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Pocket Wizard Plus II vs Alien Bees

Phil Burt , Dec 15, 2010; 02:26 p.m.

I have read all the recent post on these two and I would like to hear exact opinions concerning these two.
As an amateur that is looking for help in deciding what to get. Equipment now, Nikon D90, SB-600 & SB-900. I do have a Sekonic L-358 light meter, it does have the PW transmitter in it. (Came used that way)
Would you get either the Pocket Wizards or Alien Bees and why. (Knowing that I am an amateur & my equipment, and really want something like this only for the fun of it).
Thanks so much, hopefully I can get this straight in this old mans mind.
phil b
benton, ky

Responses


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Howard M , Dec 15, 2010; 02:45 p.m.

cybersync. get a 2nd receiver because you can actually turn it into a mini-transmitter so you can use it to trigger from the Sekonic (externally)

D.B. Cooper , Dec 15, 2010; 02:45 p.m.

Why not just use the Nikon wireless capability already built into the camera and flashes? I use the Nikon CLS system regularly.

If you're triggering non-CLS (non-iTTL) strobes, unless you need the range of the PW, I'd go with the AB gear - it's reliable and less expensive. I have 4 PWs, but got them for non-iTTL strobes before some of the more recent products from Elinchrom and PCB (Alien Bees) came out on the market.

William Pahnelas , Dec 15, 2010; 03:24 p.m.

i've never used PWs, but i have a set of cybersyncs. if your question is along the lines of, do they work and are they worth it? i'd say yes, without hesitation, on both counts. i also have an SB600 and SB900, and frankly i use them with CLS most of the time. but if i need to work 'em with cybersyncs, there's no problem. no complicated setup or anything like that -- they just work. i'm sure the PWs are a good product, too. being more expensive and all, and seeing the positive feedback about the cybersyncs, that's what i went with.

Leigh B. , Dec 15, 2010; 06:21 p.m.

I bought a set of PW Plus IIs, solely because I could trigger them with my L-358 and L-758. I find that feature very desirable, and use it all the time.

Were that not the case, I would certainly go with the Cybersync, for several reasons...
1) The PW products are GROSSLY over-priced.

2) The combined transmit/receive design of the PW Plus II is ridiculous. By definition, 50% of the functionality you paid for goes unused.

3) The Cybersync is less susceptible to interference and other RF problems due to its operation in the 2.4 GHz frequency range, as compared with the PW operation in the 344 MHz range.

- Leigh

Peter Cohen , Dec 15, 2010; 06:44 p.m.

CyberSync. Never had a problem. Plus, they come with all the correct cables, including the one to connect to your SB's. I've velcro'd mine to the top of the flash and they work perfectly.

Pete S. , Dec 15, 2010; 06:54 p.m.

I have the PW IIs and I like a couple of thing with them that I think can't be done with the cybersyncs.

1) When shooting on events and other locations I might set one strobe to fire on channel one and another on channel two. Then I can easily switch between the two on the fly just by changing the PW channel on the camera transmitter.

2) Sometimes shooting static setups I have the camera on a tripod. With just an extra remote cable I can remotely trigger the camera from a light meter or another PW. When the camera then fires it triggers the strobes as usual.

3) Transmitter and receiver is the same so only one spare is needed.

4) PWs use regular AA sized batteries same as the speedlights so spares are always at hand.

BTW, you might want to look into the new PWs as well. They are similarly priced I think and then you can use TTL with your Nikon strobes as well.

Joseph Wisniewski , Dec 15, 2010; 07:24 p.m.

Phil, none of the above.

If you don't have some Alien Bees strobes, and are just looking for the best way to remote trigger your Nikon SB-600 and SB-900, PW has just started shipping the ControlTL transceivers for Nikon gear. The MiniTT1 transmitter goes on the camera and transmits all the stuff needed to do Nikon TTL remotely, the FlexTT5 receiver goes on the SB-600 or SB-900. The FlexTT5 can also be used on-camera, the only advantage of MiniTT1 is size, personally I'd go for the added versatility and only use FlexTT5. The FlexTT5 can also do relay mode, so you run a PW cable from the Flex to the camera's shutter jack and you can remote fire the camera with another Flex, Mini, or an old Plus or Plus II.

