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05-30-2019, 10:19 AM   #1
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Cactus and Pentax flashes working together ?

Ok I'm a little confused ...

>>> Edit. I'm making progress :-) So I've removed my question(s). I'll update as I get on. Sorry for any wasted time ...

Here's what I've discovered so far. FYI, in case anyone is interested ...

I wanted to be able to fire a Pentax AF540 and a Cactus RF 60X from my K-1 and be able to control the flashes from the camera.

(Cactus flash firmware at latest and transceivers using X-TTL firmware.)

Starting with camera set on manual so I have full control of shutter/aperture/ISO and a V6ii transceiver on camera set in TX mode.
AF540 in TTL mode mounted on a cactus transceiver in RX mode. I can control the ambient light from the manual settings on camera and fill with both the flashes using the transceiver on the camera with a simple rotation of the dial to control the flashes' power.

Next if I want to have the flashes use separate power, then I can set the Pentax to manual and use its power settings, or I assume I could set the transceivers on a different channel per flash. I assume the more sensible method is to use a different channel for each flash.

What I have here is not what I was expecting, as all it is is a convenient way to remotely trigger the flashes and control from the camera the power and zoom.

It isn't automatic though. It is this lack of automatic use that I'm struggling with. I was thinking that the full P-TTL communication between the camera and the Pentax flash would be possible using these transceivers. Maybe it is. At the moment I'm not really that bothered by this as I feel that in full manual (as described above) I probably have a more controlled way of working eg set up subject and flashes on stands with modifiers fitted then I can move the camera around knowing the lighting will be constant on the subject. And with simple tethering via LR the results can be seen instantly.

The Cactus user guides are not especially well organised, or written. Maybe this is to be expected. There is a lot the set-up can do which I doubt I'll ever want, but if I can get confident that I can grab the the transceivers, flick them onto TX or RX, mount the Pentax flash and it will work repeatedly then it will be a great set-up. If, however, I find that I'm having to fiddle around, perhaps remembering to switch the devices on in precise orders and then re-set parameters I'll will be a pain and will not look good.

If anyone is interested I'll report back, but it will be after a gap of a few days as I have other things to do.

Slowly getting there ...


Last edited by BarryE; 05-30-2019 at 12:58 PM.
05-30-2019, 01:20 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
and fill with both the flashes using the transceiver on the camera with a simple rotation of the dial to control the flashes' power.
As long as you have the TX unit in MAN mode, not TTL

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Next if I want to have the flashes use separate power, then I can set the Pentax to manual and use its power settings, or I assume I could set the transceivers on a different channel per flash. I assume the more sensible method is to use a different channel for each flash
Correct. Use a seperate channel for each flash. the only time you would want to use the flashes themselves in manual mode would be if you use a flash meter.

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
What I have here is not what I was expecting, as all it is is a convenient way to remotely trigger the flashes and control from the camera the power and zoom
It does what it says on the tin. In MAN mode on the Cactus TX unit it will control the flashes manually.

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
It isn't automatic though. It is this lack of automatic use that I'm struggling with. I was thinking that the full P-TTL communication between the camera and the Pentax flash would be possible using these transceivers.
load the latest Cactus Pentax-compatible firmware from here Downloads | CACTUS. Dont use the x brand firmware. You will then have P-TTL working with both your AF 540 and RF60X. Each time you press the Group button on the TX unit it cycles TTL/MAN/OFF Choose the one you want. You can configure in the options menu to have TTL/ OFF or MAN/OFF instead

---------- Post added 05-30-19 at 09:35 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
perhaps remembering to switch the devices on in precise orders and then re-set parameters I'll will be a pain and will not look good.
Once you have initially set up the reciever for the AF540 so it knows it is a AF540 the RX unit will remember this. Use the supplied stickers so you always pair that RX unit with that AF540. The only thing you need to remember is when setting up for a shoot switch flashes and camera on first, cactus TX/RX units last. Works for me each time

Last edited by pschlute; 05-30-2019 at 01:58 PM.
05-31-2019, 12:47 AM   #3
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Thanks Peter. I'm a little rushed at present so will be delayed in trying out what you suggest. I installed X-TTL as there was more to the story that I didn't include - I wanted to have the set-up to share with another photographer (Canon), but that's only a wish. I'll switch to the Pentax version and retry in a few days. Being in full manual mode is probably best for me, but having the option to drop to TTL if required will be perfect.

