The Phottix Strato II are currently our top choice all round Manual radio trigger for speedlights (and studio lights).
Just a few years ago the first great inexpensive radio trigger arrived in the form of the YongNuo RF-602. Although the 602 was a huge leap forward they still had some shortcomings which neither YongNuo nor the many other later options have managed to completely address.
That was until the Phottix Strato, and now the even further refined Strato II arrived. Not only addressing the shortcomings of the 602, but adding some great features like a pass through hotshoe which allows a full TTL flash on camera, and a great 4 group function, as well as backward and forward compatibility with other Phottix triggers (currently the Strato original, and Odin TTL trigger)
Ticking All The Boxes
The Refinements –
- Locking Ring & locking Pin on the Transmitter (good ones)
- Locking Ring on the Receivers
- Good simple accessible Power switches
- Good simple accessible Channel switches
- Good simple accessible Group switches
- Standard 3.5mm headphone plug sync ports
- Standard AAA batteries all-round
- High Sync speed over 1/250th (around 1/1200th with electronic shutters)
- 300v trigger voltage
- Solid fitting hotshoes and feet.
- Good simple battery doors without issues
- 4 Groups with great simple On Off switches on the Transmitter
- Pass Through Hotshoe on Transmitter allows on camera flash with full TTL functions
- Wireless (& wired) shutter release functions
- Flash wake-up function
- Hotshoe and PC cord flash triggering
- 2.4 GHz Frequency
- 150 meter range
- Operating temperature: -15 to +65C
The Strato II are well designed, compact, reliable, great range and great to use. Standard plugs, cords, batteries, and easy access to all buttons locking rings etc. So for an all round manual trigger the Strato II tick all the boxes others seems to miss in one way or another.
The Strato II may not be quite as cheap as some of the other popular options but they are still very well priced for the extra refinement offered. At around $50 -$60 a piece they are still a third of the price of PocketWizard PlusII /III.
Go All Cordless
The Strato II have great quality hotshoes on the receivers which means you can go completely cordless with most speedlights. That’s a great convenience that even the new PocketWizard Plus III still don’t offer.
This is also particularly helpful with flash units like the Nikon Sb-600/700 and Canon 430exII which don’t have a sync port to connect to directly via a sync cord at all. Those would require an extra hotshoe adapter otherwise.
The Strato II are fast, not the fastest but right up there.
What this means is you will be able to use your cameras maximum flash sync speed (usually 1/250th or 1/200th) without any black banding in the image from the cameras shutter curtain.
With slower triggers like the RF-602 it’s inevitable that you will need to eventually drop the shutter speed back to at least 1/200th to retain a clear frame without black banding. This can get much worse with a full frame Canon 5D for example which only has a 1/200th sync speed to start with, the Strato will at least retain that full 1/200th.
With cameras like the Nikon D70 and D40, and many point and shoot cameras, which have an electronic shutter its also possible to see what the absolute maximum sync speed of the triggers are. The Strato II are around 1/1250th, while the RF-602 would only do 1/800th, and the later RF-603 even slower around 1/600th.
The Strato II have a great group function. This simply means you can set your lights to separate groups and then be able to turn each one on and off quickly from the camera. That’s great for metering lights separately when setting up, whether your using a light meter or camera LCD . But you can also use this to turn lights on and off which are set up in remote locations.
The big improvement the Strato II have made here though is the group selection buttons on the transmitter. You can quickly switch each group straight on or off at the touch of a button, while many current comparable triggers make you scroll through a whole list of group combinations to find the one you want, which is often just not practical for regular use.
Pass Through Hotshoe
Another great feature of the Strato II, Phottix where the first to offer full TTL pass through hotshoe with their original Strato triggers.
This pass through allows a flash to be used on camera with all of its regular TTL functionality, while other slave flashes are still triggered in manual via the radio trigger. The Strato unit itself has no TTL function, it just allows the the TTL information to be passed through from the camera below to the flash on top.
Phottix have refined the neat fit between camera, transmitter and flash so there is very little movement in the flash when mounted on top of the transmitter. These are one of the few triggers I would actually trust to properly support a flash on top of the camera and transmitter like this.
The Pass through hotshoe is also ideal for using an AF focus assist light like that on a Canon ST-E2, or just the AF light on a speedlight.
Phottix have even added a second test fire button on the transmitter so that it’s easy to access with a flash mounted on top.
Backward & Forward Compatibility
You may notice I mention this a lot, but compatibility is really one of the most important things when considering a new radio trigger beyond the very cheap options which are pretty much disposable. Unless you want to be constantly clearing out your complete current system every time something new comes along its worth considering carefully what backward and forward compatibility are offered.
Phottix have shown some commitment with backward compatibility to the original Strato triggers and now forward with the new Odin ETTL triggers.
The Odin transmitter will fire the Strato II receivers (but not the other way around) as manual receivers only with corresponding group functions. This makes the Strato receivers great value as add-ons to the Odin system for simply firing non ETTL lights like manual flash and studio lights.
The Strato II can also be used as a remote shutter release and all the required cords are supplied for your brand of camera. The release has a 2 stage button for half shutter press functions like autofocus etc.
Note – If you want to fire a remote camera as well as remote flashes at the same time you will need a second set of Transmitter and Receiver. This is one area triggers like the YongNuo RF-603 have an advantage. Because they are transceivers they can act as both transmitter and receiver and do not require the second dedicated transmitter. You pay for that though in things like the reduced sync speed and mounting options due to the hot foot on both transmitter and receiver.
Having a second transmitter unit also acts as a back up, which is generally the other advantage of transceivers.
This is where the separate transmitter and receiver of the Strato II does have an advantage, because unlike transceivers they don’t need a hot foot with electrical contacts on the receiver.
This means they can have a threaded mounting hole directly on the foot which is the most secure way to attach them, and doesn’t add extra height like an additional clamping cold shoe. You can screw a stud directly into the base when using umbrella swivels or attach the trigger directly to various brackets etc via a thumbscrew.
Shown below the PocketWizard TT5 (left) being a transceiver has both a hot foot with electrical and a threaded mounting hole. This should be the best of both worlds, but the offset in the threaded mounting hole can cause a number of issues when trying to align the trigger and flash into various modifiers. While the Phottix Odin, and Stato II pictured right have a simple centred mounting hole which often makes solid mounting much easier.
- Frequency: 2.4 GHz
- Range: 150+m
- Channels: 4 channels
- Groups: 4 groups – A, B, C, D
- Batteries: 2 x AAA batteries (Transmitter and Receiver)
- 5V DC (external power port)
- Max sync speed: 1/250 sec
- Output: Hot shoe, 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm ports (receiver)
- Input: 3.5mm PC input port (transmitter)
- Attachment: 1/4 tripod lug, cold shoe (Receiver)
- Input voltage: 2.5-3.2V
- Minimum response time: 350us (For Canon),
- 800us (For Nikon)
- Top ports: TTL port on the top of transmitter
- C/F port voltage handling: 5V
- Flash port voltage handling: 300V(receiver), (6v transmitter)
- Body dimensions: 87(L) 40(W) 38(H)mm (transmitter)
- Body dimensions: 85(L) 40(W) 36(H)mm (receiver)
- Antenna: built-in PCB antenna
- Weight: 60g (transmitter); 49g (receiver)
- Operating temperature: -15 +65OC
- Storage temperature: -30 +85OC
Price and Availability
Phottix – Website