panel for the sensors and the IR focus array.
IMG_0376 (1)IMG_0372 Diffuser panel and bounce card.
The normal diffuser panel standard on many flashes now days so nice to have.

Usage:

This flash I was able to pick right up and start using. It is quite intuitive to use it seems. I keep however trying to do fec adjustment the way my 580EXII does by pressing the set button and turning.. I am going to talk to pixel about if this can be added to the Mago. The slide touch is a nice tocuh not many third party flashes have this at all. It looks like it is models after canons, however it is not exactly the same mecinisum in comparison. Performance on camera seems on par with my other ttl flashes. with bounce I did have to add a tad of FEC co compinsate for the bounce. This is normal with every single one of my ttl flashes. I have been using it a few weeks as my main flash. Works well as bounce as expected. I have not occasionally ev adjustments However that is normal for my other flashes also..

I have been flowing my quick moving daughter around and it works great..

IMG_0526

Power testing:

The first thing I saw when I got this flash was the guide number. I was like wow that’s impressive. So I had to test it out my self. It is kind of hard to compare it against competition without doing it at the separate zoom levels. I have noticed over the years much 3rd party flashes verry depending on zoom level and brand flashes are a little more consistent. The mayo performed pretty well for being a third party flash. My test setup was the flashes at full power at 10 feet 100iso.
Photo-2014-07-28-18-32-59_0483

power

E-TTL testing:
I wanted to test out the EV accuracy between my different flashes in my collection and the Mago seemed to perform well. The mayo goes -3EV to +3 EV what I thought was kind of nice is it will show ether LAMP or CAM next to the EV setting to tell you if the EV has been adjusted on the camera or from the flash.

IMG_0363

In testing the Mago seems right in what you would expect with E-TTL flashes. Mosibly not as refined as the Canon but it will work just fine. My set up was a tripod with camera static switch out the flashes, and testing 1 stop EV values.. Unfortunately on -3 it was to low for the light meter so you will see DNR which means did not register.

combined

HSS testing:

The Mago seems to perform will in HSS work. This worked off camera with YN622C’s and on camera fine.. Of course you lose some output power in HSS but that is expected.

IMG_0516

Multi-mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. The lower the power the more pulses you can get in of course. It seems pretty easy to setup.

IMG_0368

Manual mode:

The Mago has power adjustments in the 1/3 increment’s. It seems set on 1/3 increments even if you sent the camera at 1/2 increments although this may be expected.

IMG_0367

Master Mode:

One thing the Mago does over even higher priced third party flashes is it has a master mode. The master mode you can control basically everything you can with a canon flash. Only issue I seem to see when using in master mode it emanates a slight pulse like the on camera popup master does.. So as far as I can tell it can on use IR as master. You can set for the flash to emit to add to the picture or not but either way it still needs a pulse. So outdoor use may be limited.

You can control the functions through either the flash its self or through the camera flash control menus.

Pixel Mago Master

On flash control:

IMG_0365

In camera menu control:

VRAM3

VRAM9

VRAM5

VRAM10

VRAM12

Slave Functionality:

You have the ability to set the flash to ttl slave in group A, B, or C across 4 channels.

IMG_0366

Issues:

The only issue I saw was when adjusting the ev the display ISO would not match the camera, and some times when you turn it on it would flash a different ISO value. It seems to of not effect the pictures however I believe this can easily be fixed via FW.

Conclusions:

If you want a E-TTL flash with HSS, and master functionality you can not beat the Mago. When I got the flash I was expecting it to be in the 200$ range but it ended up being ~92$ and you can not beat that. My first flash was a Vivitar DF400MZ and was about the same price and was absolute junk. So thing since then have improved leaps and bounds. I am tempted to pick up another one of theses one day if I need an extra flash. As in long term reliability the jury still out but I have yet to really have issues. However like any new flash I normally try and wait a few months to make sure all the kinks are worked out of it before buying. However with fw upgrades it is not really that big of a deal any more.

Pros:
-Low Price
-Good build
-Large clear LCD
-USB firmware upgrades
-Slide locking foot
-Master and slave modes
-HSS
-High guide number

Cons:
-Proprietary HV port
-Use of PC port instead of the almost new standard 3.5mm port
-No 1/4-20 mount thread on side.
-a few bugs like the ISO display bug
-With YN622C you can not do manual power adjustments
-Will not work with Cactus V^ because digital protocol does not match Canons exactly and no analog quench pin.

Availability Now on Ebay or contact pixel directly.

How to: Cactus RF60 Radio HSS

So one of the limitations of the RF60 and the V6 system is there is no actual TTL signals going between the camera and the flash or the transceiver. The problem with this is not just that you can not do ttl. Its that you can not go into HSS without the camera thinking there is a HSS compatible flash on the camera. They way cactus came up with is interesting. Basically either the V6 optical slave or the RF60 optical slave sees the HSS ttl pre flash signal that comes before the shutter starts moving then the RF60 does a HSS pulse to cover the frame. This is fine and dandy except when you get in bright sunlight you have limited use.

My original work around for this was to put my YN622C on camera and have it going to TTL HSS in a soft box with RF60’s slaving of of them it worked. It added a nice extra kick to the light output. I thought to my self is this really the best way.

I then after thinking about it and talking with Elvis over email he reminded me of this post. flashhavoc.com/godox-v850-witstro-radio-trigger-alternati…

I had the idea might as well try this. So what I did was I basically piggy backed a YN622C on top of my Cactus V6 with TTL passthrough. Then I have the pc to 3.5mm sync cable between them. To my surprise I now have the HSS pre signal triggering at the exact correct time. I just set my RF60s off camera to HSS mode. For the heck of it turn off the optical sensor to isolate it to just radio and go for it.

I all the sudden became in heaven. More on this later down but first lets get to the technicalities of your options.

IMG_9325

Note exposures not quite inline with each other.

Option 1: Best in my opinion. YN622C or any other trigger that will do HSS pre signal + Cactus V6 + multiple RF60’s

This will allow you to have a uniform HSS pulse over radio. However you will need a RF60 or a flash that will manually let you enable the HSS pulse without TTL not sure if with the Godox V850 you can do that but I would love to try. The Godox V860C can control the power from the V6 also.

IMG_0747

Option 2: YN622C + Cactus V6 + TTL flashes on V6 off camera
Since the HSS signal is not passed over radio this would mean that these would end up in hyper sync mode. So the pulse will not be as even however you still can add it to other HSS mixes.

IMG_0735

Option 3: YN622C+ Cactus V6 + TTL flashes off camera on V6’s with delay staggering.
This was actually a test out of a request of some one asking questions about the v6 and rf60. they wanted to try and get their older vivitar flashes where they could cover a bream with more light by using the delay. It works fine however not as even as I would like.

