Cactus have release the impressive V6 remote manual flash trigger, and they are available now from $54.95 for each transceiver unit.
There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the function of the new V6 triggers already, and although they have some great features, it should be noted that the V6 are not TTL triggers. They do not transmit TTL information.
The Cactus V6 provide Remote Manual Power Control only. Though they do require compatible TTL flashes (or Cactus’s own RF60 speedlites) to allow this remote power control function.
Also this post is not a hands on review, just an overview of the V6 features and functions (and as many people are asking, with a few comparisons, insights, and thoughts thrown in).
The Cactus V6 are mostly very simple, and well considered remote manual triggers. Though they have a few very unique features, and some advanced options which may be useful as well.
- Remote Manual Power Control of – Canon, Nikon, & Pentax TTL Flashes – All at the Same Time!
- Remote Manual Power Control of – Many Third Party Canon / Nikon / Pentax Compatible TTL Flahses.
- Cross Brand TTL Pass Through Hotshoe for – Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Fujifilm.
- Fast Remote Manual Interface – Adjust One Group, or All Groups at Once.
- Universal – Compatible with All Cameras with a Standard Hotshoe – Or PC sync Port
- A Remote Manual Transmitter Option for the new Cactus RF60 Speedlite – Remote Power & Zoom.
- Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 EV stops.
- Built-in Optical Trigger.
- LoPower Mode fires flash for extremely short duration of time.
- Absolute Power Mode benchmarks power output of different flash models to same light intensity.
- Flash profile learning for other analogue-TTL flashes.
- Group Control up to 4 groups.
- Relay Mode triggers camera shutter and flash in sync.
- Delay Timer configurable from 1ms to 10 seconds (allows HSS & SCS of sorts) .
- Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware update.
- Compatible with Cactus V5, LV5 Laser Triggers, and RF60 Flash.
Over the last few years more advanced radio flash triggers have been moving towards TTL functionality. This is not just for TTL metering, but also for functions like HSS (High Speed Sync), SCS (Second Curtain Sync), as well as Remote Manual Power Control, and Zoom control etc.
Reverse engineering various manufacturers TTL protocols is an expensive undertaking though. And that also requires a large commitment to continual research and development costs, as new camera models are constantly released (and also become more difficult to reverse engineer).
There can be a lot of advantages to TTL based radio trigger systems, though one of the disadvantages is the need for dedicated brand specific gear. Where simple manual (and remote manual) systems can be a lot more universal, and function on most cameras.
So at this stage Cactus have avoided the dedicated TTL systems with the V6, and are simply trying to squeeze as many features (some TTL like) as they can out of a non-dedicated manual system. This provides a more universal system which will work on most cameras. And this also helps to explain why some of the V6 features and functions detailed below have been implemented the way they have.
The V6 are also transceiver units with the transmitter and receiver units being exactly the same, and interchangeable. Again reducing costs and providing a more universal system.
Remote Power Control for – Canon – Nikon – Pentax
Other than acting as a transmitter unit for Cactus’s own RF60 flash unit, the main feature of the new V6 transceiver is the ability to remotely control the manual power levels of quite a number of current and previous TTL flashes. And these flashes can be compatible with either the Canon, Nikon or Pentax TTL systems.
A significant feature here though is the ability to combine and control all three brand systems at the same time! The Cactus V6 are the first triggers available which can do this with 3 different brand systems.
So Canon, Nikon, or Pentax compatible TTL flashes are required for remote manual power control with the V6. Though the flashes do not provide any TTL functionality off-camera when using the V6 triggers. I think this image below from the Cactus V6 microsite is probably where much of the TTL confusion has come from –
The big advantage of the Cactus V6 system here though is the ability to also use many third party (Canon, Nikon or Pentax compatible) TTL flashes. As well as older TTL film camera flashes like the popular Nikon SB-24, 26, 28 etc.
And the V6 come with flash profiles pre-installed for quite a number of flashes –
Canon System Models –
– Cactus AF45C, AF50C;
– Canon 320EX, 430EX, 430EXII, 540EZ, 580EX, 580EXII, 600EX-RT;
– Godox V860C;
– Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 52AF-1, 58AF-1, 58AF-2;
– Nissin Di866 MARK II, MG8000;
– Phottix Mitros;
– Sigma EF-500 DG SUPER;
– Yongnuo YN568EX II;
Nikon System Models –
– Cactus AF45N, AF50N;
– Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 58AF-2;
– Nikon SB-24, SB-28, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900, SB-910;
– Nissin Di700, Di866;
– Sigma EF-530 DG SUPER;
Pentax System Models –
– Cactus AF45P, AF50P;
– Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2;
– Pentax AF 360FGZ, AF 540FGZ;
And the V6 even have a Flash Profile Learning Mode (detailed further below) which may allow other analogue-TTL flashes not already profiled to possibly be used with remote power control as well.
