The impressive new Pixel King Pro and King X, ETTL, HSS, and Remote Manual, flash triggers are now available.
Pixel really have stepped it up with the new 3rd generation King Pro Transmitter and King X receiver. This is a major change in the physical build, as well as the functionality over the previous Kings. The new built in interface dramatically simplifies use, and this is one big solid unit now!
The price has remained around $142 for a set, so you get a lot more now in the new King Pro for a similar price to the previous King triggers. And even though close to double the price of the popular YongNuo YN-622C TTL trigger, the King Pro are still quite a breakthrough in price for the functionality on offer now.
Also from Firmware version V105 onward, the King Pro’s interface has also had a major improvement, with the adjustment of groups now possible through the rear interface buttons alone, as many people had been asking for.
Please Note - This review was based on the original V000 firmware which was working very well.
Firmware V001, and V100, added some compatibility with the previous King receivers, as well as the Canon 6D and 700D cameras.
Firmware V101 added Canon 1DX compatibility. And also V101 for all other cameras which adds full compatibility with previous King receivers.
New or updated features are marked with a + before them.
- - FSK 2.4GHz
- + 300 Meter Range
- + More Stable and Reliable Processing and Software
- + Built in Interface allowing fast changes of flash settings in 3 Groups
- + Interface allows Mixing ETTL and Manual Groups
- + Interface allows FEC adjustments in + or – EV, as well as ratios A:B and A:B C
- + Interface allow fast flash head Zoom Settings for each group
- + Combined FEC from Camera and Trigger = up to 6 stops +/- FEC
- + Interface means older cameras without a flash control menu still have full function
- + ETTL Pass Through Hotshoe allows an ETTL or Manual flash mounted On-camera
- - FP HSS to 1/8000th with compatible speedlites
- - Second Curtain Sync Supported
- - FEL (Flash Expousre Lock) supported
- - Super Sync up to 1/8000th with compatible monolights
- + USB Port for Firmware Updates – Now quicker and easier, and supports Windows and Mac
- + King Pro is a Transceiver, so it can be Transmitter or Receiver (provides back up transmitters)
- + Test Fire Button works with a light meter in manual use, even setting power levels off camera
- + Manual power setting can be made directly on the flash, overriding the transmitter set to ETTL
- + More Efficiency and Longer Battery Life
- + Shutter Release Function
- + Remote Camera Triggering
- + 15 Fixed Channels and 1 Auto Channel
- + Metal Frame Structure inside the King Pro for Greater Strength
- + 1/4″ 20 Threaded Metal Bracket Mounting Point
- + New Attached Battery Door
- + More reliable Gold Plated Battery Contacts
- + 2 color LED Backlite for Master and Slave
- + Dedicated Test Fire Bottons
- + Separate Group Selection Buttons
- + USB and Sync Port Dust Covers
- Requires MK II Canon Speedlites for full functions
- Transmitter only fires on Canon cameras (Test fire & remote power works off the camera hotshoe)
- No AF assist Light (though YN-622C confirmed working on top of TX as AF an assist light)
- No FEB or Multi Flash Mode
- No individual FEC adjustment for flash on Camera (camera set FEC works but adjusts all groups)
No A-B-C Group Buttons on rear interface, making adjustments more difficult than needed.
- No other compatible manual triggers, like the Pixel Opas and Bishop
- Pass Through Hotshoe is still not ideal as Hotshoe and Foot are not tight enough connections
- Locking Rings are still too small and thin to access easily or lock down firm
- PC sync port still used instead of more reliable 3.5mm miniphone jack
The King Pro have a big increase in range, now stated as approximately 300 meters. This may not sound particularly relevant if you’re not using long distances anyway, but when it comes to TTL triggers this really is a significant development, and a very practical and usable leap forward most users will benefit from.
Triggers like the current Kings, and very popular YN-622C, have a range of up to 100 meters or more line of sight. Which is quite a long distance. But that is nothing like the real practical working distance. Shooting portraits (even with a fairly long lens) you may not experience this too quickly, but shooting something a little larger like a car for example, it can be easy to see the limitations of the current TTL triggers within relatively normal working distances. About 25 – 30 meters is around the most you get reliably once the line of sight is obstructed slightly, ie flashes slightly behind or inside the car etc.
The King Pro effectively doubles that reliable working distance to a good to 50 to 60 meters (much further line of sight). I did a number of side by side tests with the YN-622C using various obstructions and the Kings consistently doubled their range. This is the sort of solid working range you expect from fully manual radio triggers, and that’s often the reason people carry manual triggers as a back up alternative as well.