No Delay:
IMG_0735

1MS delay
IMG_0736

2MS delay:
IMG_0737

Combined all 3 flashes:
IMG_0738

I mean it is useable however there is to much of a jump at the beginning of each pulse. So its noticeable. If this was adding to other HSS flashes I don’t think it would be much of a problem. However if this was your only source it would be borderline usable. Still a cool thing to test out. :)

I think really the two reasonably usable options are Option 1 and Option 2.

Here is where the real fun comes in so an RF60 Unit is 139.95 so lets just do some math. Now I know you won’t get TTL with this but you still will get full remote power. Lets do this biased on having 4 flashes on a Phottix multi boom for mid day sun photos. More on that later.

Note: I do own RF60s, YN622C’s and YN568EX flashes.

RF60 139.95 x 4 = 559.8 + 1x V6 54.95 + 1x YN622C 43.99 according to amazon. = 658.74

YN568EX 186.75 according to amazon x4 = 747$ + 5x YN622C set of 2 is 83.89 so 83.89×2= 167.78 + single YN622C 43.99 = 958.77

So we have about a 300$ difference. The only difference between the two would be the off camera flashes would be TTL. The RF60 in my tests at 24mm actually is 1/10th of a stop more powerful than the YN568EX at other zones it is much more powerful.

Now would some one go out and buy 4x HSS flashes to do what I’m doing. Probably not. I have them from my beta testing so I am trying all sorts of crazy things. :)

Now to the real world tests.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any one becoming blind by shooting directly into the sun. Also I am not responsible for any live view damage if you feel like thats safer. I highly do not suggest what we did. It was a stupid idea and I saw spots for days.

Setup: 4x Cactus RF60s on a Phottix Multiboom 16 inside a Phottix easy up 28 inch soft box. This is controlled by a Cactus V6 on camera with a YN622C on top providing the pre sync. The cool thing is you actually can add other HSS on YN622C transceivers off camera. We won’t get into that today.

So it is 5pm We have the sorta setting blinding sun. So I think hey lets blind our selves and take pictures of us in front of the sun. Not the best idea for our eye balls but was a good test I feel.

Setup: 4x RF60’s
IMG_9296

Results at about 3 feet or so:

Strobist: F5.0 100ISO 1/8000 shutter speed.

IMG_9298

Wow cool that was fun.. Now lets turn off HSS and just see what we can get with 4x RF60s with a V6 with no YN622 so non HSS.

Strobist: F32 1/250 100iso 4x RF60’s at full power.
Very cool but we see dust on the lens and so on because of the v32 I’m sure there is some sensor dust some where in there.

IMG_9317

I would like to hear about you alls thoughts and ideas, or questions. The testing was fun and now I have a crazy hair brained setup for outside mid day.

Cactus V6 wireless flash transceiver review

v6

Well finally after months and months of testing here is my review. There was a great amount of work done between the testers, and cactus to make this a refined and useful product. I feel we accomplished that.

Disclaimer: I do not work for Cactus, nor do I get paid by cactus for my testing, and reviews. Theses reviews are my own opinion and experiences with the product.

Introduction:

I over the years have acquired flashes as I could afford them. This means I have even different brand flashes. Back in 2008 I did not have enough $ to buy the flash I wanted was the Canon 580EXII. I needed a flash that was powerful enough so I bought a SB-24 for 80$  and I used it for my first wedding I shoot even though I had canon. At the time there was not much on the market relatively low price.  After I got the flash I wanted to start trying off camera flash. I bought a Cactus v4 set in the winter of 2009 and was hooked. Over time I acquired a mixed bag of flashes.  Most of the older flashes I have had been moth balled until I got the Cactus V6. With the Cactus V6 I was able to wake my SB24 from the dead. I have got to use many different types of triggers from full TTL HSS triggers for use with my Canon E-TTL flashes, to standard single pin triggers. This fits some where in between and I like it.

In the past I found my self losing time in having to walk over to my stands and collapse the stand tilt it change the power setting then put it back where it was. This was not a good way of doing things. However at the time it was the only options.  I am a big advocate of speed and being able to do things quickly. I don’t want to waist my clients time nor mine. The quicker and easier I can do something the less stressed I get in time sensitive shoots.  This is where triggers that can remotely adjust power come in.

Now days there are some options, you have third party TTL that are brand locked in.  Also you have a few limited manual triggers that do similar things that the V6 does but are also brand locked in and very limited compatibility.

I like the control of using manual power adjustments, but now I enjoy the freedom of doing this very quickly remotely.

This is where the Cactus V6 comes into play and they have done well.

History of Cactus:

So some people don’t understand why theses are not a certain brand. Cactus over the years has centered its self around brand agnostic philosophy. This is good because I have and work with people who have multiple brand equipment. I always thought ok so they will always stick with one pin firing, and not get into anything to complicated. I was wrong. They were able to innovate and create a multi vendor compatible hot shoe to allow ttl pass through for multiple vendors “canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax”. In addition the multi shoe or what they call the MSS “Multi System Shoe” supports manual power control to most major Nikon, Canon, and Pentax compatible flashes. They do however need to have analog or digital ttl pins for power control. This system is more of a platform so more features may come later via firmware. Who knows. To me the sky’s the limit. However they want to stay backwards compatible.

 

Overview of Cactus V6

What is the Cactus V6 and what can it do?

  • The V6 is a transceiver, so it can act as a radio master or slave receiver in one single unit. So no need to order a specific receiver or transmitter.
  • The Cactus V6 is a optical slave, S1 and S2.
  • It is a Wireless remote shutter trigger.
  • It is a safe-sync hotshoe adapter for high-voltage flashes
  • It is a trigger delay.

