Cheap radio flash trigger review
This is a quick hands-on review of the YHPT-6045 radio flash trigger purchased from the ebay reseller “Link Delight.”
What they are, what they do
As the name implies, a wireless flash trigger is a device used to syncronize or trigger a flash unit that’s not attached to your camera, and without using a long PC cable. Olympus does have a couple of hot-shoe PC cables (FL-CB02, FL-CB05) that allow the FL-50 to be used off camera, but in exchange for the ability to use TTL flash, you’re limited to the short length of the cable. Not to mention that they’re pretty expensive. Further having TTL ability isn’t very meaningful for me when doing a fixed setup with multiple flashes, since I use manual flash settings and a flash meter to balance the flash ratio, and TTL would merely confuse things..
As the “Strobist” notes, the professional way to go about this is the Pocket Wizard ™; but a pair of them costs nearly $400, and that’s far too much for me at this experimental stage of shooting menu settings for some friends’ little pub. If these shots come out well and it were to turn into some kind of regular gig (we have lots of artists in the town who need product shots), I might later shell out for the PW, and if your professional income depends on it, that’s the obvious way to go.
In addition to the YHPT-604, a YHPT-601 model is also available. The difference is the number of channels provided, and in the net ads you have to look carefully to tell the difference. One is equipped with a single channel, while the other has four. The single-channel model is cheaper by a couple of dollars, but I got the four-channel model. Link-Delight sells these flash triggers via numerous auctions on e-bay, with prices in various currencies. If one of the auctions has ended just pick another one. I don’t recall why I picked the auction I did (it was available?), but mine was priced in Australian dollars, $29.99 plus $13.00 shipping to Japan.
The package arrived about a week after payment; It was a small padded envelope that contained the product box. The box was a bit mashed from transit, but the items inside appeared undamaged. Inside the box was the receiver (left), transmitter (right), a PC connection cord to allow connecting an additional flash (or flash without a hotshoe), and a CR2 battery for the receiver (not shown in the photo here). The transmitter’s battery was already installed when I got it. I assume this is because the two sides of the transmitter case are held together by a tiny screw that requires a Phillips eyeglass screwdriver to remove. Don’t be caught in the field without a screwdriver. Notable missing was any kind of instructions.
The transmitter battery is a Chinese-made Vinnic Alkaline L1028 23A (12v), apparently only rarely found in the West, mostly in such devices as auto burglar alarms, key locks, and garage-door openers. Searching the Web I discovered that an equivalent is available in the Panasonic LR-V08, so I’m relieved that it won’t be hard to find replacement batteries..
As I noted, the receiver uses a standard CR2 Lithium battery, which was included separately. To load that battery, you pry open the compartment lid on the back of the receiver. Also inside the receiver case, visible in the photograph, are the two tiny DIP toggles to set the channel on the receiver side. Corresponding DIP switches are located on the underside of the transmitter; the two switches allow the channel to be changed in four possible combinations.
As you can see from the photos, the innards of these things are completely exposed when the covers are off, and almost no insulation is placed between parts, so be very careful not to poke around and touch something with a screwdriver that might cause a short. Also note the bolt head for the aluminum mounting bracket on the right side; it’s very close to some electrical circuits, so take care when loosening it. Obviously there’s no water resistance in the casing. Enough said.
The transmitter has a hotfoot that fits into the camera’s hotshoe and contacts the center electrode. This gives the unit a simple manual FLASH/NO FLASH operation, so as I said earlier, you’re limited to manual or thyristor (AUTO) operation. On the top of the transmitter is a test button and LED indicator. When the test button is pressed or the shutter is activated, the test LED lights. If the hotshoe connection is bad to the camera the LED won’t light when you press the camera shutter, which allows you to confirm proper hotshoe connection. In fact, the central electrode pin on the transmitter isn’t very long, and when I first mounted it on my E-300, it didn’t fire. Taking it off and putting it back on solved the problem, so connections should be checked well.
The receiver has a tiny ON/OFF switch, which obviously should be left in the OFF position when not in use. People with big hands and fingers may need to use the tip of a small stick or toothpick to set the switch. My hunch (I’ll be glad if I’m wrong) is that these things eat up batteries pretty fast when ON, and may have some leakage current when off, so I am planning to remove the batteries whenever I’m not doing flash work.
Above the receiver’s ON/OFF switch is another LED test light that flashes when the transmitter’s test button is pressed or the camera’s shutter successfully closes the circuit. Again, this provides a test function for the receiver’s hot shoe, since if the flash doesn’t fire when the receiver’s test lamp lights, it may point to a poor hotshoe connection between flash and receiver.
