Pixel Battery Pack TD-381 Review

If you’re after an alternative to the Canon, Nikon, or Sony 8 cell battery packs the Pixel Dual Circuit pack is one to look out for.

The 8 cell external packs greatly reduce your flashes recycle time and the need for battery changes.

I first reviewed the Pixel pack a couple of years ago now and it was impressive back then, but as far as I ‘m aware it’s still the pick of the bunch in terms of recycle speed and the number of pops out of your batteries. Pixel are the masters of squeezing extra life out of batteries, and radio trigger sync speeds as well.

The Pixel pack also has a unique dual charging circuit which helps to achieve those fast recycle speeds, but this also means you can use just 4 instead of the full 8 AA batteries if needed.

Some other packs may seem impressive at first but it doesn’t take long before their recycle times start slowing down. You can see a comparison against the YongNuo pack here which really shows how the low recycle times of the Pixel stay consistent.

The Pixel pack is certainly not made as heavy duty as the Canon or Nikon versions but if treated with care they can hold up ok over time.

With my 580ex and fairly used Nimh Energizer 2500mAh batteries the normal recycle is around 4 to 5 seconds. With the Pixel pack I’m getting around –

1.2 seconds at full power
0.5 seconds at 1/2 power
0.0 seconds at 1/4 power

You would possibly get even better times with a good set of Maha Powerex 2700mAh batteries or similar.

 

Battery Tray

PIXEL TD-381 Battery Pack for Canon

The battery tray fits and secures well. It’s designed as 2 sets of 4 batteries, one set goes in on top the other on the bottom so you won’t mix them up. The batteries will also only go in one way so you can’t put any in the wrong way around. They are easy to insert and remove and they’re held in nice and secure.

The battery door opens with a push of the button and slide of the end cap, and locks back in to place nice and tight.

 

Dual Charging Circuit

PIXEL TD-381 Battery Pack for Canon

The pack has 2 LED’s on the end, one for each charging circuit. They blink constantly while on standby and turn solid while recharging the flash.

When using only 4 batteries in the pack it doesn’t matter which side you put them in, the LED on that side will double blink to show there’s only the one circuit with batteries running.

I tried putting a nearly flat set of batteries on one side and a fully recharged set on the other and the LED’s showed exactly which circuit was doing most of the charging (the recharged set).

The image below shows the one set of 4 batteries loaded, it doesn’t matter which side you put them in.

 

PIXEL TD-381 Battery Pack for Canon

Padded Case

 

The padded case opens from both ends so you can remove the battery tray without taking the whole pack out of the case. The  case has the usual belt slot on the back and 2 holes on the top so that you can still see the LED’s.

PIXEL TD-381 Battery Pack for Canon

Mounting

 

The pack has a hole near one end so that you can also screw it straight to the base of your camera with the supplied thumbscrew if desired.

PIXEL TD-381 Battery Pack for Canon

 Compatibility

 

For off camera use the Canon version of the Pixel pack doesn’t appear to be affected by radio triggers, TTL cord, or using the attached flash as a remote slave. I don’t think using radio triggers will be much of an issue with the Canon version.

Compatible Flash units for Canon – 580EXII, 580EX, 550EX, MR-14EX, MT-24EX
Also aftermarket flashes with a compatible battery socket like the YongNuoYn-560, 565, and Nissin Di866II

With some of the 8 cell YongNuo packs the main problem has been off camera use with the Nikon model used for SB-24, 26, 28 etc in conjunction with some radio triggers. That is because they have another cord going from the battery pack to the PC socket on the flash. You can see more about that issue with the YongNuo pack here

The PIXEL pack for those older Nikon flashes also have the same PC cord so there may still be some similar issues, you can see more coments on that here on the  Strobist Flickr Forum

Background

 

For those that may not be familiar these packs still require a set of batteries in the flash to power the controls and LCD etc. The battery pack plugs into a socket on the flash and bypasses all the normal circuitry delivering very high voltage straight to the flash capacitor. This is how it delivers such fast recharge times. The battery pack itself has complex circuitry which transforms the low voltage batteries into over 300 volts going into the flash! So it’s not safe DIY territory in any way.

