Working in harmony: Pocket Wizard Mini TT1, Flex TT5 and Nikon SU800

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 9, 2011

Category: Review

Following on from yesterday’s review a number of questions arose around using the Nikon SU800 in conjunction with the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 units.

So, I thought I’d add a ‘follow up’ post which will hopefully go some way to explaining how all these fabulous bits of kit can work together and make our lives alot easier; and to make sure everyone is catered for I’ve included information on shooting in both Manual and Aperture Priority Modes:

Aperture Priority Mode with SU800

  • Mini TT1 on Camera
  • Speedlight in TTL and Flex TT5 in Group ‘A’ on light stand
  • SU800 in hotshoe on Mini TT1 with Group ‘A’ set to TTL

Using the SU800 we can now simply increase or decrease flash power as you can see in this series of images where I have adjusted the Flash Exposure Value (EV) by 1 stop each time:

Shooting in Manual with SU800

  • Mini TT1 on Camera
  • SU800 in hotshoe on Mini TT1 with Group ‘A’ set to ‘M’
  • Speedlight in TTL and Flex TT5 in Group ‘A’ on light stand

*Note: Whatever mode you are shooting in, be it Aperture Priority or Manual, the flash itself must always be set to TTL in it’s own control panel. This doesn’t mean it’s actually shooting in TTL as the ‘real’ mode of the flash is what you have it set to on the SU800 Commander Unit ie ‘M’, ‘TTL’ etc…

With this set up I can now adjust the power of the flash from the SU800 Commander Unit as opposed to physically adjusting it on the flash itself or having to alter my aperture to allow more or less light from the flash into the exposure:

Multiple Lights
The advantage of using the Nikon CLS is that we can control powers and modes of multiple flash from the camera position by using, for example the SU800. With these new Pocket Wizard units we can do the very same thing but unlike before, we are now no longer reliant on ‘line of sight’ to send and receive the signal as it’s all done via radio waves.

So, looking at this example here we have two lights…

Again, the flashes themselves are in TTL mode but this time as we have two lights, one of the Flex units has it’s switch set to Group ‘A’ and the other has it’s switch set to Group ‘B’.

Now, on the SU800 controller I can control both lights independently of each other , and to show that here’s a series of photos where on each one I have altered the power of one or both of the flashes:

To Summarise:
If you have an SU800 or a Speedlight that you can put into ‘Commander Mode’ such as the Nikon SB800 or SB900 then:

1) When shooting in Aperture Priority Mode you can adjust the Exposure Value (EV) i.e +1.0EV, +2.0EV and so on…

2) When shooting in Manual Mode you can adjust the power of the flash to taste i.e 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 and so on…

3) If you have multiple lights you can control them individually in whatever mode you want (Manual, TTL) by choosing a Group (i.e. A, B, C) using the switch on the side of the Flex TT5 and then set up the same Group’s on your SU800 or Speedlight.

One final thing and that is to mention the Pocket Wizard AC3
In short this little unit will be able to do all that the SU800 above can do but at a fraction of the cost and size.

•    •    •

Hope that all makes sense and goes some way to answering the questions that were posted in the earlier post, but as always if there’s anything else you want to ask or comment about then feel free to make use of the comments section below,
Enjoy 🙂

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38 Comments

  1. Keith

    I think thats cleared up all my confusion mate, thanks.
    Have you had any missfires or setup problems at all ? seems a few people around the interweb are having some minor issues, but not as much as when they first launched for Canon, but then again that could have been a natural reaction to being connected to a Canon………….sorry 🙂
    Rumour has it the AC3 will be at Focus, don’t forget your plastic

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Keith. So far so good; no misfires or misbehaving 🙂
      Would be good if the AC3 is available at Focus because as good as it is, the SU800 does make things a bit chunky.

      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  2. Dave

    Rather than the SU800, can the lights be controlled from the camera on models like the D700 which have the Commander Mode menu? That menu does the same as the menu on on a commander unit (as it uses the pop up flash). I appreciate the pop up flash cant be used with the TT1 on the hotshoe but the SU800 isnt actually firing is it, so theoretically the popup flash wouldnt be needed with a TT1 in place.

    Does that make sense?

    Reply
  3. Keith

    Thats a good question Dave, I have D700 but not the new PW’s so can’t check but i think the comander mode will only work when the flash is popped to trigger, lets see what the flash master has to say 🙂
    i have another Q, does the AC3 sit on top of the Mini or take the place of it ?

