Pocket Wizard Review
Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 - Love the Light!
Pocket Wizard Review - My new best friends at Pocket Wizard are an electronics lab otherwise known as Lab Partner's Associates (LPA). They are based in Vermont. Their flash or speedlight triggering devices were born after an assistant's idea. He was the assistant to an architectural photographer and approached the LPA with a need for a device. One that would work better than his modified "garage door opener" to trigger lights on various photo shoots.
Soon after, the Flash Wizard radio slave was created. This was the predecessor to the more modern and widely known Pocket Wizard radio slave units. There have been many copycat products hitting the market. However, none that I have seen or read about come close to the technology, features and flexibility of the Pocket Wizard range.
The latest range includes:
In the first part of this review we will concentrate on the Mini TT1 and Flex TT5. They are the ones I have and which seem to be the most popular amongst many photographers. For me they are incredibly portable, easy to set up and very intuitive.
The Mini TT1 is the smaller of the two units and sits comfortably on your camera's hot-shoe. I say comfortably because it is small, light and you hardly know it is there.
It is also extremely convenient as it has a hot-shoe of its own. This means you can still use a speedlight on your camera if you choose to by placing it on top!
Pocket Wizard claim it is the smallest radio transmitter that provides full E-TTL II (Canon), i-TTL (Nikon) and power control capabilities with Canon and Nikon Speedlights (and certain studio lights).
When used with the Flex TT5, you can operate and fire as many flash units that you can afford, no limits! You can also fire other cameras remotely, at the same time as the speedlights. This is done using a separate Pocket Wizard ACC cable.
The Flex TT5 is a larger unit, about twice the size of the Mini TT1. Unlike the Mini TT1 though, the Flex TT5 acts as a transmitter and receiver. This means you can get by with no TT1 but two or more TT5's.
The TT5 also has a hotshoe on the top meaning you can still use on-camera flash. This unit works with the TT1 and Multimax channels and advanced functions.
It opens up a whole new world of flash capabilities...you are only limited by your imagination. Once again, this intelligent system takes note of any changes that you make to your ISO, shutter speed or aperture.
It makes any necessary changes to ensure perfect exposures...brilliant!
The Flex TT5 has two configurable channel settings being C1 and C2. Each setting can be separately programmed as needed with up to 20 Control TL channels for full TTL photography, or 32 standard channels for full manual flash photography. The Flex TT5 Transceiver also has a three-zone selector switch for simple use with Canon ratios and zones.
The Pocket Wizard HyperSync technology means you can operate up to shutter speeds of 500th/sec with many strobes. Using high speed sync on your speedlights, you can go all the way up to 8000th/sec!
What They Can Do
The thing I like most about this set up is that they are so easy to operate and use. When used together, the Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 will work seamlessly as a go between for your camera and speedlight(s). It is as though you were using your flash "on-camera".
For example, you still have full auto capability meaning you can still use flash exposure compensation (FEC) on your camera. This will transmit to the remote flashes plus you can override the flash sync speed and use this system up to 8000th/sec shutter speed!
When in a hurry whilst shooting wedding photography, I have simply plonked the Mini TT1 on my camera, attached two speedlights (Canon 580 EX and 580 EX II) on two Flex TT5's on stands with brollies and fired away. The results have been amazing. I used the FEC on camera to control output of both flashes together.
In this image below, I had one speedlight on a stand to the right of, and behind the couple with no brolly for back-lighting. The second flash was high up on another stand in front of and to the left/centre of the couple for fill in/key light. This was done to balance out the harsh sunlight. I then slightly underexposed for the bright sun and the Pocket Wizards simply did their thing!
640th/sec, F4.5, ISO 100, Focal Length 70mm
If you want separate, manual control of each unit, Pocket Wizard have a handy unit called the AC3 Zone Controller.
This sits on top of the Mini TT1 on your hotshoe and controls up to three off camera flash units individually. Bear in mind though that the AC3 (left) does not have a hot-shoe so you cannot place a speedlight on camera when using this.