Now the King Pro really have solid range and transmission power. Even at short working distances that helps to ensure they are going to get all that complex TTL information back and forth with less chance of any hiccups. In remote manual use the Kings are very much like manual triggers too, in that there is no pre-flash or delay on the camera shutter. You have the convenience of remote manual power setting, with the fast manual trigger feel, and now the solid range of manual triggers as well. But then also with the option of HSS or TTL if needed.
The original Pixel Knights and Kings where an impressive start to inexpensive TTL triggers. But they are aging now, and even the inexpensive YongNuo YN-622C recently showed the difference in how well it can actually be done now. I don’t know if there is any way of quantifying this, but its clear the new Kings have lifted the processing and communication up a level again. They function fast and smooth without any hiccups I could see so far.
Combined with the extra range, this is a solid improvement for the King Pro. More time and users will always tell the full story, but initial signs are very good. Pixel have stated this as “more stable and reliable hardware and software for the new upgrade”.
The major advantage over the current King and the YN-622C is the new built in interface with LCD screen, which provides the ability to instantly see and access all the remote flash settings and controls, and change settings quickly without digging through the camera menu.
This interface also provides the major advantage of the ability to mix ETTL and Manual flash groups at the same time.
Also a full ETTL Pass Through Hotshoe now allows a flash to be mounted on the camera and used in ETTL or Manual. (The previous King’s pass through hotshoe was not enabled).
ETTL or Manual power setting for each of the 3 groups are clearly displayed as well as the flash head zoom setting for each. Traditional Canon ETTL ratios A:B and A:B C can also be selected. Adjustments are in 1/3rd stops in Manual power settings and ETTL FEC.
Earlier cameras without an inbuilt external flash control menu, like the much loved original Canon 5D, will still have full functions as well. I don’t have the 5D to test, but I tried with an early 20D and that works fine with full control.
Note – Mark II Canon flashes, or similarly compatible flashes like those from YongNuo, are still required for control with the King Pro. Mark one flashes may have limited TTL function, but definitely no remote manual control.
Pixel really had the opportunity here to make the King Pro the quickest and easiest LCD style interface to adjust so far. I think they have made a bit of a mistake here though, making adjustments harder than they could be. (Update – Issue Now Rectified).
To adjust a groups power level (or FEC in TTL), you first have to press the SET button at the lower left of the LCD screen , then go to the side A, B, and C group buttons to select a group (which take some time to feel around for the right button) then go back to the rear buttons again to adjust the level up and down. Then press the set button again to finish.
UPDATE – MAY 2015 - From Firmware version V105 onward, the King Pro’s interface has also had a major improvement, with the adjustment of A / B / C groups now possible through the rear interface buttons alone.
And simple A/B/C group selection has always been available with the units set to slave mode.
The screen is quite small, and you do have to look closely to see the 1/3rd stop increments etc, but it does do the job ok. Again if the designers realized just seeing the groups settings are the main priority they could possibly have made those larger. They could have even removed “master” and “channel” etc off the main screen altogether. The LCD is green whenever the unit is set as a master, so there is no need to waste any screen telling you that master mode is set for example.
This is a nice dot matrix LCD screen though, so any display can be updated later with new firmware.
Using indoors the back light is needed to see the screen. There is no light button, but pressing the set button does the job. The light does turn off again too quickly though which can be a little annoying. Outside the screen is quite visible with or without the back light.
The Phottix Odin has quite a big visibility advantage here with the much larger screen, and even larger easy to access buttons. But the King Pro display is low profile to allow for the pass through hotshoe for flash on camera, which the Odin does not support.
FEC, or Flash Exposure Compensation, in ETTL, is set via the King Pro interface individually for each slave group, or globally from the camera itself. These add or subtract from each other, so you have up to 6 stops of + or – FEC adjustment either way.
FEC set directly on slave flashes is ignored, as is FEC set on a flash mounted on-camera, on the Pass Through Hotshoe (as discussed further just below).
Flash on Camera -
The flash mounted on the King Pro’s Pass Through Hotshoe is adjusted directly through the flashes own interface.
So unlike with the Canon system and most other TTL triggers, the flash on-camera is not automatically considered to be in Group A, and it can’t be controlled through any of the groups on the King Pro interface. In a sense it has its own individual group, allowing 4 groups altogether if a flash on camera is used as well. Bonus group yay!
