Pocket Wizard Flex

Pocket Wizard Flex – Product Description:

Pocket Wizard FlexThe FlexTT5 transceiver shares the MiniTT1 transmitter’s(ordered sepretaly) features and adds the advanced auto-sensing and relay modes introduced with the PocketWizard Plus II, as well as camera and flash ports for PocketWizard cable connection to any camera or flash system. Used as a transmitter, the FlexTT5 can provide TTL auto flash at distances of up to 800 feet* and conventional triggering up to 1200 feet* with the aid of a flip-up antenna.The unit feature a two-position channel selector that is factory programmed to the PocketWizard classic channel one and two. Using the included software and USB port, you can program either channel to any of the PocketWizard system’s 32 digitally encoded channels and four zones. A special Learning Mode enables simple, in-the-field programming of all channels. Compatible with the following: Canon DSLR Cameras: 1Ds MKIII, MKII; 1D MKIII; MKII; 1DMKII N; 5D, 5D MKII; 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D; Rebel XT/350D, Rebel XTi/400D, Rebel XS/1000D, Rebel XSi/450D Canon Flash Units: 580EX, 580EXII, 430EX, and 430EXII

Product Features :

  • Full ETTL II /iTTL Autoflash and Ratio flash and exposure tracking
  • FP/High speed flash synch up to 1/8000th sec.
  • Autoflash sequences up to 8 frames per second
  • Triggers flash or cameras
  • Works with all Pocket Wizard 32 channels and zones

Pocket Wizard Flex – Customer Review:

THEY WORK FINE NOW – KINKS WORKED OUT!

Adding: If you want a recommendation on whether to get the Flex and Mini or just 2 flexes, I’d suggest 2 flexes. First, because the flexes use regular batteries. And second because that gives you more options as you add lights and equipment to your set up (since the Mini can only be used on camera and not as a trigger for the flash). I do like owning the mini because it is so tiny and I hardly even notice it is on my camera. But both the Flex and Mini are very low profile and don’t have the ‘get knocked off’ issues that the Plus IIs had.

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A lot of the early reviews are before updates to download for this product had been made available (or used!). It works fine now. I have a very noisy 580EXII and both the Flex and Mini work fine with it. For me, dependability was about making sure the antenna was never pointed down. If you have any problem with the unit, typically it is because the antenna aren’t parallel or are pointed at the ground. Just move either unit and you’re fine. There are a lot of demonstrations, videos, and FAQ tips on how to really get these to work well.

I’ll give my thoughts and also make comparisons to the Radio Poppers since the Radio Poppers (RP) are the only competitor on the market able to do ETTL type of shooting (ability to shoot at fast shutter speeds). The Elinchrom Sky Ports and the Paul C Buff Cyberlinks will only trigger flashes manually and below the camera’s synch speed – which is very limiting.

I’m not going to go too technical into the specs and descriptions since those are readily available on the net.

Overview

Right off the bat, I LOVE the design improvements over their predecessors, the PW Plus IIs. Both the Mini (a receiver that is tiny and fits on your camera’s hot shoe) and the Flex (can be both a receiver or transceiver) are flat and sleek – they do not stand up or poke out annoyingly like the Plus IIs did. Even better, by incorporating hot shoes and shoe feet directly onto the units, you no longer have to worry about cords or velcro. This is wonderful – no more cords falling out or units falling off the flash. I don’t have to listen to the pocket wizard dangling off a light stand as I move it around. The flash sits directly on the Flex:

If you want to see a video of the new units and how small and easy they are, the PW people have a video on there site – check it out if you want to see these in use.

By having both a shoe and foot on each Flex or Mini, you have the option of using them with other items that also require a hot shoe – such as the ST-E2 or another flash. By using it with the ST-E2 or another flash, you are given the further option of being able to adjust your Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) at the camera rather than having to walk to a flash. If I were to give my one complaint about the new PWs, it’s that they don’t have that ability built right in to the Flex or Mini units (which I believe the Radio Popper Jr.s do – although the Jr.s cannot do ETTL, only manual like the Plus IIs). But you do NOT need to have the St-E2 or a flash on your camera – the Pocket Wizards work right out of the box with only one flash on a stand. This is a huge plus over the Radio Poppers, which require the extra expense of two flashes or an ST-E2 before they will do ETTL.