Good to hear your confidence in the gear. I know you've mentioned it before and it was mostly your recommendation that lead me decide to buy the kit, plus you're nearby if it all went wrong and I could shout at you for bad advice ;-)

As an aside, Peter, have you come across Speedgraphic near Alton ? For non-Pentax studio gear I've been using them a lot recently as I can drop in, try gear and discuss with them. Nice to have this resource nearby.

Thanks
05-31-2019, 03:58 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
As an aside, Peter, have you come across Speedgraphic near Alton ? For non-Pentax studio gear I've been using them a lot recently as I can drop in, try gear and discuss with them. Nice to have this resource nearby.

Thanks
Never visited the shop but have ordered stuff from them for many years.

05-31-2019, 04:37 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Never visited the shop but have ordered stuff from them for many years.
More a counter in a business park warehouse than a shop. I like the idea of them being local and they don't really overlap with SRS which supports Pentax so well.
05-31-2019, 05:50 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
Never visited the shop but have ordered stuff from them for many years.
More a counter in a business park warehouse than a shop. I like the idea of them being local and they don't really overlap with SRS which supports Pentax so well.
05-31-2019, 04:54 PM   #7
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marking thread

in order to keep track
06-03-2019, 07:21 AM   #8
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Make sure that the RF60X also runs the TTL-capable firmware (A.08). The V6II needs to run PEN.A.005.

However, if you really don't care that much about TTL then I'd use the multi-brand firmware if I were you. It also supports HSS, you just don't get the automatic metering support. I find the multi-brand version more reliable and simpler to use.

The multi-brand firmware versions you'd need are V1.1.013 (V6II) and 1.03 or 1.1.013 (RF60X).

06-11-2019, 05:18 AM   #9
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Ok I switched back to PEN.A.005 to run TTL. I put the two flashes in different groups controlled from the transmitter on the camera. All works as expected, but I do find myself struggling with TTL just trying to be too clever. With the flashes at 45% on either side of the subject, I struggled to control the flash power balance independently for each flash. When moving the flashes around and modifying them it was throwing up surprises. So I switched back to manual - back in control. With the flashes in different groups it's easy to dial in +/- EV to each flash as well as control the ambient. So I've worked out my options, so far. I've yet to do HSS - that comes next, if required.

Overall the Cactus gear and the Pentax flash work well together. My problem is the clever/auto/TTL trying too hard at times and not being able to read my mind ;-)

Now a bug? With the K-1 in AV every now and again, I could not adjust the camera's EV. The EV button would just hop back to aperture. Powering off/on and it worked fine - for a while. Anyone seen this ? I've never seen it without the Cactus trigger mounted - I work in AV 99% of the time and I'm forever adjusting the EV. So it's a K1/Cactus interaction. I wonder what's happening ...?
06-11-2019, 08:11 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Now a bug? With the K-1 in AV every now and again, I could not adjust the camera's EV. The EV button would just hop back to aperture. Powering off/on and it worked fine - for a while. Anyone seen this ? I've never seen it without the Cactus trigger mounted - I work in AV 99% of the time and I'm forever adjusting the EV. So it's a K1/Cactus interaction. I wonder what's happening ...?
What do you mean by " I work in AV 99% of the time and I'm forever adjusting the EV" ? Do you mean exposure compensation ?

"The EV button would just hop back to aperture" Not sure what you mean here either
06-11-2019, 08:40 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
What do you mean by " I work in AV 99% of the time and I'm forever adjusting the EV" ? Do you mean exposure compensation ?