Features:

  • Wireless manual power control of a list of current and previous Canon, Nikon, and Pentax compatible flashes. Over 30 built-in flash profiles more will be added in firmware updates
  • Users flash profile learning to add additional user analogue-TTL flash profiles.
  • Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 and 1EV steps
  • Adds 0.1EV adjustment to RF60 and ttl flashes that do not have that refined of adjustments.
  • Lo Power mode fires the flash for extremely short lengths of time. e.g. high speed photography
  • Absolute Power Mode benchmarks the power output of different flash models to the same light intensity.
  • TTL pass-through with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, and Fuji film via one single unit.
  • Built-in optical trigger enables pre-flash triggering.
  • Group control allows you to control up to four groups.
  • User selectable dial direction
  • Shutter release with bulb mode
  • Relay mode triggers the camera shutter and flash in sync.
  • Delay timer is configurable from 1 millisecond to 10 seconds.
  • Ability to be controlled by RF60 Master
  • 100+M range with automatic temperature adaptation for reliability in changing temps
  • Compatible with old flashes voltage range 0-300v
  • Compatible with low-voltage flashes
  • Low battery indicator
  • All settings saved on power off including power levels, and settings.
  • Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware updates.
  • Uses standard AA, including rechargeable’s

Specifications:

  • Working radio frequency: 2.4 GHz
  • Number of channels: 16
  • Number of groups: 4
  • Support sync speed up to 1/1,000 second (subject to camera’s sync speed
    limitation)
  • Maximum effective distance: 100 meters. ** Note: Very conservative. I never lost signal even at 467meters
  • Operating temperature: -20°C to +50°C
  • Camera voltage handling: up to 6V
  • Flash voltage handling: up to 300V
  • Dimensions: 72mm (L) x 72mm (W) x 42 mm (H)
  • Weight: 68g
  • Power input: Two AA batteries; mini USB 2.0, DC input 5V, 500mA~1A

Flash Profiles:

Cactus has built in over 30 flash profiles. Theses span Canon, Nikon, and Pentax compatible models.

Current built in profiles are:
Pentax Profiles:

Cactus AF 45P, AF 50P

Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2

Pentax AF360FGZ, AF540FGZ

Canon Profiles:

Canon: 320EX, 430EX, 540EZ, 580EX2, 600EX (Note: 580Ex works with the 580EXII profile. )

Cactus: AF 45C, AF 50C

Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 52AF-1, 58AF-1, 58AF-2

Nisson Di866, MG8000

Godox 860c

Sigma EF-500

Youngnuo 568EX2 (568EX works also with this I tested with mine.)

Nikon i-TTL Profiles:

Nikon :SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB900, SB910

Cactus: AF-45N AF-50N

Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2

Nisson: Di700, Di866

Sigma: EF530

Nikon A-TTL Profiles:

Nikon: SB-24, SB28

Whats included:

The V6 comes in a nice package. The V6 is securely paced in the box with a molded cardboard insert. You get the V6 transceiver, stand, sample book, and a manual. The manual is well thought out and easy to read. The sample book has some nice examples of what you can do with off camera flashes and radio triggers. Most are from photos taken with Cactus V5’s and LV5’s.

IMG_8694

Basic operation:

To use remote power you need at least 2 transceivers or 1 transceiver, and one RF60 for the flash.  To use its quite simple.

1. Put one transceiver on camera set to TX mode.

2. Put other transceiver off camera with a compatible TTL flash slide to RX.  Select via menu the flash brand and model. Set group the group you want it on.

3. From the camera make sure the group’s you want to control are active, Now you can adjust power remotely and take pictures. To adjust individual groups you hold down the group button while turning the dial. To adjust all at the same time just turn the dial.  More on that later:
Cactus V6 in RX mode

IMG_9014 (1)

Testing:

The Cactus V6 works with a wider variety of flashes. I was able to test the v6 with the following flashes. Canon 580EXII, YN568EX, Nikon SB800, Nikon SB900 Nikon SB24. It worked great with the flashes.  The cactus v6 allows you to remotely control power levels across Pentax , Canon, and Nikon flashes. There is absolute and relative power modes. More on that later. You have 4 groups you can change power levels on. With Cactus RF60 flashes you can actually also adjust zoom.

As you know lighting is done in layers. Different components adding to each other. What can be challenging is getting the components to all be at the levels you want easily. Most of the time you have to go to each flash and manually adjust the power setting traditionally or use a TTL solution. TTL has its positives and negatives.  It becomes additionally difficult if the light is up higher or in a soft box to change settings. This is where the Cactus V6 comes into play. From the on camera unit you can quickly change power settings individually in groups or adjust and keep the ratios across all 4 of the groups. This is handy when just changing one setting like the aperture, ISO, or moving the subject distance.

You can have multiple flashes in a single group of one flash. If you have multiple flashes it is good for things like faster recycle time for key and so on.

Physical features:

IMG_8725 Mode switch
The switch is used to switch between tx “transmitter” and rx “receiver” mode and off. It is much better of a switch than with the V5.
IMG_8722 Test/Shutter release button and Optical sensor
This button is used for shutter release mechanism, and relay mode along with a test button. Also you can see the frosted window where the optical sensor is located.
IMG_8720 Quick lock lever
Cactus has really improved there way to tightened down the trigger to the camera with this lever. It also has a locking pin for a more secure connection.
IMG_8718IMG_8405 Lanyard loop
The V6 comes with a nice lanyard loop. This is very handy when using studio strobes were no hot shoe is in use.
IMG_9279IMG_8728 (1) Multi-System Hot Shoe
Now this is the cool innovative thing. This is hot shoe will allow for “Pentax, Canon, and Nikon” remote power control, and will allow for ttl pass through by “Canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax” Systems. I dont know of any other trigger that has such a feature or flexibility.
IMG_8726 (1) USB port and 3.5mm sync jack
The nice thing about the cactus V6 is that you can upgrade firmware with ease. In addition you also have a 3.5mm sync port for shutter release, relay mode, or flash and studio strobe sync.
IMG_9007 Group Buttons
The group buttons are very easily accessible and lit up so you can see them at night or in low light conditions. When a given group is not active the corresponding button is not lit.
IMG_9041 Battery compartment
This time we now have more universal AA’s than the AAA’s of the LV5, V5 and V4. This is nice because most of the time theses are already in my bag. The door closes securely and snug.
IMG_8716 IMG_9023 Main buttons and LCD:
The majority of your interaction with the V6 will be through the control buttons and what is on the lcd screen. They have been set up with that in mind
IMG_9037 LED status light
The led status light notifies you when there is a trigger signal, bulb mode, low battery, firmware upgrade and so on.

v6_front

v6_bottom

 

Controls:

The V6 transceiver has some intuitive ways to control it. A great deal of hard work went into refining this by the testers and cactus over the past few months. The main control buttons that you mainly will be working with are menu, the ok button, the dial, push-in on dial, and the group buttons.

IMG_9014

Navigating menus have become intuitive. When you go into menus now you have 2 options for ok. You can push in the scroll wheel where you don’t ever have to move your finger, or you can use the ok button. As for changing power on each individual group all you have to do is hold down the group button while turning the dial. If you want to adjust all groups together you just turn the dial. If you want to lock in one group. You just hold the group tell it is highlighted. You also can adjust the direction of the scroll wheel, the functionality of the push in scroll in the sub menu.

