1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

pocket wizards... why?

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by cleoent, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. cleoent


    Dec 21, 2007
    San Jose, Ca
    I'm just beginning to think about diving in to flash/off camera flash photography techniques.

    If i understand correctly my d300 can act as a commander to sb600/800/900's right? To use those off camera, i wouldn't need a pocket wizard would I?

    If that's the case, my setup is a fairly common one, most people interested in off camera flash will have camera's with built in commander modes so why do pocket wizards exist? What am i missing?

    Do they increase the range? Does the wireless synching not work as i'm thinking?
  2. NateS


    Oct 11, 2007
    I use commander mode a ton and I'll give you a couple of reason's why I would like to have Pocket Wizards. The first is blinking. I use commander mode to take a picture of my son using off camera flash....well, when my on-board flash fires to control the off-camera flash, my son always blinks on the first flash which means his eyes are half shut in all of the pictures. Big pain in the butt.

    Second is line of sight which you don't need to have with PW's. On a lot of macro's I get so close that I am infront of the flash/stand/umbrella and I can't get it to fire unless I hold my hand in front of the on-board flash to make it fire backward....this is a pain since there is already so much going on with Macro shooting. Also when I try to use my SB-600 for a backlight I'll probably run into the same problem since I plan to "hide" the flash behind my subject.

    Third is range. I don't remember what it is for the PW's but it's ridiculous like 5 miles (not really) but it's seriously well over a 100ft if remember.
  3. WayneF


    Apr 3, 2006
    Yes, D300 controls the CLS flashes remotely, and no, you would not use Pocket Wizards to do that.

    Four common remote triggering methods (NOT in any order of popularity):

    1. Pocket Wizards (radio triggers). The flash must be in MANUAL mode, which many prefer, but you lose all automatic metering. Range is great, more than the others. Does not have to be line of sight, can go around corners or even through walls. Bright sunlight does not affect them. Downside is cost and loss of TTL flash metering.

    2. Nikon Commander/Remote system. Only one that can be TTL automatic metering mode for multiple flashes. Range is sufficient indoors in most rooms. May be very unreliable in bright sun (since it is optical). Must be very near line of sight, however close reflections may work too. Provides TTL metering, in fact, each Remote "group" is metered to be correct (and equal) at subject regardless of lighting distance, or modifiers like umbrellas or bounce. Then we can compensate a group like -1 stop to provide our lighting ratio. Basically a point&shoot system for multiple flash. This system will NOT work with handheld flash meters, must use the camera. This system cannot be mixed with other manual lighting systems. And what Nate said, preflash causes blinking in human subjects, requiring use of camera FV Lock mode to bypass.

    3. SB-800 and SB-900 have the SU-4 mode, which is an optical slave trigger for Manual flash mode. Cannot be TTL mode. Any manual flash will trigger them in sync. Since that active flash is at its regular power level, then the range is pretty far. However, two photographers working the same room cannot both use optical slaves, because they will trigger each others flashes. Radio and CLS provide a few channels which can be selected to differentiate users.

    4. PC Sync cables, running directly to the flash. Again, this must be Manual mode, cannot be TTL mode. SB-600 has no provision to do 3 or 4.

    5. OK, same thing, but often a system will use Radio trigger or PC sync cord to ONE light, which will then trigger the remaining lights when they are in optical slave mode (Manual mode). This is very common.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 28, 2008
  4. PocketWizards use radio signals to communicate from the master to the slave units. Nikon (and Canon) wireless flash works via infrared light. The limit of infrared is (a) that the slaves have to be in the direct line of sight of the master, and (b) it only works over short distances (i.e up to 50 feet). The PocketWizards with radio signal technology work around corners and through walls and work to well over 1000 feet.

    Architectural photography is a very popular use for PocketWizards where flash units must be placed out of sight from the camera and used to light large spaces sometimes over great distances. Sports shooters also use them for triggering flashes from a great distance. Studio photographers like to use them also because the slave units might not be in the direct line of sight of the master unit.
  5. I think the longer range is a valid point, but the line-of-sight is a grey area. I've always been able to trigger speedlights when doors/walls/etc put them out of the line of sight.

    The only issue I've had with CLS has been triggering outside during really strong thunderstorms.

  6. I'd suggest you start off using your camera's popup flash to command the remote(s). Based on your usage, that may be entirely satisfactory. If you, you can explore options that better fit your needs. But the popup will satisfy 90% of all off-camera flash users. Jmho.
  7. kiwi


    Jan 1, 2008
    Auckland, NZ

    Just a question - why not turn off the flash output from the pop-up alltogether ?
  8. There are a couple of very effective solutions to the blinkie problem. You can lock in the flash exposure value ahead of time, using FV lock, or put a filter in front of the popup that blocks visible light but passes IR.

    The popup is good for 100 feet. PWs are good for 1/4 mile. Nice if you need it, but personally, I haven't run into a situation where CLS wasn't adequate.
  9. I have been fooling around with the commander mode with all of my cameras lately (D300, D200 and D80). It works OK, but in my experience is very unreliable. Example: (and this is my personal experience only) When shooting in Portrait orientation with the pop up flash rotated to my left and a remote flash off to my right, it just couldn't see the command signal and would not fire reliably. Shooting in very bright light (when subject is backlit) it is not reliable. I just bought my PW's yesterday and am already very impressed with the ease of use. i am not very impressed with the build quality or feel of them however. I'm a little worried about possibly breaking them (I'm sometimes a little rough on my equipment :) 
  10. isayx3


    Apr 12, 2008
    Corona, Ca
    Some have reported misfires in bright sunlight. RF triggers don't have to worry about line of sight.
  11. demosaic

    demosaic Guest

    It depends on the environment. Try it outside with nothing but distant objects to reflect off of, or when the line-of-sight is occluded by dark-colored objects, and gets flaky.

    The other problem is that when using the pop-up flash as the commander, it can be bright enough to show up in the exposure if the subject is 1) close, 2) extremely reflective or 3) it's really dark. This can be addressed by the IR filter adapter.
  12. sparticat


    May 29, 2008
  13. Even when you do this, the onboard flash still fires to send the signal to fire and stop firing to the off camera flash. It's this pre-flash that causes the kid to blink. Same thing happens when using the onboard flash by itself. The camera takes exposure readings with a quick pre-flash before the actual exposure is made. This causes pets and many folks to blink, recording droopy eyelids on the actual exposure. It's one reason why FV lock is a very useful feature to have, but does nothing to help the wireless pre-flash communication.
  14. leahp26


    Apr 28, 2008
    Southern NH
    I just got home from a "Lighting with Strobes" class - we first used PW and then switched to Nikon CLS. I have to admit that the PW's seemed much more reliable and quick. With CLS we kept having the strobes not fire and to change the comp up and down for different groups in the menu is a little fiddly. I'm planning on investigating PW's seriously (although the approx $185 cost EACH is pretty frightening) - our instructor also advised about looking into the equivalent of PW's on the Alien Bees website and he also said there is a company called RadioPoppers (I think) that will be coming out with something similar pretty soon in the $70 region. Just my inexperienced 2c!
  15. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    The PR's are already out and are more expensive than that. However, they do offer the joint advantages of both range and CLS control. The AB triggers may offer a cheaper alternative to PW's. However, the latter are an industry standard with built-in support in both flashmeters and strobes.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.