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.
EDIT: This has become more complex than intended, so here is a brief summary and links to my posts:
- More details on the first batch of tests
- Second batch of tests, at the high school football stadium. Conclusion: The triggers, used bare, are very unreliable
- Third batch of tests, at another local field. Conclusion: It's definitely the flash causing the issue.
- Fourth batch of tests, at the high school parking lot. Conclusion: Used with an extension cable to get the receiver away from the flash, they still don't work properly.
- Fifth batch of tests, at the high school parking lot. Conclusion: With a ferrite core, the OEM cable gives slightly more range. Adding an extension cord, also with a ferrite core, reduces that range.
- Sixth batch of tests, at the high school parking lot and with a YN-560. Conclusion: Apparently it's the radios themselves, not the flashes.