Adjusting power:

One of the most important things for me was to have the power adjustment as quick as possible. This is where the all important scroll wheel is taken into use. The cool thing is you can individual adjust each group by either holding down a group button while scrolling. You can do a global adjustment by not touching any group buttons and it will adjust and keep the ratios tell their max and min limits. You also can hold down one of the group buttons for a few seconds to lock adjustment to just that group only.

You can see in the following video showing quick adjust. You cant see it but there is a v6 on the foot of the YN568EX flash. Also Note the triggers in the video are alpha models So the door is different along with the finish.

Quick power adjustment mode:

One cool thing is so the V6 has 1/10, 1/5, and 1/3 adjustment levels if you are at 1/10 you will be scrolling a while say from going to 1/128-1/1. So all you do is you push in the scroll button it switches to full stop power changes, then you push it again and it switches back to your previous finer adjustment level. I actual sort of happened across this by accident, it was a very pleasant surprise.

Relative Power Mode:

The v6 has two different modes the first one is Relative mode. This is the traditional power settings in regards to the power levels in off of the full power of the flash. So for example 1/2 is half the strength of full power. Levels that do not coincide to full stops theses are shown in the + so for example 1/16 +0.3 is 16th power with on third of a stop of power added to that.

So in the below image you can see that Group A is 1/4 Group B is 1/4+3, and C and D are 1/2. The 1/4+3 is Quarter power + 1/3 of a stop.

IMG_9023

Absolute Power Mode:

Absolute power is a little different. It uses ev values. The cool thing with this feature, is by using flash profiles either pre defined or user created we know the flash output of each flash at the different settings. This means that a mix of different flashes we can keep a matched power output at each ev even if they are different powered flashes. For this feature to work the V6 transmitter needs to know all the power levels of the flashes it controls. When enabling absolute mode, the V6 transceiver will go out ant talk to all the other transceivers and get the information on the flash and report back to the tx v6 what they are so it can keep the same output per flash. Many people have a mixed bag of flashes with different power outputs so this is quite useful.

IMG_9030

Creating flash profile’s:

One very interesting and unique feature with the Cactus v6 is you are able to create your own flash profiles with most analog ttl flashes. Some newer digital only TTL flashes would need a profile created if possible by cactus via firmware update. Cactus plans on doing this for customers if possibly.

Note: the video was created with the alpha trigger. The finish and battery door spacing has been changed.

Shutter release:

The Cactus V6 can also be used as a shutter release. This allows you to use the radio trigger as a release for triggering the camera or bulb mode for long exposures. You do however need to get a separate shutter release cable. you can use any 3.5 to your shutter port cables. Cactus sells some relatively cheep.

Relay mode:

I like strobist self portraits and one way I had to do this in the past is when useing the v5 for example as the remote shutter, it would not trigger the flashes correctly also. So what you needed to do is have one radio set for triggering the camera and another radio set to trigger the flashes.

With relay mode, now you only need 1 transceiver on the camera instead of 2. Then you need one hand held transceiver, and your off camera flash receivers. So now with only one transceiver on camera it will trigger the shutter and the flashes in sync.

Delay Trigger:

One cool thing with the Cactus V6 and the RF60 is that a delay is built in. You can set a delay between 1 ms and 10 seconds.  You can either set this on the transmitter or each receiver.  You have the option of flat out turning off and when turning it back on it saves the delay. On the receiver the delay and delay value is displayed on the screen if set from there. Which is the optimal method.  Because of the lack of space in the LCD on TX mode it is not displayed as set of done from the TX so just be aware.  This could however change of course.

What can you do with delay?

  • Adjust hyper sync delay when triggered optically from a HSS flash. “A additional post will come that will go over how to mix TTL radio triggers to add HSS pre flash radio capabilities. “
  • Emulate second curtain sync.  Since the v6 is a universal trigger no actual ttl signals from the camera are sent. However via the delay you can set a second curtain sync. It may take some playing round but it works.
  • You can achieve multiple exposure from different flashes at different angles. Sort of like multi mode but at multiple angles.

 Optical Trigger:

The cactus V6 comes with a s1 and s2 optical trigger. Meaning it can either fire the flash on the first pules, or ignore ttl pre flash.  You may be thinking really do I need to fire a flash on the initial pulse.  The cool thing by having this option we now can do high speed sync. When doing high speed sync with a TTL HSS flash on camera. The camera first has to detect a HSS capable flash on it. Once it has it goes into high speed sync mode.  This means you will get a HSS pre signal that will fire before the curtain even starts moving. This is needed for any triggering past your x-syn range. You can either use a manual HSS capable flash that you can set into HSS mode, or you can use flashes with flash durations long enough to fill the frame. Some companies call this hyper sync so lets just use that word.

RF60: Non HSS hyper sync can be done with studio strobes and manual flashes with long durations. *Note you can see the peak and fall off

IMG_9157

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RF60: Manual HSS mode triggered by V6 from TTL pre signal: *Note more even.

IMG_9158

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On camera Power Adjustment:

The nice thing about the Cactus V6 is that you can use flashes on camera while still controlling the flash’s off camera.  The V6 has ttl pass through for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, and Fuji film flashes.  For Canon Nikon and Pentax just make sure to set the appropriate profile for the flash that is on camera. When you put the V6 on camera it actual will also become a safe sync like the “Wein Safe-Sync” for high high voltage flashes.

You can use the on camera flash as a regular ttl flash like at wedding receptions, then you could have other flashes staged through the reception hall and adjust the power of each group from the on camera V6.  It is a setup that photographers have been using for years however now you can remotely adjust those flashes staged around the reception hall saving time.

IMG_9014 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoom control:

If you own a Cactus RF60. You now from the Cactus V6 to control zoom levels although it is either or you either have zoom levels as a quick adjust or power acceleration. Unfortunately this is not available for any other flash besides the RF60 because of technical limitations.

Lo Power mode:

This allows for a option for analog ttl flashes to have power go lower than the minimum 1/128 power setting. This allows for very short pules of light that is helpful when doing things like High speed photography to reverse the blurring side effect.

This example is NOT with Lo Power you can see how the water further out in the splash can blur some because of the speed it is moving Lo Power helps reduce this.  Another users calculated it to be about 1/256 power level.  This means the flash duration is very very quick.

IMG_6080

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USB port:

The nice thing about the Cactus V6 and the RF60 both have the ability of firmware upgrades.  This allows for bug fixes, Compatibility issues, built-in flash profiles, and the possibility for future new features.

Currently the firmware program is only for windows. There are plans to make it available for OSX. Currently you can create a virtual machine or use boot camp to upgrade the firmware if you ahve a MAC or even linux. The virtual machine just needs to have usb pass-through support.