The original Canon/Nikon versions of these packs have become standard for many wedding/event photographers, they go all day with one battery tray change at the most. At a fraction of the price these packs are now a lot more accessible and really put and end to the need for the old budget DIY lead acid packs with which don’t recycle any faster and need wires coming out the flash battery door.

 

Resources

 

Pixel HK
Strobist Flickr Forum
Canon TD-381 POTN
Nikon TD-382 POTN

 

Price & Availability

 

The Pixel packs are on ebay from around $50 a set with shipping.

Models available-

TD-381 for Canon
TD-382 for Nikon
TD-383 for Nikon
TD-384 for Sony

From Amazon –
Canon
Nikon SB-900
Nikon SB-800 & older
Sony

20 Comments
  1. John 3 years ago

    Got one. Love it.

  2. Michael 3 years ago

    I have the Yongnuo YN560iii and it does NOT seem compatible with the Pixel TD-381. Is there something I need to do to get them to work together?

    • Evaldas 3 years ago

      Michael,

      have you managed to make TD-381 work with YN560III?
      I have 560III as well and was looking for a battery pack.

      TD-381 seems a better option compared to YN battery packs, but only if it works properly…

      Regards,
      Evaldas

      • Author
        Flash Havoc 3 years ago

        Hi Evaldas,

        The Pixel TD-381 I have works fine with the YN-560 III.

        I missed Michael’s comment previously, so I’m not sure what the issue may have been there, but in general they shuold work well together.

        Recycle time is very fast with the YN-560 III, less than 0.7 seconds (using regular Eneloops). Thanks.

        • Evaldas 3 years ago

          Thanks for fast reply!

          How does the YN-560 III cope with overheating using battery pack?
          As recycle time is so low you can shoot more often even with full power.

          How many pops can it handle with fast succession before flash goes to overheat protection mode?

          • Author
            Flash Havoc 3 years ago

            Hi Evaldas,

            I would need to check, but its only around 20 to 25 shots at full power in quick succession. Then it will slow to a few seconds recycle.

            I actually tested the YN-560 III to destruction against the Godox V850. And the YN-560 III flash tube went a lot earlier, but that was really abusing the flash by continually opening the battery door to reset the flash and avoid the overheat protection.

            The V850 / V860 will also only do around 20 pops at full power before they are slowed a bit. The flash tube is much stronger than the YN-560 III though as it needs to be to withstand the HSS mode the flash has.

            The Canon 600EX will do 45 pops at full power, but overall you’re still not really gaining anything as the flash still needs to cool just as much as the others. In fact the V850/V860 are the coolest because the Lithium-Ion battery does not get hot inside the flash, where as the Eneloops etc get scorching hot when used hard.

            The Nissin MG8000 Extreme is the only speedlight which will allow you to shoot continuously. Otherwise the bare bulb Witstro are the way to go, or a cheaper alternative is to use a number of V850 set to a lower power level. thanks.

            • Evaldas 3 years ago

              Yes, I have read your destruction test results some time ago :)

              But I was wondering what is the difference using battery pack as the batteries inside of a flash are not charging the flash anymore therefore V850 looses its advantage of not generating that much of heat.

              Im not sure yet whether battery pack is something that I really need, so for now Im just gathering information.
              But I think YN560III combined with YN560TX might benefit battery pack for longer shoots when one set of batteries is not enough.

              No need to touch the flash to change the settings or the batteries.

          • Randell John 2 years ago

            I’ve never had an over heating problem using these battery packs Evaldas. I use them with Canon 580EX II’s often on full power.
            Obviously recyle times slow down after shooting on full power over a longer time period, but it’s a big improvement on using the Speedlites on their own.

  3. Randell John 2 years ago

    I bought three of these battery packs two years ago, and they have performed flawlessly.
    They make a huge difference to battery consumption and recyle times.
    My only minor complaint is the fabric case, which has started to fray at the stitched seams on two of the units.

