Phottix Mitros Flash for Canon Review

Phottix Mitros Flash for Canon
$349.99/~£211 | phottixstore.com

Phottix Mitros for Canon, shown here with Phottix Odin receiver.

Photography can be an expensive hobby or profession. A decent body and lens kit requires significant hard-earned cash, but that's only the start of it. Add in extra lenses, memory cards, tripods, camera bags, and of course, an adequate flash, and you can find yourself in a state of need. Luckily, there are dozens of third-party manufacturers out there making accessories that rival their more esteemed competitors at a fraction of the cost.

Take the Phottix Mitros flash, for instance. It's a high-end TTL flash designed to compete with Canon's 580EX II at well over half the price. Phottix also makes an SB-replacing-Mitros for Nikons as well. The Mitros for Canon shares many features with the 580EX II, including high-speed sync and built-in IR triggering with Master and Slave modes. But is the Mitros mighty enough to match one of Canon's most beloved flash models? We're going to find out in this review.

Phottix Mitros Key Features

  • E-TTL, M, Multi (Stroboscopic) modes
  • Auto/Manual flash head zoom with 180 degree rotation and 97 degree tilt
  • High-speed sync and rear curtain sync
  • Flash exposure compensation: Manual, Bracketed
  • Quick flash mode with 0.1-2.5 sec. recharge times
  • USB port for upgrades
  • 3.5mm sync port
  • Canon-compatible IR wireless triggering with Master and Slave mode
  • Optical Slave Sync Mode
  • 4 AA batteries
  • Port for external battery pack
  • Compatible with Phottix Odin TTL flash triggers for Canon

What's in the Box

Right out of the box, the Phottix Mitros flash offers more than most would bargain for. First, the case the Mitros comes with is chock-full of utility, featuring a velcro belt clip, two spandex side pockets, clip ring, nylon loops, and internal pocket. To top it all off, the case is padded with foam for increased shock resistance. Compared to the Canon 580EX II's simple case, there was no competition. Unfortunately, the Mitros's case was subject to a tear under the top flap, which exposed the foam underneath and resulted in frayed edges. This was from everyday wear and tear over the course of a month. Meanwhile, the Canon's case is still tear-free after a year.

Despite the case's minor structural flaw, the Mitros shipped with an impressive assortment of additional accessories not normally included with major brand flash units. First off, the kit offers a flash stand - the same one included in the Phottix Odin remote flash trigger kit. But the accessory that really caught my eye was the dome diffuser, used for softening light. Although it's no Gary Fong, the diffuser did manage to soften light to a reasonable degree during my shoots. The Mitros kit also includes a 64MB USB flash drive with a digital copy of the Mitros manual rather than a paper copy. There's also a USB cable for firmware upgrades, 3.5mm to 3.5mm sync cable, and a three-prong Canon-specific battery adapter.

Without a doubt, the Phottix Mitros ships with a veritable artillery of accessories not found in more expensive flash kits.

Design

Physically, the Phottix Mitros is a bit larger than Canon's 580EX II, measuring 8 x 3 x 2.3 inches. That's about a half-inch taller than the 580EX II, and the Mitros also weighs more (427g vs. 374g). This is not a monumental size difference, but between the extra length of the flash and the bulkiness of the Mitros's rugged case, the whole shebang occupies more space in my camera bag.

I also think the overall layout and design of the Mitros falls slightly short of the Canon's. For starters, while the Mitros is capable of 360-degree head rotation, it lacks a locking button mechanism that prevents it from inadvertently swiveling or bending forward. In addition, the Mitros's battery bay is guarded by a door that slides open by pressing down and sliding. Canon's model integrates a sliding lock, which prevents it from opening accidentally. The Mitros's 3.5mm sync cable replaces the PC terminal, the latter of which lives on many of Canon's models. In addition, the Mitros's external power outlet is reversed from that of the 580EX II's, and requires the included adapter in order to emulate Canon's setup. Last, the Mitros lacks a flash bracket mounting hole, which might be a deterrent to some. These traits were certainly not deal-breakers for me, though a few may be inconvenienced by the lack of uniformity between Canon and Phottix models.

Ports include power, 3.5mm sync, and USB. The battery door and flash head pivot hinge lack locking mechanisms.

