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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 08 Jun 2011 (Wednesday) 00:11
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Range Issues with Pocketwizard Plus II's

 
TheBurningCrown
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Jun 08, 2011 00:11 |  #1

I just purchased a pair of Pocketwizard Plus II slaves from a member on this forum. After unpacking them, I naturally decided to test if they worked properly. Close-up they work great - reliable every time. So I decided to test the range...

In total I've done four tests, and I'm really not impressed. These things are advertised at ~1600 feet, and I'm getting far less than that. Tests #1-3 were done last night on channel 1, Test #4 was done earlier tonight (channel 1-2).

Test #1: The first, "for fun" test. Out in the backyard, so a good number of trees around. Flash was sitting up in a holder on a window-sill, receiver was sitting down (horizontal) next to it. Transmitter hand-held. Reliable pops at ~30 feet, nothing ~45 feet. My guess is the orientation of the trigger and the interfering objects got in the way.

Test #2: The second, "WTF" test. Out in the front yard and into the street. One or two trees, mostly open. Flash standing on a metal chair, receiver sitting down (horizontal) next to it. Transmitter hand-held. Reliable pop ~25 feet, nothing ~35 feet. I'd assume that the horizontal orientation of the trigger was again an issue, along with the conductive metal of the chair.

Test #3: The "well if that didn't work..." test. In a local park with some trees around, but a mostly open space in the middle of it. Flash is standing on the ground, again, receiver sitting down (horizontal) next to it. Transmitter on XT with 17-40. Reliable pop ~25 feet, nothing ~30 feet. This is when I noticed that the orientation of the camera matters. Landscape = fires at 25 feet, portrait = fires at 10 feet. My guess was that the orientation of the receiver made a difference, as did its proximity to the ground.

Test #4: The "we'll do it RIGHT this time test. Went up to an open parking lot (so nearly no obstacles), set the flash on a stand with the receiver hanging off at the maximum length (oriented vertically), put the transmitter on the XT with 70-200. Reliable pop ~45 feet, nothing ~60 feet on channel 1 in landscape position. On channel 2 in landscape position, got a reliable pop ~75 feet, nothing ~90 feet. At either channel in portrait position, got a reliable pop ~20 feet, nothing ~30 feet.

To be honest: this is really frustrating. If I can't shoot in portrait mode that close to my lights, these things are practically useless. They're rated for hundreds of feet, and I'm far away from that peak. An more open area to test doesn't really make sense: I'm living and shooting in an urban environment, and that's the location where I need these triggers to work.

Is there anything that I'm doing wrong? At this point, and in light of the 580EXII issues with the new Flex and Mini PWs, I'm thinking it's the flash. Which is a terrible shame, as I hoped to get the PW +IIs partially to avoid the RF issues. For the next test, if I get some time, I'm thinking of throwing a tinfoil hat on the 580 to try to rule RF interference out.

Any thoughts?

EDIT: This has become more complex than intended, so here is a brief summary and links to my posts:


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MrScott
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Jun 08, 2011 00:54 |  #2

How about fresh batteries?
Is the 580 connected to the flash only mini-plug?
To rule out any RF from the 580, have someone else hand hold the PWII at distance from you and confirm the signal light is responding without a flash or cable connected?
Make sure both units are on same channel?
With flash connected to receiver, does test button act different from camera hot shoe?
Do both antennas look fresh OR are they bent or tweaked?
Do they act different in "both" mode vs 1 transmitting and 1 receiving?




  
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John ­ Schell
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Jun 08, 2011 09:03 |  #3

I have four PWIIs and they work flawlessly from distances much further than you're testing. But you illustrate why I almost never buy anything used.


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bobbyz
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Jun 08, 2011 10:01 |  #4

Something must be wrong. Plus II along with Multimax are used in big stadiums without any issues.


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archer1960
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Jun 08, 2011 11:08 |  #5

Replace the batteries in the transmitter and try again.


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TheBurningCrown
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Jun 08, 2011 16:45 as a reply to  @ archer1960's post |  #6

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
How about fresh batteries?

100% fresh batteries in both, though I might buy some new ones just to be certain.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
Is the 580 connected to the flash only mini-plug?

Yes.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
To rule out any RF from the 580, have someone else hand hold the PWII at distance from you and confirm the signal light is responding without a flash or cable connected?

I tried using a camera (instead of a flash) last night, but had the same results. I'll try it with just the bare PW tonight.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
Make sure both units are on same channel?

Done and done for all tests.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
With flash connected to receiver, does test button act different from camera hot shoe?

Hotshoe gives slightly less range, but that could be because my head is propped up near the transmitter.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
Do both antennas look fresh OR are they bent or tweaked?

Both antennas look to be in great condition.

MrScott wrote in post #12555998 (external link)
Do they act different in "both" mode vs 1 transmitting and 1 receiving?

I haven't tested this - I'll try it tonight.

John Schell wrote in post #12557281 (external link)
I have four PWIIs and they work flawlessly from distances much further than you're testing. But you illustrate why I almost never buy anything used.

The transaction was through an established member and went very smoothly. I seriously doubt the seller was/is trying to scam me.

After I try the above I'm thinking about sending an email to Pocketwizard themselves.


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bdillon
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Jun 08, 2011 16:57 |  #7

I was having the EXACT same problem. Had someone do like already mentioned. I had a friend pop the test button while I walked around with the reciever (no flash attached) and it worked much better.
I know PW states that the Canon 580EX II emits high amounts of EMF and recommend a shield to use with their Flex products.

