I think we can all agree that Pocket Wizards are the most popular wireless flash triggering system on the market today. I think we all can also agree that they are the most expensive wireless flash triggering system on the market today. Lucky for all of us non-millionaires, many companies have rose up to challenge Pocket Wizard for people’s business in this arena.
One of those companies is Phottix with their hot shoe wireless flash system they’ve dubbed the Strato II. In this post we’ll take a look at how well these perform and whether they are a viable alternative to the more expensive, yet proven Pocket Wizard.
Phottix is a relatively newcomer to the wireless trigger game however their product offering is quite good. Our Editor-In-Chief recently reviewed a more advance model from called the Odin, which allows some higher-end features.
- Two different shutter triggering cables to be sure it will work with your Canon camera model
- PC sync cable
- 2.5mm to 6.3mm adapter for use with some studio strobes
- Strap to hang unit from studio strobe or light stand
These guys are loaded with all the connections and buttons you could want in a wireless trigger system.
Both units feature on/off switches, channel selection switch, hot-shoe connection for flash mounting, shutter release button, and a test fire button. The transmitter has some unique features including a PC sync port to connect to your camera without taking up the hot-shoe on your camera as well as the group selection buttons.
The receiver’s offers a DC power port for wired power (not included) and the flash connection port. The receiver also features a tripod or light stand threaded lug to mount the receiver.
Of particular note is the camera hot-shoe on the transmitter is made of metal and not plastic. I’ve personally lost a wireless trigger due to a plastic hot-shoe connection breaking. Unfortunately, the receivers do not have the same metal mount.
Another bonus is the use of AAA batteries on both receiver and transmitter so even though they last for quite a long time, a quick run to the corner store for batteries will get you back up and running fast.
In their simplest setup, the Strato II is amazingly simple to use. Slide the transmitter on the camera hot-shoe, slide a flash on the receiver hot-shoe, make sure the channel selector is the same on both units, power everything up and shoot.
Keep in mind that at their core, these units just trigger your flash(s) and nothing more. What I mean by that is they won’t do any crazy wireless TTL or anything like that. You also need to set any power output for the flashes manually on the flash. No changing the flash output from the on-camera transmitter like some (more expensive) triggering systems offer.
If you’re using more than one flash, the system does allow you to set up different flashes in up to 4 different groups (A, B, C, and D) and trigger any combination of them. For example; put your key light on group A and a rim light on group B. By turning on groups A and B, both lights will fire but a quick press on the transmitter to turn off group B and now only your key light will fire. This can be quite helpful in getting a good variety of lighting setups very quickly.
Although you can connect the receivers to a flash using the PC sync (which we all can agree is the worst connection known to man), the addition of the hot-shoe connection is a big plus. This little feature is what is steering me toward selling my PocketWizard PLUS II and purchases more Strato II’s. Speaking of my Pocket Wizards, I haven’t used them once since receiving the Stato II’s for testing and I have yet to have a single misfire (other than when the flash falls asleep and the Strato has to wake it up, which is a nice feature too).
Let’s talk about distance and power for a bit because that has been my biggest contention with some triggering systems. Phottix says that these triggers have 150+ meter range, which is just shy of 500 feet for us over here across the metric pond. I decided to test this using ideal settings; a big open field with no obstructions. As you can see from the images below, I was able to go as far as I possibly could while having the flash trigger the whole way. I literally couldn’t move back any farther due to buildings being in my way.
Another amazing point to make is that all of these images were in sequence. I didn’t have a misfire at all even at the furthest distance. I would estimate that I was about 450-500 feet from the flash at my farthest.
I also tested the triggers indoors with some obstructions in the way, 2 walls and a bathroom. Again, I had zero problems triggering the flash.
Other than my minor gripe about the plastic hot-shoe connector on the receivers, my only issue is the stiffness (or lack thereof I should say) of the switches on the side of the units. On more than one occasion, I would pull them out of my bag, set them up, take a shot, and the flash wouldn’t fire. Upon closer inspection, either the group switch or channel setting was accidentally changed while rustling around in my bag. Of course a quick flick of the switch and I was back firing away.
With today’s offering of wireless trigger systems, you don’t have to be slaves to the over-priced (although proven) Pocket Wizards. The Strato II from Phottix is an excellent choice for beginners all the way up to veterans.
With features like solid built quality, compact size, standard AAA batteries, hot-shoe flash mounts, wireless shutter triggering ability (can you say self portraits), amazingly reliable, excellent distance, very low price, and only minor issues, the Strato II’s are definitely winners in my book.
Editor’s Note: The Unit has the unique feature of TTL pass-through which allows the on-camera flash to operate in full TTL mode while also triggering the remote, manually set, flashes.
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