  4. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    The TD-381 doesn’t work for flash bursts at lower power levels.

    In 2012 I bought two Bolt CBP-C1 battery packs for my Canon 600EX-RT flashes. These are re-branded TD-381 packs. At least that is what I thought, and the text on the PCB identifies it as a TD-381 PCB. I bought these battery packs because I needed my two flashes to match the frame rate of my Canon 7D camera. I have since then updated my camera to a 1D mark IV so the frame rate has increased to 10 FPS. Last year I bought one more flash and this time a Pixel TD-381 battery pack to “support” it, but I never really got to test it out fully. I have recently added two more flashes and two more TD-381 packs this time the new Mago compatible version. My initial testing with the 1D mark IV showed no issues with the flashes and Bolt battery packs following the 10 FPS when the flash output was set to 1/8 power.

    In the field however, I have been having problems with flashes not firing. It has taken me some time to figure out what the issue was because I just assumed that the Pixel packs performed similar to the Bolt packs and I thought that the issue was the batteries and didn’t pay much attention to what pack I was using for what flashes. I have now found that the Pixel packs perform significantly worse than the Bolt packs. The recycle time for a full power pop are very similar for the two packs (to the point where I can’t distinguish them if I don’t make a video). But as soon as I fire a burst the Bolt packs perform significantly better, and the TD-381 packs essentially stop working !

    Firing a bust of 29 frames at 1/8 power of the Canon 600EX-RT with a Bolt battery pack and GP ReCyko+ in both flash and battery pack yield no missed fires – no black frames. Switching to the newest of my TD-391 packs and firing a burst of 26 frames using the same batteries gave me 10 black frames (denoting fires with + and non-fires with -, the sequence was: ++++++++-+-+-+–+-+-++-+). Switching to the oldest TD-381 (non Mago compatible) gave similar results (burst size: 27, 10 black frames, sequence: ++++++++-+–+-+-+-+-++-+-+-). Running the flash without external battery pack yielded a burst of 28 frames with 12 black frames (++++++++-+–+-+–+–+-+–+-+) Switching back to the Blot battery pack again to confirm that the batteries hadn’t been discharged to an extend that affected the test yielded a burst of 38 frames without a single black frame. This experiment has been repeated several times with the same outcome each time.

    So my conclusion is that unfortunately the Pixel TD-381 does very little for the ability to shoot bursts compared to the flash without external power. On the other hand the Bolt version of the pack allow me to shoot the bursts I need.

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 1 year ago

      That’s interesting, thanks Niels.

      Pixel have continually made numerous variations and small updates to the packs though. So I would be more inclined to think this is not relating to a different pack produced specifically for the Bolt brand.

      Possibly more just that the latest packs you have have been tweaked again, unfortunately reducing the low power burst rate for some reason.

  5. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    You are right, Pixel support has informed me that:

    “The circuit of BOLT power pack is an oldest version which doesn’t adopt overheating warning design.
    So it may keep supplying power to the flash… But we have changed the circuit at the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2014.
    Cos many users told us that the capacitance was burned due to overheat. Now our new power pack will stop supplying power to the flash after continous shooting about 8-10 shots.”

    Man I could have saved a lot of time and buying alternative batteries if Pixel had informed about this significant change in the product.

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 1 year ago

      Thanks Niels.

      I think a lot of things tend to go this way over time. The flashes start fast and powerful but then the manufactures slowly dial back the output slightly and increase heat protection over time to avoid failures.

      The Godox PB-960 are really the way to go with battery packs. With a 2 into 1 cord they will go harder than any speedlight is likely deigned to withstand.