The other huge plus about the new Pocket Wizards (and why I feel they are far superior to any other trigger on the market) is that they are a ‘black box’ – they have a brain that can be constantly updated. This means that new features can be downloaded for free as they become available. People are already finding new and interesting ways to use the Flex and Mini and configure them. And as new cameras are added to the Canon lineup, you don’t have to worry about them not working. The Pocket Wizard people were given a stress test when the 5D MII came out and didn’t work well with the new Flex and Mini – but in only a month or so, the team had provided an update to download that fixed the compatability issues. But it should be noted that the design of the 5D models (it’s shutter is nearly the size of the sensor and that causes problems with synching) means they get the least out of the Flex and Mini features. But the Pocket Wizard people have fixed those issues – enough so that the engineers there are fully focused on finalizing the Nikon version and no longer have issues to address with the Canon models. Downloading the updates is easy – just plug the Flex or mini into USB and you’ll have software quickly installed. That software provides all kinds of targeted configuration options that make the most of your particular brand of Canon. I’ll go into specific issues/problems further into this.

Finally, it should be noted that the PWs have a SUPER new feature – Hypersynch. Hypersynch allows you to configure the Flex or Mini to synch beyond the camera’s synch speed – at speeds of 400 or faster. But this isn’t just for Canon flashes – this is ALSO for ALIEN BEES! I know a lot of people bought the Radio Poppers after it was announced that they could do ETTL with the Alien Bees – but that turned out to not be true. The Radio Poppers could synch with a random Alien Bee now and then but it turned out that very few could actually do that. In contrast, the Pocket Wizards DO provide higher speed synching – though not through the full range of shutter speeds. Another huge advantage of Hypersynch is that it does not wear down batteries like ETTL does when synching at high shutter speeds. This gives you twice or even three times the battery life – which is important. Because of that, you can actually set your Flex and Mini to do hypersynching up to a certain shutter speed – and when that limit is reached, it will automatically use high speed synch. SMART!

My Experiences

I went out and gave the new Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini a workout on Thursday. I shot with ETTL and then with manual. I shot with shutter speeds as high as 1/6000 to really see what they could do.

The big surprise was that I really liked shooting ETTL – the trick that was throwing me off was to meter for the background and then underexpose a stop – then I got all that drama I love but still had High Speed Synch (HSS) to add the right touch of fill light. I’d adjust FEC as needed. I started with a FEC of +1-1/2 for two reasons: 1) the umbrella would kill a full stop of flash power and 2) I was a bit closer to the subject than the umbrella and the flash would be metering for that closeness.

I tried synching everything from 300 to 6800 or so shutter speeds and the lighting was soft and even on all the images. The higher the shutter speed, however, the less power out of the flash due to the demands of HSS – which led me to increasing the FEC to a full +2. Clearly, I would not be able to get the drama lighting on a brightly lit day – there’s just no way the 580EXII has enough power when using the high speed synch features (which require continual bursts of the flash at high shutter speeds).

The one big advantage that the Radio Poppers have is that you can adjust the flash output from the unit (hence, the camera). However, the RPs require an St-E2 or Speedlight – and I can easily put the Flex or Mini with one of those and then be able to adjust the power from camera as well. The RPjx has the advantage that although manual only, it allows you to adjust power of your strobe automatically. But then, in manual mode, I’d rather do the adjusting with shutter and aperture anyway so that isn’t a big plus for me. I seriously do NOT want the weight of a 580EXII on camera with a Radio Popper strapped to it. For the same reason, I’m not going out and buying an extra 580EXII just to use my Mini with the 580 in order to adjust the FEC. I can walk to the darn flash stand happy.png

My speedlight attaches directly to the Flex – which has a hotshoe on top – fabulous design!! No more cords to fall out and no more velcro. All I need is the Flex. It’s also very flat and doesn’t stick out annoyingly. No more PW banging against my flash stand or misfiring due to cords falling out.

The Mini is very small – I can put my camera into my bag and leave the Mini on there. It’s just a bit longer than a quarter and a bit fatter.

I really like that the Flex and Mini are updatable and you can change settings with a USB cable. It means that as they get improved, I can just update them – this is really important to me since I want them to be continually compatable as I upgrade in the future.

The Pocket Wizard people developed their own ETTL – they don’t use Canon’s ETTL. This Control-TL, as they call it, has a nifty little extra feature – hypersynch. Hypersynch allows you to synch at speeds up to 600, depending on your camera. With the 5D, that speed is 400. This is important since Hypersynch does NOT use HSS – and therefore it does not drain your batteries as fast and nastily as HSS does. You’ll get 5x the amount of battery life by using hypersynch over HSS. You can configure your Flex or Mini to use hypersynch up to a certain speed and then HSS after that (e.g., hypersynch up to a shutter speed of 400 for the 5D before it tells the camera to use HSS instead).

Also, and more importantly, the Flex and Mini can hypersynch Alien Bees! I’m seeing people Hypersynching up to 800 shutter speeds so the Bees very nearly have ETTL capabilities with this feature. This is ironic considering ETTL with Bees was the selling point with RPs which ended up not being able to perform as advertised. I get my Vagabond converter in the mail soon and I’ll post examples as I try them. I have 3 Bees just waiting for a Vagabond right now. happy.png

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