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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Price & Availability
The Pixel packs are on ebay from around $50 a set with shipping.
TD-381 for Canon
TD-382 for Nikon
TD-383 for Nikon
TD-384 for Sony