I just bought longer cords to get the receiver as far away from the flash as possible and in the vertical position. Problem solved.
Anyhow, the cords that come with the PW are junk in my opinion, they fit too loose. I had to crimp mine slightly with pliers to make a good, reliable connection.
I got the screw lock type PC cable from Flash Zebra.




  
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John ­ Schell
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Jun 08, 2011 18:50 |  #8

I don't know how long the PW warranty is, but my point wasn't that they were trying to scam you, my point was that if it was something you purchased from the company, you could return it under full warranty without question.

Good luck. Please post what happens with PW.


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Zerimar
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Jun 08, 2011 19:09 |  #9

I have a Pocketwizard Multimax and Plus II, as well as one built into my Sekonic and one of my Dynalite packs.

They definitely work a lot better with vertical (manual says to use them vertically) and I have been able to remote trigger my camera from any distance I've tried it from with the multimax on board)

I've noticed that the reciever in the Dynalite pack can pick up from the Multimax from well over 100 feet away. I will try testing for sure sometime.

As for using a 580, with the Multimax on camera and Plus II connected to the 580 via a sync cord to miniphone (pw end) and it is highly unreliable. It seems that the pc sync connection on the 580 ex II is poor at maintaining a connection. Because of this being so unreliable, I have considered selling one of my 580's to help pay for a portable Dynalite battery I bought just to have a reliable flash for location work.

Try having a friend hold one of the wizards, and then walk in opposite directions. Hold them vertically. The test button on one should make the red lights on the other fire. The red light going off means it is receiving a signal (not just blinking, but solid for as long as test is held for) and with a 580 it sometimes will not fire despite the wizards working.


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bdillon
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Jun 08, 2011 19:17 |  #10

Zerimar wrote in post #12560230 (external link)
As for using a 580, with the Multimax on camera and Plus II connected to the 580 via a sync cord to miniphone (pw end) and it is highly unreliable. It seems that the pc sync connection on the 580 ex II is poor at maintaining a connection. Because of this being so unreliable, I have considered selling one of my 580's to help pay for a portable Dynalite battery I bought just to have a reliable flash for location work.

Try thos screw on cables from Flash Zebra. I didn't know it was the PC end on the Canon that was the problem, I thought it was the cable. Regardless, I bought the 3 ft long screw on PC connector cables from Flash Zebra and not it's on there rock solid.




  
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TheBurningCrown
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Jun 08, 2011 22:45 |  #11

Thanks for everyone's advice, I really appreciate it.

I had a little bit of extra time tonight, so I picked up some new AA's and decided to head over to the local high school's football stadium to do some testing. Here's what I found.

Test #1 - PW on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW in hand. Channel 1, set to "both."
From this test alone it was obvious that the PW's appear to be functioning correctly. I was able to trigger the Pocketwizard (seeing the red light) all the way to the other end of the field (100 yds / 300 ft).

Test #2 - PW on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW on Elan 7E with 50 1.4. Channel 1, set to "both."
Little to no impact in relation to the first test. Was able to get reliable triggers all the way at the other end of the field, regardless of the camera's orientation.

Test #3 - 580EXII on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW in hand. Channel 1, set to "both."
Massive drop in range. Reliable pops at 10 yards, intermittent results at 12, nothing by 14. Note that I was recording both the flash's output and the LED feedback light from the PW - neither appeared to deviate (ruling out the sync cable as an issue).

Test #4 - 580EXII on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW on Elan 7E. Channel 1, set to "both."
Same results as above. In portrait orientation, however, the situation was worse. Reliable pops at 6 yards, absolutely nothing at 7.

Test #5 - 580EXII on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW on Elan 7E. Channel 1, differentiated as Remote/Local, on-camera PW set to transmit only mode.
Same results as above.

Test #6 - 580EXII on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW on Elan 7E. Channel 2, differentiated as Remote/Local, on-camera PW set to transmit only mode.
Same results as above.

Test #7 - 580EXII on lightstand at the 0 yd line. Other PW on Elan 7E. Channel 4, differentiated as Remote/Local, on-camera PW set to transmit only mode.
Slightly better results. 20 yards in landscape, 15 in portrait.

I didn't have a cable with me, otherwise I would have also done testing of triggering a camera.

End result of this: I think I'm done with Pocketwizards. I was willing to shell out the extra cash for a dependable trigger, but apparently this isn't it. I don't have any other flash or other item I could trigger, so the jury is still out as to whether or not it's the flash or having something connected to the PW. Regardless, I need something that will trigger my 580EXII. The RF shields they sell simply aren't practical for my needs, and if I'm thinking of throwing that into the mix and still worrying about reliability, a generic PC cable may just be the answer.


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ootsk
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Jun 08, 2011 22:57 |  #12

If it's not dependable, get something that is. I totally agree with you.




  
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Zerimar
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Jun 08, 2011 23:01 |  #13

Interesting to see that the 580's make that much of a difference with it. Sans them, the pocketwizards have been very reliable for me.


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MrScott
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Jun 09, 2011 01:14 |  #14

Test #1, you must have some really good eyes!

Can you still swap out the 580ii?




  
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TheBurningCrown
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Jun 09, 2011 01:37 |  #15

MrScott wrote in post #12561971 (external link)
Test #1, you must have some really good eyes!

Can you still swap out the 580ii?

:lol: it was pretty dark out, but I was amazed I could see the faint glow as well...

I purchased the 580 over two years ago, so swapping it out isn't an option.


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Range Issues with Pocketwizard Plus II's
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