The PocketWizard Plus X ($99 list) is a wireless transceiver that allows you to trigger a remote flash, and can also perform a few other neat tricks. It automatically detects whether it’s attached to a camera or to a strobe, and with the right cable you can use it to remotely trigger certain SLRs. This gives it a versatility that goes beyond other units, and its 1,600-foot operating range gives you plenty of room to customize your lighting setup. You’ll need a pair of transceivers to get started, unless you already own PocketWizard equipment. There’s no limit to how many strobes you can fire from one Plus X, so your only limitation is your budget.
The Plus X is a simple looking device. It’s powered by two AA batteries and its only controls are a power switch and a Test button. There’s a big backlit dial on its face that allows you to set it to a channel. And there’s also a color indicator on the top of the unit to tell you how much juice is left in your batteries. Green means you’ve got more than 50 percent, yellow is less than 50 percent, and red is less than 25 percent, a good sign that you should find a new set of AAs, or recharge the ones you’re currently using.
There’s a standard shoe, so it can mount on top of your D-SLR, but there’s no hot shoe on the Plus X itself, so you’ll need a cable to connect it to a flash. Some other wireless triggers have shoes for direct mounting of strobes; a simple bracket will allow you to mount the strobe and the PocketWizard to the same light stand, and you could opt to use twist ties or a rubber band to secure the transceiver to the stand. A 3.5mm port is located on the side of the Plus X, and cables are included to connect to a strobe or camera via a standard PC Sync socket, a 1/4-inch socket, or a 3.5mm socket. And there’s a standard tripod thread, so mounting is easy, if required.
The Plus X is one of the simplest triggers that I’ve used. I tested it along with a Vivitar 283 strobe as well as an old set of Speedotron studio strobes. The Impact PowerSync16 trigger system ($150) works fine with the Vivitar strobe, but fails to trigger the Speedotron lights. The Plus X is rated to work with strobes that output 300 volts, which is enough to destroy the circuitry in most modern digital cameras. That alone is reason for owners of ancient strobes to use it to trigger them rather than a wired connection. If you have older lighting equipment and are unsure of its trigger voltage you’ll need to use a multimeter to test it.
There’s no support for TTL metering with this model; a TTL system allows the camera to control the power outputted by a flash. PocketWizard does offer models that offer full support for modern Nikon and Canon flashes. Those are a bit more expensive—the miniTT1 transmitter is $200 and the FlexTT5 transceiver is $230. If you don’t mind mixing non-TTL lights with your TTL-controlled strobes, the miniTT1 and FlexTT5 do send out a signal that triggers the Plus X; just be sure that all of your devices are set to the same channel.
If you have enough transceivers you can even set off a remote flash and a camera simultaneously. Connect one Plus X to your camera’s remote control port, and keep another in your hand, both set to the same channel. The third transceiver connects to your strobes and should be set to the next highest channel. Pressing the Test button on the Plus X in your hand will trigger the remote camera, and the Plus X connected to it will trigger the strobes.
Sync speeds of up to 1/250-second are supported when using cameras with focal plane shutters and up to 1/500-second with leaf shutter cameras. I tested the Plus X with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 at 1/250-second and with a Hasselblad 500EL/M at 1/500-second; both cameras synced perfectly at the top speed. Every camera that I connected to the Plus X triggered my lights without issue.
If you don’t require TTL power control, the PlusX is a solid option for triggering remote lighting. It’s more expensive than off-brand alternatives; a similar CowboyStudio trigger set sells for only $30, but offers fewer radio channels, can only handle a 12V trigger voltage, and is limited to a shorter 100-foot operating range. If you have very basic lighting needs it may be worth it to try a less expensive option first, but if you want something that you know will work, and work consistently, spending the extra money on the PocketWizard Plus X is worth it. It works with the consistency necessary for use in professional settings, and is compatible with other PocketWizard devices.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc