Gadget Infinity V2 Wireless Flash Trigger
If you look at my B&H Photo wish list you will find a nice set of Pocket Wizards, but at $295 per unit, these little beauties are simply not in the budget for a while. Over at photonotes.org we saw a writeup on the Cactus PT-04 wireless flash trigger and decided we needed to give them a try and see if they were worth picking up. At $29, they fell into the “if it sucks, you throw it away” price point so we couldn’t help trying them out.
The base kit comes with a transmitter, receiver, PC Sync cord, and a battery for the receiver. To get started, you need to pop the back off the receiver, remove the plastic wrap from the battery and install the battery into the receiver. The transmitter can be fired via a camera’s hot shoe, via PC Sync from the camera, or from the test button on the top of the transmitter.
To turn on the receiver, simply slide the on/off switch to the On position. If you think you may have conflicts or if you want to have receivers for seperate setups you can set receivers on one of four channels set with dip switches inside the receiver. To set the channel of the transmitter, there are dip switches on the bottom side of the unit. The receiver can fire a flash connected to the hot shoe on the top or via PC Sync cord. This does make this an extremely versatile system for the price. As you can see, the receiver is quite small and contains an adjustable bracket that will attach to a standard tripod mount.
For even more versatility you can purchase tripod mounts with attached mounting brackets for using studio umbrellas. I ordered a few of these units for about $8 on eBay. As mentioned earlier, the base kit costs $29 and additional receivers cost around $14. Before purchasing, we recommend contacting Gadget Infinity with your camera and flash information to check for compatibility.
Ok, enough background, do these things actually work? We tested the receiver with a Quantaray QB6500 flash and an Olympus FL-50 flash with the transmitter on an Olympus Evolt E-500 DSLR. I am not going to pull any punches here, the system is not 100% reliable. If you need absolute certainty that every press of the shutter is going to fireoff the flash, then this system is not for you. If you are doing still life or portraits and 95% reliability is good enough, then you may be quite happy with the Cactus system. Your actual results may vary somewhat and the actual percentage of good shots is probably going to be higher than 95% in day to day use, just don’t expect 100% and you will be quite happy.
For begining photographers who have bought a decent TTL flash already, like the FL-50 for the Olympus, you will need to learn how to use the manual mode on the flash. While a matched flash system for a camera can automatically adjust its output based on the camera settings, this function will not be available when using the wireless system since the camera cannot communicate to the flash system, therefor you will need to put the flash into manual mode and adjust the output as necessary. This can be a negative for some users, but with a little practice, it shouldn’t be too big of a problem.
The adjustable mounting bracket on the receiver is really the weak link in the whole system. With a heavy flash unit, it is next to impossible to put the receiver at different angles without it losing its grib and sending the receiver and flash tipping over. However, we did find that if the bracket and receiver were tightened down as much as possible in a vertical position, this was not an issue when the receiver was attached to the top of a basic tripod. You could adjust the angles with the tripod head adjustment without any problems. If this becomes and issue, I will probably use some epoxy or JB Weld to affix the mounting bracket in a permanent upright position and just use the tripod adjustments as needed.
Update: After using the V2 system for a short while now, one thing we have found is that the flash heads need to have a good charge on them or the system won’t fire. Once the flash batteries get drained (noticable by longer and longer refresh times) the reliability starts to go down. This can happen even if the ready light on the flash will actually turn on. It appears that once the battery voltage hits a certain spot, there isn’t enough left to actually fire the flash. Simple solution, use good batteries and replace as needed. Problem solved.
For the casual user, the ability to get your flash on-camera in a very inexpensive way can make a dramatic difference in your photographs and for this price, how can you afford not to pick up a set?
Website: Gadget Infinity