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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chicago, IL USA

    The Quest for the Perfect Remote Flash Triggering System

    This one is a bit of a doozy, so grab a couple beers and some snacks:

    The Quest for the Perfect Remote Flash Triggering System
    By: Thomas DeCoste

    In the search for the ultimate remote flash trigger, you may find yourself swimming in the vast wealth of knowledge, and garbage, that the internet has to provide. Weather it is searching through various photography forums, or dedicated off-camera lighting websites such as strobist.com, zarias.com, flickr.com, etc., you have probably found that there is so much information out there that your brain begins to hurt trying to remember just who made what system, and what the heck that system did? In my quest, I searched for over a month looking for reviews, head to head competitions, or flat out testimonials on the umpteen million remote triggering systems that were available. After that long month of research, I put my money down on a system I felt best suited my needs. The funny thing is, not one week later, 3 more companies came out with news of new flash triggering systems coming to the market… One week!


    The following pages are a summary of my month’s worth of research. It is lengthy. It is detailed. You may find it compelling; you may develop a glossed over look in your eyes. I can’t guarantee what you will take away from this, but I hope that what I say is at least helpful to you. So with that said, let’s get started.

    Getting Started:

    The first thing, I believe, that is essential in anyone’s search is to clearly define what you need, not just what you want, in a remote trigger system. Some people don’t need all of the options that one manufacturer puts in to its system. Others may need everything, and then some. In the end, there is only one guarantee: There is no perfect system. No matter how hard you look, you will have to compromise on something when deciding on a triggering system. However, making a list of your needs vs. your wants will ensure that you do not compromise in the areas that are most important to you and your photography.

    When it came to me, I really liked what Nikon’s Advanced Wireless System (AWS) had to offer. Maybe it was because it was the first system I ever tried. Maybe it was because the system can do just about anything with an off-camera flash that it can do with an on-camera flash. Whatever it may be, I considered it my “baseline” for which to compare against. You might be asking, “If you liked it so much, why did you want to find something different?” Well, Nikon’s AWS is great, but it has its drawbacks.

    First, AWS is very expensive. Like many of you reading this, I’m not made of money. I can not afford to buy a bunch of Nikon AWS compatible speedlights to use as off camera flashes. The problem is if you want to use Nikon’s AWS system you must buy AWS compatible speedlights. The currently available Nikon AWS speedlights are the SB-600, 800, and 900. The SB-600 is the cheapest option at $220 and rarely sells for less than $180 used. It is a nice unit but it is relatively weak in power when it comes to off-camera lighting. The SB-800 is a very powerful flash and offers a host of bells and whistles that would make any photographer giddy. However, it is discontinued and still sells used for more than it was worth new (~$350). Then there is the SB-900, the grand “poobah” of Nikon’s speedlight line up. At a hefty $450 price tag, you can put together a complete off camera lighting set up for the price of just one of these.

    Secondly, the AWS system relies on infrared (IR) signals to transmit flash information from the “commander” flash to the “remote” flashes. This system can work very well in an indoor situation where the IR signal can bounce off walls to get to the remote flashes. However, in an outdoor situation direct line of sight is required to make the system operate properly. If you are in a shoot where you have any of your lights set up behind you, they will not be triggered by the IR signal unless you point the “commander” towards the rear units. If you have your lights set up to one side, or both sides, of the camera you must set up the flash units so the IR receiver on the flash is pointed towards the camera/commander unit. While this doesn’t sound like too much of a chore, you must realize that the second you move your camera to a different position around your subject your flashes may or may not trigger depending on the position of your camera/commander in relation to the IR signal receiver on the flash unit. To put it simply, your creative freedom and work flow is greatly inhibited by this limitation.

    To be continued...
    Last edited by VTEC_EATER; 03-23-2010 at 04:00 PM.
    Nikon D300 | MB-D10 | Nikkor 12-24/4 | Nikkor 50/1.8 | Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRI | Sigma 18-50/2.8 | SB-800 | SB-80DX (x4) | Radiopopper JrX Studio |

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