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Initial Comments: Nikon Pocket Wizards

HBB

Phoenix, US
8640 posts

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HBB Moderator Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Charter Member
Thu 10-Feb-11 10:44 PM | edited Fri 11-Feb-11 03:31 PM by HBB

Tuesday I received the following components, from my contact at the MAC Group, distributors of Pocket Wizards:

MiniTT1 (1)
FlexTT5 (2)
AC3 Zone Controller (1)

These components are loaned to me and must be returned by March 28. In the interim, I will try and provide a comprehensive review and answer as many questions as possible. Thanks in advance for your patience.

My first pleasant surprise: The MiniTT1 (TT1) and FlexTT5 (TT5) are made in the United States, while the AC3 is made in China.

I recommend that you take the time to download and print the 56 page manual, as it goes into much greater depth than the brief "Quick Guides" that come with the components.

All three components have locking pins and/or holes compatible with Nikon speedlights and hot shoes. The TT1 and TT5 have a notched rotating ring that engages a locking pin when turned. Properly mounted, I have no fear of anything falling out, particularly if a heavy Nikon SB900 is mounted on it.

The TT1 is a small 2.0 x 2.75 x 1.0 inch device that mounts in the camera hot shoe, and has a hot shoe on top of it for a Nikon speedlight. It takes a single CR2450 or CR2354 coin battery (supplied). It can be used with or without a speedlight in its hot shoe. This module is used for basic wireless flash configurations, where the power level on the remote units is set manually. It can also be used with an SB800 set to Master mode for Nikon CLS functionality. It has two buttons: a push button for Test/Learn and another slide switch with OFF, C1 and C2 settings, which are labeled "Configuration Channels" not to be confused with the four channels used in the Nikon CLS technology. More on C1 and C2 later.

The TT5 is a larger unit 3.0 x 3.5 x 1.0 inches that mounts in the camera hot shoe, or accepts a speedlght for use as a remote unit. It takes two AA batteries (supplied). It has a push button for Test/Learn, a slide switch for OFF, C1 and C2 selections, and a third switch for selecting Group A, B, or C. It also includes two mini-phono ports, P1 and P2, for triggering a speedlight and/or a camera.

The AC3 is 2.0 x 1.5 x 0.75 inches, and is used when multiple remote groups are desired, but an on-camera master is not required. The AC3 mounts in the hot shoe of either the TT1 or the TT5.

The TT1 and TT5 units both include a USB port for updating firmware and changing internal settings using a utility that must be downloaded from www.PocketWizard.com/support/downloads.

Instructions recommend turning components on from the top down: speedlight, PW module, camera.

In the first few hours I explored the following:

1) Basic Wireless, No Flash on Camera.

I mounted SB800s in each of the TT5 modules and set them to the standard TTL mode, as if they were to be used on-camera. I know, this is counter-intuitive, but this is the way it works. I mounted the TT1 in a D3 hot shoe. The D3 was set to manual mode, 1/60 sec and F/5.6, with no exposure compensation. Everything worked as expected.

2) Basic Wireless, On-Camera SB800 in TTL mode.

I fooled with this for a while, and could not get it to work at all. I then got into the downloaded instruction manual and discovered on page 27: "The NIkon i-TTL system does not have a basic mode where all remotes zones and a MASTER flash are treated as a single, large zone of light. In the Nikon iTTL/CLS system, the MASTER flash is always treated as its own zone of light separate from remote groups or zones. If you want all of your remote Speedlights to trigger as one zone or group of lights, just follow the steps in the Advanced Wireleess TTL section and set all of your remote Flex TTL radios to Zone A." Once I discovered this, I moved on. (They have chosen to use "zone" instead of "group")

3) I mounted an SB800 set to Master mode on the TT1, which was mounted on the D3. I mounted an SB800 in each of the TT5 modules and set them to standard TTL as directed. The remote units were set in short hallways leading off the main hallway, out of sight of IR coupling. One of the remotes was set to Group A and the other to Group B, using the slide switch on the TT5. All hallways were darkened. Operation in this mode is very much like operating in the standard CLS Master Mode.

4) Finally, I removed the SB800 from the on-camera TT1 and replaced it with the AC3 Zone Controller. This small unit does not have an OFF/ON switch, as it is powered from its host TT1 ot TT5. It includes a slide switch for each of the three remotes zones (groups) with OFF, M (Manual) and A (Automatic) modes. There is a small rotary wheel for each remote zone with a Zero setting, and plus or minus three stops in 1/3 stop increments. Operation in this mode is similar to operating with a Nikon SU800, minus the closeup, A/B group balancing feature.

So far, there have been no major surprises, just a few minor differences in configuration and operation. These are quite sophisticated units, with a substantial amount of PW Plus II and MultiMax logic built in. More on this later. With a few more hours, I should be as comfortable with these units as I am with my beloved herd of SB800s.

I'm out of time for today, but expect to get back to them for a few additional hours tomorrow and over the weekend.

Edited to correct typo spotted by Marty ... My fingers got ahead of my brain. Thanks Marty!

Regards,

HBB in Phoenix, Arizona
Nikonian Team Member

Photography is a journey with no conceivable destination.

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