The possibilities for being creative are endless…
Setting Up Your Pocket Wizards
Setting up the Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 couldn't be easier. However, according to many people, including PW themselves, it has to be done in the right order or they won't work.
- 1Turn everything off. Camera, speedlights and Pocket Wizards.
- 2Place Mini TT1 on camera, switch on TT1 and then turn on camera.
- 3Place speedlight(s) on Flex TT5(s), switch on Flex's and then speedlights.
- 4Press the Test/Learn button on the Mini TT1 a few times. You should see the speedlights flash on low power. This means they are "talking" and all is well.
- 5Take a test shot to be sure and you are good to go.
I have on occasion forgotten this order and after a few presses of the test button, things seemed to work. To be on the safe side, try to instill this procedure into your brain.
Now, to take the images, this is where your own preferences and techniques come into play. I like to add a bit of lighting behind my subject (if it is a person). So, I simply place the unit (Flex TT5 + speedlight) on a stand at 45 degrees behind the subject opposite to where the sun is hitting them. I place a second unit to fill any shadows cause by the sun.
This is a really basic set up but a good place to start. It is similar to the method I used for the wedding shot earlier.
If one aspect of either flash is too bright, you can either;
If the image is underexposed, simply do the opposite to the above.
Of course, all of this is basic stuff and you need to use your "noggin" (common sense) when checking the images and adjust accordingly. The thing is to get out and play/practice, especially if you intend to use these at a wedding.
If anything seems to be not working right, check your batteries. Failing that, turn everything off and start again. Also make sure you have the latest firmware updates which are free to download from the Pocket Wizard website.
There is so much more I could talk about here. I may add a few video tutorials as time goes on because I love these babies. They are my new best gadget and I think they will be for a long time. All I will do for now is recommend that you get hold of a set. Get two Flex TT5's (or more) if your budget allows as this will give you a LOT more creative flexibility.
The Pocket Wizard In Action
Here are a few examples where I have used the Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5's for weddings and general portrait photography.
In this first shot (fig.1), the wedding was a wet one and fairly dark. The bride was sitting on my jacket to protect her dress from getting wet and dirty. Both of them looked fairly dark sitting under a tree canopy.
I placed on Flex TT5 to the couples right and behind that hedge so it was out of view to me. A second unit was placed behind the couple on the bride's side.
Both speedlights were placed on E-TTL (auto) and I just walked down the garden, turned around and fired away. The E-TTL did its job well and I had to make no adjustments once I started shooting. I was left to play around with compositions, focussing and depth of field. The way it should be!
In this confetti shot (fig.2), again it was dark and late afternoon so I used two speedlights again.
They were simply placed quite high up on stands to the left and right of the crowd and I fired away. The E-TTL and Wizards did their thing again and all was well.
Fig.3 - Group Shot - 160th/sec, f8, ISO 400, 43mm
Sometimes during a wedding, using flash is inevitable and necessary when you start to lose the light. In the shot below, I used two speedlights on Flex TT5's fired through luminescent brollies. These were placed either side of me…all on E-TTL (auto). They did a fine job of lighting this large group (fig.3).
I love to play with all the beautiful lights during the reception with a mix of flash and slow shutter speeds.
For this next shot of a saxophonist (fig.4), I predetermined where the bride and groom would be doing their first dance.
Then I set up the lights accordingly rather than just using on camera, bounced flash.
This was a test shot using a set up which was one speedlight high up on a stand behind me in the left corner of the room. It had a diffuser attached and was set to E-TTL.
The second unit was placed to my right and had a honeycomb attachment with blue gel (from Harbor Digital Design) inside. This was to target the blue light onto the couple.
I have loads more examples I would like to show you but the best thing to do is to get hold of some of these yourself. Go and have a play, you will not regret it. Pocket Wizards and two or three speedlights can add a whole new dimension to your photography. They will no doubt separate you from the amateurs (even if you are one yourself). Done correctly you will wow your friends and clients with great looking images.
You can buy the Pocket Wizards from most retailers but for customer service, speed and price I would recommend Amazon (where I bought mine).
If you have a set of these, please share your views and comments below and share this page with your Facebook friends.