If you have read any of the articles, blogs, etc. about off-camera flash, then you have probably heard about the Cactus V2s Wireless Flash Trigger kit. It’s sold online in many eBay auctions and it’s also available from a company in Hong Kong called Gadget Infinity. I’m too cheap to buy Pocket Wizards at this point in my photography career so I bought one of these instead. Overall, I’m very happy with them and you know I had to review them here.
First of all, you cannot beat the price of this little device. It’s $32.95 for the transmitter receiver combo and shipping via Airmail cost a mere $5.00 to the U.S.! Personally, I have blown $38.00 on things far more useless and on more occasions than I care to remember, so if this unit didn’t work out I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. I ordered the unit from Gadget Infinity and I got it 6 days after it was shipped. It shipped on a Monday and was in my mailbox on Saturday. In the box was the hot shoe-mount transmitter, receiver, CR2 battery for the receiver, PC Sync cable, and instruction manual.
Setup was so easy my 8 year old could tackle it. I removed the items from the box, took the plastic off of the battery, inserted it into the receiver, ensured the channels were set correctly on the receiver and the transmitter, mounted the transmitter on my D40, mounted my flash on the receiver, and started shooting away. I was up and running in less than 5 minutes. Since it’s a radio slave, it works around corners, behind things, and so on. Infrared systems require you to pretty much have a line of sight (LOS) to your remote units for them to work properly. Of course you have to use your flash in manual mode, but unless you pony up the cash for an SU-800 or the like you are going to have to use it in manual anyway. That is unless your camera has a Commander Mode that works with your on-camera flash.
So far, this awesome little setup has proven to be very reliable. I have had zero issues with the flash not firing when I press the shutter release on my D40. I had read about people having problems, but it’s hard to tell if it was a true issue or if they simply forgot to adjust the “Standby” time setting on their flash. If you don’t adjust this and your flash goes into “Standby” mode the trigger will bring it out of Standby but the flash won’t fire until you press the shutter release again. Personally, I disable the Standby feature on my flashes when I’m shooting so that I don’t miss a shot. Therefore, it’s a non-issue for me. I have only had one problem with interference which caused my SB-800 to fire inadvertently. When I was taking the shot you see above, I was on a U.S. Navy warship out at sea with all of it’s radars, radios, and other sensors up and operating so I expected a certain amount of interference. Trust me, there isn’t a wireless device out there that those sensors won’t interfere with. That’s just reality.
The hot shoe transmitter includes a test button that allows you to fire the flash(es) without pressing the shutter release to check your lighting setup. This especially comes in handy when you were metering your light with a light meter. The transmitter uses an included L1028 12V 23A small battery which powers the transmitter when you press the “Test” button. When fired via the shutter release, the camera powers the unit via the hot shoe.
In summary, if you are looking for a great unit to trigger your flashes wirelessly, I think you would be hard pressed to find a better product for the money. $38.00 is far more affordable for most of us than the $380.00 it would cost for a pair of Pocket Wizards. I have fallen in love with mine and have already ordered another receiver for my SB-28. What really excites me about having the Cactus V2s is that I don’t have to use my flashes in SU-4 mode and worry about my on-camera flash (used to trigger Nikon flashes in SU-4 mode) affecting the exposure of the image. I’m sure as my collection of strobes increases, so will the amount of these great little receivers to take me into ultra-portable, wireless flash heaven!