Flash Triggers for OM-D E-M5 - Phottix Strato II

Started Feb 25, 2013 | Discussions thread
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DeepBlue2
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Flash Triggers for OM-D E-M5 - Phottix Strato II
Feb 25, 2013

I went to a local meetup event for models and photographers and really enjoyed the experience.  I primarily used off-camera flash with a small Lastolite softbox.  I have 2 FL-600s and 2 Nikon SB-800s.  I used combinations of the flashes set in manual mode with the optical slave function.  The slave function worked great with the flashes, the only problem was that there were so many other photographers shooting that my flashes were constantly firing.  As you can imagine, this used up batteries pretty quickly.

Consequently, I started searching for radio-based flash triggers for the next meetup.  As most of you know, this is not a straight-forward search process, since not many companies make these types of third-party products for Olympus.  Complicating the problem is the fact that I am mixing Olympus and Nikon flash units.

I started with the Aputure Trigmaster Plus units.  I thought they would fit the bill since they had separate versions for Olympus/Panasonic and were not too expensive.  Although the outside box said Olympus/Panasonic, the individual triggers were labeled "for Canon" (more on this later).  When I took them out of the box, I was initially very happy since they seemed to work perfectly.  However, things went south quickly.  After about a minute of inactivity the triggers seemed to go into some kind of sleep mode.  After they went into that sleep mode, they would not "awaken" properly.  The triggers only fired the flash about 1 in 10 times after coming back to life.  The only way to get them to work properly again was to turn them off and on again -- very cumbersome, and not practical for flashes on stands.  After searching on the web again, I found another report of this behavior.  I sent these back to the retailer.

I briefly considered the Pocketwizard Plus III units.  Although expensive, I was pretty sure they would fire reliably.  However, they have a major drawback -- no hotshoe compatibility.  The form factor just doesn't seem to be that well thought out.  You have to connect them with sync cords -- cumbersome for most hotshoe flashes, but doable.  The only problem is that the FL-600s don't have a sync port.  Now you've got to add an adapter on top of the trigger.  This is getting ridiculous.  Although Pocketwizard makes a hotshoe TTL system (FlexTTL) for Canon and Nikon, there is no such system for Olympus.

On to the next choice, Phottix Strato II.  They seemed like they would be perfect, but they didn't make an Olympus version.  Since I had Nikon flashes (and a D-200), I ordered the Nikon version.  They worked almost perfectly.  They fired the flashes (Olympus and Nikon) reliably and they would even awaken the flash units from their sleep modes.  The only issue was that the transmitter has a pass through function to use a flash in TTL mode mounted to the transmitter on the camera.  This didn't work.  Since I noticed that the Apurture "Olympus" units were actually for Canon, I ordered a Canon transmitter.  Eureka, everything works perfectly.  The Nikon receivers fire my SB-800s in manual mode perfectly.  The Canon transmitter mounts on the top of the camera and will fire flashes (both Nikon and Olympus) without fail; moreover, the Canon transmitter allows pass through TTL operation of a flash mounted on the transmitter mounted on the camera.  Although the Nikon receivers will fire my Olympus flashes, I have purchased Canon receivers for them, since they have the same pin positions.  Overall, this is a very happy marriage between all of the flash units.

Oh yes, the Phottix Strato units also have the 4-zone operation just like the Pocketwizards.  You can easily turn on and off zones from the transmitter -- fantastic.

In summary, the Phottix Strato II's work perfectly with the OM-D.  Here are some of my findings:

- The Canon transmitter passes through TTL information to an Olympus flash on the camera.

- The Canon transmitter will fire a Nikon receiver.

- The units wake flash units from sleep mode (both Nikon and Olympus).

- The units are solidly built with metal hotshoe components.

- The use of AAA batteries is helpful.

- The four-zone operation is a great feature.

- Range seems to be very good, although I haven't really gone too far to test.

- Although I haven't tested them yet, they should work fine with my AlienBees studio strobes.

- They come with seemingly every possible cable you could need for any connection and a lanyard.

The only possible drawback I could find would be the 4-channel limitation of the Phottix units.  The various Pocketwizard units have 16 or 32 channels.  If you thought you might have interference with lots of other photographers, I can see where you might need the additional channels.

Unless you think you need a lot of channels, I think the Phottix units are actually much better than Pocketwizards for OM-D users, and they are 1/3 of the cost -- a happy combination.  I'm ready for the next meetup.

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Mike
Tampa, FL

 DeepBlue2's gear list:DeepBlue2's gear list
Nikon D70 Nikon D200 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Olympus E-M1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR +21 more
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