So after what has seems like an age, Pocket Wizard have finally released the new Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 units for Nikon DSLR’s; but now that they have the question is … “Do they really live up to all the hype?”
To answer that I thought I’d put together a short review but do it in such a way that is relevant to how I work and the way I use ‘Off Camera’ Flash…
When using ‘Off Camera’ Flash I can safely say that for 90% of the time I’m shooting with the camera and flashes in Manual; be that with my Nikon Speedlights, my Elinchrom Ranger/Quadra or Profoto Heads in the studio. This is something I’ve always done for the main reason that I like the consistency of exposure that it gives me from shot to shot.
Up until now when shooting with my Nikon Speedlights I’ve used Pocket Wizard Plus II’s which I absolutely love for their reliability and range of use but with the introduction of the new Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 things have changed…BIG time and I’ll explain why as we go through.
Shooting in Manual Mode
Using the new Mini and Flex in straight forward Manual Mode is no different to how it’s always been with the Plus II’s apart from the fact that now there’s no danger of poking your eye out with a big aerial sticking out the top of your camera. Also there’s no wires connecting the transceivers to the Speedlights so no worry of them coming out during a shoot; so straight away things are looking alot more compact and ‘user friendly’.
There’s a couple of ways to mount the Flex TT5 to a light stand; the hot shoe adaptor (but this has a very ‘plasticy’ feel to it and feels as though with a bit of abuse may end up getting damaged) or my preferred method of screwing in a spiggot which can then drop into the umbrella bracket as shown below…
I’ve been really impressed with the build quality of these new units. Despite being plastic they feel solid and very well made, in particular the aerial on the Flex TT5’s.
The Nikon Creative Lighting System
I’ve always been a big fan of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) for it’s ease and speed of use but that’s ok so long as I’m not shooting in bright sunlight or the flashes are positioned in such a way that the ‘line of sight’ signal isn’t blocked.
If only there was a way to combine the Nikon CLS with Radio Waves/Signal so that the ‘line of site’ issue was a thing of the past…
Well, that’s exactly what we can now do when we attach the Nikon SU800 Commander Unit ontop of the hotshoe on the Mini TT1; all of a sudden we can now take complete control of a number of Speedlights and all in different groups if need be…
Experience from shooting in Manual has meant that each time I set up the lights I have a pretty good idea of what power settings I need to put them on and what camera settings I’ll be working with. However there are the times when adjusting the flash power by opening up or closing down the aperture isn’t enough; sometimes I’ll have to physically return to the flash and manually alter the power setting. Now though, by mounting the SU800 ontop of the Mini TT1 I can do all of that from camera position which means I can again work alot quicker, I don’t lose my shooting position and so on…
Hyper/High Speed Sync
Without question the big interest in these units evolves around the apparent sync speeds that can be used. Syncing a DSLR and a Speedlight at up to 1/8000th second and not the standard 1/250th second as in my case, have been mentioned across the internet many times, but is this really possible?
Well in a word…Yes! The image below was shot in the middle of the day with a fairly bright sky and just a few clouds but nothing worth shouting about, but when shot at iso 100, f/2.8 and 1/8000sec things certainly take on a whole new look…
A single bare Nikon SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm was used for this shot. Incidentally before using the Mini and Flex units, to get anything near this look would have meant shooting later in the day if I was using Speedlights or bringing along more powerful packs such as my Elinchrom Ranger. In the case of using Speedlights, shooting later in the day might have meant losing the shot as the clouds may have completely gone by that point and that’s happened to me on more than one occasion.
Below are some more examples of shooting the same scene but at varying shutter speeds:
Another big advantage of being able to shoot at higher sync speeds means that wider apertures can be used. By this I mean that before I could only use a maximum sync speed of 1/250th second so to darken the scene down a touch more would mean closing down the aperture to maybe f/8.0, f/11 and so on. The problem here is that the narrower the aperture becomes the more depth of field there is in the shot, but now with the Mini and Flex units we can shoot alot wider and at higher shutter speeds which in turn will give us that beautiful shallow depth of field.
So what next?
I’ve not had a chance yet to try these units out on Studio Strobes or my Elinchrom Ranger/Quadra Packs but I’ve heard on the grapevine talk of being able to sync at 1/500th second. Needless to say this is something I need to check out asap and once I have done I’ll be sure to let you know what I find out.
Overall I’m extremely pleased with the new Mini and Flex units. They appear to do everything that was claimed and in true Pocket Wizard style are proving 100% reliable with not one misfire or failed triggering of the flash. The ability to use the Nikon SU800 on camera to control the power of the strobes in the same way as the Nikon Creative Lighting System but without the need for ‘line of sight’ is a big plus! Build quality is in my opinion very impressive. The Plus II’s I’ve used for some time, despite doing a fantastic job, always felt very fragile but these new units feel like they could certainly take some abuse. Being compact and no need for wires to connect to Speedlights too is a very welcome advance as is the fact that they can be used in conjunction with other Pocket Wizard units such as your Plus II’s.
Having used them a number of times now I’m liking them more and more and have actually struggled to come up with a negative but in an effort to balance this out I’m going to say the price as at around the £400 mark (roughly £200 each) for the Flex and Mini it is quite an investment.
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Got any questions about the new Mini and Flex units? Thinking of getting some for yourself? If so feel free to make use of the comments section below and if it’s something I can answer for you from having used them then I’ll do so otherwise I ‘know a man who can’.