About a month ago I upgraded my pocketwizards to the newer MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 units. My main reason for this was to use the high speed synch for off camera lighting with a Canon 580 during daytime shoots. I was somewhat skeptical about how well this would work but after doing a lot of research figured I would give it a try.
For those of you who don’t know what pocketwizards are, they simply are radio transmitters. You plug your flash unit to one of the pocketwizards and mount another one on your camera so that you can trigger a flash off camera. Since it uses a radio signal to trigger the flash you can put the flash behind objects and still have your flash work perfectly. I have used the Pocketwizard plus 2 units for years now and absolutely love them, they work every time and are totally reliable. I wanted to upgrade to the new Pocketwizard units for 2 reasons; being able to use TTL flash off camera and high speed sync. I’ll quickly walk through what both of these mean and then give some thoughts about working with these new transmitters over the last few weeks.
First of all what is TTL? SImply it stands for Through The Lens metering and is the cameras ability to measure the light level of a scene through the lens and change how much flash power is provided to properly expose for the scene. I used to have reservations about TTL and exposure seemed to be off pretty often but it seems like with the latest Canon gear (they are using a technology now called E-TTL II) I got very consistent results with every shoot. The benefit of TTL when you are shooting an event like a wedding is that the flash pretty much does all the work for you, it knows the exposure of the scene and how far the flash is from the subject so can give you just the right amount of light to expose the scene properly. One of the most challenging parts about photographing weddings is you are always rushed for time. Sometimes you have 5 minutes to shoot a few images of the bride and groom and really don’t have time to meter the scene and take time to setup gear. Out of all the images I shoot with light 90% of them are off camera and to be able to set the flash to TTL and not have to worry about flash exposure is great.
The other benefit of these new pocketwizard transmitters is the high speed synch. This will depend on the type of camera and flash you are using. Some systems will use pocketwizards HyperSync technology that allows you to Sync up to 1/500th of a second. But the really cool part is if you use a recent Canon camera with a Canon 580 EXII flash you can use your flash at any sync speed. Yes, ANY sync speed even 1/8000th of a second without any type of setup. If you are new to high speed sync here is a little article explaining what it technically is: High Speed Flash Sync . Being able to shoot portraits outdoors at any shutter speed is such a huge advantage in my mind it made up for the price of these in a second. Normally when shooting outdoors in the bright sun if I wanted to use flash to fill the scene I would be shooting at ISO 100 and when you are limited to a top sync speed of 1/250th of a second you are usually shooting around f/8 or higher for your aperture. That means a lot of depth of field which I am not a fan of for portraits. I usually want my portraits to focus on the subject not the background and want some good separation from the subject to background so love to shoot at f/2.8. That used to be impossible with a normal flash but now that I can shoot at any shutter speed, I can crank the shutter up to 1/2000th or more and get a nice low aperture like f/2.8.
With the camera on TTL you can also very quickly under or overexpose the image to get some very dramatic things with the background. Look out for a post on how to do that later on this week. Here is a quick shot taken at sunset with just one light on the couple but underexposing the image by 2 stops to get a very dark and dramatic background. You can use this same trick to get shots in daylight that look like they were taken at night, so many uses for this type of lighting.
Aside from these 2 great benefits there are a couple other improvements they have made. First of all though let me give a quick overview of the difference between the two units.
Pocketwizard MiniTT1 – This is a transmitter only unit. A transmitter is just used to sit on your camera to transmit the radio signal to a receiver unit (or a transceiver unit). The new MiniTT1 is just as the name says, Mini. Its such a perfect size, very low unlike the older units that I had which stood up 5 inches and had a little antennae on the top. These have no antennae and are so small I normally leave them on top of my camera body all day even when not using it. The other improvement to these units (the FlexTT5 has it as well) is they now have a hot shoe on top. Before you used to have to use different cords to connect the unit to your flash but now you just pop the flash on the hot shoe. This also means you can still have a flash on camera which is pretty handy for a little fill light at a reception, while still triggering your main lights which are off camera.
Pocketwizard FlexTT5 units – This is a transceiver unit, which means it can be used as a transmitter on your camera or as a receiver. They are only about $20 more than the MiniTT1 so most people would ask why get a mini and a Flex vs just 2 Flex units? For me the size of the mini just works so much better. The FlexTT5 is still very small but about 3 times the width of the Mini.
From the few weeks spend with these new Pocketwizard radio transmitters I have to say there is nothing negative I have to say about them. If you don’t currently have a transmitters to sync your flash and camera I highly suggest these and even if you have a set of older pocketwizards (or another brand) I still suggest them. Even though they aren’t cheap (about $220 each), the benefits make them totally worth the price in my mind.
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Pocketwizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 review, review of the pocketwizard miniTT1 and FlexTT5 Transciever for canon wireless flash. Digital photography reviews and photography tips by digital photo buzz.