"The EV button would just hop back to aperture" Not sure what you mean here either
Whoops a bit loose that. Of course I'm meaning exposure compensation. Sorry ...
06-11-2019, 11:53 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Now a bug? With the K-1 in AV every now and again, I could not adjust the camera's EV. The EV button would just hop back to aperture. Powering off/on and it worked fine - for a while. Anyone seen this ? I've never seen it without the Cactus trigger mounted - I work in AV 99% of the time and I'm forever adjusting the EV. So it's a K1/Cactus interaction. I wonder what's happening ...?
If you are in Av mode and fixed ISO , then changing the exposure compensation (not flash compensation) will change the shutter speed.

If you have a flash mounted (or a cactus transceiver), and it is "awake" your EC will not be allowed to change the shutter speed to faster than the sync speed unless you are in HSS mode on the Flash/Cactus. This is what you are noticing.
06-11-2019, 12:19 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote

If you have a flash mounted (or a cactus transceiver), and it is "awake" your EC will not be allowed to change the shutter speed to faster than the sync speed unless you are in HSS mode on the Flash/Cactus. This is what you are noticing.
Don't think this is it Peter. I found I could happily dial in an exposure compensation, then at some point later when I press the +/- button to further adjust the exposure compensation its display briefly highlights, but then jumps back to highlight the aperture.This is not correct. It should toggle on the button being depressed as it normally does. Switching camera off and on with then with the same settings it works fine, until some time later when it seems to get confused again. It seems to be random, though I suspect there is some sequence/combination that is confusing the camera.
06-11-2019, 03:26 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
Don't think this is it Peter. I found I could happily dial in an exposure compensation, then at some point later when I press the +/- button to further adjust the exposure compensation its display briefly highlights, but then jumps back to highlight the aperture.This is not correct. It should toggle on the button being depressed as it normally does. Switching camera off and on with then with the same settings it works fine, until some time later when it seems to get confused again. It seems to be random, though I suspect there is some sequence/combination that is confusing the camera.
What shutter speed is the camera choosing when this happens ?
06-13-2019, 02:25 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
What shutter speed is the camera choosing when this happens ?
Peter, the 'bug' occurred when I was at 1/100 this morning. Only happened once in 90 mins testing.

A few more tests is perhaps showing a difference between the performance of the Cactus and the Pentax flashes that was probably behind my uncertainty with using both in fully auto mode:

With the camera in AV and Pentax flash in P-TTL, I varied the aperture taking the same subject. The resulting images were very similar. The camera was controlling the flash power very accurately. However, the same is not true with the Cactus flash. It isn't bad, but it is not as accurate eg at f16 it was fine, but as I opened up the aperture the exposures became a little more and more overexposed - this didn't happen with the Pentax flash. So when I was using them both together a few days back, this different behaviour was not obvious and I was not happy with the results. The solution is to put both flashes in different groups and then as the aperture changes to allow for the Cactus's variance. Probably not too much of an issue as in AV mode the aperture is being chosen for the job in hand. But I suspect it is showing the superior performance of the Pentax flash - not entirely surprising.

Also, confusion was previously occurring because using the triggers zooming a lens does not zoom either of the flashes. Again, it's not surprising that when the Pentax flash is connected by a cord it zooms fine and I had expected this to be happening. Previously I had both flashes on the other side of the room so I did not notice zooming was not happening. A limitation, but not serious if understood.

Going fully manual, camera and flashes, gives me control for static room and product shots. If I had two Pentax flashes off camera controlled by a master on the hot shoe, I would probably stay in AV and P-TTL, but it would have cost a lot more than using Cactus gear.

For non static shots, ie moving around with portraits etc., I need to think through whether I'd use AV and TTL on flashes, camera in manual and TTL flashes, or fully manual (both camera and flashes). Probably it depends. Will continue experimenting ...
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