One unusual thing to note here though, is that the FEC (flash exposure compensation) set directly on the flash does not have any effect. You can adjust that FEC via the camera, but that adjusts the FEC for all groups set to TTL globally. So there is basically no individual FEC adjustment for the flash on-camera. I don’t see that as a huge issue, as you would just need to re-adjust the other TTL groups each time to suite if needed. But it would be better to have an individual FEC adjustment for the flash on-camera if possible (the YN-622C does allow this for example).
Otherwise the flash on camera operates correctly as you would expect, and interacts with the off camera flashes as expected in ETTL, Manual,or a mixture of both.
One thing I haven’t tested in detail are the A:B and A:B C ratios. Without individual FEC adjustment, I don’t see how it would be possible to control the flash on-camera brightness compared to the brighter side of the slaves ratio.
But the big advantage of triggers like these are that you don’t have to use those restrictive ratios anyway, just set FEC for each group, or add manual in any group (for background light etc) as needed.
Mixed Mode -
Mixed mode is term YongNuo have made fairly common, to describe making settings directly on the slave flash units themselves.
With the King Pro there is no need to set a mode for this, but any flash set to ETTL on the transmitter, and then set to a manual power level directly on the flash unit itself, will retain that manual power level, overriding the transmitter ETTL setting.
This only works with ETTL set on the transmitter, and Manual set directly on the flashes as above. If the transmitter is set to Manual for that group as well, that setting will keep being updating on the flash, no matter if you try to set a different power level, or ETTL, directly on the flash.
Remote Flash Zoom Setting -
Flash zoom setting can be quickly set individually for each slave group, to a manual zoom setting, or to Auto to follow the Camera lense zoom setting.
One catch here, is that a zoom setting already set directly on a flash will not be automatically updated to match the transmitter setting, unless you actually go into the transmitter zoom setting and make a change for that flash group. Like the Mixed Mode for manual power setting above, this allows you to set a zoom setting directly on the flash without it being overridden by the transmitter (unless you actually want it to).
For Flash on-camera, mounted on the King Pro Pass Through Hotshoe, zoom settings, or Auto, are again set directly on the flash itself
The King Pro unit is a transceiver, meaning it can actually be used as a transmitter or receiver. Set to transmitter (Master) the LCD is green, and white (or light grey) when set to receiver (Slave) mode. Being a transceiver allows for back up transmitter units as well. The King X is a receiver unit only, and about $20 cheaper than the King Pro when purchased individually.
Reinforced Case -
Pixel products generally tend to have fairly light duty build design. And the previous King case has had some issues with coming apart, generally when the flash was layed over on its side putting a lot of stress on the trigger case and hotshoe. That was mainly with the receiver case as the transmitter hotshoe was disabled anyway.
The new King Pro now has an elaborate metal frame inside the plastic case, providing a solid metal connection from the foot underneath, right through to the hotshoe on top. So all screws for the foot and hotshoe are threaded securely into metal, instead of the softer plastic case as most other triggers generally are.
This is most likely designed to reinforce the pass through hotshoe, and for a flash mounted on top of the camera where the case can receive the most stress. Though this appears to be intended as a more solid receiver option as well.
1/4″ 20 Threaded Bracket Mounting -
Pixel have even put a 1/4″ 20 threaded mounting hole on the side of the case, which is also connected directly to the metal frame shown above. This offers another solid mounting point which will bypass the foot altogether (as that is still connected by some plastic otherwise). So there is a solid metal connection between this mount and the hotshoe where the flash is attached.
Pixel have an optional L bracket accessory shown in the manual, which attaches to this mount. But even with that bracket I can’t really see how they envisage this to be mounted. Nevertheless Pixel have gone to a surprising large effort to produce a solid case and mounting point option. The King Pro is now one big solid unit!
Pass Though Hotshoe -
Unfortunately this is where some of that hard work seen above reinforcing the case goes to waste a little. Having a case strong enough to not come apart is only part of the issue when it comes to pass through hotshoes. The main issue is generally side to side movement in the foot and hotshoe connections, which ends up in unreliable TTL connections and eventually possibly even loose of broken shoes and feet.
The Problem with the King Pro is that the foot is still too sloppy in the the Canon hotshoe, and the same locking rings used again, are no better at tightening the trigger down without any movement. The foot and even the hotshoe are separate screw on parts though, and Pixel could easily update these with revised components, with tighter tolerances, if they had the will to do so. Whether they will ever actually do that is another question.
Its a little bit of a pity to have come this far though and not complete the job, with what could be a very solid pass through hotshoe for fairly serious use. But on-camera flash units with built in radio transmitter have always been the real alternative to pass through hotshoes anyway, and with those being not far away now, the more promising development is how far Pixel have come with the electronics and range etc of these triggers.
