Opinion: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 9:59 PM Posted by Hikari Studio
Several months ago I had set out to get a hold of a set of the Pocket Wizard in hopes of finding a solution for wireless TTL lighting. Originally I had been invested in the Elinchrom sky ports system. Although it worked rather well as a base wireless trigger for my strobes it was often not a very elegant solution for triggering my speedlites, especially on the go. It worked but I was tempted with the functionality and simplicity of the pocket wizard system, more so after seeing them in action while second shooting for a local wedding photographer.

In the long run I ended up getting a miniTT1, 2 flexTT5s, an AC3 controller unit as well as a PowerST4 for my Elinchrom Rx600 strobe over the course of a few months.

The flexTT5s were a solution for wirelessly triggering my speedlites as well as giving them wireless TTL capabilities. The PowerST4 unit allowed me to trigger my strobe but also adjust the power of the strobe directly from my camera. Finally the AC3 unit allowed me to adjust the power of up to 3 channels independently, something that becomes a limitation if you're using more than 1 strobe/speedlite as the adjustment without the unit is limited to your FEC settings, which tend to act as one singular compensation.

Together it's a nice system. I use speedlites in the studio quite regularly coupled with my strobes. Being able to control all 3 from the camera as well as having the ability to quickly switch wirelessly between TTL, manual or off from a central point is a blessing.

It's an elegant system, when it works. That on the other hand is something that I've had difficulties with. Originally my usage was mainly limited to the studio so I did not want to do a write up too hastily. However after spending a handful of months with the system I feel I have a more rounded opinion.

To preface, there are a number of very successful photographers who swear by the system, especially that it just plain works. That has certainly not been the case in my regards.

In studio I've come to find the triggers tend to misfire more often than my sky ports did. More often than not this isn't a deal breaker. I've come to expect some misses when you spend the amount of time and shots that tend to come wit studio work. It is however a bit of a disappointment to invest in a system known to just work. Beyond that I have also come across a few sessions where the transmitter would seem to miss 6-10 frames in a row completely out of the blue and then go back to working as if nothing happened. This alone has created a lot of frustration for me as it's been very random and not limited to that specific transmitter, nor has it been any sort of battery issue or anything else I've tried to trouble shoot.

More often than not this issue arrives when I'm using the miniTT1 with the PowerST4 unit on a single strobe. Normally, for redundancies sake I'd set up optical slaves as well but when working wit a single strobe I don't generally get that option. It's also not something I should have to resort to for that matter. Needless to say when you're running on a tight schedule in a studio and your strobe, which is a meter away from you misfires 8 frames in a row it quickly becomes a rather aggravating experience and kills any sort of momentum.

I also got a chance to finally put the flexTT5s coupled with speedlites to some usage at a wedding reception. Inside of the studio they've worked quite well, the reception was another story however. Beyond a certain range (and a rather small one at that) the speedlite refused to trigger. It was something to the tune of 10 meters, which is pretty abysmal. It also rendered going outside on the balcony while using the speedlites to light up the interior undoable.

So I'm at a bit of a crossroads. There's still more troubleshooting to be done however I have a number of weddings coming up and this sort of gamble on functionality is just not an option. There are generally no second chances when it comes to weddings. I need a system that is consistent and as it stands it's not.

For the record, this was the Nikon version of the units. There have been reports in the past on issues within the canon system but a lot of sources reported the Nikon version to be without issue.

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