The mini usb cable you can get extra, however it is pretty much a universal cable that you can use. One even came with most Canon camera kits. Also the cable can be used to power the v6 in studio setups without the need for AA’s.

IMG_8726

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LCD Backlight and Sleep mode:

With the Cactus V6 is you are able to adjust the timeouts for sleep and back light. For back light you can select always on or always off, or have it turn off in 5s or 15s.

Sleep mode can also be off or turn its self off at 15min or 60Min. Note: the V6 will not wake up from radio signal also that would defeat the purpose to power save.

IMG_9031

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low Battery:

There is a battery symbol on the lcd that would show the battery level.  If it gets real low the LED will start blinking every 3 seconds indicating the batteries are very low.

IMG_9023 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reliability and Range:

One thing about cactus is the reliability of their triggers.  The V5 was really reliable, and I had no issues really with the V4 except when the batteries were low. The V6 is no exception. I have not had a single misfire with any of my units.

One way I test reliability is through walls and by distance to measure strength. The V6 triggered without issues outside of a building a teach my classes in so about 3 dry wall walls and one brick wall over about 20M. The second way I test the signal is by distance.  With the V5 it was rated at 100M and I was able to get 200M easily I actualy ran out of room to test. The v6 is rated at 100M again however my tests show this to be quite a bit longer. I again walked tell I ran out of room. *Note: this picture is at 200mm an a 1.6 crop.  So 320mm in full frame equivalent. So really I am much bigger than I was. I was able to walk as far as we could line of sight which was 467.48 meters. Almost 5 US football fields.

I found out that cactus went as far as ~800 meters before the signal became unstable.  This shows me that the signal strength is strong enough to over come interference.  The official range is 100M although that is very very very conservative.  This was a V6 to an RF60. Which both have the same transceiver in them. However the RF60 has an thicker case so it supposedly should reduce the range but it did not seem to.

 

distance

Compatibility

The Cactus V6 will trigger on cameras any cameras with standard universal hot shoe that has at least a single pin fire, or a camera with a sync port. Some propitiatory hot shoes like the propitiatory sony hot shoes you will need an adapter. TTL pass through works on the following cameras “Canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax”. You are able to remote control the power of supported “Canon, Nikon and Pentax” flashes.

The Cactus V6 is directly wireless computable with Cactus V5, Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger, RF60 radio flash, and Other Cactus V6’s. Of course you can add any flash, or any strobe through the sync port.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 5.10.15 PM

Conclusion

When I first saw the specs for the Cactus V6 it was pleasantly surprising. I was not expecting Cactus to come up with this level of functionality while still keeping as universal as possible. The usability and quickness of adjustment is very well done. The Multi-system Hot Shoe is very innovative and unique. The ability to mix and match systems together is in my opinion is awesome. I do a great deal of shooting with second shooters at weddings with other brand cameras and flashes. We now can share the same triggers and mix and match equipment. I also own flashes from Nikon and Canon that I now can use together. The reliability of theses triggers is awesome. Not a single miss fire even at almost 5 US football fields. The ability to expand and learn additional flashes and features makes it where this trigger will keep changing and growing over the years. The extra features like relay, ttl passthrough, delay and so on are icing on the cake.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Being able to manual remote control power across four groups
  • Brand agnostic triggers, able to control many different brand flashes together.
  • Reliability – even at long distance
  • Transceiver – do not need a separate transmitter and receivers
  • sold build quality
  • USB for firmware upgrade.
  • TTL pass-trhoughRelay mode, Absolute power mode, and time delay
  • Fully compatible with Cactus RF60 flash, including zoom control.
  • Backwards compatible with the Cactus v5 , LV5 laser trigger and Cactus RF60 radio flash.
  • Locking pin and locking quick lever

Cons:

  • Some what large size
  • 1/4-20 thread a little close to the hot-shoe causing some umbrella swivels to not work with the tread, and the need for them to use cold shoe mounts.
  • No wireless ttl only pass-through on camera.
  • No included cables

 

Availability:

The Cactus V6 transmitter is being released today 5/17 for release at Gadget infinity. They will release to other distributors hopefully next month. http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/cactus-wireless-flash-transceiver-v6.html

Price:
54.95$ USD each transceiver.

Note: Header image, and diagrams provided by cactus by product images and manual.

YN568EX Thoughts

A year ago. I needed a backup flash so I started looking into flashes and I found the YN568EX. It supported basically the majority of the features that my Canon 580EXII had except for master IR and auto thyroister mode. Which I could care less about. I have since bought a second YN568EX for use.

Issues:
The first issue I ran into was on my first YN568EX that I got. There was an issue that existed in the 2012 models of the flash but has since been fixed since I believe May 2013. This means that if on a Canon 60D you tried to take a picture before the flash had a fully charged capacitor it would lock the camera up and thrown an err20… I about had a heart attack when this first happened. I thought my camera was dead. A simple reboot of the camera will fix the issue. The work around was I would just listen for the ready beep before firing the flash again. Issue would come into play at weddings or events where the beep would be very distracting. The second issue I ran into was the door on the newer version of the flash. There is a documented issue with the newer YN568EXII. It seems in the newer date YN568EX it may suffer from the same issue. From a small fall the door broke on the new YN568EX. I easily got the door replaced for 5$ a door from china.

Features:

The YN568EX was the first flash from China with HSS. it can sync up to 1/8000. although remember this will significantly cut the flash power so really it is not that useful at that fast. If you add this in combination with the YN622C you get a useful combination in fast moving off camera environments like weddings. Also you are able to do HSS to knock the sun some. However to really make this useful I feel you need at least 2 flashes. I put them on a phottix multibom 16′ when outside. It works quite well.

You have all the normal features you would have with a canon flash. Like full E-TTL communication. You can adjust the FEC from camera with a quick nudge of the arrow left and right. Left for a lower power , right for a higher power. Normally when bouncing flash I need to be at about +1 fec to get the proper exposure. This is not much different than the Canon 580EXII which I have to do the same some.

The main feature the flash is missing is an external battery pack port. This is not a deal killer for me but some people it is. Also they decided to use a 2.5mm sync port instead of a 3.5mm or PC. This sort of makes it tough for those who have widely used PC cables, or the main new way of 3.5mm mono plug.

One of the positive features is also the IR and popup commander slaves. That accepts both Canon E-TTL and Nikon i-TTL signals. This is very useful because on weddings my other photographer normally shoots Nikon so when we needed an extra flash I was able to do an i-TTL slave for them.

In use:

In practice the flash performs really well. I have actually used it the same if not more than my Canon 580EXII. I really like the beep in non sound sensitive locations. The main settings are quick to change like FEC and zoom. It sorta is tricky remembering how to switch the channels and the group in i-TTL or E-TTL slave. The interface in regards to changing settings could be clearer. Also the custom function names are cryptic.

