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.
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.
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.
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.
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