FLASH HAVOC Best Wireless Flash Gear of 2012
1 – Canon 600EX-RT & ST-E3-RT
When Fake Chuck Westfall (NSFW) gets excited, you know Canon have really done something good. 2012 was the year Canon brought radio based wireless flash control directly into the Canon Speedlite system, and they did quite an impressive job. For anyone that needs a flash on camera, radio triggers with pass through hotshoes were never going to be the an ideal solution. Certainly not compared to solidly mounting a flash directly on the cameras hotshoe, as the 600EX-RT with built in transmitter does. Not to mention the sheer convenience of not having the extra transmitter, receivers, and all those extra batteries to manage. And for when you don’t need flash on camera there is the more compact and lightweight ST-E3-RT transmitter unit, with an almost identical interface making it very familiar and easy to switch from one to the other. 600EX-RT $549, ST-E3-RT $319.
2 – Phottix ODIN TTL
Phottix ODIN have been an absolute breath of fresh air when it comes to TTL radio triggers. They’re just simple, reliable, hassle free, and high quality. The Odin Mix TTL and manual in any of 3 groups through the fast simple interface which works the same way on any compatible camera. The interface is so obvious you hardly have to read the manual, just switch them on and they work hassle free each time. Mounting receivers is very easy too. The Canon RT (above) stole some of the thunder, though the Odin are also available for Nikon and Sony, and they will fire other studio lights etc as well which the Canon system won’t do. With Canon you don’t need the latest camera body or flash to get full functionality either, the Odin work just as well with any of the Canon DSLR bodies and EX series flashes. ODIN $329, Review.
3 – PocketWizard ControlTL & Sekonic L-478DR
Touchscreens are threatening to invade just about everything, and Sekonic are first with a lightmeter in the L-478DR. The great innovation here though is the collaboration with PocketWizard ControlTL system allowing you to simply take meter reading and then quickly adjust strobe power levels from the meter at the same time. If you prefer your old lightmeter that’s no problem either, as PocketWizard’s current ControlTL firmware allow the AC3 Zone Controller to be taken off camera and used to adjust the power levels while you’re taking meter readings a well. The PocketWizard ControlTL system can control Canon and Nikon speedlights (even at the same time) as well as of Elinchrom RX, and PCB Einstein, AlienBees, and White Lightning monolights, (with the appropriate receiver modules). Sekonic L-478DR $469, PocketWizard ControlTL
4 – YongNuo YN-622C
Canon brought radio based wireless directly into their flashes, and now YongNuo take radio control to the masses with sub $50 unit prices. YN-622C ETTL, Remote Manual, & HSS triggers for Canon brought a few major upgrades over the current Pixel Kings, like ETTL Ratios, Pass Through Hotshoe, and Transceiver design (Tx and Rx are the same units). But more than that the YN-622C have been engineered and optimised down to an incredible level of detail, certainly not seen before from YongNuo. You still have to dig through camera flash menus to make adjustments (unlike Phottix Odin etc), but what the YN-622C offer for the price is very impressive. YongNuo have really raised the bar for budget end goodies with the YN-622C, and this time they intend to build on that. YN-622C $89 a set Review
5 – Nissin MG8000 Extreme
The Nissin MG8000 Extreme tackles overheating which (other than outright power) is the major physical limitation to the otherwise very convenient speedlite design. Battery packs like Nissin’s own PS-300 can get full power recycle times down to 0.7 seconds, but that’s not much help if you can only shoot a dozen shots before the flash overheats and shuts down. The MG8000 uses a quartz flash tube and new vented head design to allow up to 1000 consecutive shots in a row without overheating. With the Canon 600EX-RT already down to just $549, the $629 price tag of the MG8000 may currently be a hard sell. But a flash that can really be used well at full power is worth 2 used at half power. This is a great innovation we really hope to see succeed and hopefully spread to more flashes. MG8000 $629 Overview
6 – PocketWizard Plus III
