Flash Waves strobe triggers
I had had my eyes on these flash triggers for a while, and had tried to purchase a set since they were first announced. They seemed to be a good compromise between the industry standard in the form of the expensive Pocket Wizards and the cheap so-called eBay-triggers, which are found under a large number of different names.
During Photokina 2008 I got the chance to meet with Korean SM-Development, the company behind the triggers, and managed to bring home a set – one transmitter and two receivers. I have since then used them for almost all my off camera flash shoots, and can now report about my experiences, which are overall very good. Before using the Flash Waves triggers I had played with both the Pocket Wizards, the Elinchrom Skyports and a set of inexpensive eBay-triggers. While the first two were a blessing to use, stable and flexible, the latter were a pain, constantly either failing or triggering the flashes spontaneously and finally with one unit coming to a complete halt.
The Flash Waves triggers are compact and sturdy units with a good build quality and excellent controls. The transmitter is very small and compact, and can be mounted in the hotshoe of any camera with a standard hotshoe or connected to a pc-plug through a cable. It runs on a small A23 battery, which will allegedly last a year or more. This system is known from other triggers too, and the small batteries indeed seem to be able to run the trigger for a long time.
The receivers are almost as compact as the transmitter, although not quite. They need more power and run on two AAA-batteries. But in spite of this they are sufficiently small to be mounted between a lightstand and the flash without displacing the flash too much in relation to a reflector or an umbrella. The receivers have a hotshoe on one side and a tripod thread on the other, and seem robust enough to be able to support the weight of the flash. If you want or need to connect the receiver with a cable, that is fully possible. The cables supplied with the trigger system will support most larger studio-type flashes as well as flashes like SB800's through a pc-connector. You can use the hotshoe and the cable at the same time to trigger two or more flashes, which can be practical if you work with several flashes for more power or flexibility.
The system works in the 315 MHz spectrum and offers 10 channels, which can easily be selected through identical dials on both receivers and the transmitter. The transmitter has no on/off switch but a test button, where you can trigger the flashes manually. I have at one occasion has a clash with another photographer's system but as soon as I changed the channel, the problem was gone.
The receivers are turned on with a small switch, and an LED will blink and tell you the receiver is ready. When the signal is received another smaller LED will blink shortly, so that you can ensure yourself of the connection. There is also a low battery indicator, but I'm still on my first set of alkalines, and after three months and many shoots I still haven't seen that in action.
The system is specified to work up to 1/180th of a second, but I have used it with my D40 at up to 1/500th without trouble as long as the distance was not too far. Working at close range within 10 meters or 30 feet I'd guess that this semi-highspeed sync would be possible on a consistent base, but it would take a serious outdoors assignment in bright weather would to reveal that for sure. Regarding distance the specs say 50-60 meters or about 150-200 feet, but I have triggered the flashes at distances almost three times that. The system also seems to cope fine with walls and windows, and works fine from room to room or from indoors to outdoors. In most real life cases there should be no trouble at all.
I have two receivers, but you can essentially add as many as you want, but remember that these are triggers only, so all exposure control is manual. There is no adjustment of the flashes remotely – neither automatic nor manual.
In spite of this I have had great benefit from the Flash Waves triggers. They work as supposed, very stable with no false flashes and no fallouts. They seem to be built to last, and have the facilities most of us need for wireless triggering. Sure exposure control would be nice as well as real high speed synchronization, but these features belong in the next generation of triggers.
For now a set of Flash Waves at less than 200 USD for a transmitter and receiver and 300 USD for a set with two receivers seems to be a good alternative to some of the market's far more expensive alternatives.