Fast Remote Manual Interface
One of the most significant features of the new V6 transceivers, is simply the well considered and fast operation interface for remote manual power setting of up to 4 separate flash groups.
Another major feature here is the ability to make global changes, adjusting all group power levels at once while retaining the same ratios. This can be a huge advantage when using a number of lights, as it allows quick aperture changes on the camera (to change depth of field) without having to adjust each light group individually to compensate.
Holding down a group button and scrolling the rear dial adjusts an individual group. Scrolling the dial without holding a group button adjusts all the groups at once. Its that simple.
Groups can also be switched on and off quickly, which also helps when taking light meter reading of individual groups.
MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
Some of the advanced features of the V6 detailed below may be nice options to have, though its really the solid basic operation that’s really one of the most important things to start with. And its been a constant struggle over many years trying to get Chinese manufacturers in particular to see what most regular users would consider as common sense, fast, simple operation.
Cactus are clearly on the same page as actual users here though. They have started on the right track, and then refined things further with user feedback through the development process. The result is a very fast and simple interface which allows you to control up to 4 flash groups very quickly with one hand.
A couple of things I would note here though, is that horizontal LCD screens can be hard to read when the camera is mounted higher on a tripod. Something like at least a 45 degree angle on the LCD screen would certainly have helped here.
Also as nice as it is to see all groups at once, it would also be helpful to have the option of just seeing the one current group being adjusted in larger easier to see format (displayed across the full LCD screen).
The V6 use a dot matrix LCD screen though, so updates like this could be very possible as a later firmware updates.
Cross Brand TTL Pass Through Hotshoe
Following the theme of maximizing cross brand compatibility, Cactus have also managed to make the V6 pass through hotshoe compatible with a pretty amazing – Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Fujifilm TTL flash systems. All with the same one universal V6 pass though hotshoe.
The TTL pass through hotshoe allows a flash to be mounted on top of the camera and V6 transmitter, allowing full on-camera TTL flash use. While remote flashes can still be fired and controlled with manual power settings.
The big advantage here is that a number of different camera systems can be used with the same V6 triggers. And all still allowing a TTL flash on camera if needed.MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
I would note though, that TTL pass through hotshoes can be less than ideal for extended use at the best of times. And a universal pass through hotshoe requires extra (and likely more delicate) TTL contacts, which are certainly not going to add to long term reliability.
So even though this universal pass through hotshoe would be very handy feature for occasional on-camera use, I personally wouldn’t be expecting this to be a serious solution for extended on-camera use for weddings etc.
That is unless the flash is actually mounted on a bracket above the camera (and connected to the V6 via a short TTL cord).
Compatible with All Cameras with a Standard Hotshoe
One of the big advantages the V6 have over more complex TTL triggers, is that they can still provide full remote manual power control when used with virtually any camera which has a standard ISO hotshoe.
Or if the camera has a PC sync port, to connect via sync cord to the V6 transmitter’s 3.5mm sync port..
MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
Though this universal compatibility may not always be available to only remote manual triggers like the V6.
Manufacturer are becoming more aware of the desire for people to use different brand mirrorless cameras etc with the same flash triggers. And where possible its likely TTL triggers will offer remote manual power control across camera brands as well. (As well as providing more functionality with the dedicated TTL cameras).
The recent YongNuo YN-ST-E3 transmitter allows remote manual power control, while using most cameras, with the Canon RT flash system for example.
And we are likely to see more Canon based TTL systems (possibly like the coming YN-622C-TX) offer similar universal remote manual function.
Its mainly Nikon based TTL systems which have difficulty with universal remote manual control, though PocketWizard ControlTL do already provide this with Canon and Nikon flashes. So its not impossible with Nikon systems either.
Remote Manual Transmitter for the new Cactus RF60 Speedlite
The V6 will provide remote power control with a lot of compatible TTL flashes, though Cactus have also developed their own RF60 flash units which have a V6 compatible remote manual radio receiver conveniently built in.
With the V6 used as a transmitter on the camera, remote power levels, and also flash head zoom of the RF60 can be controlled remotely. Again with 4 separate groups available.
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And considering the V6 units are around $55 each, and the RF60 flash with V6 receiver built-in are around $140, this leaves the flash alone costing around $85.
So its generally not worth chasing second hand SB-24, 26, 28, etc for off-camera flashes anymore, when brand new RF60 are likely going to cost less than the second hand flashes and additional V6 receivers. And the RF60 has the added convenience of not having to deal with the separate receivers and extra batteries etc.
In the same way its generally not going to be worth purchasing more expensive late model TTL flashes either, not if they are just to be used as remote manual units on V6 receivers. The RF60 would be a much more economical option there as well.
