So as anyone who’s been following this blog for any amount of time knows, I’m a pretty big fan of RadioPoppers. (http://radiopopper.com) I was an early adopter of the P1 system (really the first practical system for wireless TTL with strobes) and I pre-ordered the PXs the moment they came on the market (literally).
So I finally get my grubby little hands on the PXs. As luck would have it they arrived about 4 hours *after* I wrapped a big shoot, but that’s ok… my P1s still performed admirably…
First impressions – they are small, noticeably smaller than the P1s. This is a Good Thing™, since the whole point of speedlights is “small and light” If I wanted to haul around 47 lbs of gear everywhere I would just use monolights and a vagabond, but I digress… No fiber optic = win (the light port is built in) and a removable battery cover for easy access – yay. Overall if the P1s were more of a “beta” these are definitely the “release product” (see below for PXs vs P1s)
Installing the receivers is fairly straightforward – they come with a nice little diagram to show you where to place the velcro for optimal light-port alignment. Im not crazy about velcro-ing the front of my flash up, but since the recievers are essentially permanent fixtures I’ll deal.
The good news first – the PXs in basic TTL mode are pretty much plug&play – slap em on, and fire away. The bad news is that once you get into the menus it gets a little more complicated. The menu system is a bit arcane, an unavoidable consequence of a 2 character screen and only 2 buttons for adjustment. Honestly it’s not that bad though. Once you get the “cycle” of options down, it’s pretty easy to flip through. The only downside is that with only 2 buttons, going through the menus is pretty much “one way” only – I think that the menu system could be *vastly* improved with the addition of a 3rd button – essentially giving you “up”, “down” and “select” buttons.
My ONLY real complaint with the operation is that I absolutely cannot use the “down” adjustment on the transmitter’s “group” menu (for clarification – the PX transmitter will allow you to remotely adjust the power on a AB/WL monolight connected to the upcoming PX jr. This is done by going into the “group” menu on the PX transmitter (G1, G2, G3) and selecting a power level from 00 (off) to 32 (full power). In theory, pressing the “X” button increments the power level, while *holding* X while simultaneously pressing “P” will decrement it. Unfortunately despite about 10min of fiddling, I could not get the hang of the “holding x+press p” every time it would either just increment it, or drop it by one and then increment it again. Maybe I just need some practice :-) Again, this would be easily solvable by a 3 button control scheme rather than 2 (you listening Kevin – maybe something for the PX v.2?
Overall I am satisfied with the operation of the units. Once you get comfortable with the menu system, making adjustments is not bad, and the real point is that in TTL mode, you shouldn’t really *have* to make adjustments to the units all that often while shooting.
One strange “gotcha” – probably more related to Canon than RP – When using the ST-E2 as a commander, it seems like it must be *on camera* with the camera on in order to operate. Seems like a kind of “well duh” thing, right? well, I initially started testing the RPs by sticking the TX on my ST-E2 and pressing the test button to try and fire my strobes (ST-E2 not on camera). This works fine with the normal optical system, however *did not* work with the PXs – the link light on the TX goes off, but nothing on the RX. Put the ST-E2 on camera though, and the test button functions normally, TX and RX link and the strobe pops. Pretty weird huh? Took me about 15min of frustration to figure that one out…
Of course what it really all boils down to is “do they work?”
As mentioned I received my units right after finishing up a big shoot, so I have not yet had the chance to put them through their paces in a “real” environment, however from my testing performance seems excellent – it just works. I did my darndest to try and get them to misfire, but was unable to :-) I tried using the auto channel select, as well as manually selecting channels and they consistently fired every time. Tested them out to about 80 feet (stood at one end of my studio with the strobe/receiver by the door all the way at the other end). No issues.
Not much else to say – we’ll have to see how they perform over time, but so far they have been 100% rock solid.
Bottom line is – if you use wireless TTL flash at all, these things rock. All the good parts of the P1 and then some. Better design, operation, and performance along with the inter-operability with manual flash using the JR system. Super cool. Even just the ability to use HSS wirelessly is worth the price of admission. The P1 was a revolutionary concept and a good product. The PX is a very good product. The PX+JrX system combination elevates it to a *great* product.
Of course the big elephant in the room is: how are these going to fare against the 800-lb gorilla that is PocketWizard, and their newly announced TTL system. There is no doubt the new PWs are cool, and basically do everything that the PXs can do *by themselves*. The key that I think may give RP an edge is the system as a whole. The integration of all the units, combined with the abilty to remotely adjust monolights and system flashes is *huge* for anyone who uses a combination of speedlights and studio strobes (which I do frequently). On the other hand, PW has some neat goodies like “hypersync” so there’s that as well… we’ll have to see how it plays out. For the time being I am more than happy with my PXs, and will be first in line for the JrXs when they hit the shelves as well.
Details are a bit sketchy, but THIS POST on the RP blog, seems to indicate some “hypersync”-like functionality with the JrXs. My guess is that they are doing something similar – using the signal to “pre-fire” the flash at speeds over the x-sync, so that the strobe is already ramped up to it’s full luminance as the shutter curtain opens, essentially turning it into a very bright continous light for the duration of the exposure. This has a number of technical ramifications, but another trick in the toolbag is always good.