Cactus V5 Wireless Trigger Review

When it comes to wireless flash triggers you have the big names like Pocketwizard and Radio Popper but on the other side of the scale, one brand has been known for its reliability and on-going innovation, and that’s the Cactus brand. My Cactus V2’s have been with me for years and still work so when folks at Harvemetst One, the company behind the Cactus brand, asked me to try out the upcoming V5’s, I jumped at the chance.

Full Disclosure

Let’s be clear on one thing here, I sell a competing product to the Cactus triggers. My triggers are quite affordable, work well, support 4 channels, and have a range of about 90 feet. The reason I am pointing this out is not to pimp out my own products but to be honest about it and I promise to be as fair and unbiased as possible during this review.

Features

Most low cost wireless triggers have a transmitter and then separate receivers. The Cactus V5 only come one way, as transceivers. Each transceiver can be either a transmitter or receiver depending on how you are using it.

A nice feature change from my old V2’s is the use of standard AAA batteries. Push on the back and the tray pops out. Replace the batteries and push it back. No more ordering strange and expensive batteries for the receivers.

Specifications (each V5 transceiver)

  • Working radio frequency: 2.4GHz;
  • 16 channels selectable;
  • Support sync speed: up to 1/1000 second (subject to camera’s sync speed limitation);
  • Compatible with all DSLR and SLR cameras with standard ISO hot shoe or PC sync output;
  • Compatible with portable flashes and studio strobes;
  • Low battery indicator;
  • Maximum effective area: 100 meters (328 feet);
  • Operating temperature: -20°C to +50°C (-4°F to 122°F);
  • Flash voltage handling: up to 300V;
  • Camera voltage handling: up to 6V;
  • Power input: 2 x AAA 1.5V batteries;
  • Connection port: 3.5mm (1/8″) mono mini-phone;
  • Dimensions: 82mm (L) x 70mm (W) x 37mm (H);
  • Weight: 58g;

On the left side you have the TX/Off/RX swide switch while the opposite side has a 16 position rotary dial. Again, a nice step up from sliding DIP switches. While this does make it easier to change channels, it also makes it easier to accidentally change it. The left side also has a 1/8″ port that can be used for connecting to PC Sync fired flashes or for remote firing of a camera.

Probably the biggest change is that each unit, being a receiver, has a hot shoe mount to fire a speedlite, but this also allows you to use a speedlite on top of your camera while also using the transmitter. If you are using an off-camera light for a key light, then you can have a flash on-camera for some fill light.

On the bottom the Cactus V5 is outfitted with a metal hot shoe which is really nice to see on a budget piece of hardware. There is also a 1/8″ threaded  port so you can attach the V5 to a light stand.

On top of the hot shoe mount is the clamping wheel. While the threads on the wheel are fairly fine, which helps keep it secured to a swivel mount, the wheel size itself is pretty small and I have some difficulty in adjusting it with my large fingers.

The build quality is very nice has a very professional feel. If you didn’t notice in the specs, the Cactus V5’s use the 2.4Ghz Spectrum allowing for close to 300 feet in range.

Does it work?

The big question is does all these new features and upgraded specs add up to an improved product? The answer is “it depends”. The Cactus V5’s certainly have an exceptional range. I tested them out and ran out of space at right at 300′ and they still working fine. Will you ever need to use a flash 300 feet away? Most likely not but the theory is that you will always have a strong signal that is less likely to suffer from interference.

The Big Question

So the big question, especially considering that I already mentioned that I sell a competing product, is would I recommend the Cactus V5. Let’s break it down and see where the Cactus V5 stacks up.

  • 2.4Ghz for longer range and less interference
  • 16 Channels
  • Easy channel change via rotary dial
  • AAA Batteries for easy replacement
  • Metal hot shoe
  • Hot shoe passthru
  • Ability to work as a remote camera trigger (not at the same time as flash trigger)
  • Up to 1/1000 sync speed (dependent on camera body)
  • Retail price of $59 for two transceivers

Given the features and price point I have to give the Cactus V5’s a big thumbs up. In fact, if I can buy them at wholesale I will sell them myself. Can you save a few bucks with less expensive triggers? Of course you can and while they may work just fine there are certainly situations where the cheaper units can misfire with certain types of interference and the 2.4Ghz and 16 channels can certainly help avoid that.

The metal hot shoe and good lock down screw will help keep your gear more secure and the hot shoe pass-through is something unique to Cactus V5. For the price, the Cactus V5 is an excellent value.

The Cactus V5 is available now from Gadget Infinity: http://www.gadgetinfinity.com

KerryG

Kerry Garrison is a wedding, portrait, and product photographer living in southern California. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 3 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms. Kerry's work can be found at http://kerrygarrison.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/KerryGarrison

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