Your tutorials are the best I have found in 12 years of using a camera! Bert Fedor - Birmingham, AL
Hi, Phil Steele here. So a few months ago the camera gear manufacturer Phottix sent me a little pre-release copy of these new flash triggers of theirs called the "Strato." And because the product wasn't on the market yet I couldn't talk about it. But now that it's been released on the market I'm really happy to review these and tell you about this really cool, new addition to the flash trigger market space.
So this is the Strato--the receiver and the transmitter--and they look almost identical, as you can see. And this is a midrange flash trigger. It's midrange both in its price and in its functionality. So it's about halfway in price between the low end triggers like the Yongnuo RF602 and the other $30-$40 range kind of triggers and the high end Pocket Wizard type triggers. It costs about twice what the RF602 does but it also has functionality that is about halfway in between those two kind of triggers and we'll talk about how.
So this is a manual, sync-only flash trigger. Its radio signals do not send TTL through the lens flash metering data but there is kind of one little exception to this, which we'll talk about. Now this is very similar to the Yongnuo RF602, which I reviewed in a previous video and if you haven't watched that video you might want to check it out after this one. So like the RF 602 this trigger works in the 2.4GHz frequency range and that's a big benefit compared to some of the other kinds of triggers that work down in the 433 or 344MHz range because down in that range there tends to be more radio interference, especially from Canon flashes, which is the kind I use, which can put out their own kind of noise. Now these triggers, like the Strato here and like the RF602 that work up in the 2.4GHz range, are seemingly impervious in my experience to that kind of radio noise.
And these have been totally bullet proof for me in my testing. I have had no misfires whatsoever with them. And I've tested them out to 70 meters. They are supposedly rated to 100 but I couldn't quite get that far from it. Worked fine for me at 70 though. And I have tested it for sync speed up to 250th of a second, which is what it should be able to do ideally, with my Canon 40D that I was testing it on. So it's capable of the full sync speed. Some people have a little trouble with some of the flash triggers and were not able to get above like a 200th or not able to get up to the full speed of their camera but these have been great. Everything about these has worked according to spec and as good as I could hope for.
So let's take a little closer look at them.
So let's look at the receiver first. So this is the receiver and first of all, one great thing about these is that both the receiver and the transmitter operate on AAA batteries--no weird batteries like the RF602, which has AAAs in the receiver but it has a weird CR2 battery in the transmitter. This--both transmitter and receiver-- work on AAAs, which is great. Now you can see it has a nice, little slider for setting its channel, so you have four different channels to choose from and that's more convenient maybe than setting little dip-switches. It has an on and off power switch so it doesn't drain its batteries while it's inactive, sitting and listening for a signal. And otherwise, it's pretty much what you would expect in a wireless flash receiver. But very good build quality. It feels solid and well made.
Now let's look at the transmitter. So the transmitter looks very much like the receiver. You'll note it has a metal foot, which is nice. It also has a screw-down, lock-down to attach it to the camera, which is better than the RF602, which just slides on and it doesn't lock down in any way. And it has the same channel setting. And you'll notice this also has an on and off switch but it's not an on-off power switch for the transmitter itself, which it doesn't need. It's an on-off switch for firing all four channels at one time.
Now you may be thinking, "Why would you need that?" Well, here's an example. Maybe while you're setting up your remote lights--you have four remote lights--you might want to put them in four different channels so that you can set them up and test their power independently and conveniently fire one, fire two, fire three, fire four and get their power established. Then when you're ready to do your shoot you just slide this switch to on and it tells it to fire all the channels at once now. So it's kind of a convenient thing that's pretty cool.
But what's really cool about this is this. This is what they call a "TTL pass through hot shoe" on top of the transmitter and what this means is you can put a flash on here. So now I have this flash talking to the camera in full TTL mode as if this transmitter weren't even there. So this flash can be used as an on camera fill flash, for example, or it could be used as a commander for a bunch of remote flashes that are working in TTL mode using the Canon or the Nikon built in wireless system. So you could create…
Let's say you have a mixed bag of flashes. You have some low budget, third-party flashes that will work with this manual, sync-only trigger that you're using as background lights or backlights or whatever. And you have some more flashes that are Canon or Nikon flashes that you can use in TTL mode with through the lens metering and you can be using this baby as the commander to drive those while you're simultaneously triggering your other, less expensive background lights with the Strato trigger. Or another scenario that appeals even more to me is I like to do this, where I put a shoe cord on here and then I put the flash on the shoe cord and then I have an off camera main light. So now I've got a TTL through the lens metered main light that is off the camera and I could put it on a light stand or I could hold it in my hand like this. And I've got background lights that I could be triggering in manual mode that are rim lights or backlights while I'm able to use a TTL main light.
So you may be thinking, "Well, why would you need to do that?" I ran into a shooting situation just the other day where I wish I had this and unfortunately I had the RF602s in my camera bag instead of the Stratos and I couldn't do it. So here's what I was doing. I was in a dance club and I was shooting some people dancing and I wanted to set up some lights in the background with some color gels on them and I wanted to fire the backlights through the crowd at me to silhouette some people in the back, kind of through this foggy light in there with cool colored light coming from the back while I was shooting the people dancing with a light up front. And I wanted to have that one TTL metered because if you ever try to shoot moving subjects with a manually set flash, you know that as somebody gets closer to you they get overexposed, they get farther and they get underexposed. So it's really handy to have the through lens metering on your main light.
And I could have done it if I had this trigger because I could have put this one on here and I'm shooting the people that are in front of me as they come and go and the camera is taking care of the metering on them while my background lights are just set manually and they're being triggered by the Strato. Unfortunately I had the RF602s in my bag and while I could have put a light in my hand, it would have been triggered manually and so I would have had overexposed or underexposed, depending on how far my subjects were from me as they were moving around. So that's just one example. I think if you use your imagination you can probably think of lots of cases where it would be handy to have a fully TTL metered main light--front light-- working on your subject.
Meanwhile you have background lights or rim lights or other lights that you've set up manually powered being triggered by the Strato radio trigger.
So anyway, I think you can see why this is kind of a cool midpoint in the flash trigger lineup that's available to us now. And I'm pretty excited that it's out there and I'm glad to have a chance to use it. And one last thing before I go--I want to mention if you are interested in this kind of photography, I have an entire course devoted to off camera flash photography. It's called "How To Shoot Professional Looking Head Shots And Portraits On A Budget With Small Flashes." That's kind of a mouthful. It's on my site at SteeleTraining.com. If you're into this kind of photography I invite you to check it out. And I hope you have found this helpful and I look forward to talking to you soon.