Monday, January 26, 2009

CyberSyncs

Click on it to see her laugh!

I rented a small truck today and moved a lot of stuff that's too large for the Honda but not so large as to require movers (bookcases, etc.) which included a bunch of rolls of seamless paper. The stuff tends to pile up - you get to the end of the roll and it's getting dirty but you can maybe get one last messy shoot out of it or something so you save it... and then you never actually do messy shoots so it just piles up. Oops. I'll have to see if I can fix that.

I mentioned I have a new trigger system and would post a mini-review, and I want a break from editing the set I'm planning on posting tomorrow, so now's a good time.

For those who don't know, to trigger an off camera flash there are a couple of ways. You can run a cable or you can use an optical trigger or you can use a radio trigger. Radio triggers give you the most freedom and reliability, especially when you use one per light. In my case I own six receivers and two transmitters.

The gold standard for these are probably PocketWizards, which are around $200 each. Maybe a bit less, so call it $1500 for the set. Ouch! So I started out life with some cheap eBay triggers (not that reliable, work over short distances, but $50ish for one transmitter/receiver pair) and upgraded a while back to the White Lightning version. These were basically the same design as the eBay ones but with better service and from a stable company so I could add on over time as I added lights. By the end of 2007 or early 2008 I had four active lights (plus a spare) and every one had a receiver, and I have two transmitters (I could actually use three - one for the main camera, one for the light meter, one for a film camera).

Unfortunately their Chinese maker started cheapening out, substituting parts, and generally screwing them so after a big debacle of returns and pain they discontinued these units. Mine were OK since they were older but part of the point was to be able to add on, and suddenly I can't. Ouch.

Well, they designed a new set from scratch, called the CyberSyncs. And because White Lightning (who is owned by the same guy as Alien Bees - they're on both sites) is very service oriented they offered a very generous trade in. Additionally they came out with "plus" receivers which will hopefully allow control of the lights once they ship the "plus" transmitter (aka "Cyber Commander") - not just triggering but changing the power and so forth. They also have battery operated models which are becoming popular because they can also be used to power small battery powered flashes, allowing for very portable setups.

And even the plus versions are half as much as PocketWizards, and after the generous rebate they're a quarter as much, so that's all good.

I've done a couple of shoots with them plus some testing. They work great - fired every time, if you multiply number of lights for a given shot by number of frames it should be well over a thousand flashes. I haven't gone for distance but they're supposed to work over hundreds of feet. I did get a 3rd party cable that lets you hook up a receiver to your camera and that works to trigger the camera. Unfortunately the cable was miswired but you can get it to work (just put the switch in the off position and it turns on and vice versa) and they were totally unhelpful so I'm not exactly going to plug those @#$#@s but suffice to say the CyberSync part works great (and it's the same cable you would use with a PocketWizard - it's specific to the camera, not the trigger).

It's nice to be able to trigger your camera not only for the usual reasons - self portraits or whatever - but just as an example sports and wedding and other event photographers will ditch extra cameras places that they just can't get to during the event. Like right over the basket, or behind the altar. Will I use it much? I have no idea, but it's good to have the cable just in case.

So all in all, it's a nice system. The immediate benefits are the camera triggering and the small flash triggering, it's more future proof (since it's the current system and I can buy more of them0 and when the Cyber Commander ("plus" transmitter) comes out that should be pretty nice to be able to control the lights remotely. As an example now when I have a light up high I have to stand on a stool and adjust it while the model holds a light meter down below. It's still nicer than not having a meter at all (then you have to keep getting down, into position, take a shot, chimp, get back on the stool...) but it should be a nice benefit.

OK, back to editing...

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