Conclusions:

Over all it is a good flash for the price. The build quality is ok but not extravagant. It performs well in use. I would suggest it to any one who is looking for an entry level TTL flash with HSS. The big negatives I found is that enough bugs were not worked out, causing one of my flashes to fail on my Canon 60D. Instead of shipping it back which would of cost a ton I ended up waiting for the bug to be fixed and buying a new one.

Cactus V6 Trigger in Beta Test Phase

This is a preview of the Future Cactus V6 trigger system from Beta and Alpha testing. Full review to come later.

History of cactus:
So some people don’t understand why theses are not a certain brand. Cactus over the years has centered its self around brand agnostic philosophy. This is good because I have and work with people who have multiple brand equipment. I always thought ok so they will always stick with one pin firing, and not get into anything to complicated. I was wrong. They were able to innovate and create a multi vendor comparable hot shoe to allow ttl passthrough for multiple vendors “canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax”. In addition the multi shoe or what they call the MSS “Multi System Shoe” supports manual power control to most major Nikon, Canon, and Pentax flashes. They do however need to have analog or digital ttl pins for power control. This system is more of a platform so more features may come later via firmware. Who knows. To me the sky’s the limit. However they want to stay backwards compatable.

It is a very cool much more to come. However Cactus surprised me by saying you can share the majority of the features. Note there are going to be more however I believe what we have so far gives a good over view of the product at its current state.

Cactus V6 Preliminary features: *This may change*

*Wireless Manual Power Control to a list of current and previous Canon, Pentax, and Nikon compatible flashes. Flash profiles are included for some of the most popular flashes on the market. More can be added later via updates.

*Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 EV stops.

*LoPower Mode fires flash for extremely short duration of time.

*Absolute Power Mode benchmarks power output of different flash models to same light intensity.

*TTL pass-through with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Fujifilm via one single unit.

*Built-in Optical Trigger enabling pre-flash triggering.

*Group Control up to 4 groups

*Relay Mode triggers camera shutter and flash in sync

*Delay Timer configurable from 1ms to 10 seconds

*Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware update

More to come on this in the V6 review in the next few months.

Note: the images of the v6 are from a Alpha build, and physical features will change like finish and possible other physical features.

IMG_8143

IMG_0242

Flash Profiles:** Yes you can mix brands and types in one setup*

The flash profiles currently on the v6 are and note this is an alpha build of trigger so the list will expand. This was just preliminary what was provided for the testers. Even after the release currently the profiles will be added to this list from my understanding for years and years to come.

Pentax Profiles:

Cactus AF 45P, AF 50P

Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2

Pentax AF360FGZ, AF540FGZ

Canon Profiles:

Canon: 320EX, 430EX, 540EZ, 580EX2, 600EX

Cactus: AF 45C, AF 50C

Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 52AF-1, 58AF-1, 58AF-2

Nisson Di866, MG8000

Godox 860c

Sigma EF-500

Youngnuo 568EX2 (568EX works also with this I tested with mine.)

Nikon i-TTL Profiles:

Nikon :SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB900, SB910

Cactus: AF-45N AF-50N

Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2

Nisson: Di700, Di866

Sigma: EF530

Nikon A-TTL Profiles:

Nikon: SB-24, SB28

As you see in this picture I am controlling a Canon 580EXII 2x YN568EX and a Nikon SB24 which has now been taken out of retirement. :)

IMG_7777

You can see here how each profile will be displayed on the slave transceiver.

IMG_7773

In action video Note: Plan on doing a better video later
You can watch a video here showing how to power adjust the flashes.

Setup from the video:
Cactus RF60 on Group A
YN568EX on a Cactus V6 on group B

Cactus V6 to change power.

You will see that I am able to hold down the group A button and change the power on RF60 on the right. Then hold down the button on Group B for the YN568EX on the Cactus V6 and change group b on the left. I then release both buttons and it changed both groups and kept the ratios set on each group. You will notice it is very quick to change settings.

Cactus RF60 Radio Flash Review with V6 Preview

IMG_7747

Introduction:

I got the opportunity to again beta test a product from Hong Kong company Cactus Imaging. When I first heard I was going to be testing the flash way back in September I was extremely excited in seeing what cactus came up with this time. They did not disappoint. I had a list of features in my head that was a must have and they hit almost all of them, and included some I did not even think about.

IMG_7687

Overview:
No this is not a TTL flash, however it is a flash that is cross vendor complaint. The flash itself is a single pin however you can control all the power and zoom settings from the master flash to all the slave flashes. This is important for non Nikon and Canon users who are left out of a large majority of new technology. One thing about cactus has been that they try and stay as compatible as they can across vendors. This is one of the principles that Cactus has held over the years.

One exciting thing about the RF60 is that it is the first piece to a new system. I can now share images that include the future Cactus v6. The V6 will tie everything together and allow you to bring your other ttl and non ttl flashes and studio strobes into the new system. Power adjustment with the V6 will be compatible with the RF60 and different brand ttl flashes.

Features:
– Power GN56m (100iso)
– Power levels 1/1-1/128 and 1/3 stops
– Built-in 2.4GHz wireless commander and receiver
– Wireless 100M effective distance.
– Optical slave S1, S2 with delay feature
– Modes Local (L), Master (M) and Slave (S)
– Remote control of power and zoom levels (24-105mm)
– Group control up to four groups with configurable Group Alias
– Compatible with Cactus V6 Wireless Flash Transceiver, V5 Transceiver and LV5 Laser trigger
– Multi-flash feature
– HSS Sympathy mode provides HSS support when working with TTL flashes.
– USB for firmware upgrades.
– 1/4-20 mount thread on the side
– 3.5mm sync port
– Hot shoe locking pin
– Canon external power connector

Cactus V6 Preliminary features: *This may change*

-Wireless Manual Power Control to a list of current and previous Canon, Pentax, and Nikon compatible flashes. Flash profiles are included for some of the most popular flashes on the market. More can be added later via updates.
-Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 EV stops.
-LoPower Mode fires flash for extremely short duration of time.
-Absolute Power Mode benchmarks power output of different flash models to same light intensity.
-TTL pass-through with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Fujifilm via one single unit.
-Built-in Optical Trigger enabling pre-flash triggering.
-Group Control up to 4 groups
-Relay Mode triggers camera shutter and flash in sync
-Delay Timer configurable from 1ms to 10 seconds
-Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware update

More to come on this in the V6 review in the next few months.

Note: the images of the v6 are from a Alpha build, and physical features will change like finish and possible other physical features.

