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Cactus Wireless Flash Trigger

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

They have arrived! I ordered the Cactus triggering system (also known as Ebay Trigger) from MidWest Photo Exchange, just seach for Cactus, and you will find it on their site. Since the price for a single receiver is 2/3 of the price of trigger/receiver kit, I went ahead and ordered 2 sets of them, for spare.

Here's what comes with it - Receiver, Battery for the receiver, trigger, and a PC cable.

Here's the receiver with Battery installed. I can see the cold shoe bracket can be a weak spot.

And the receiver attached to flash.

Trigger attached to my Pentax DL. For the money, the trigger really doesn't look too cheesy.
I tried the trigger on my DL and D70, and tested receivers with my Minolta 2800 and Nikon SB-20 flashes. All worked right out of the box, I am pleasantly surprised.
Next, I tested highest sync speed with both cameras - Read about flash sync speed here. Pentax is rated at 1/180 of a second, above that, flash didn't even trigger. D70 can go 1/500 of a second, it triggered the flash, and took a picture. Above 1/500, the flash will trigger, but black screen. One problem, at 1/500 of a second, I noticed moire pattern! At the next speed, 1/400, no moire pattern. I have read interference issue, and produces lines on your images, this I have not read about - A quick search on Google didn't reveal anything, will keep searching.
I also did a quick distance test, I was able to trigger the unit that's 30 feet away, but in line of sight. I ran a few tests behind the walls, seems to work with 1 wall, up to 30 feet, but not too well if it is behind 2 walls, 1 wall + 1 door, etc.
For the price, this is not too bad. My next available option is go with Elinchrom Skyport Universal, cost around $185 for a trigger and a receiver. I figure I can start learning now.
A few things that I have learned so far-
  1. Know your camera's flash sync speed. I always wondered why it is so important for some people, faster the sync speed, the better it will allow you to "freeze" the moment. For indoor, portraits, this is not so bad, but if you want to shoot action shots, such as exteme sport events (skating, roller blading, skate boarding, etc), that may be an issue (if I am wrong about this, let me know!).
  2. A good flash, this has been discussed over and over again on the net - check Strobist and Flickr Strobist discuss forum - see below for some features to look for:
  • The flash that I am using- Nikon SB-20 is rated at Guide Number of 100 (GN), Minolta 2800 is rated at GN98. Most people on the net is looking for something GN120 or above, I believe higher GN means farther coverage, so that is important where you can place the flash close to the subject.
  • Manual power adjustment- SB-20 has manual adjustment that will let me go from Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 of power. This is a really nice feature to have, since the wireless system I have is pure triggering mechanism, so I have little control over the amount of light from the camera.
  • Bounce and swivel- I see I use the bounce option more frequently. I can set up the flash to bounce off of the ceiling while it sits straight on the stand. If your flash does not have bounce feature, this can be compensated by an tilting the flash bracket on a stand, but I am not sure how strong the shoe mount of the flash, and better yet, the bracket on the wireless receiver is, since a loaded flash can get pretty heavy (batteries), and a higher chance of breaking something.
  • Battery type- most flashes are setup to use AA batteries. Some even allow for external battery connection (usually more power), to allow for faster recycle time. There is one model by Nikon, SB-50dx, uses CR123 lithium batteries. I am not sure if they are easy to find, but I like AA batteries, since I can use rechargeble NiMH ones, cheaper in the long run, and good for the environment.

One thing I have noticed on-line is people complain about misfiring, or none firing. I am not sure if this has to do with flash's recycle time. If I am using full power on the SB-20, it takes 6 seconds to recycle (ready for next flash). If I lower the manual power, the recycle time adjusts accordingly (shorter time). Most flash has some type of READY light, look out for that.

Gotta stop typing, and playing with the new toys..... :)
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Anonymous said...

You have got your lens hood on backwards.

David Wong said...

You can reverse the lens hood that way for storage, it takes up less room in the camera bag. :)


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