When it comes to the rear control panels, the Canon still holds the edge over Phottix. While I appreciate the Mitros's abundance of button controls, I prefer the 580EX II's command dial, especially when it comes to quickly adjusting flash exposure compensation on the fly. The Mitros has an old-school 4-way directional pad with a Select button embedded in the middle. This is a personal preference, however, as the Mitros successfully rifles through menu options with ease. In some cases, actions like adjusting the zoom focal length are quicker with the Mitros because pressing the Up and Down controls instantly shuffle between increments. Text on the Mitros's LCD screen was larger and easier to read, and the backlight is a deeper green hue. However, the 580EX II's LCD screen's lime green backlighting is a bit brighter, and text is smoother and more refined.

Finally, the overall build quality of the Mitros is solid, but the fit and finish of the 580EX II is a bit more polished. The Mitros copies Canon's rubberized shoe lock module, as both parts appear and perform identically. In addition, the AA battery configuration on the Mitros is oddly configured, placing the top two on a horizontal angle and bottom two vertically stacked compared to the square configuration on the 580EX II. This, of course, did not affect performance in the least bit, but it's worth noting for the sake of its unconventional design. While the Mitros may not rise to the echelon that the 580EX II resides upon, it proves itself as a very well-built and easy to navigate unit.

Performance

Just about everything achievable on a Canon 580EX II flash is achievable on the Phottix Mitros for Canon. The Mitros supports E-TTL I and II and has a Flash Exposure Compensation range of -3 to +3 EV, adjustable in 1/3 or 1/2 increments. FEB (Flash Exposure Bracketing) is also available and increments are fully adjustable up to three full stops. Zoom flash output can be set to Auto, which I found to perform adequately, or manually adjusted from 24mm-105mm. A 1-second modeling flash is available in all three modes on the Mitros.

Speaking of modes, the Mitros has E-TTL, Manual, and Multi (Stroboscopic) options to choose from. I spent most of my time shooting in E-TTL mode, relying on the FEC to control light intensity. The Mitros communicates very well with my 5D Mark III, though AF speeds lag slightly behind that of the 580EX II's. In addition, recycling time with the Mitros is slightly behind Canon's model. I shot 10 single exposures with each flash model and recorded the duration of the recharge lamp illuminations. The Phottix Mitros averages a 3.65-second recharge time while the 580EX II manages a 3.1-second recharge time. Granted, I could ignore the recharge lamp and continue to shoot single exposures without much of a performance difference, but this speed gap caught up with me in burst mode.

A look at the LCD screen. A view from the front.

The numbers differ greatly while shooting continuous exposures. The Phottix Mitros enables me to blast off approximately 7-8 continuous exposures before throwing in the towel to recharge. The 580EX II, on the other hand, grants me 13-14 continuous exposures before heading into recharge mode. This is a sizable gap, and proves to be the most significant performance difference between the two flashes. The Mitros is equipped with a Quick Flash mode that reduces the output of the light in order to achieve quicker recharge times, but I did not notice a difference. It's worth noting that all tests were completed used identical sets of Sanyo Eneloop XX rechargeable lithium-ion AA batteries.

The Phottix Mitros is equipped with Second Curtain Sync, which performs without a hitch with long exposures by firing at the end of the exposure time. The Mitros also has a High Speed Sync, which works quite well, firing all the way up to the Mark III's 1/8000th max shutter speed. The Mitros's Stroboscopic performance mirrors that of Canon's performance, providing 1/4 - 1/128 output power. A handy table is included in the manual that helps calculate the output power, Hz, and number of exposures. For instance, shooting at 10Hz and 5 flash pulses yields a 0.5-second shutter speed. Tested at the aforementioned settings, both the Mitros and 580EX II perform nearly identically.

I tested the Mitros against the Canon 580EX II in a few different environments. The first test involved a series of portraits, in which I set my 5D Mark III to ISO100, F4 , and identical shutter speeds and focal lengths (70mm). Both the Mitros and 580EX II were set to a neutral output power (+/- 0 EV) to standardize the result. Focal point and exposure metering were also identical. As I suspected, the Mitros was a bit brighter than the 580EX II, which I think had to do with the ETTL system of the Mitros. I think the 580EX II's E-TTL system is a bit more refined. All images were captured as RAW files, uncropped, and exported as JPEGs, completely untouched.

