I've debated for a while now on what solution I've wanted to do for "wireless flash triggering". I have always put off the cost of Pocket Wizards because the cost was always too steep and quite frankly, I never took a shot that I COULDN'T take with my sync cord. I seriously debated about the new Pocket Wizards, but my Strobist-style speedlight (that sees little use) is a 550EX and doesn't support E-TTL. To take full advantage of these, I'd need to really upgrade my flash and possible add additional speedlights as well as additional PWs. After my eyes glazed over at the dollar signs, I really took a hard look at the Radio Poppers JrX Studio units.
Why I chose Radio Poppers?
I mostly shoot with Alien Bees, and these little guys pop right into the data jack and provide remote power control. Bonus! Even better, future accessories promise this functionality will work with speedlights too (think manual mode power adjustment though, but I'm OK with that!) Throw in that the price of a set of Radio Poppers JrX Studios are less then cost of a single Pocket Wizard, I was sold.
Performance so far is great. Build quality doesn't feel QUITE as finished as the more expensive PWs, but it also doesn't feel cheap and flimsy either. Other cheaper units I had worked with had lots of misfires, but I have not had a single failed flash fire.
On a recent shoot (below and above) I gave them a shot out in the wild. A friend is having a retro space themed birthday party (after all, it is close to Halloween) and asked if I could take a picture of them in their costumes for a cake. I'm not sure they were quite aware what they were getting themselves into. I think they were thinking of just a photo with a good camera, all in focus and reasonably lit. In the day I had to think about it, the idea engine kicked in. When they showed up, I loaded them up in my car and took them to a house in our neighborhood under construction and with a large hill still being excavated. After telling them my plan, they got dressed up in costume and we hauled my Alien Bees (appropriately named for a space theme shoot) and battery up the hill. We setup the scene on top and I went down to the bottom of the ledge and directed from below.
The Radio Poppers performed flawlessly and at one point while chimping, I noticed my exposure was too hot. Instinctively, I headed up the hill, and then thought about how to direct the model up on top to adjust the light dial and then I remembered... I had control of my light output on top of my camera now. Very convenient and easy! I was really pleased with how simple it was and wondered how I had dealt with something as trivial as walking over to the light to adjust the output. Then it really hit me, it was always because I shot in a small space and the lights were pretty accessible. However, had I not bought the poppers, I'd never have been able to make this shot, at least not without heavy contingency planning. My sync cable would not have reached the location I was shooting from.
I'm looking forward to trying them with speedlights now and doing portable setups. It's amazing how a little gadget can juice up your creativity! Radio Poppers are “out of this world”.
Strobist Info for the above shots.
Two Alien Bees, one for the "bank" and one for the models. Each had a 7in reflector. (in the diagram below, the bricks are for the "edge" of the bank they were standing on. I was below them and about 20ft away.