Precision Power Levels
The V6 also provide the ability to select power level adjustment in 1/10, 1/3 or 1/2 EV stop increments, even if the flash model does not normally support finer adjustments.
Absolute Power Mode
Due to the variety of flashes which can be used with the V6’s remote power control, Cactus have also provided an Absolute Power Mode, which can benchmark the power output of flash models with different Guide Number (or light output).
In Absolute Power mode, EV numbers can be used to specify an absolute light intensity, independent of the maximum power output of a flash model.
MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
Absolute Power Mode looks like a nice option to have. Though it does also highlight why its often more convenient to just use the same flashes where possible. That’s another reason why it may also be preferable to standardise to the Cactus RF60 when looking for extra flashes for the system.
Built In Optic Trigger
The V6 also have a basic optic trigger built in. This can be used to trigger the V6 from other flashes, and also facilitates the Flash Profile Learning detailed below.
The optic trigger also has S1 and S2 modes. S2 ignores pre-flashes so that a TTL flash can be used as the triggering flash.
Cactus also state the V6 optic trigger as “enabling pre-flash triggering”. This is a bit of a work around to allow a type of HSS (High Speed Sync) of sorts, which is detailed further below.
The V6 also provide a shutter release function, and a Relay Mode can trigger the camera shutter and flash in sync.
With many radio triggers it requires 2 sets (or pairs) of triggers to fire the camera with a remote shutter release, as well as fire remote flashes.
The V6 being transceivers are able to do this with a minimum of 3 triggers instead of 4.
Flash Profile Learning
Create profiles for analogue TTL flashes which do not have a one provided already.MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
The Flash Profile Learning feature of the Cactus V6 is quite amazing. Cactus are not going to be able to profile every old Canon, Nikon, and Pentax compatible flash out there. So if you’re flash doesn’t have an existing profile provided by Cactus you may be able to create one yourself with the V6 Profile Learning feature.
This only works for analogue TTL flashes though. These are mainly the older film camera TTL flashes with analogue quench signals. If you have a recent TTL flash and there is no profile provided already, that may be an indication Cactus have had an issue profiling that model.
The Flash Profile Learning feature uses the V6’s built-in optic slave to measure the light output of the flash when set to a number of manual power levels. The new profile can then be copied to other V6 units.
Video by Brian Hursey Photography
Fires the flash for extremely short lengths of time to help with freezing motion.MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
Speedlites, being IGBT flashes, provide shorter flash durations with the lower the power level goes.
And TTL metering can often provide lower light levels than the lowest manual power setting provided on a flash (1/132 etc).
So Cactus have now provided a very low manual power level option when using the V6 LoPower Mode, which is more consistent and convenient than trying to coax the camera into providing a low power level with TTL metering.
The LoPower mode may come in handy when using the V6 with Cactus’s LV5 Laser Trip Trigger to catch and freeze moving objects, water splashes, balloons popping etc.
Delay Timer – SCS
The V6 Delay Timer can provide a manual work around for implementing SCS (Second Curtain Sync).MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
The V6 provide a Delay Timer which can delay the flash firing signal from 1 millisecond to as long as 10 seconds.
As the V6 are manual triggers only, they can not communicate with the camera to detect a Second Curtain Signal. Though the V6 Delay Timer can be used to manually set a time close to the second curtain closing. Or even anywhere within the exposure if desired.
So this is a very manual approach compared to the simplicity of the automated SCS which most TTL triggers provide. Though its still a very handy option to have, and could be quite workable if not changing the shutter speed often.
Delay Timer – And HSS Options
As the V6 do not have any TTL communication with the camera, they can not enable the regular HSS (High Speed Sync) function found in many TTL flashes.
Though the compatible Cactus RF60 flash units do have what Cactus call a HSS Sympathy Mode.
And the Delay Timer built into the V6 also helps with Long Duration methods of achieving higher sync speeds (usually used with larger studio lights etc).
Though both of these options still require some work arounds when triggered via the V6.
MORE DETAIL - Click to Expand
This may be too much to explain here in detail, so I will try and give a basic outline.
There are basically 2 methods of achieving higher sync speeds when using flash –
- A flash unit which fires many small pulses, effectively creating a constant light source.
- A flash unit which has a long enough flash duration to effectively act as a constant light source
To achieve higher sync speeds with flash, 2 things are required-
- A flash (as above) which pulses many times, or has a long enough duration, either acting as a continuous light source
- And an early fire signal (called a Pre-Sync signal) which starts the flash firing before the cameras first shutter curtain starts to open.
Attaining this Pre-Sync signal though can be the hard part though.
A TTL enabled flash, or TTL enabled radio trigger, mounted on the camera hotshoe can communicate with the camera and detect this early signal. A manual trigger like the V6 can not do this on its own.