    Reply
  4. Nick

    One correction.

    pretty sure the su-800 can still af-issist while the ac3 can not.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Nick…Spot on mate; it sure can 🙂

      Reply
  5. Sanka

    thanks for the detailed post

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Sanka…You’re welcome; thanks for looking in 🙂

      Reply
  6. Derek

    The AC3 does sit on top of the transmitter (i.e. does not replace it)

    D700/300/200 popup flash commander menu mode will not work because the transmitting pocket wizard will be in the hotshoe preventing the popup from popping up

    Yes the SU800 does still af-assist

    Reply
  7. Ernie

    Thanks for clarification but I was taken aback by the comment re: sync speed capabilities. How can this possibly sync at 1/8000 th sec?? What am I missing here?

    Reply
  8. Keith Hammond

    Guess what i just thought of another scenario, i think you said the PW plus 11 will work with the Mini and Flex so would this work……..my Plus 11’s on my SB800’s and a Mini on camera……if yes then add in an SU800 would that do any more than just having the Mini on camera.
    I’m thinking if all that works then i could just splash out on a Mini.

    Reply
  9. Dave

    I get that the pop-up flash wont work with the transmitter on top (I’m sure I said that?!) but my question was could you use the command menu for commander mode on the D700 rather than using the menu on the SU800? My thinking being that the camera sends those commands to the flash which transmits them as light pulses. With the TT1, the instructions from the in-camera command menu would then be sent to the TT1 which transmits those commands via radio.

    Or maybe not, I don’t know!

    Reply
  10. Keith Hammond

    @ Dave : i think the commander mode will only work when the flash is up (or it senses an SU or SB800 in the hot shoe) because the info is sent via the flash pulses……..isn’t it.

    I wonder if Glyn is off in the field trying out all these scenarios 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Guys. Back from Devon now and seeing your questions…

      Re using the in built Commander Mode this isn’t something I can test as it isn’t in the D3 due to not having a pop up flash. Looking at Derek’s comment below I’m guessing he’s right in that it wouldn’t work so if I hear otherwise I’ll be sure to post it up.

      Thanks for looking in and commenting,
      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  11. Doug

    Good info. Thanks.

    I am still a little confused. I use SB900s. I assume I would not set the remote flashes to slave mode, or they would only work via the SU800. So, they should be set to simply “on”? If so, I got it and will be buying a mini and some flexes, soon.

    Also, would this mean that I could put a mini and SU800 on camera, assign one SB900 to group A, the other to group B (each with a flex) and then set up a group C controlled via IR with the SU800?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Doug…Absolutely mate. Just set the SB900s to TTL and then control everything else from the SU800. If you set that flash to Manual on the SU800 it will be manual, despite being shown as TTL on the back of the flash…does that make sense?

      Also, re your final question, you’re spot on!

      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  12. Doug

    Thanks for the confirmation. Regards, Doug

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Doug…No worries mate 🙂

      Reply
  13. Ernie Atkins

    Glyn,

    Thanks for the PW video link on Canon high speed sync. I should have assumed you were referring to HSS when you mentioned sync speeds well over the standard sync. I used HSS routinely for shallow DOF outdoors before the new PW’s came out.

    PW claims a higher efficiency HSS capability. Have you made any quantitative or qualitative tests of that claim? I haven’t – for now I’ve taken their word for it.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Ernie…To be honest it’s very much so far so good. For the male model shoot I was outside shooting continuously for over 3 hours with a single SB800 that didn’t complain or let me down once. Whatever was going on inside those circuit boards is pretty darned impressive…lol 🙂

      Reply
  14. Doug

    Glyn, a follow-up to the other day.

    The on-camera Mini/TT5 quelches (sp?) the SU-800 IR signal. So, I need more TT5s. There is no free lunch. Later.

    Reply
  15. Spencer

    I have an SU800. I see in your examples that you go down as far as 1/16 power. This might sound like a stupid question however, can you go all the way down to 1/128 power using the Flex and SU800 combo? Thanks in advance…

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Spencer…Not a stupid question at all mate. Yeah you can go all the way down using all power levels & modes using the SU800 this way. It behaves exactly as it would when just using it in the Nikon Creative Lighting System except for the signal is now Radio as opposed to IR.

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  16. Charlie

    Hi, thanks for the review and for showing what the SU-800/AC3 units can do.