The Canon 580EX II pointed straight at subject. The Phottix Mitros pointed straight at subject.
The Canon 580EX II pointed straight at subject with Gary Fong diffuser. The Phottix Mitros pointed straight at subject with included diffuser.

Obviously, there are two major elements separating the portrait performances of both flashes. The Mitros yields a brighter exposure, as if it's slightly blown out, and a slightly cooler light temperature. To me, the 580EX II looked more natural, and I think it all has to do with the E-TTL systems of both flashes. Obviously, I could adjust the Mitros to achieve the same results I obtained with the 580EX II by lowering its exposure a few steps and manually adjusting the white balance on the camera. However, the 580EX II requires less fiddling in order to achieve the best results. I will say that the performance of the Mitros improved with the included diffuser, so that should be a requirement if you're thinking of shooting portraits. Still, I like my Gary Fong diffuser on the 580EX II a bit better because it really reduces and smooths shadows.

I then shot a room with both flashes to simulate a real estate shoot. Both images were captured with the flashes tilted upward at 60-degrees toward the shot without diffusers with a maximum +3 EV. Camera settings were fixed at ISO 100, F5.6, and shutter speed varied between 1/160th and 1/200th by shooting in AV mode. This was because the available light in the room fluctuated ever so slightly. Compared to the portrait session, the results are very similar. Again, the Mitros produces slightly cooler results, but the exposure is a bit brighter and more natural with the 580EX II. This fortified my hypothesis that the E-TTL systems in both flashes performed differently, the Canon having the edge.

Canon 580EX II 60-degree tilt +3EV. No flash.
Phottix Mitros 60-degree tilt +3EV. No flash.

Now, while the Canon 580EX II had the edge, the Mitros still pumped out an honorable performance. It may take a little more fine-tuning to reach the level of the 580EX II, but for the price, the Mitros is a great flash.

Wireless Triggering

Here's where the Phottix Mitros really stands out. It's capable of wireless triggering (Optical Slave Mode) by sending out pulses of light (infrared) to other compatible flash guns to fire them remotely. Flashes can be controlled via Ratio modes, which lets a select number of flashes fire at different output levels, and one flash operate independently. Of course, the Mitros is also compatible with the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger, which uses radio waves rather than IR for a much broader range in all lighting conditions. When I used the Odin with the Mitros and 580EX II, both flashes fired without a hitch and were fully adjustable.

The big news here is that Phottix just released the Mitros+ TTL Transceiver Flash, which is basically a Mitros flash with Odin Transmitter, Receiver, and Strato Receiver built right into it. So, if you take this review and our Odin review, combine them, and add in the Phottix Strato receiver, that would equal the new Phottix Mitros+. There's no price tag yet, but users looking for a couple of flashes and remote setups might benefit greatly from a few Mitros+ units. My guess is that the price of a Mitros+ would still fall under that of an expensive name brand competitor.

Summing Up

The general consensus that Phottix is a trusty and reliable third-party aftermarket company stands strong. The Phottix Mitros is a flash that is just about everything most 580EX II users could ever need at half the price. Despite the Mitros's minor lack of external refinement and its slightly slower recycling times, the unit held its own against its Canon-branded competitor. Even though the 580EX II has the edge, the Mitros is a great backup. The Mitros even ships with more goodies, and is highly compatible with wireless triggering apparatuses. The best news is that the Mitros+ will combine the venerable Odin unit with the Mitros in order to reduce the amount of stuff in your camera bag and make setting up for a shoot even easier. I've yet to run into a Phottix product I didn't like, and the Mitros proves to be an excellent piece of equipment.

What we like:

  • Bountiful palette of included accessories
  • Solid performance comparable to 580EX II
  • Very affordable
  • 2-year warranty

What we don't like:

  • Lacks minor structural refinement
  • Recharge times lagged a tad behind Canon
  • Took a little more fine-tuning to achieve optimal exposure

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 32
rsn48
By rsn48 (1 week ago)

The flash lacks one option, unless I missed it in speed reading, and that is the ability to upgrade the software in the flash itself. So the Metz will never be obsolete even if Canon changes it software profile, it will be back engineered by Metz and released for download.

0 upvotes
Canutus
By Canutus (1 week ago)

I bought two of Mitros+ and Odin.
The system is very easy to set up and it works fine, but it seems that Canon (7D) house will not accept the use of 2-curtain in wireless mode (radio / optical). It works fine with only one Mitro + flash mounted on the camera. Nice if someone else can do a test.