PocketWizard Plus transceivers have been a photographic industry icon for nearly 2 decades, in appearance at least, going mostly unchanged. The Plus III provide an elegant new aesthetic taking them through the next decade. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it – apart from the physical convenience of built in antenna, the the Plus III mainly just add a few features from the higher Multi Max model, like group function, and repeater mode for even longer range. The Plus III price was also a reduction (currently $149) also providing used Plus II models on the market under $100 for the first time. The Plus III are a solid and fitting upgrade to an industry icon. Plus III $149
7 – Nice Foto N Flash
For those based in the USA at least, its currently pretty hard to beat the PCB Einstein and VML Lithium battery pack for bang for buck portable lighting, and the Nice Foto N Flash has some way to go to reach that standard. The great innovation here though is simply the concept of combined strobe unit with built in (and changeable) lithium battery packs and radio receivers. This has the potential of creating the most lightweight and compact combined units possible, and the N Flash is likely just the start of many good things to come. Nevertheless the N Flash already provides some solid options with 280, 480, and 680WS models, the 680 weighing just 1.5kg and providing 500 full power flashes per battery. IGBT control for fast flash duration, Bowens or Elinchrom mounts, and basic 2.4GHz radio triggers built in. N Flash 480, 680 approx $500.
8 – Quantum Co-Pilot
The Quantum Co-Pilot makes the list simply for including the all important (at least for Canon users) AF focus assist light, which the PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller, Phottix Odin, and now even the Canon ST-E3-RT failed to include. Quantum have been ahead of the game addressing the real issues serious photographers face for a long time now, and the AF light in the Co-Pilot controller is just another example. Like the new Canon RT system, Quantum have actually had radio based TTL and Remote Manual transceivers built into the Qflash system for a while now. The Co-Pilot provides a compact control unit for TTL or manual power control in 3 groups, with instant access to adjustment dials like the PocketWizard AC3, as well as a port to plug in an on-camera Qflash. Co-Pilot $199
9 – Elinchrom Quadra Hybrid RX – Lithium Ion Battery
Making a good system better – Elinchrom Quadra slip into the 2012 list due to the addition of the new lighter Lithium Ion battery, which really helps to create the compact and lightweight system the Quadra was meant to be. The new Lithium battery shaves a full kilogram off the weight of the Lead Acid battery version, bringing the combined pack weight to just 2kg (down from 3kg), and adding addition power to 320 full power pops. That’s a serious difference anyone shouldering the weight of for more than a short time will be very thankful for, not to mention excess luggage weight etc. The Quadra is a 400ws pack which can run up to 2 heads in a 2:1 ratio. Full remote manual power control is also available through the built in Elinchrom Skyport radio trigger system, and now WiFi Module & iPhone app. The new “Hybrid” version just confirms they can now switch between Lead Acid or Li-Ion batteries. Elinchrom reliability, and consistence as you would expect. Quadra Li-Ion Battery & Charger $499, Quadra set $1320
10 – Commlite Comtrig T320
And last but not least, one for the budget conscious strobist. Since the original YongNuo RF-602 were released a number of years ago they have remained our best minimum priced option, simply because you get so much more bang for your buck in terms of range and reliability over the cheaper 433MHz ebay triggers. But the RF-602 had their issues, and of all the many inexpensive alternatives that have been releases since, the Comtrig T320 are the first we have found to address all the issues at a comparable price (the Phottix Strato II had already blitzed it with a mid priced option), not to mention add some great features like like a pass through TTL hotshoe on the transmitter (which is also universal for both Canon and Nikon cameras), very fast sync speeds, high 300v safe trigger voltage compatible with most lights, shutter release, standard sockets, standard AAA batteries, locking rings, flash wake up, simple channel selection, 100m+ range. Also compatible with Comtrig G430, G550, & Ojecoco H-430, H-550 T320 set $33 Review