  6. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    Thanks FH :-)

    Yes, the PB-960 or the new PB-820S which is a smaller pack with only one output which equals one output of the PB-960. I have one PB-820S but it’s a bit larger than the TD-381 and size matters when you pack a lot of gear in a LowePro Flipsize 400AW. If I could turn back time, I wouldn’t have purchased the last two TD-381 and a lot of extra AA NiMH’s, but rather two more PB-820S’s. Since I only need the flashes to output 1/8 power, I though I would get flawless performance out of the TD-381 because I expected them to perform like the old Bold packs. Now that I have the TD-381’s I will try to mod them to match the performance of the Bolt packs. I really don’t care about the thermal issues that may occur if you flash a lot at higher power settings. I’ve never had issues with 2-3 second bursts at 1/8 power or below. And if I burn the TD-381’s after the mod I really haven’t lost anything that is useful to me…
    By the way, I think the change in the TD-381 performance is closely related to the new HV plug design in the Pixel flashes. Pixel probably want to limit the amount of the bitching over failing Pixel flashes…

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 1 year ago

      Thanks Niels, I didn’t realize the PB-820S were available yet. So they are ok with longer bursts as well?

      I think the only main downside to the PB-820/s is that the batteries are likely not replaceable. And costing a little more than a replacement PB960 battery your a little behind in the long run then (provide the larger size/weight of the PB960 was not an issue).

      Yes I think Pixel may well have introduced their proprietary HV socket to ensure the flash isn’t fried with other packs. Though interestingly I have the Nikon version X800N sample flash here, and that has the standard Canon socket. So I’m not sure if Pixel may have decided to go back to the standard socket for future Canon flashes then as well.

  7. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    The PB-820S is available from ebay and amazon and has been so for a couple of month now. Most of the sellers ship from China or similar but there are a few that ship from within the EU (even though they are Chinese). The biggest issue is finding one with an EU power plug for the charger. The pack is OK for long bursts at 1/8 power with a 600EX-RT… but I’m not convinced that mine doesn’t suffer from high self-discharge which isn’t picked up by the battery gauge. The issue may have been something else – I’m not sure and as long as it doesn’t get any worse I OK with it because it’s really easy to recharge the pack overnight. I will try to find time to reevaluate this weekend. As I recall I didn’t get a 100% fire rate at power levels above 1/8 at 10 FPS in which case the PB-820S isn’t better for my usage than my old Bolt packs. If I should list my major nuisances with the pack it would be that I would have liked it to be smaller (which I believe it could have been) and the coiled wire is way too stiff (I like the wire used for the TD-381 far better). I would have liked to see a lock on the DIN connector like on the PB-960 but thus far I haven’t had the cord fall out. The choice of a DIN connector is beyond me. The DIN connectors that I’ve seen specs for are rated for continuous 60V DC and tested at 250V RMS AC. It does carry 300+ V in this application. If it had been me I would have chosen something else (I know that this choice was originally made by Quantum).

  8. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    My PB-820S has now been sitting idle for about a week after being charged and I have done a quick burst test with a Canon 600EX-RT loaded with GP ReCyko+ fully charged a few days ago and unused since then . At 1/4 power I did a burst of 31 frames with 4 black frames (first black frame was frame 16). And a burst at 1/4 power – 1/3 stop with 35 frames and no black frames. Since I want to have a flash duration shorter than 1/2000 (or preferably 1/4000), my limit is about 1/4 power anyway, so I can’t be anything but very pleased with the performance of the PB-860S.

  9. Niels Gram 1 year ago

    I was using an omnibounce-like diffuser im my testing. Apparently this makes the flash reduce the light output and thus power consumption. Without this diffuser things look quite different. I will update later.

  10. Vince 4 weeks ago

    I have three Pixel x800n Standard speedlights. What I,m inquiring about is what external battery pack by Pixel is compatible for the above mentioned flash units. I’m thinking the TD 381 external battery pack may be compatible but not exactly sure. Any info on this would be much appreciated. Regards Vince

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 4 weeks ago

      Hi Vince,

      Yes, as far as I understand Pixel have adopted the Canon HV battery port for all their flashes now, so the TD-381 should be right for your X800n.

      You likely saw this already, though if not Pixel have a Lithium-ion pack available soon as well. (Again you would want the Canon Cord/Plug)

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