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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)

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Installation:

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.

Operation:

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…

Performance:

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.

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Conclusion:

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.

EDIT:

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.

stay tuned for part 2 – real world shooting and performance tests!

9 Responses to “The RadioPopper PX review – part 1”

  1. Thanks for the review. I’ve been wanting the RadioPoppers for a long time. I was about to pull the trigger on the P1s and out came the announcement for the PX. I’m happy to hear you’ve had such good success in firing them. I have a question about HS sync. I thought the PX could sync up to 1/8000. Have you tried that? If so, doesn’t that match up with the PocketWizard TTL offering?

    Thanks again for the review, I’m looking forward to seeing your real world tests and I’ll be linking to this review from my blog!

    Tom

  2. Hi Tom –
    Yes, the radiopoppers do allow HSS wirelessly. The max shutter speed you will get is a function of your camera’s HSS system – all the RPs do is “bridge” the TTL signal via RF. I do believe that most HSS systems allow up to 1/8000 sync – but at the price of greatly reduced flash power since the flash has to “strobe” rapidly off a single charge of the capacitor.

    The pocketwizards also allow wireless HSS but this is *not* the same as what they call “hypersync” unlike HSS where the flash fires multiple pulses synced with the movements of the shutter curtains, hypersync allows a normal “single” flash pulse to be synced at a slightly higher speed than normal, by some careful timing of the burst to avoid the “black bars” of the shutter cutrains passing the film plane. They claim up to 1/500 sync with “hypersync” but the “fine print” is that that is only with a camera that already has a normal sync of 1/250, and only in optimal circumstances. I believe some real world tests showed an improvement of 1/3 – 1 stop in max sync speed, which is still nothing to sneeze at!

    if all this sync speed stuff is confusing – check my article on it here for a more detailed breakdown…

  3. [...] has a review of the RadioPopper PXs that’s worth a [...]

  4. I enjoyed your RadioPopper PX review. I’m a big fan since the introduction of the P1’s.
    Poppers are the best new product I’ve added in years, they make great lighting so much easier. Reliable wireless high-speed sync is so damn cool.
    I use the PX system now and love the improvements.

    When PocketWizard introduced their new products I was REALLY curious how they were going to compare. When I got done reading the details I relaxed and realized my upgrade to a set of 4 PX’s was a very wise move.

    Poppers help me create great light easily.

    Rex

  5. [...] I get a few minutes. Actually, scratch writing a review – Ed Zawadzki over at F/1.0 has written a post that sums things up pretty nicely. My additional two cents so far: The PX’s just feel more reliable and responsive – absolutely [...]

  6. It seems RadioPopper PX is functionally better than the new PocketWizards (Flex/Mini). The PWs do not support all TTL functions by a long shot – check the fine print in the PW manual. The Hypersync doesn’t seem that great to me – I mean I think I’d rather use true FP sync (at speeds of 1/400 & 1/500 & 1/640) than Hypersync (which is not an option at speeds between 1/250 & 1/640 with PW – it says this in the manual), and if there aint ’nuff power – add a light. The radiopoppers support everything CLS does, and can use true FP sync at all intermediate speeds (much more even lighting across the frame). Although I like the aesthetics of the PW better (looks, slide-n-play vs. velcro), if the radiopoppers are as reliable as the PW, its a better system. And then there’s the studio light support, which I dont understand the differences as well, since I dont use them now, but in the future?… Originally I was thinking the PW would be better, but after more careful analysis, I am going to go order the radiopoppers after submitting this comment. I hope its as reliable as PW – for $250/unit it had better be!, if so I’m sure I wont regret it.

  7. [...] promised, part 2 of my Radiopopper PX review. (PART 1 HERE) Although for my purposes, I can’t imagine I’d need to trigger my slave strobes from [...]

  8. Radio Popper did not work for me. I am on the second set of units. Even the second set took a trip to Radio Popper for testing. They failed to duplicate the issue that I have right now. But I can simply reproduce it. With both the units I had different kind of issues and its been more than a year since I bought it and not able to shoot any event without any single troubles. Allways one or the other problems. Finally gave up and around 705$ became paper weight (noo I cannot use it as paper weight either, its light weight). I am a very well educated user and hold top of the time camera and flash units from Canon and also tested with my friends flash units and camera and were able to reproduce the problems easily. And dont understand why radio popper was not able to re produce it. But one thing I have to say… they are very friendly in customer service. Very prompt until my last email saying about the latest issues. No replies yet…

  9. [...] The RadioPopper units on the flashes re-convert the radio waves back to light signals. See the RadioPopper PX review by Ed Zawadski (the photo below is from his [...]

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