Users of pocketwizards and Elinchrom or Alien Bees flashes rejoice! A couple of days ago Pocketwizard announced a couple of pretty cool sounding new products. The PowerST4 and the AC9 adapter for Elinchrom and Alien Bees strobes respectively. They both work in different ways so let me break it down differently…
Firstly if you have just purchased the new Paul C Buff Einstein lights let me break your heart now and let you know the AC9 does not work with those lights (though intriguingly Paul himself has hinted that there is something else in the works that we dont know about yet). The new AC9 works by connecting a TT5 transceiver to the RJ11 jack on the Alien Bees and White lighting strobes, the Einstein lights do not support the RJ11 and instead communicate using a transceiver.
The recommended pricing for the AC9 is $55 BUT you need to pair it with a TT5 transceiver for it to work. These currently sell for about $230 so if you don’t already own a TT5 the system is going to set you back $285 which is pretty steep but it has potential to save you a lot of running around during a shoot. Thankfully the Elinchrom solution is much cheaper but I’ll get to that in a bit. Plugging the AC9 into the hot-shoe on top of your TT5 and connecting it to the RJ11 jack on your Alien Bess light enables you to remotely control the power on your strobe so long as you are using a MinniTT1 transmitter or a FlexTT5 transceiver as the transmitter on your camera.
By adding a Pocketwizard AC3 Zone controller to the transmitter on the camera, you can actually control the power of up to 3 groups of flashes. Very cool. If you do not wish to use the zone controller you can simply use the flash exposure compensation dial on your camera to control just one light or one group of lights. Pretty clever implementation. But it doesn’t stop there, the clever boffins at LPA designs have gone one further by introducing a sort of pseudo TTL functionality to the whole affair. They call it power tracking. Basically what you have to do it get the initial exposure correct yourself. Once you have done that you can have the pocketwizard automatically compensate for any changes you make on the camera, to create the same final exposure. If you change your ISO or aperture, the AC9 will automatically send a signal to the flash and adjust it’s power accordingly to produce the same exposure on your image.
A final party trick for the AC9, it requires no batteries and simply takes its power from the TT5 which is sweet because there is nothing I hate more than forgetting to turn off a receiver and finding it flat when you show up to your next shoot! One less thing to worry about.
Pocketwizard Power ST4
Now on to the new receiver for Elinchrom Strobes. You’ll notice I called this one a “receiver” and that indicates the first bit of good news. The Power ST4 does not require you to use it in conjunction with a TT5 transceiver, it can handle the receiving all on its own. RRP for the ST4 is $120 but not needing a TT5 makes this solution half the price of the Alien Bees one. That’s good news for me because I shoot with Elinchrom gear. Much as I smashed the dreams of the Einstein strobe owners though, I’m afraid I have to do something similar again. The Power ST4 will not work with your shiny new Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX that you just bought. The ST4 works by plugging into the remote socket that is found on many Elinchrom flashes, unfortunately the the new Quadras have a built in skyport receiver and as such, do not have the needed remote socket for this to work.
If you have any of the other Elinchrom strobes though you can do a little dance now as you will be just fine. The ST4 is backwards compatible with all previous Pocketwizard transmitters so even if you just want simple triggering from a standard PW PLUSII on your camera then the cheap ST4 provides a good solution. If you want to have the remotely adjustable power options you will need a TT1 or TT5 on the camera as with the AC9, and things are run the same way by using the flash compensation dial or adding an AC3 to control multiple flashes all at once. You can also set the zone of the receiver so a Multimax zone system can be used too.
The ST4 is powered directly by the battery pack and the firmware is totally upgradeable using the USB port. The low profile of the ST4 is another appealing feature. Hopefully the usable range on the receiver is good enough to make this as useful a product as it sounds. As an owner of a couple of Elinchrom products (and a big bag full of pocketwizards) i’m going to try my hardest to get hold of one of these PowerST4s for review so stay tuned.
Using Elinchrom’s Skyport system you can control the power of these lights in 1/10 of a stop increments and can create four groups. All this for less then the modules you’d have to purchase to made this system work. However, if you already own the PW modules the ST4 may be a better solution.
Absolutely Mark, personally im already invested in a PW system. But the real beauty of these is also that you can create groups of different types of lights. One group could be elinchroms , one group could be TTL Canon strobes and a further could be AB lights. This is quite unique.
you are right. But the skyports are missing some stuff, that the pw with the conecontroller master and I would have expected, that Elinchrom would include stuff like that into the new version of skyport. For example, the pw do have rear-sync which would be very handy, also the zonecontroller is able to adjust canon/nikon flashes from the camera …. how about the skyports….and their universal trigger.
I dare to say, that if elinchrom would start to think outside its own box, the quadra could be come even more succesful. The quadra is a natural upgrade from the skyport, that many of us own. So why not support those widespread system-flashes better.
I know about 30 nature and sport photographers myself, that would buy the quadra instantly if it had the following skills: rear sync and power-adjustment from camera for canon/nikon flashes with universal-skyport; TTL (as the similar powered quantum qflashes have this ability, and are very much appreciated by i.e. wildlife photographers. I am sure elinchrom could easily bring up something similar….
as I said: with all those “open” systems to appear everywhere, elinchrom should really start to think outside it’s box
..correct from above: i meant that the quadra is a natural upgrade from systemflashes/speedlites/strobist equipment
Rear Curtain Sync
Elinchrom’s Skyport’s work to the precise specifications of the camera’s manufacturer rear curtain sync speeds. Power Wizard’s system offers a feature that allows you to hook up one of their units to your computer and change when the rear-curtain sync actually takes place. If this is a feature you need in your shooting, Pocket Wizard is the only one offering this feature you will need to purchase their system to do it.
