A few years back I wrote about the then-new PocketWizard Plus III, a high-end radio flash trigger that was more affordable than its predecessor. At the time I speculated that I would soon be buying some, which turned out not to be the case; I couldn’t justify the purchase so I continued to use Nikon CLS or physical sync cords to deal with off-camera strobe.
Three years later, I barely succeeded in making my oldest son’s birthday portrait because I could not get reliable flash triggering for the setup I had envisioned. In the meantime, PocketWizard had released a simpler and even more affordable trigger, the PlusX, and 2-packs of them were on sale at my retailer of choice. I decided it was time to pony up for the good stuff.
The image above is a little test with one of my kids’ Lego figures. I hooked a LumiQuest SoftBox III onto the end of my flash and brought it in real close, which kept the background dark and indistinct, and sealed off the edges with a little vignette in post. Worked like a charm. Now I just have to see if I can realize that 1600′ range they promise on the box…. 😀
The anxious noises you’re hearing in the background are coming from my bank account, as something I’ve long wanted to buy has become more affordable, but still not trivially so. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
You can trigger a flash in three ways:
- Direct electrical connection, whether through the hot shoe or through a wire. Pros: rock-solid reliable. Cons: limited by length of cord, number of cords, and people tripping over cords.
- Optical slave. A light sensor pointed at a master flash unit detects the master’s pulse and triggers the slave unit. Some optical slaves use infrared receivers, like Nikon’s Creative Lighting System or Canon’s equivalent thereof. Pros: no cords, simple electronics for third-party versions, comes with your camera for manufacturer versions. Cons: works only within a narrow angle with line-of-sight to the master.
- Radio slave. Radio transmitter on the camera signals a receiver on the flash when the shutter is released. Pros: no cords, no line-of-sight limitations, good ones will trigger hundreds of feet away. Cons: if you don’t position your antenna correctly, try to trigger through thick concrete or metal, or are subject to RF interference, they won’t work.
The gold standard for radio triggers has long been the PocketWizard Plus II, which has multiple channels, high reliability, long range, and is fairly rugged. The exposed antenna can be bent or broken, but otherwise it holds up well. It’s also expensive at $170/unit, and you need one for each flash plus one for the camera. I’ve had my eye on a set of Plus IIs for a few years now but have not saved enough to buy them.
Enter the PocketWizard Plus III. It’s lighter, stronger, more capable, more reliable, and $30 cheaper (right now; price could drop more later) than the Plus II. This never happens to photo gear; better kit is always more expensive. I’m not going to pre-order these, so my hard-earned cash can breathe easy for a little while, but they’ll probably be in my bag sooner than I thought.