Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: PocketWizard Flex TT5 and Mini TT1

I had a chance to use my new PocketWizard FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 remotes last week and I wanted to write down some first impressions.

First, let me detail the pro's and con's of why I bought these remotes:


1. Off-camera ETTL: This is a no-brainer and the main reason that anyone buys these remotes. Dumb-fire remotes can be had for a fraction of the cost (I have Paul Buff Cybersyncs and they have never let me down.) The line-of-sight restrictions with Canon's built-in infrared system are too confining.

2. Hotshoe mounts: I really like the idea that I can do away with the cord-attached remotes that I have now. I've never liked having to attach the transmitter with a synch cord, especially when I shoot with two cameras and often move my flash between them.

3. Hypersync: The new PocketWizards claim to allow shooting at very fast shutter speeds. For someone who shoots in Florida sun all the time, the idea of being able to shoot with flash at 1/1000 is very attractive.



2. Although PW's will fire any other PW receiver, they won't fire my Cybersyncs. That means if I want to fire two strobes remotely I must go back to the Cybersyncs or buy another PW receiver. Or, if I really want to get tricky I guess I could use both at the same time since the PW is hotshoe mount and the Cybersync is sync cord.

3. ETTL variables: There can be a drawback to E-TTL in that you might not get consistent flash over a series of shots. With manual flash, the flash power remains constant.

Okay, let's look at some shots with the new remotes:

Let's start off with something tricky right off the bat! This is from a Senior Portrait session last week. For this shot I had the flash at camera right. The sun is at camera left. I was using center-weighted averaging mode on my meter. As you can see, the E-TTL did a good job of picking up the bright sun and trying to match it. I was very impressed with this shot because I didn't have to do any math to figure out how to set the manual flash. Instead, I just let the E-TTL do it for me and then made adjustments after I saw the first shot. With manual flash I work pretty much the same way but there is almost no chance that I will get it right on the first shot. (more about taking pictures in bright sun with off-camera flash here...)

The most impressive part? The shutter speed is at 1/800 of a sec!

In the first version of this shot, I metered for the scene and it's much brighter (and flatter). I increased my shutter speed to 1/250 to bring down the ambient and the flash remained constant from camera right. I didn't take notes but I suspect I might have adjusted the flash to +1 to get a little sun "blowout" on the face. Flash is at camera right.

The next day I was shooting a corporate assignment and used the remotes for some location head shots. I set up a shoot-thru umbrella and started firing. It was perfect every time. For this shot I was in another room with a 70-200mm zoom lens. I couldn't see the flash at all as it was around the corner. The greatest thing about these remotes is that it allows me to shoot with off-camera flash almost as quickly as I shoot with on-camera bounce flash.

I mentioned that there might be some consistency issues. There were a couple of times when I would get inconsistent light, most notably when switching from a close-up to full length. Some of this might be blamed on the metering. With center-weight-averaging, a close-up meters the face and a full-length meters the body. I suspect spot meter or evaluative might have fixed that problem. Even if there is some inconsistency it's nothing that can't be tweaked in RAW and it's a small price to pay for being able to manipulate the ambient light with shutter speed and aperture without re-adjusting the flash power.

Conclusion: So far, so good. PocketWizard offers a 30-day money back guarantee so I still have more tests before I render a final verdict. If I had to decide today, however, these remotes would stay. I also want to point out that the interference attachment that came with the receiver appears to be broken. I wrote PW and they replied next day with the promise of a new one in the mail. I have yet to have any signal problems shooting at 20-30ft with a Canon 580EXII despite what I've read about problems with this flash.

More Tampa Bay wedding photography at http://www.boorayperry.com/