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01-15-2013, 01:46 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Inexpensive radio wireless flash for 645N

Not having $983.29 to buy a new Pentax AF-500 FTZ speedlight from Amazon, I reversed course and went for the jugular, price-wise. Like a Yongnuo Yn-460-II priced at $71, which I bought at $48, the Amazon Prime price. Then, I bought a Yongnuo YN-560-II, priced at $150, for $73... Amazon Prime. Last, I bought the CowboyStudio NPT-04 4-Channel Wireless Trigger Set... with 1 Trigger and 2 Receivers, priced at $32, or $30 Amazon Prime. All up, $151; Amazon Prime ships for free.

By contrast, a PocketWizard-801-130 Plus-III-Transceiver costs $149, and you need 2 at a minimum -- one to act as an on-camera transmitter, the other as an on-flash receiver. To cover the two flashes above, you'd need 3 PocketWizards -- a $447 outlay. PocketWizards, they say, are for professionals -- at 300', they have a longer range than the CowboyStudio units, at 100'. And, also on the high side, I could have bought a used Nikon SB-800 flash from Keh, EX- condition, for $350 ($811.50 new). But then.

So the cost differences are significant. Can you get by with the cheaper package? Will it work on the Pentax 645N?
Yes! Indeed it does. In their M manual mode, both Yongnuo speedlights work perfectly with the 645N. They are modern designs, with voltages that do not affect the Pentax or its autofocus. The flash fires on both A Aperture, or on all-manual aperture and shutter speed settings. Didn't try it on Program, haven't read my manual enough, don't know if the 645N would automatically reset the shutter speed to 1/60 or less. Will try that next.

Limits -- the Yongnuo speedlights, and the Cowboy transmitters, are for manual flash control only. No TTL, or I-TTL or P-TTL or any other kind of TTL. You have to estimate the power yourself, for any distance to the subject. This would be a real pain, given two speedlights, except for a miracle -- the preview screen on the back of my digital Olympus XZ-1. I can set the speedlights where I want them, set them each to half-power, put the transmitter on the XZ-1's hotshoe, and take a few test pictures, quickly adjusting the flash power settings. Then, from about the same camera position, I put the transmitter on the 645N's hotshoe, and take the same picture on film... with equivalent aperture/shutter settings and ISO, of course.

The big win? At low cost, I can set off my speedlights outdoors in daylight -- conditions where the sunlight wipes out the infrared optical-slave ability. As optical slaves, the Yongnuos work perfectly indoors, but that's it. With radio wireless, anything goes, anywhere. Real off-camera flash convenience -- you can just hold a flash anywhere you want. A secondary benefit -- used with the XZ-1, you don't have to use the on-camera popup flash to set off the slave triggers. You can totally control the light direction, without having to put with a direct flash from the camera position.

A single $32 CowboyStudio NPT-04 set should be all you need. If you want to add more than two speedlights, you could just use the additional ones as optical slaves -- indoors -- set off by your radio-controlled units. Outdoors? You'd have to spring for another NPT-04 set to control two more speedlights.

Anyway, hope this helps anybody looking to work with radio-controlled flash -- at low cost!

01-17-2013, 01:03 PM   #2
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Follow-up notes --

When I first put the wireless receiver on the flash hotshoe, it didn't work. After a while, realized I had attached it backwards! The Cowboy manual, out of China, was very sincere, but confusing. See pic below for correct orientation. The transmitter goes on the camera hotshoe, fits just fine on the Pentax 645N as on the XZ-1 shown below.

Distance -- using the Yongnuo 460-II (in the picture below, under a different brand name), it worked perfectly at 30 normal paces, sometimes at 40, and not at 50. Tested with unobstructed line-of-sight from transmitter to receiver.

Indoor-outdoor -- the FM signal goes through walls and picture windows. Worked fine at a 16' distance with the camera inside and the flash out on the patio.
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