0 upvotes
Dave Seeley
By Dave Seeley (1 week ago)

Thanks Mike,
Great to see that this is available. As an owner of 9x phottix odin receivers mounted to 550ex flashes (who needs IR anymore?), it's the Mitros + that has me most interested, for times I'd want an on camera flash as well as remotes... which is not currently workable with the hot shoe odin transmitter.... It's not very often that I'd want an on cam flash, but weddings, where another remote requires another assistant, is a notable exception. I could, and likely should, put a flash with odin receiver on a bracket for weddings.

I WILL say that i'd love more than three groups, though I can make do. ;-)

BTW... the Mitros at $300, is about the same as a used 550ex with an odin receiver. If the Mitros+ is not too much more, it would be a viable alternative.

Cheers
Dave Seeley
www.daveseeley.com

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (1 week ago)

.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 15 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
MarceloSalup
By MarceloSalup (1 week ago)

The portraits prove, beyond any resonable doubt, that the little diffusers, whether they are expsnsive Gary Fongs or inexpensive pieces of plastic, just don't do anything at all.

0 upvotes
dervish_candela
By dervish_candela (2 weeks ago)

good to see proven 3rd party manufactureres finally getting recognised and included in the discourse. however while you mention the Mitrios+, why not make a review of the whole Phottix's innovative flash triggering system that's better than fragmented solutions most of us use? (instead of presenting the regualr Mitros as a cheaper aftermarket alternative).

0 upvotes
Nick49
By Nick49 (2 weeks ago)

What I love about some of these comments is the conception that nearly three hundred dollars buys you a better 'light'. Yes, albeit it is also a sensitive technical instrument, but one that is a light. I lost two strobes on a shoot recently as they both blew over in a gust of wind. Why would I spend 600 dollars on something that might get blown over? This sounds great!

1 upvote
electrophoto
By electrophoto (2 weeks ago)

Why buy a car then, if there's the potential chance of crashing it somewhere.... flawed logic.

2 upvotes
T3
By T3 (2 weeks ago)

So your logic is that you should never buy anything that might break if you drop it? Then I guess that rules out buying a camera, or lenses, etc., too. Also, if a flash is just a "light", then I guess a lens is just a tube with a bunch of glass in it. And why would you ever want to spend a few hundred dollars on a tube of glass that can break if you drop it!?

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (1 week ago)

The difference between cars and cameras is that cameras don't have brakes. They're much more prone to accidents than cars. Photography out in the field is a contact sport in which equipment has to be expendable. Leicas fall overboard, light stands blow over, camera bags get stolen...each person has to decide for themselves how much of their working capital they want to put at risk.

0 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (1 week ago)

i'd like to see that statistic rfsIII... ;)
At least cameras usually don't get anyone killed (with the rare exception I guess).

The point being, not buying something because you can break it, well it's an entirely flawed logic behind this... as basically there is nothing man made whatsoever that will last forever or could not be broken, no matter what price tag, etc...

0 upvotes
misha marinsky4
By misha marinsky4 (2 weeks ago)

"The general consensus that..."

'General consensus' is redundant. Consensus is a general agreement about something:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consensus

A sign on an English professor's door: Department of Redundancy Dept.

You're welcome.

3 upvotes
Mike Perlman
By Mike Perlman (2 weeks ago)

Thanks for the lesson. You're cool!

0 upvotes
Kendunn
By Kendunn (1 week ago)

Whenever confronted with a grammar Nazi, hold them close, pat them softly on the back, and whisper "there, their, they're".

I have heard "general consensus" many times, and from dictionary.com- "Many say that the phrase consensus of opinion is redundant and hence should be avoided: The committee's statement represented a consensus of opinion. The expression is redundant, however, only if consensus is taken in the sense “majority of opinion” rather than in its equally valid and earlier sense “general agreement or concord.” Criticism of consensus of opinion has been so persistent and widespread that the phrase, even though in common use, occurs only infrequently in edited formal writing. The phrase general consensus is objected to for similar reasons. "

1 upvote
AV Janus
By AV Janus (2 weeks ago)

These flash prices are idiotic...
How much does it cost to integrate a flash bulb and add a few well established feature after god knows how many decades of knowledge...

OEM prices should be illegal...

