Cactus LV5 Review

What's in the Box?

If you are partial to gadgets like I am, receiving an LV5 box will evoke happy feelings:

In-the-Box

Generous Packaging
The box is rather large (WxHxD = ~275x110x145mm).

The manual is a bit smaller than A5 and well-written. It not only comprehensively describes the units and their features, but also includes tips, such as how to best align the units.

The green brochure, pictured top left, just contains sample images taken with the Cactus V5.

In-the-Box-2

Almost complete accessories
Cables, sensor hood and even batteries are included. Sadly, the flash stands pictured are not.

Unfortunately, the box contents do not include stands. You’ll have to either use tripods (both laser and sensor feature regular tripod mounts), light stands, or hot-shoe flash stands you happen to own already.

Using tripods to support the LV5 is the best option because they allow the most flexible and precise adjustments for positioning and aligning the units. However, you may already be using all your tripods and light stands for your camera and your flashes/strobes. Not everyone has surplus tripods at their disposal beyond what is needed for regular use.

Because the LV5 feature an integrated tilting mechanism, most of the time I didn’t need anything beyond the flash stands that came with my V5. If you neither have surplus tripods/light stands nor cheap flash stands, consider ordering some flash stands as the LV5 cannot stand on their own at all.

Highlight Features

  • Laser included (unlike other trigger alternatives)
  • Large distances supported (150m in darkness, 20m in direct sunlight)
  • Completely wireless operation in combination with Cactus V5 receivers, including the V5 multi-channel option.
  • Compatible with third-party wireless triggers (via cable connection).
  • Option to double up batteries for extended, unattended use.
  • Works very well with rechargeable AAAs.
  • Low-battery indicator.
  • Supports “trap” and “escape” modes.
  • “Delay” and “Freeze” configuration options (production units only).

Note that this review is for the LV5 beta version. I am planning to report on the enhanced production units in the future, but make sure that you check out the “Sneak Preview”.

Specifications

  • Radio frequency: 2.4 GHz
  • Channels: 16 (channel 1 will trigger all devices on channels 1-5)
  • Max. sync speed: 1/1000s
  • Maximum effective distance for wireless triggering: 100 m (conservative figure)
  • Flash trigger voltage supported: 0–300V
  • Selectable laser frequencies: 500Hz, 1kHz
  • Maximum distance between laser and sensor: 150m (darkness), 20m (strong, direct sunlight)
  • Operating Temperature: -20°C to +50°C
  • Power: 2 x AAA 1.5V batteries/rechargeables for laser and sensor respectively. Option to use 4 x AAA for each device for extended operation.
  • Laser Dimensions: 92mm x 80mm x 93mm (LxWxH)
  • Laser Weight: 135g
  • Sensor Dimensions: 153mm x 80mm x 93mm (LxWxH) (including hood)
  • Sensor Weight: 175g (including hood)

Power Consumption

Batteries-1
Battery Compartment
Up to four AAAs can be used but two (either both left or both right) AAAs are sufficient.

I measured the idle current to be ~12.5mA for the laser (1kHz) and ~13.5mA for the sensor (in trap mode).

Here are battery life figures, as measured by the manufacturer:

Device

Mode

2 x AAA

 4 x AAA

Laser

 

40h

80h

Sensor

Standby

90h

180h

Sensor

Trap mode

85h

175h

Sensor

Escape mode

60h

125h

The figures are based on the GP24A Alkaline battery type with 1000mAh.

Figures will be a bit reduced for rechargeables, but not by much (~8.5% less for the 800mAh Sanyo Eneloops). During all my tests I never had to recharge my Energizer 900mAh and that means a lot as these haven’t been useful for anything in the past.

Unfortunately, the on/off button is just a “soft switch” so even when turned off, the units will draw a miniscule amount of current from the batteries. For long-term storage it is therefore recommended to remove the batteries. Alternatively, if you are using only two batteries, you can put them into the compartment in an interleaving fashion, i.e., use one slot, not use the next. In this case, there will be no current flow at all.

This is also an option to consider when transporting the units. With the batteries in the above described configuration, accidental actuations of the on/off switches cannot turn the units on.

I would have preferred an on/off switch that actually breaks the electrical circuit. A switch is less likely to be actuated accidentally (by the user or in the bag) and provides direct visual feedback about the status of the device without the need to check LED indicators that may not be visible from a certain angle or in bright sunlight. On the other hand, the button makes it easy to temporarily switch off the sensor, e.g., in order to avoid unwanted triggerings when changing the setup. Operating a switch bears the danger of ruining alignment with the laser beam if the sensor just sits on a cheap flash stand.

The manufacturer chose the AAA form factor because the same type of batteries is used for the Cactus V5. I would have preferred AA batteries because of their availability and much higher capacity. I use AAs for my flashes anyhow so in a device like the LV5 where size and weight are not critical, I think AAs would have been the better choice.

Having said that, I never had power issues with the LV5 and I do not really have a complaint about the AAA choice.


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