Now, if you do have Alien Bees strobes, the CyberCommander transmitter and CSR+ receivers are amazing.

Leigh 2) The combined transmit/receive design of the PW Plus II is ridiculous. By definition, 50% of the functionality you paid for goes unused.

Actually, the CyberSync CSR, CSRB, CSR+, CSRB+ "receivers" and CyberCommander "transmitter" are all high performance transceivers. Faster than PW+ II, too. So the only thing ridiculous about PW+ II is the price, the size, and a radio control frequency from 1970.

CSR et. al. can do repeater operations, pick up a signal and retransmit it for a range boost. Unfortunately, their firmware isn't sophisticated enough to allow you to hook a CSR to both a camera's shutter connector and flash sync connector to do a PW style "relay". I'd love to be able to have a CSR at the camera pick up a signal from a CST, fire the camera's shutter, then, when the camera shutter is open and the camera trips the flash, send out a trigger to all the other CSR receivers on the studio strobes. My stupid solution is to use my old Yongnuo RF-602 as a camera trigger. The camera gets both an RF-602 receiver and a CyberSync CST transmitter.

Yongnuo RF-602

Joseph Wisniewski , Dec 15, 2010; 07:45 p.m.

Howard - cybersync. get a 2nd receiver because you can actually turn it into a mini-transmitter

Sounds like a great trick. I know the receivers are actually fully functional transceivers, but how do you get one to transmit?

Pete - When shooting on events and other locations I might set one strobe to fire on channel one and another on channel two. Then I can easily switch between the two on the fly just by changing the PW channel on the camera transmitter.

You've got that one totally backwards. With CyberSync, you can put all your strobes on the same frequency (there are 16 frequencies) then assign each one a different channel (there are 16 channels within a frequency) on the CSR+ or CSRB+ receivers. Then, if you have Paul Buff lights (White Lightning, Alien Bees, Einstein, or Zeus), you can not only turn any light on any channel on or off, but you can also control the power of each strobe individually, and control the power of the modeling lights individually (or have them track the strobe power). You can group them, and save setups. If you have another brand of lights, you can't remote control power, but you can still remote enable and disable any 1 of 16 lights.

Sometimes shooting static setups I have the camera on a tripod. With just an extra remote cable I can remotely trigger the camera from a light meter or another PW. When the camera then fires it triggers the strobes as usual.

OK, you've got me there. With CyberSync, I'd have to put both a CST transmitter and a CSRB+ receiver on the camera. Of course, you're talking...

  • PW Plus II handheld $169, PW Plus II on camera $169 = $338
  • CST handheld $60, CST on camera $60, CSRB+ on camera $90 = $210

Transmitter and receiver is the same so only one spare is needed.

CST Transmitter and CSRB+ receiver together cost less than PW Plus II, and take up less space.

PWs use regular AA sized batteries same as the speedlights so spares are always at hand.

CST Transmitters use a coin lithium that is good for a couple of years. CSRB transmitters take regular AA sized batteries, and they don't have the PW Plus II "bug" that sometimes causes PW transceivers to fry if they're left on long enough to totally deplete the battery.

BTW, you might want to look into the new PWs as well. They are similarly priced I think and then you can use TTL with your Nikon strobes as well.

Definitely. The new PW ControlTL stuff, Flex and Mini, is definitely the way to go for maximum performance with Nikon TTL flashes. For any other purpose, PW is way too long in the tooth.

Pete S. , Dec 16, 2010; 01:57 p.m.

No point in getting defensive Joseph, I'm just stating some pros that I have encountered using the PWs. I have no experience with the cybersyncs. That little hex encoder on the transmitter though seems way too small to use for switching back and forth between channels on the fly.

I just came to think about another pro though for the PWs (which would be the same for every trigger that is both a transmitter and a receiver).

I have my PWs attached to the speedlights. If I put the flash on a stand it will act as a reciever but if I put it the flash in the hotshoe it will act as a transmitter. I use that when shooting and switching between two off camera speedlights and no on-camera to picking one flash up and now using one on-camera flash and one off.


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