IMG_8143

IMG_0242

IMG_7773

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Now back to the RF60 review from “Aww ooohh wow” land from the Cactus V6 Preview.

RF60 Backwards Compatibility:
The RF60 is backwards compatible with V5 products like the LV5 laser trigger and the V5 transceiver.

Modes:
The flash has 3 modes.

-L “Local”: This is where you use the flash on camera or on a single pin trigger where you manually set all of the settings zoom, power and so on for on camera and single pin off camera receivers. So if you have a set of say YN602’s or YN603’s, or Cactus V4’s you can still use the flash and later on possibly add a Cactus V6 future transceiver into the mix.

-S “Slave”: This is radio enabled slave, You also can use an optical slave in this mode. This means you can trigger the RF60 from a Cactus V5, LV5, future V6, and a Master RF60.

-M “Master”: This mode sets the flash to master. You can control all of the power and zoom settings of the off camera RF60 units and V6 Units.

www.loogix.com_11987163

Custom functions:

To access the custom functions, use the menu button and then use next to cycle through the different options.
-RF Channel – (1-16)
-Delay Timer – (0-999 ms)
-Optical Slave – (S1: Straight Triggering S2: Pre-flash Ignored)
-Quick Flash – (off, on)
-Beep Feedback – (off, Fn1: Quick Flash, Fn2: Full Charge, Fn3: Insufficient Power Warning)
-Sleep Timer – (off , 3 min , 5 min, 15 min , 30 min, 60 min)
-LCD Back light (off , 5 sec , 15 sec, Continuous)

www.loogix.com_11987317

Group Aliases:
One cool thing with the RF60 is that instead of just keeping Groups A, B, C, D. You can set Aliases per group. So you have the options of using the following KEY, FILL, SPOT, RIM, HAIR, LEFT, RIGHT, BACK, FRONT. This makes it handy when switching between groups and/or changing power settings so you can quickly know what light you are changing without having to remember what group it is.

www.loogix.com_12026242

Build:

When I first took the flash out of the box my initial reaction was wow this is a beefy flash. The flash is solid, more solid than my LP160. I don’t know if it is more solid than the LP180. Another tester opened the flash up and said its is solid and well constructed on the inside also. Inside the flash, proper cable connectors are used, screws go into metal female screws and he indicated everything looks very solid and neat.

The flash does not flex or bow in when squeezing like some lower end flashes. The build quality seems a little more solid than my YN568EX flashes, and my LP160. The flash sort of reminds me of my Nikon SB24 in solidness. I was pleasantly surprised when the flash arrived.

I already did the drop test on accident although it was onto a wooden chair then bounced onto the floor in my house and not concrete. My flash dropped but the flash wasn’t even damaged and did not skip a beat from the decent fall.

USB firmware upgrades:
One feature I was excited about was the ability to upgrade the flash via usb. This has been very handy with testing. We have been able to make changes we wanted to be included or refined via firmware prior to the release of the flash. Most things can be adjusted or fixed through firmware upgrades. Now we are using the beta updater, however it seemed relatively simple to get the rf60 to work. In some instances we had to point windows to the driver in the install directory. I will make a upgrade guide in another post later on.

Being able to update the firmware definitely gave me more confidence in the product considering when I bought my first YN568EX it had a bug in it with the Canon 60D. If you fired before the capacitor was fully charged it would hang the camera. If a USB port was on the flash a simple upgrade would have fixed the issue. Instead, I had to buy a second YN568EX once the bug was fixed to use on the 60D. It was just to expensive to send back to yongnuo.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 10.32.42 AM

You can see the 1/4-20 thread mount, along with the usb port and 3.5mm sync port.

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Securing flash:

For attaching the flash to stands you have two options.

Attach to flash stand bracket cold shoe, or attach directly to 1/4-20 thread. I like the idea of using the 1/4-20 thread on the stands. The only down side to that is, it feels sorta weird now having your lcd screen sideways. On the upside, it now lessons the chance of the flash falling off.

The hot-shoe has added an additional feature to help for locking on camera and for third party triggers. A locking pin has now been included unlike previous cactus products.

1/4-20 mount in use.
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Hot-shoe with locking pin:

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External power source:

The RF60 has the option to be able to add canon type battery pack’s. Cactus is releasing their own version, however, this should also be comparable with any canon style third party external canon battery pack.

IMG_8165

Power testing:

I decided to test the flash against my other flashes in my arsenal with a polaris light meter. I had each flash at the same exact spot and stand, pointed where the center of the light pattern was at the meter. I did the test a few times to make sure my readings were accurate because I was surprised by a couple of them.

I tested the flash at about 11 feet away from the light meter. I tested the Cactus RF60, Canon 580EXII, Youngnuo YN568EX, Lomopro LP160, and the Nikon SB24. Normally when I have tested flash power in the past, I have mainly stuck with a 24mm or 28mm zoom. This is what I normally use when using off camera flash with modifiers.  However, this time I decided to test all the zoom levels. As you can tell at 24mm and 28mm the RF60 matches the 580EXII however at the other zoom settings it is 1/10th to 2/10th of a stop less powerful. I was highly surprised at the results of the YN568EX actually because it is marked as equivalent as the Canon 580EX II, also the LP160 claimed this also. However they are not equivalent. So the RF60 is closer to on par with the Canon 580EXII in some aspects in regards to power.

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Over Heat Protection:

One point that I wanted to test is over heat protection so I decided to abuse my flashes and blind my self at the same time. The moment the ready beep sounded in full power I would take a picture on fresh batteries. I found the following numbers. Once you hit past theses values the flash will slow the recycle time down. If you keep going constant the flash may shut its self off to cool. If you pause for 30+ seconds during this series. The counter will reset because it has been given time to cool down. Some may think this is a tad on the conservative side however it also helps protect the flash life. Lowering the flash power a tad can increase the count. Theses values test to be similar to the Godox v850.

20 shots at 1/1 power
30 shots at 1/2 + 0.7
40 shots at 1/2 + 0.3
60 shots at 1/2

Recycle time:

The recycle time seems close to or on par with the YN568EX about 2.5 seconds or so at full power with fresh enloop rechargeable batteries. It seems the YN568EX is very close in time. I charged both sets of batteries fresh and only used them for this test. This was just a quick test so results may vary. It seems to stay about even with other flashes.

Note: Since the video the beep has changed on the flash from short to longer.

Remote triggering:

The following is an over view of the four radio trigger methods for the internal transceiver.