4 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (2 weeks ago)

lol.... are you crawling from under your rock after 10 years?

your could write your brabblings and replace "flash" with 90% of all photography gear.

do you think a RRS arca swiss plate has to cost 70 euro or more?

or a wimberley gimbal costs 660 euro to build?

2 upvotes
MarshallG
By MarshallG (2 weeks ago)

Sounds like you know exactly how to start a very profitable business. I'm sure photographers would be happy to buy your equal quality for less money products... if you can build them, as you say.

2 upvotes
xilvar
By xilvar (2 weeks ago)

Why does this review not mention (and test) the guide number? Is guide number not a thing anymore or something? Not even a mention of it's specified guide number which could I suppose mean that it's the same as the 580? Or not??

3 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (1 week ago)

Maybe it's because guide numbers, just like ISO numbers and f/stops, are slightly overstated by manufacturers?

0 upvotes
Lanidrac
By Lanidrac (2 weeks ago)

Good review, Mike. Didn't know there was a Canon flash alternative. Been using the Phottix battery grip for over a year and is great quality for the money.

0 upvotes
exdeejjjaaaa
By exdeejjjaaaa (2 weeks ago)

lightingrumours.com
flashhavoc.com

4 upvotes
Denton Taylor
By Denton Taylor (2 weeks ago)

I don't get this. The 580EXii, to which this is compared, is a discontinued item. So you really have to compare it to the 600EX-RT. The 600EX-RT is currently selling for $550 USD, and has sold in the past for $500. So why would you even consider buying this thing with a radio control and all its failings for $400? If you insist on buying cheap sh*t, may as well buy the Yongnuo YN-E3-R controller for $130 and either buy Canon 600EX, or wait for the Yongnuo equivalents which should be out soon.

3 upvotes
T3
By T3 (2 weeks ago)

Why buy this for $400 vs a 600EX RT for $550? Because you'd be saving $150. Or multiples of $150 if you buy more than one, as many flash shooters often do. That's $150, $300, $450, etc., that you can spend on something else, or just keep in your bank account.

0 upvotes
meanwhile
By meanwhile (1 week ago)

I don't get this. The article you are commenting on has just described in detail how this product is not "cheap sh*t". Did you read it?

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (1 week ago)

Or if you're a Strobist, you buy Nikon SB24s and 28s for $10 at garage sales and fill your world with light for less than $100....

1 upvote
tonywong
By tonywong (2 weeks ago)

580EX II has been discontinued for the 600EX (RT).

Not sure what the street price of the Mitros is, but you could find the 580 EX II (before being discont'd) and the 600EX RT for ~$375-$425 in Canada during the big sales (Black Friday and Boxing day, etc.)

0 upvotes
Felix11
By Felix11 (2 weeks ago)

@DPReview "at well over half the price" did you mean "at considerably less than half the price"?

6 upvotes
piratejabez
By piratejabez (2 weeks ago)

Or "well under half the price".... I'd love to see some numbers too :)

1 upvote
FencerPTS
By FencerPTS (2 weeks ago)

Amazon.com as of 4/7/14
600EX-RT: $549
580EX II: $679
Phottix Mitros TTL: $299

2 upvotes
yslee1
By yslee1 (2 weeks ago)

US$299 for the basic Mitros? Someone's laughing their way to the bank there!

1 upvote
Bob Klein
By Bob Klein (2 weeks ago)

I purchased the Phottix Odin transmitter and receiver for Canon back in Sept. 2012 after it was reviewed here. I did this because it allowed me to fire all my 580s via radio. The alternative was to throw out all my 580s and purchase the 600 flash. The new Mitros+ is perfect for someone like me because it integrates into my existing system, and i don't need to purchase another receiver. It may not make sense to buy this over a Canon if you're just using it attached to your hotshoe.

3 upvotes
Dave Seeley
By Dave Seeley (1 week ago)

I use the Phottix Odin radio trigger system, with a bunch of Canon 550ex flash units... Ebay price for those extremely well regarded work horses (no overheating issue that later models had) is less than $200 for excellent condition The Odin Trigger is currently $137 on amazon... much less in sets of multiples. Given that the IR becomes redundant when using the much more reliable and versatile radio triggers, I'd rather spend a few extra dollars for full radio... You need it for soft boxes and flash units behind you.

Dave Seeley
www.daveseeley.com

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 32