Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 for Nikon14.01.11 (Tech Stuff)
First, what it is all about.
Pocket Wizard (PW) is system for remote controlling of flashes and cameras. They allow you to fire flashes (or cameras, but I will focus on flashes only here) over distance with no direct visibility. Before remote controls like PW were available, were were using either optical trigger or wired connection. While optical trigger was fine in studio, it is useless when you have no direct sight between flashes, too long distance or during daylight. Wired connection is reliable but limits your movements and takes time to setup.
Radio triggers like PW are, allows you to transmit flash trigger over radio signal, which works (usually) reliable as wired connection, during daylight needs no direct visibility between camera and flashes and needs no wires between flashes and camera.
I have never been really fan of Pocket Wizards because in Europe they are not that popular, we were using a little cheaper and better system from Hensel, but it doesn't mean they are not good. They were trusted choice of professionals since long time.
Problem until now was, that when you were using small system flashes (speedlights like Nikon SB-800), you could only trigger, but not configure the flashes remotely as you can do with studio flashes. System flashes are very convenient in field because they are small, easy portable and setup and work in automated modes too.
I will make it short because there is already enough information on the net, about the basics.
On picture above you see two transceivers (receiver and transmitter in one). There is transmitter only available too (FlextTT1), which is little smaller but is not really cheaper, uses weird batteries so for start i opted for two TT5s.
One you put on your camera's hot shoe (here is Nikon version), into second one, you will insert your system flash. So far easy.
Now the problem is, that communication between camera and flash is really complicated and not documented for others to use. So it is really not easy to do remote radio path for the previously only optical or wired connection.
The setup like above, will actually not work that pretty, TTL will work but you cannot configure it differently then with exposure compensation.
So, 2 TT5s or TT1 and TT5 is just replacement for TTL cable. That is already life changing, but there is more into it...
To configure the flashes from your camera's position, you need either PW AC3 Zone Controller or another master capable system flash or remote control unit Nikon SU-800.
So i will insert another flash onto it:
The PW is pass through so camera now thinks there is regular flash inserted and activates it's TTL features.
You can now configure your on camera flash to Master mode and configure all remote flashes (groups of them) as if you were be using optical path for communication (note i have here my master flash already on SC-28 TTL extension cord, i will come to the setup later).
As because PW intercepts all signals which camera sends to master flash, it can also be transmitted over radio signals. With flash inserted, optical signals will still be send, but remote flashes will ignore them.
You can now on master flash configure power of it self and all three groups (A,B,C) as you are used to. I have here just Group A set to manual mode, full power, and flashing of master disabled, but TTL works as well as exposure compensation - i found no limitations so far.
Remote flashes are set to normal mode (not remote mode, because they would be answering to optical signals only). They basically think they are sitting on camera.
PW AC3 is really small unit, it will be nice once it became available for Nikon users. Until then you have to use SU-800 or full flash capable of master functionality (SB-800 or SB-900). As you see on picture above, it is really huge solution, but there is little better workaround until you can buy AC3 unit.
Photo courtesy of Pocket Wizard. Click to visit product page.
Nikon SC-28 TTL extension cord does what you would expect. It just extends wires between camera hot shoe and flash. Nothing more and nothing less.
So I have SC-28 TTL cord inserted directly to FlexTT5, this allows me control my flashes on attached SB-800 (which is in pocket or hand during shooting - depends if I use it for light or not).
On top of SC-28 is Hensel remote control which controls power and triggering of Studio flashes (accu and outlet powered) and those lights which are not compatible with Nikon's TTL or Hensel remote control in trigger only mode. We combine them with speed lights depending on use case.
Following setup allows us to use 3 groups of speedlights/system flashes in TTL or manual mode and three groups of studio lights in manual mode.
Using extension cord saves little weight from camera, but adds wires. Depending on what you find better, both can be used.
I will put the AC3 Zone Controller on the extension cord once it will be available as i need the studio flashes most of the time even during weddings.