The receiver has an aluminum L-bracket that can be adjusted to various angles; it is provided on the bottom with a foot that fits into a standard accessory shoe, and the foot is also drilled and tapped for a standard 1/4” tripod bolt. I wouldn’t mount a very heavy flash in anything but a vertical position, however, since the plastic body’s connection to the L-bracket doesn’t seem that sturdy.
Using the Link-Delight is simple. Mount the transmitter on the camera’s hotshoe. Then mount your flash onto the receiver’s hotshoe and attach the receiver to a light stand or tripod. Turn on the switch. Set the flash for manual (or AUTO for thyristor mode), and you’re ready to shoot. I tried using my car’s radio door opener, my cell phone, and my cordless house phone in the vicinity of the setup and no false flashes occurred on the channel I had the units set for, although I didn’t check all four possible channels.
In addition to the FL-50 on the radio trigger, I have an old Panasonic PE-381SG flash that I trigger via an optical slave. Yesterday in practice the setup worked flawlessly. I successfully synched the shutter of the E-300 up to 1/250s. At 1/320 I began to see shutter-curtain shadow on the bottom of the frame, but the flash continued to trigger normally..
I have no large softboxes, so I put my Gary Fong Lightsphere on the FL-50 and a homemade lightsphere on the Panasonic flash. I was just practicing today to get some lighting ratios down. Here's what the setup looked like on my dining table:
And here's some practice results:
With only the lightspheres on, the flash units put out too much point-source light, so I know there's too much spectral reflection in places here. I'm probably going to make some softboxes eventually week to cut down the hot spots. Anyway, this is practice for me, since I'm not exactly getting paid , but the learning is fun, and hey, that "Link-Delight" trigger really works!
(The product shots here were all done with the E-300 + ZD 50mm f2.0 macro, 1/60s @ f2.0)
Remember that when using these devices, you're limited to manual or thyristor auto modes with the flash. No super-duper TTL, so you'll have to set your camera to manual mode, shutter speed 1/60 or 1/120 or whatever your camera allows, then figure out the proper flash output setting and aperture based on a combination of the GN tables, trial-and-error, or by using flash meter. Most flashes that come with manual modes have GN charts that list the various combinations of aperture and distance.
I haven’t done any extreme distance testing of the trigger, but I found it worked when I walked from my study to the far corner of my living room, a distance of about 15 meters, which is probably as far as I’ll ever want to use it.
Conclusion: Worth the relatively small price I paid. Long-term reliability not assured, and the item should be considered a use-and-discard item, since repairs will probably be more expensive than buying a new one. At this point I'm a happy camper.
EDIT: I wrote this review before finding another review on the web HERE. Although that reviewer was using a Canon camera, he tested the unit with several different flash units, information that may be of use. Overall, however, his conclusions and results were almost identical to mine, and he adds some other useful information, so I recommend seeing that review as well
If you’re interested in getting even longer range from this trigger, there are a couple of other threads about modifying it with a longer antenna; they can be found HERE; this discussion is quite interesting, and includes some comments about possible FCC legality issues for those living in the USA..
A link also leads to another set of instructions with a bit more concrete detail on the modification.
Last edited by Norm in Fujino; 03-11-2007 at 08:19 AM.
I just had a quick question.
I was wondering if I should just get a Wizard and a SB-600, or If I should get a radio trigger and use it to fire a Sb-24 and Metz 45 Cl-4. Since you have to set the flash manualy with the radio trigger I'm wondering if that will get complicated for me.
You'll have to make that decision on your own. Both the cheap radio trigger in my review and the much more expensive Pocket Wizard do the same thing.
The cheap radio trigger will not give you TTL exposure with your Nikon flashes, and SFAIK, neither will the Pocket Wizard(tm) (you need a minimum of two Pocket Wizards to work with, one for transmitter and one for receiver, which means a minimum outlay of $350-400; the cheap radio trigger is about 1/10 that cost).
In any event you will be left with manual (manually adjusting the output of the flashes + manual camera aperture) or Auto thyristor exposure. But think about how you are planning to shoot your skateboard action. Since the flash positions and directions will remain steady, the flash-to-subject distance should remain pretty much the same, and if you're shooting from a relatively stable single position, the camera-to-subject distance will remain the same, too. So all you have to do is do a bit of testing to find out what the proper exposure is for that setup, and shoot away. Some fine tuning will be in order as things progress.
