Thoughts on combining Cactus receivers and optical triggers

Discussion in 'Photography Forums' started by ksten, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. ksten

    ksten
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    For the vast majority of the time that I use multiple off camera flashes, I am working indoors in small rooms. In these circumstances, I am happy with the reliability of the ST-E2 IR trigger, even when there is no line of sight between the trigger and flashes, as the signal happily bounces around the room and finds its way to each flash.

    I am starting to think about working outdoors more and I'm looking for the most reliable set up with the minimum spend. I am concerned that positioning flashes behind the camera and obscurring the flash IR sensors with umrellas / soft boxes could well cause the ST-E2 to become unreliable / ineffective; there is less in the surrounding area for the signal to bounce off, so line of sight becomes more critical.

    I also have a set of cheap Cactus RF triggers / receivers from Gadget Infinity. These have also behaved very well for me indoors (They fire the majority of the time). However, with a setup of multiple receivers / flashes, the probability of at least one failing to fire becomes more significant and I'm unlikely to notice in the middle of a shoot unless I chimp each shot.

    One way of ensuring reliability is to spend more cash on a set of pro-level RF triggers (Radio Poppers, Pocket Wizards, Cybersycs, Skyports etc) but, as this is just a hobby for me I'm currently unwilling to spend that kind of money. So I was thinking of ways to improve the reliability of what I have or by spending a relatively small amount of money on new gear.

    One thought I had was to modify the transmitter / receivers but with my complete lack of skill in this area I would more likely break them than improve them.

    Another thought that crossed my mind was to buy a hotshoe adapter, PC sync cord and optical trigger for each flash that I have. I could then plug both a cactus receiver and optical trigger into each adapter (You can buy them with multiple inputs) and then sit the flashes in the hotshoes as normal. I'm hoping that each flash will either fire due to the cactus receiver getting the RF signal or the optical slave seeing at least one of the other flashes going off.

    I was wondering if anyone has any experience of this or thoughts on the whether it would work or not? Would a signal to fire from both the RF receiver and the optical slave cause misfires / damage?

    Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

    Cheers.

    Edit: By the way here are links to the sort of thing I'm considering:

    Hotshoe Adapter
    PC Sync Cord
    Optical Slave - Canon EX Compatible
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009
  2. springtide

    springtide
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    As no one has replied, I'll put my thoughts...

    I don't think there is likely to be anything damaging of what you are attempting, but I've tried using optical slaves outside and they basically didn't work very well unless the ambient light was pretty low.

    I've also tried modding the Cactus v2's triggers - not major - but just by soldering a wire to create an ariel. Tried different versions from various places, and I think it improved them, but it still wasn't great. I also tried replacing the batteries - which I think made a little bit of difference.

    As you say in your post, it's fine when you have one flash being triggered by the cactus triggers, as if you get a missed fire - it wasn't too much of an issue to take another shot. But I went on 'shoot' with a few friends and we were trying to trigger multiple flashes, it felt impossible.

    Luckly over the Xmas peroid I lost my Cactus transmitter, giving me a great excuse to replace them with Skyport's. The Skyports are £115 for the transmitter and reciever, and another £75 per extra reciever. Not ideal, but cheaper than £150 per PW's.
    The thing about the Skyports (and PW's) is that they just work. It's a bit non eventful as all they do is set off the flash, but they don't miss a beat. One other advantage is that they have 4 groups, meaning you can put the recievers in different groups and either fire a single group or all groups (just like the PW's)

    I did see someone post that there will be some new cactus v4 soon, maybe they will be better.

    Sorry if I've not being much use. Feel that I've just been a bit negative on what you plan to do, but I just wanted to share my thoughts and that IMO I wasted (not a lot) but some cash on playing with Cactus Triggers and Optical Slaves outside without much luck. I would say, they work perfectly indoors for some reason. Maybe I was just unlucky.

    Anyway, good luck!
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  3. ksten

    ksten
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    Many thanks Springtide, that was very useful.

    I am initially planning an evening / night time shoot but the daytime limitations of optical slaves is a good point.

    I may be wasting a bit more money but I think I may just give it a try. If it gets too frustrating then I'll have to bite the bullet, save up and go for a more reliable system.

    Thanks again.
     

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