Skyport’s ability to put lights into four groups matches that of the Pocket Wizard module, so if you wanted a group of TTL, Elinchrom, Profoto and Alien Bee’s you can do that. Normally this feature is used to set up your lighting ratios for Main, Fill, Background and Hair lights. With Skyport you can establish the lighting ratio of each group without having to shut off any of the other groups. Once the ratio is established you can control all the groups together. With most Elinchrom lights, once you’ve established the lighting ratio and switched to ALL light mode, when you go up or down in power all of the lights in all groups go up or down in ratio to each other, an extremely powerful feature.
TTL, Power Control and Elinchrom
While Pocket Wizard’s main business is wireless triggering, Elinchrom’s main business is making studio flash equipment. I’m not sure we’ll ever see Skyport’s being able to control the power of Canon, Nikon or any tilt-head flash via TTL. For one thing, the two systems are completely different. While we can control Elinchrom lights with Skyport by 1/10th of an F-Stop, TTL flashes are controlled to 3/10’s of an F-Stop, which ruins Skyport’s ability to keep the lighting ratio of lights when moving all groups up or down in power.
You may think building TTL control into a device this is a trivial to do, however, it has taken Pocket Wizard about 7 years to backwards engineer this and any other 6 months or so before they had the Nikon version ready.
Instead Elinchrom has built into their new devices (BXRi, Ranger Quadra and D-Lite-it) a technology called Eye-Cell. This technology allows the device to learn the pre-flash patterns of your TTL flashes and not fire until the last one. Using this method you would set up your “A, B and C” groups with your TTL flashes, dial power up or down based on what you are trying to achieve, then manually (or using Skyport) adjust the power of your studio flash, but it into the training mode and waste a frame. Eye-Cell will count the pre-flashes of your TTL lights, display the number and program itself. The training portion of this process takes about 5 seconds and no computer is necessary.
Again, if you need to be able use TTL to control both your tilt head and studio flashes by a third of an F-Stop then you’ll want to use Pocket Wizard’s product.
Open Systems and thinking outside the box
This is an interesting statement. “with all those â€œopenâ€ systems to appear everywhere, elinchrom should really start to think outside itâ€™s box”. I’m not sure I get this statement. What open system are you referring to? Nikon and Canon’s TTL are closed, otherwise you would see allot of copies of their work. Pocket Wizard’s system is closed otherwise you’d see third party add on’s for their system. Radio Poppers too are closed. While there may be others the only other company that comes to mind who have figured out Nikon and Canons TTL system are Metz flashes.
Thinking outside the box? It was Elinchrom who three years ago introduced to the first affordable wireless triggering system with the ability to control the power of Elinchrom lights in 1/10th of a stop increments and turn on and off the modeling light. They went even further in offering a USB Transceiver and free software that allows users to completely control and see their Elinchrom RX devices on a Mac or PC. User’s can save as many lighting set-ups as they want and reuse them over and over. This same system can be used to fire almost every studio and tilt-head flash every made. I believe this is thinking outside the box for a company whose main business it is to make studio lighting equipment.
Product Lighting Manager
Thanks for taking the time to post this information. Its refreshing to see someone from such a company actually take the time to interact and address questions. Much appreciated.
I might add that I was recently send a Quadra set by B&H to test and write a review. So please look out for this on my site in the near future. It is the first time I have used a skyport system, unfortunately I was sent the slightly older version of the transmitter which I now realize has been replaced but I did like the 1/10th adjustments on some recent products shots that I did.
would also like to thank for the reply with all the information.
rear think: ok, thank you.
groups: very interesting.
ttl,powercontrol: interesting again; here probaly I was unclear, since I still believe, that 2 of my wishes/request would enhance the quadra/skyport system. But probably we cannot agree on this, because of different point of view 🙂
1) The Quadra system itself support its own elinchrom-ttl-system (as for example the quantum qflashes), so we could use them for changing light situations and moving objects as well (wildlife photography)
2) powercontrol of nikon/canon-Flashes with universal trigger (quite ok in manual mode, no ttl necessary). We often have the speedlites quite high on stands or in places that are unconvinient to reach, so power control in manual mode would help a lot. Many photographers who upgrade to the quadra system have speedlites, that they would like to keep on using like that.
open systems: with that I meant, that elinchrom could quite easily tap into booming markets (strobists and strobist upgraders, wildlife, action photography) outside the studio-light segment
thanks again for the great insight into elinchrom/skyport.
second-curtain-synchronisation would also be very appreciated for the skyports !!
Good day everyone,
I just hear about the powerst4 of pocketwizard but am a bit confused. Some say it allows Hypersync and other don’t mention this.
Does anyone know if the Powerst4 receiver makes it possible to use shutterspeeds higher then the camera allows? Just like using a canon 580ex with pocketwizards, but for elinchrom mono’s and heads?
Thanks in advance,
yes, Hypersync is supported (as is rear-curtain sync)