Pixel could finish the job refining the pass through hotshoe, but I think flashes with built in transmitter will likely beat them to the punch now anyway. At this stage this is a pretty solid pass through for what it is, just go easy on swiveling the flash head around as usual.
King X Receiver -
Along with the King Pro release, is the new King X receiver. This is just a simplified receiver only unit, offering a more cost effective receiver option, $67.50 vs $93.50.
The King X is slightly smaller than the previous Kings receiver and has a similar plastic foot with threaded mounting hole in the base (which is the only good way to mount them). There is no mention of any metal frame inside the King X but they feel pretty solid too.
Groups have fast individual selection buttons to match the King Pro. Test fire button is on the top, also like the King Pro which is also a big improvement over the current Kings.
The King X has a plastic foot with locking pin, and a threaded mounting hole in the base. Using the threaded hole is always the most secure way to mount them, as it avoids possibly breaking the plastic foot.
Battery Door & Contacts -
Along with the upgrades to the cases are a new battery door design, which is more solid, and now holds the door in place so that it can not get lost.
Battery contacts are also now gold plated spring clips for better reliability, replacing the old coil springs. Again this shows Pixel have really made an effort to improve the physical design of the King Pro and X.
Group Buttons -
The King Pro and King X now have separate Group buttons, instead of having to used one button and scroll though combinations. Pixel have really listened when it comes to the dislike of scrolling with single button. The buttons are rubber coated, similar to the new dust covers below.
Dust Covers -
Another nice update are the new dust covers over the PC sync Port, and particularly the USB Port. I don’t know if they would be completely water proof, but they would certainly help against surface water getting onto the ports, as well as dust and dirt. These type of rubber covers have been fairly common even on inexpensive flash units so its great they have made their way to radio triggers now too. I think the Kings are first radio triggers with these covers.
The King Pro has 15 standard channels to select from, and one Auto channel.
The King X receiver has 3 standard channels, and one Auto channel.
The Auto channel matching is an interesting concept we have already seen in other Pixel triggers. This selects a coded channel at random and you pair that together with the receivers. There could be an infinite amount of random coded channels, so its virtually impossible to clash with the Auto channel another photographers trigger set has selected.
We have already heard of these Auto channels, also automatically changing channels, and needing to be paired together again. So in general, using one of the standard channels is the simple hassle free option.
AF Assist Light -
One step backwards from the previous Kings is the lack of an AF assist light in the King Pro.
This could have been a deal breaker for some people, but I have already found a YN-622C transmitter mounted on top appears to be working fine just for the AF assist light. I don’t have one to test but I would think a Canon ST-E2 unit should work ok as well. Its silly to have to use a work around like this at all, but its lucky that it does at least appear to work ok.
Shutter Release -
Another upgrade is the inclusion of a shutter release function. So far apart from the PocketWizard TT1/TT5 its been rare to see a shutter release function on many TTL triggers at all.
Unfortunately I don’t have the optional USB shutter cord to try this yet, so I’m not sure if this will actually fire the flashes, as well as act as a shutter release at the same time, with just the one King Pro transceiver unit on camera.
EDIT – Pixel’s own promotional video shows you can indeed fire camera and shutter with just one unit on the camera (and that can even be just the King Pro receiver on camera!).
You can also trigger one camera from another, and Pixel’s video appears to show the flash firing in sync with the remote camera, which is quite surprising. I will update this once I can test these properly myself.
Test Fire – Light Meter Use -
Another major feature for many people is the ability to use a light meter in Remote Manual power setting use with the flashes.
In manual there is no pre-flash so that will not effect a light meter, and the test fire shots fire at the correct power level set on the transmitter.
You can also easily turn groups on and off quickly from the transmitter, so metering each light individually is quite simple.
But the even better still, the King Pro can be held in hand (a little like the image above) while still adjusting remote manual power levels, and test firing for meter readings, away from the camera.
High Sync Speeds with Studio Lights -
Like the previous Kings and YN-622C, the King Pro have the standard Pre-Sync signal which can be used to attain higher shutter speeds up to 1/8000th with some studio light and monolights.
This uses the long slow burning tail of the light pulse produced by lights with a long flash duration, to act as a continuous light source. The camera used will also effect the results, full frame cameras with a big slow shutter like the 5D series are the hardest to get good results with. Inexpensive Chinese monolights often have long enough flash duration to get decent results though.
The timing is similar to the previous Kings and YN-622C so the results will be similar to those triggers as well. Unlike PocketWizard’s Hypersync, and Phottix Odin ODS, which have timing adjustments to help dial in the best results, you just have to accept the results you get with the Kings, as there is no adjustment with them.
Backwards Compatibility -
UPDATE – As of firmware version V101 there is full compatibility and control with the current King for Canon receivers. (King for Canon requires upgrade to V1040)
(previous to V101 there was only TTL compatibility at most with the previous King receivers, no control through the King Pro interface. You could adjust FEC through the camera though).
The current King receivers will not provide the full range advantage though. I have not tested or compared this range side by side as yet.
The Pixel Opas and Bishop manual triggers are not compatible with the King Pro (as they are with the previous Kings).
Camera Compatibility -
All current Canon DSLR bodies should be compatible. 1DX now have their own compatible firmware version.
Older cameras without a flash control menu at all should still be compatible and have full functions as well now. I have tested a 20D and that works fine with full control.
The King Pro Transmitter will NOT fire on other non-Canon cameras, either mounted on their hotshoe, or connected via PC sync cord.
This is unfortunate, as the test fire button and remote power control will work with the transmitter off the cameras hotshoe (which does allow light meter use).
Flash Compatibility -
For full function with the King Pro, Mark II Canon EX, or 600EX-RT, flashes are required.
Pixel also have their own Mago Flash which is compatible when using King Pro or King X receivers with them.
Some third party flashes may be compatible as well, I have tested the YongNuo YN-568EX and YN-500EX and they appear to be working ok (UPDATE – please see the comments below).
UPDATE – Pixels have now noted in the compatibility guide linked above – “Abnormal Phenomenon may occur when using YongNuo flashes”. So even though they list most functions as working, people have experience some intermittent issues etc. They may not be a major issue, though the combination is not always 100% compatible and stable.
There is at least one report the Nissin Di866 II apears to be working ok. The Phottix Mitros is currently not compatible.
Mark one Canon flashes may work in ETTL only, but definitely not remote power control or zoom settings. There is some reports that the 430EX I is not working in ETTL either, which is no surprise as that had issues with the previous Kings as well (this may have been rectified by now though with later firmware updates).
Firmware Updates -
The King Pro and King X have a USB port for Firmware updates. And the process of updating the firmware is now much simplified and a lot faster. Also available for Mac OSX now as well as Windows.
I’ve updated the firmware a number of times now and its a very simple process of plugging the unit into the computer via USB cord. Holding down the test fire button and switching the unit on. The deleting the current firmware file and pasting in the new file. Its as quick as copying and pasting any small file on your computer from one folder to another.
(I have asked Pixel to use regular ZIP files now too, instead of the RAR files which can be a hassle to decompress).
Firmware Versions -
- V101 – Full compatibility and Control with previous King for Canon receivers (King requires upgrade to V1040)
- V100 – Latest firmware most units should be shipping with.
- V001 – Attempted to add previous King compatibility, 6D and 700D support.
- V000 – The first firmware which came with pre-production units.
The latest firmware versions are available for download here.
|Model||King Pro – King X|
|Wireless System||Digital FSK 2.4GHz|
|Range||Up to 300m|
|Channels||15 fixed channels and 1 auto channel|
|Receiver Output||TTL hot shoe, cable sync port|
|Power||Transmitter: 2 AA batteries (100 hrs) (continuous work)|
|Receiver: 2 AA batteries (120 hrs) (continuous work)|
|Flash Mode||E-TTL, TTL, M (for Canon)|
|Mixed Mode||Support Mixed Mode (Such as, TTL in Group A, Manual in Group B)|
|EV||Support different EV addition/subtraction of each TTL group setting|
|Ratios||Supports output light ratios|
|Sync Mode||1st curtain, 2nd curtain, High Speed Sync, Red-eye reduction|
|Group Control||3 groups (7 different combinations)|
|Function||Supports flash zooming, focal length, Iso, shutter speed, FV lock and FP|
|Sync Speed||1/8000 second|
|Compatible Flash||Flashgun, Studio light and outdoor light|
|Firmware Support||Upgrade the device by downloading new firmware online|
Pixels own promotional description video –
The Pixel King are back in the game with the King Pro and X, and once again a breakthrough in price for the functionality on offer.
If Pixel can update the interface with rear A/B/C group buttons enabled. (UPDATE – Now done!, and providing a good quick and simple interface.).
A standout feature of the King Pro and King X are their range, often providing double that of other popular TTL triggers.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The King Pro and King X set are available now from around $140
Pixel – Website