    All the power settings on the flash in your examples are changed a full stop at a time. Can the power be changed in 1/3rd (or 1/2) stop increments as well? If so, is this possible with the SU-800 and/or AC3?

    I’m looking forward to getting a set of these all the same!

    Thanks,

    Charlie

    Reply
  17. Rick

    Would you mind answering a question on shooting with SB800’s?

    Will a SB800 in Commander mode with FlexTT5 attached and fired remotely from a camera with MiniTT1 attached, set off other nearby SB800’s set to Remote mode?

    i.e Can the Mini/Flex system work the Commander/Remote setup (at a large distance from the camera) with out the need for transceivers attached to every remote flash unit?

    or put another way, can I use the PW radio signal for the first leg and then Infra Red to complete the journey.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Rick…I’ve actually tried this hoping it would work but alas no 🙁

      Reply
  18. Alec

    Glyn,
    Very interesting info, thanks a bunch.
    What i want to know is can you use the SU800 or AC3 controller, or even an SB900 (in commander mode) on the TT1, however using PWII’s on my speedlights and STILL get full functionality, ie HSS and the ability to change the manual output of the off camera flashes, or do one have to have the TT5’s for full functionality?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Alec…I use the SU800 ontop of the TT1 as a controller with no problems but I know of a few folks that have had issues. To get the HSS and full functionality though you will need to have the TT5 too as the PLUS II’s wont work; they’ll trigger but not all the HSS info etc…

      Hope that helps,
      Glyn

      Reply
  19. Alec

    Glyn,
    Thanks so much for the info, really appreciated.
    Looks like the TT1 and TT5 will be on the next shopping list for me then. Then probably go for the AC3 instead of the SU800.
    Really great useful info you posting here. Thanks once again.
    Regards
    Alec

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Alec.
      Thanks for stopping by and thanks too for the kind words. The PW units are superb..extremely reliable and portable; you’ll love them!

      Reply
  20. Dee

    Glyn… thanks for a great review and I really considering pocket wizard as my future investment… I have few questions for you: –

    1. In manual mode, you mentioned from SU-800 you can have power from 1/16… just to confirm it won’t work with power output of 1/64 and 1/128 is it? If that’s the case that’s one of the reason I need the AC3

    2. If I have 2 speedlight and one SU-800… one speedlight with the receiver and one without. Can the one without, if I put it under the remote mode can it be trigger with the SU-800… If can I don’t think I need lots of receiver because for speedlight that is close to camera I can just trigger via SU-800

    3. How far distance have you try with this unit?

    Thank you for your answer and I really appreciate your time to answer my questions 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Dee….Just to clarify with the SU800 you can set the flash power to anything from 1/128 up to 1/1. Re the 2 speed light you mentioned to be honest I’ve not tried; I’ve only triggered the non-connected flash with it in SU4 mode if that makes sense.

      Glyn

      Reply
  21. Anel Montero

    Does the flex TT5 work with the SU-800 to command my SB800 flash? I do not have the TT1. Please advised.

    Reply
  22. Binh Tran

    Hi Glyn, thanks for the review. I was wondering about the tt1 and tt5. If i put the tt1 on the camera and the tt5 on the Flash. And can that flash on the tt5, communicate to another flash(without another tt5), since it can be used as a master.

    hopefully its not too stupid question and that other people have ask already.

    thx in advcance.

    Binh.

    Reply
  23. Kiran

    Have a question for which I cannot find an answer. Does the SU 800 continue to to send IR signals when set on top of the mini tt1? If I have 2 flashes and only I flex tt5, can I control both flashes in ttl mode. 1 flash will get ttl info via tr5 and second flash will receive info from su800 ir.

    Reply
  24. anthony

    I need to create indoor studio lights. Was planning to buy su-800 to use with two units sb-800 & one unit sb-910. Hi can you guide me to decide for what shall go, exactly the tt-1 & tt-5 how they work

    Reply
  25. Pat

    Here’s what I have done: Top down: SU800 set to Group A in manual mode, Flex TT5 Set to TTL, Nikon D700. SB800 Speedlight set to TTL on top of FlexTT5 on light stand. The SB800 produces the same amount of flash whether it is set to 1/128 or 1/1. When I don’t use the SB800, the flash exposure works properly. I am desperately trying to use the SB800 so I can control the flash output from the camera when i am shooting real estate interiors so I don’t have to run back and forth to adjust the flash output. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply

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