1. Second RF60 (on camera) – Remote Power Adjustment, Zoom
2. Cactus V6 transceiver (TTL passthrough) – Power Adjustment
3. Cactus V5 transceiver (Single pin passtrough)- Triggering only
4. Cactus LV5 Laster trigger – Triggering only

In addition you have a 3.5mm sync port, hot shoe pin, and S1 and S2 optical slave options.

So this gives you a total of 8 possibilities for methods of triggering the flash. Shown below are RF options:

RF60 triggering and controlling slave RF60’s:

IMG_8154

Future Cactus V6:

Note: this is alpha – physical features and finish are going to change

IMG_8158

Cactus V5:
IMG_8155

Cactus LV5 Laser trigger:
IMG_5407

Group and Power adjustment:

By default the master is enabled so you have a total of 4 off camera groups, and a master flash on camera. To disable a given group, you just hit the group button until the group you want to disable is shown and hold down next. The group or master will become disabled. In the same way you can use the group button to go through the different groups and adjust the individual groups. If a specific group is not selected you can go into All group mode.  It will then change the power settings across all the groups incrementally.

So for example. If you are using group A, B, and C.  Group A is set to 1/2 , B is set to 1/4 and C is set to 1/8th power. You then need to change your aperture on your camera from f5.6 to f8 going up a stop. You can then adjust all groups by a stop and Group A will be set to 1/1, group B will be set to 1/2, and group C will be set to 1/4.

The only issue that you need to be aware of is if you go up say in this example 2 stops from the original settings. If a single group is maxed out or at lowest power it will stay at that value and the others will adjust. So for example we go to f11. Group A will be 1/1 power staying the same, Group B will be at 1/1 power because it had room to go up, and group C will now be at 1/2 power. This is because the flashes are limited at their max and min power levels. If you leave the all group mode while beyond the extremes it will then keep the ratio your at the current ratios.  So if you want to keep your ratios if accidentally passing the max or min, you need to make sure not to leave all group in that state.

HSS Sympathy mode:

Not quite traditional HSS mode because there is not actual hss ttl communication between the camera and the flash via radio however. It is a HSS slave that is triggered optically by a standard TTL HSS flash. I know, not exactly what I was hoping for but still cool considering this flash is not a ttl flash. Because the lack of ttl signals being sent to the RF60 the RF60 needs a TTL flash to enable HSS. The optical slave on the RF60 needs to see the HSS flash fire in HSS mode to trigger a HSS pulse to match.

If there was a TTL transceiver I could see it being done via radio. Because cactus try’s to stay brand agnostic, they most likely will not refine a product to one brand. There have been discussions of other possibilities for the future. I will continue to throw out ideas and see if it’s possible. It would be cool if there were a way to do multi vendor universal ttl signals to trigger HSS. However, I don’t know if the RF packet is large enough to carry that additional data without totally throwing out the v5 compatibility.

The reason that manual flashes like the v850 can do HSS via radio is because the FT-16 is a brand specific transmitter with ttl pins that sense the HSS signal and passes it to the off camera flash.

The master just has to see the HSS signal. It will then pass the hss signal to the other flashes via radio.

My usage: I am using this in combination with my YN622C’s I have already tested and it works great as long as the master rf60 can see ttl flash on the YN622C. It then will work and add the extra stops of light I may need outside. To keep it able to handle different brands if you want to use TTL flash power you will need to set a delay. The RF60 allows you to set any delays by ms. Cactus provided a table to go by. However, I find it much easier to leave the delay at 0ms and just set the camera up to manual flash power with high speed sync. That way you don’t have to adjust the delay for the ttl hss pre flash.

Some quick HSS testing:

Setup YN622C on camera RF60 bare off camera about 4 feet. YN568EX at 1/128 power to trigger the rf60 “The reason I did this was because I did not want the flash from the YN568EX to effect the RF60 output.

F5.0 , ISO 250, 1/4000, flash set 1/1

IMG_8091

F5.0 , ISO 250, 1/8000, flash set 1/1

IMG_8093

Update: Cactus RF60 HSS over radio

With the simple addition of a Cactus V6 and a hss ttl transceiver with a sync port for pre signal we can now get hss over radio to the Cactus RF60. See how with the following post.
http://brianhurseyphotography.com/blog/?p=700

Multi Flash mode:

In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. If you tie this into the Cactus LV5 laser radio trigger you have some additional possibilities to capture some cool things like a dart being thrown or cards or whatever else you want.

Conclusions:
Testing this flash I find it is a solid flash in both construction, reliability, and power. In most cases it is closer than other flashes or on par with the power of Canon 580EXII flashes. It seems that it is spot on the same power as the 580EXII at 28mm and 24mm.

The ability to be able to control other RF60 flashes from the master flash is nice. Having 4 groups and aliases is helpful. Changing settings is relatively fast. Although you need to get use to it to get your speed up. Using the Cactus v6 in combination is much quicker.

Users of the V5 flash triggers or LV5 laser flash triggers can go ahead and add this to their kit and it will work right off the bat. With the V5 or LV5 you can do basic triggering. With the  RF60 master, and future Cactus V6 you can do group and power control. If you are looking for a new system this may also be something to look at.

The ability to use the flash in combination with my existing TTL HSS flashes is an added bonus.

Pros:
-Solid build
-High power output
-External batter pack port
-USB upgrade
-remote power, zoom, and group control
-long range 100M 2.4Ghz
-HSS slave
-3.5mm sync port
-s1 and s2 optical slaves
-1/4-20 side thread mount
-Group aliases

Cons:

-No lithium ion battery “A few new flashes are now just including this”
-Need for high speed compatible ttl flash for hss
-No AF light – not that important off camera. However on camera it may be helpful, however because a single pin flash, would need to be manual on and off operation because of lack of ttl communication.

Disclaimer: I do not work for nor am I paid by Cactus. I am not a distributor and I do not make any money off of my review. Cactus sent me the test units to test out, find bugs and give our feedback to make a better product for every one in the community. The opinions in this review are my own from my own experiences with the products and real world testing.

Other reviews:

Class A has a little more technically detailed review here. http://www.pentaxforums.com/reviews/cactus-rf60-review/introduction.html

Cactus RF60 Radio Flash – Teaser image from beta test

I am one of the beta testers of the Cactus RF60. I can not reveal much at this point but I am very excited by the product so far. It definitely has changed my strobist kit. We have been testing it for a while. That is one thing I like about cactus they have testers to make sure it is ready for the big time.

Specs I can share.

-Master and Slave modes at 2.4Ghz built in transceiver
-Supports groups.
-Supports remote zoom and power
-Compatible with cactus v5 series products Cactus V5 transceiver and LV5 laser trigger.

This coupled with the future v6 transceiver that will have remote control also it is definitely something to watch. More to come on that later.

Cactus RF60 Teaser

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