Hi and welcome back.
At the beginning of Summer I made a decision to explore other radio triggering systems beyond the industry standard Pocket Wizard’s.
I wanted a to stick with TTL and chose Radio Popper’s. I saw numerous videos and read tons of testimonials online before I decided to take the leap and add RP’s to my kit.
First the caveat: this is as unbiased a review as I can give, it is for most RP users or photographers thinking of buying RP’s, and it favors Nikon but there is information for you Canon shooters too.
The RP system is quite ingenious in that it takes Infrared from the master, turns it into radio frequency, sends it to the receiver, then the receiver translates radio to infrared to fire the flash. This is quite a feat of electronics in a small package and you have the ability to use your camera’s TTL system.
However, there are a few things you should do and be aware of upon opening the boxes and getting started.
Go to a hardware store or home center and buy a small tube of Loctite and Industrial Strength Velcro.
Then purchase this adapter bracket for the bottom of the RP bracket.
Then, put a dollop of Loctite on the screw and install on the bottom of the bracket. Do this so you can use existing OCF bracketry and don’t have to purchase anything specific to the bottom of the RP bracket.
Next, take a swatch of velcro and completely cover the bottom of the RP transmitter. Do this because if you swap between flash units, like SB910 or 800 as master or slave, you can mount your transmitter anywhere on the unit easily.
Then, add big swatches of velcro to your flash to mate your transmitter in multiple locations as you may find it works better in one spot over another.
After you’ve gotten this far, purchase the replacement angled antenna to get rid of that bulky, hard-to-store vertical antenna that the transmitter comes with. FCC rules in the U.S. state that all antenna’s need to be vertical, but after you purchase the unit, don’t let yourself be hemmed in by a poor choice made by others.
Now we are ready to shoot, or are we?
For Nikon shooters like me, you need to be aware of one thing on the receiver bracket. My first impression about the receiver bracket was: REALLY? These guys designed this way cool system and the best they could do was this bulky bracketry?
Once I set it up according to their specs, using the indicated SB900 slot for assembly, I found the units misfired a lot. Reason: the SD9 battery pack. I shoot with my SD9 on my 910 all the time. If you shoot a lot of OCF, you’ll need the pack. The battery pack plug interfered with the upper bracket and caused it to sit on an angle so the IR sender didn’t align with the IR receiver on the flash. Fix: assemble the RP bracket to the SB800 setting and the SD9 will work, the IR works, and misfires are kept to a minimum. Also, if you find you need to, you can take a drill and open the hole up a little bigger on the bracket to get better signal transference. I didn’t need to do this, but it is an option.
Now we assemble everything and go forth to make great images in TTL flash and especially using High Speed Sync.
I met one of my models before a workshop and took a few test shots using TTL and High Speed Sync.
1/8,000 @ 2.8, ISO 200
1/640 @ 4.5, ISO 200
1/3200 @ 3.5, ISO 200
All of these shots were take with High Speed Sync, bare head flash, SB800 as master, SB910 as slave.
The system worked as advertised but is not without flaws.
- Sleek design
- Fairly easy to set up
- Fairly easy to use once you figure out menus
- Great range even under adverse conditions
- Units can be swapped from Nikon to Canon in menus, so you don’t need to buy new triggers if perchance you switch systems, just new brackets
- AAA batteries: the first menu item is battery power. Full batteries read as b9, once your batteries reach b4 or about 50% capacity, units misfire: keep a steady supply of AAA batteries handy. I bought rechargeable AAA’s just for these units
- Menus cryptic
- No manual, online tutorial or PDF download only, would love to see a quick guide in box for us technologically challenged
- Upright transmitter antenna was faulty on my unit, got the replacement in the angled version and it works fine, plus it’s easier to store in my rolling bag
- Bulky receiver bracket
- Customer Service
- Contrary to what you read and see online, units misfire, not as frequently as PW Flexes, but they do misfire
- Keep fresh batteries handy
- Interference from electronics or cars causes misfires and reduced distance
- 1500 ft range was achieved on a clear day with no line-of-sight issues, 565 ft was achieved on a cloudy day shooting across a parking lot filled with cars. All the metal of the cars interfered with the radio frequency and range, this is what Brent, an owner of RP, told me via an email exchange
- Main flash on Channel A fires ok, second flash on Channel B misfired frequently in TTL mode on a recent actor headshot sitting inside my studio
- Watch the recycle light on the master flash, SU800, or STE2. If this light ISN’T ON when you shoot, the master doesn’t send the complete signal and units misfire
- It is just as important to have good batteries in flashes as in RP’s
- Forget about any kind of rapid fire shooting: under rapid fire conditions the signal from the master flash jams up the transmitter. You need to remove batteries to reset the unit
I like these units better than my PW Flexes. The RP’s have fewer misfires and seem to handle all I can throw at them fairly well. The batteries last longer and I can use my units successfully overhead. One complaint on the PW Flex TT1 is that the button battery in the unit didn’t last very long. I had the unit shut down at a wedding due to this: very frustrating.
One of my other main complaints about the PW Flex is that once the weight of the flash sits sideways, the contacts don’t meet and the units misfire. I shoot with overhead flash a lot and this became an issue for me.
The RP’s are comparable in price to PW Flexes so the choice is up to you as to which one you’ll spend money on.
These shots were taken after my test shots above, and the BTS shot shows how I use my main light. As this was a workshop, I used regular PW’s; if this was a pro shoot, I would have used RP’s.
Here’s another set of shots I did for portfolio.
1/400 @ 5.6 ISO 200 using a Large Rogue Flashbender, which ate up a lot of light.
Notice how the light is above and off to the side of the model and is bent to direct the light off the background and only onto the model.
- I really like these units despite their few flaws and shortcomings: bracketry is my biggest complaint here
- If I was choosing systems to get into, I’d choose the RP’s as they work well and store easily in my bag. I keep the transmitter on an SB800 ready to go at all times
- If you are an event shooter, I’d get these for their low profile on camera and for their reliability
That’s it for now. Till next time, happy spending!!