One simple workaround though, is to simply borrow the signal optically from a TTL and HSS enabled flash mounted on camera hotshoe.
So as a workaround means of detecting a Pre-Flash signal, both the V6 triggers and Cactus RF60 flash units provide a built in optic slave cell. (More on how this operates further bellow).
Cactus RF60 Flash-
Cactus have implemented a flash pulsing function in the V6 compatible RF60 flash unit, calling it a HSS sympathy mode.
Unlike with most TTL flashes though, this HSS will only work with the flash used off camera, and you need to manually turn this mode On and Off on the RF60 flash unit itself.
So the RF60 flashes are ready to go for HSS off camera, the problem then is getting a Pre-Sync signal to them.
And one way of achieving this is through the RF60’s built in optic slave, using the light from a TTL flash on camera (set to HSS) as the triggering unit.
Although this all optical method above will work, its generally not going to be practical in many situations where you would want to use HSS. Because that is often in bright ambient light, where the optic slaves generally do not work very well.
So the second workaround Cactus have allowed for, is to use the V6 transmitter’s optic slave placed near the TTL flash on the camera, the V6 then firing the RF60 via radio (instead of optically as above).
This may sound like a cumbersome set up, though unlike the TTL trigger options below, this will work with any camera model having an on-camara TLL and HSS enabled flash available. Which could be quite significant for non Canon / Nikon owners.
TTL Radio Transmitter –
For Canon and Nikon DSLR’s though, this simplest and most cost effective method of attaining the Pre-Sync signal required for HSS, is to use another TTL and HSS enabled transmitter in conjunction with the V6 transmitter.
The most obvious and cost effective ($45) TTL transmitter options will likely be the YongNuo YN-622. For Canon the YN-622C must be attached to the V6 via a sync cord (3.5mm to male PC Sync) –
For Nikon the V6 transmitter can be mounted straight on top of the YN-622N hotshoe, without the sync cord. The image above by Brian Hursey shows the Canon YN-622C mounted on top of the V6 transmitter, with Nikon they need to be the other way around (if not using the extra sync cord as shown).
The YN-622 also provides a handy AF assist light which the V6 does not have.
Delay Timer –
The V6 also provide a Delay Timer which can delay the flash firing signal from 1 millisecond to as long as 10 seconds.
This timing adjustment can be used with the triggering methods mentioned above to help fine tune the Pre-Sync timing. This can help to remove shutters showing in the image, or even provide more light in the frame.
You can see a full explanation of Pre-Sync timing adjustments detailed here with the Phottix Odin. That post also illustrates the different methods of HSS.
High Speed Sync with Studio Lights –
Using the same Pre-Sync triggering methods mentioned above, and studio lights with a long enough flash duration, higher sync speeds can often be used with studio lights as well. A V6 unit would be attached to each light as a radio receiver.
When using this Long Duration method, the Delay Timer adjustment discussed above can provide a big advantage in results attainable.
Other speedlites (manual or TTL) can also use the Long Duration sync method if used at full power. Using full power all the time is generally not that practical though.
HSS Summary –
Having explained the HSS options with the Cactus system, I should point out that using HSS with the Cactus RF60 flash alone may not always be worth chasing. The HSS sympathy mode is similar to the recent Godox flashes H-mode, though the Godox flashes originally started with a lot more power in the Witstro units. Which is generally more practical with the limited power HSS provides.
Though like the recent Godox V850 speedlites, the import thing is that the RF60 flashes can still operate with the same HSS system when used in conjunction with more capable larger lights. So its still very valuable to be able to combine the RF60 using HSS if needed.
The Cactus V6 system also provides a method of off camera HSS which works with non Canon / Nikon cameras, which not many other current systems can provide. (That is using the the HSS flash on camera method of Pre-Syn triggering).
And finally, the HSS sympathy mode and optic slave in the RF60 flashes can be used to simply gang a number of flashes in a softbox or umbrella etc. Provided one flash is firing in HSS via some method, a number of other RF60 flashes can be simply optic slaved in HSS sympathy mode.
The V5 and LV5 do not support groups though, so a V6 as transmitter for example will fire all V5’s regardless of which groups are enabled on the V6 transmitter. Likewise a V5 as transmitter will fire all V6 as receivers regardless of which group they are set to.
- Working radio frequency: 2.4 GHz
- Number of channels: 16
- Number of groups: 4
- Maximum effective distance: 100 meters
- Operating temperature: -20°C to +50°C
- Camera voltage handling: up to 6V
- Flash voltage handling: up to 300V
- Support sync speed up to 1/1,000 second (subject to camera’s sync speed limitation)
- 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
Price and Availability
Please also see full V6 Reviews by –
Brian Hursey Photography