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

IMG_7777

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.

IMG_8160

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.
IMG_7768

Hot-shoe with locking pin:

IMG_8162

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.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 12.52.55 PM

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

No Trackbacks

You can leave a trackback using this URL: http://brianhurseyphotography.com/blog/wp-trackback.php?p=488

2 Comments

  1. paul

    was interested in buying cactus system but confused … I want to have off camera flash like 2 flashes and one v6 transceiver .. so my question is with just the transceiver on camera I can control my flashes .. but what about power ? of the flash .. its all manual flash but to have ttl I need another rf 60 on top of the v6 ? don’t know do I need 3 flashes or 2 flashes ..?

    Posted August 9, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  2. Paul, You can have one tracever on camera then 2 RF60s off camera the only time you need a v6 off camera is if you use a other brand flash besides the RF60..

    Posted August 10, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*