Great review, and very enlightening (get it? Nevermind). I was beginning to think that all wireless flash was absurdly expensive, and had almost resigned myself to using only flash-triggered slave units. Definitely going to look into these.
Nice test shots, too, btw. Love the lighting (go figure).
Last edited by Dario D.; 04-21-2007 at 01:51 AM.
Hi, Norm! That was a great review - I was all set to order a wireless trigger, but there's a point of confusion - your photo shows transmitter and receiver in the same package, but Link Delight's EBay page implies that they're two separate units. The link I used is this:
The receiver is nine items down in the list, the transmitter a little further.
Can you shed any light, so to speak?
Link Delight sells a number of different configurations. I think THIS is the one I bought; scroll down the page and you'll see it includes both transmitter and receiver in a single package. .
There are also sets for use with studio lights rather than ordinary flash. They're located HERE.
They may also sell individual transmitter or receiver units singly, since many people want to use a single transmitter to trigger multiple flashes simultaneously.
Thanks for the info, Norm. I've sent off for one, so maybe in a week or two I can post some results.
Originally Posted by Norm in Fujino
My wireless flash trigger just arrived. I used a different link (Norm's had expired), and it was shipped from a distributor called Pictures Unlimited in Woodhaven, NY. The 4-channel unit was $14 US, with $12 shipping (!). The postage on the envelope was $1.95, so shipping and handling is a nice profit generator. It ended up at about $37 Canadian.
The pic below is swiped from eBay and shows the 16-channel version. Mine is identical, but with a 2-slide switch. Included is a 12V battery for the transmitter. The receiver runs on 2 AAAs (not included), unlike Norm's, which took a 3V CR2. A cable with a 1/4" phone plug (for studio strobes) is permanently attached to the receiver (and includes a 1/4" to miniphone adapter). The receiver has no hotshoe or other mounting device, so I guess I'll just let it dangle from the flash's cable (the receiver has a standard sync jack on the underside).
Also included is a short cable with a standard flash sync connector on one end and a miniplug on the other - it's used to connect the transmitter to cameras with a sync jack but no hotshoe.
Preliminary testing: it works perfectly. My only complaint (so far) is that the transmitter is a *really* tight squeeze in the FZ20's hotshoe. I might have to do a bit of sanding or filing. In the next few days I should have some test shots for posting.
And of course, thanks to Norm for the original post.
Last edited by Bill Markwick; 05-03-2007 at 03:53 PM.
Trying it out
Update to the eBay wireless flash trigger: I've had my money's worth of fun already. It's not just the idea of having remote flash - being able to carry the flash without dangling cables is a real convenience. In short, these things are great - but I wouldn't recommend them for professional use. They do have some shortcomings.
General: after a bit of sanding of the plastic foot, the transmitter fitted nicely into the hotshoe and worked almost all the time. When it refused, I measured the 12V battery and found it at 10.5V. A replacement cured that. The receiver is the studio version, which has a permanent cable with a 1/4" plug hanging out of it. According to others on the net, this can be removed with no problem. There's a standard sync connector on the bottom of the receiver for flash cords.
Some of their claims and what I found:
Range of 100 feet: not a chance. About 40 feet was the limit for reliable triggering. Other net posts confirm this. A quick test with a 6" wire soldered to the transmitter's antenna extended the range to 100 feet and then some, but I don't find this necessary. 40 feet suits me.
Syncs to 1/1000 sec: no problem there. I tested it up to 1/1300 with my FZ20 and it might go higher.
Trigger voltage less than 6V: yup. The transmitter contacts measured 5.5V.
"Works around corners and through walls without barriers": well, maybe, I guess. I'm not sure what they're getting at, but given the limited range, I wouldn't put too much of a barrier between transmitter and receiver.
"Keep transmitter and receiver about 3 feet apart": I didn't have the slightest problem with the receiver close to the transmitter.
"Highly resistant to jamming": unless the world is full of secret agents trying to mess up people's photoflashes, I think they mean it doesn't trigger falsely from radio interference, and I certainly never had it go off by itself.
Does it misfire? Yes, it fails on occasion, and then resumes working, leaving no evidence as to what went wrong. I'd guess that it fires reliably more than 90% of the time, which is adequate if you're not under pressure. Orientation of receiver and transmitter affected it as it approached its distance limit - since antennas put out polarized signals, it helps if they're both in the same plane (the transmitter antenna will almost always be horizontal).
In the photo below, my Viv 285HV was on a tripod to the left. The FZ20 was on manual at f4, 1/200. Focal length was 180mm equivalent. It was great to have complete freedom of movement instead of being on a coilcord leash.