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Sony A99 wireless strobe solution

You probably already know I’m now shooting with the Sony Alpha 99.
When adding a new system to your workflow (or a new tool to your toolbox, whatever you want to call it) there are always things that don’t work, or don’t work as you would want to, and this time it’s no different. It started with the option to shoot tethered. This was quickly solved by the great guys from DNA software (www.dslrsoftware.com). They make a great little plugin for Lightroom and it works flawless, so make sure to check them out. So for studio work and location work we are now in working order…. but….. there still is that problem of small flash.

 

Small flash, believe it or not, is a vital part of my “toolbox” for example, when traveling abroad (plane) it makes no sense to drop a Quadra in my luggage with 2 heads, it’s much easier to just bring two strobes with a trigger and some flash benders, you can make amazing shots with just these tools (see my recent desert images which were shot with just 2 strobes and the flashbenders). But we need something to trigger those strobes…..

With Canon and Nikon we have their own solutions and of course the PocketWizard TT series (which I love). Canon recently released their radio trigger system that in my opinion absolutely rocks. I loved the TT1 and TT5 but when I got their RT system I must admit I never touched my beloved PocketWizards again :D. So going from the RT system to the Sony system was a bit of a “shock” you can of course buy the Sony strobes and use one on camera and one as main strobe but with the pricing of the strobes I find it really difficult to swallow the price for using the on camera strobe just as a trigger. So I started my search for something else….. thanks to G+ I came in contact with a company called Phottix, today a blog post about their product and what it can do for you (because they also deliver the same system for Canon and Nikon) and trust me… this you really want to check out.

Let me first start by giving you some information about Phottix.

 

About Phottix
It started with Team Phottix’s passion for photography. Their journey so far has been rewarding: Finding practical solutions to the needs and challenges faced by photographers in their never-ending pursuit of an excellent shot. Phottix is a cutting-edge international company specializing in photography accessories. Commitment and innovation best describe Phottix: Commitment to developing original and innovative photography equipment and accessories for photographers world-wide. Due to this commitment Phottix products are well received by retailers and photographers. From the industry-lauded Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger, to the Strato II Multi trigger and full line of studio equipment, Phottix is at the forefront of the industry.

 

Phottix is comprised of an international team, and has opened offices in Germany, Poland and Hong Kong. The professionals of Phottix are engaged in research and development, marketing, distribution, and technical support.

Ok so now you know something about the company but I guess you also want to know a bit about the product right ?
Well some people might already know it from the Canon and Nikon versions, but let’s introduce the Odin system for people who don’t. When you’re familiar with the radio trigger systems from for example pocket wizard it’s not a real new thing for you but when you’re not…. the nice thing about systems like this is that it does not only trigger the strobes, you can even do that with skyports or other brands that offer a cable release, just add a hotshoe and you’re done but you’re stuck in manual mode, with systems like the pocket wizard and Odin you are not stuck in Manual… they transfer the TTL signal through the radio system and this is awesome, it makes setups that need to go fast go really fast. No more line of sight (because it’s radio) and you don’t need to set the strobes manual, you can of course if you want to, it will do everything automatically via TTL.


My setup is most of the time that I shoot in full manual mode on the camera and let the strobes do the TTL, this way you can choose a high shutter speed to cut the ambient light and the strobe will fill in the model/subject with the proper exposure… but you need HSS (high speed sync) for that, and some radio systems are limited to around 1/200 so no HSS, well also here the Odin works. In other words you will get the same performance and tools as you have with the strobe on camera, but now it’s off camera.

 

As you can already see in the images it does not stop there.
With the Pocketwizard TT series you are transmitting the signal only, so you cannot change output from the TT1, you can set the output in groups with the addition of the AC3 but it’s still a bit different than with what you can do on the strobes itself. The Canon RT system does this much better by offering you essentially all the settings of the strobes on the unit you place on the camera, but…. sadly enough it’s only for Canon. That’s why I’m so excited to see that the Odin system does the same thing, because let’s be honest when you’re used to something it’s very hard to go back. It’s the same as with the A99, I’m a very happy Canon user but the image quality, Focus performance and the WYSIWYG EVF of the A99 is just to good to let go after a test period. So without wasting too much of your time let’s run you through the specs of the Odin system.

Phottix Odin TTL Trigger for Sony Product Overview
(http://www.phottix.com/en/studio-accessories/phottix-odin-ttl-flash-trigger-for-sony.html)

 

The Phottix Odin™ TTL Trigger consists of an on-camera transmitter and control unit (TCU) and receiver units for compatible hot shoe flashes.
The Odin offers photographers four wireless channels and three flash control group designations. Flashes can be controlled in TTL or manual mode, or A:B ratio mode with EV +/- adjustments of three stops. What makes the Phottix Odin unique is the ability to designate groups in TTL/Mixed mode. Individual groups, A, B, C, can also be controlled in TTL mode with EV +/- adjustments. Groups can also be set to Manual mode, adjusting power levels remotely in 1/3 stop increments, or turned off.

 

Functions

·       Wireless 2.4GHz. TTL and Manual Flash Triggering
·       Remote power control of groups in TTL with +/- EV adjustments (3 stops in 1/3 stop increments  – 18 different levels.)
·       Remote manual mode flash power control with 1/3 stop adjustments
·       Remote flash head zoom adjustments – auto or manual
·       Mix TTL and Manual flash – fire some groups in TTL, others as manual
·       Remote power control in A:B ratio modes with +/- EV adjustments
·       High speed sync – shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec.
·       Second curtain sync functions
·       Compatible with Phottix Strato 4-in-1 and Phottix Strato II Multi 5-in-1 Wireless Triggers
·       Upgradeable firmware via built-in USB port.

 

 

So it all sounds interesting right ?
Well to be honest I can’t wait to testdrive this system, at the moment Phottix is finalizing the system for the Sony system and I hope to receive a set in the coming weeks, when I do I will keep you updated of course. If you are using Canon or Nikon you can of course already use their system, so surf to their site at http://www.phottixstore.com and check them out.

 

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  • Dmitry

    Phottix was not the first company with such solution. The Pixel has a solution for Sony SLT and DSLR but it has huge problems with A99. Since Phottix use A77 for for it’s images they may have the same problems with A99 as Pixels triggers.

    • Let’s hope they solve it. Pixel was a company I also saw and mailed but they did not respond to my mail and Phottix did within a few hours.

  • I have used the Phottix for almost a year. I dont understand why it has not gotten a better response from the bloggers like Frank or Strobist.
    Phottix rocks!! TTL, highspeed sync and full manual control were you can adjust the speedlights in 1/3 increments from the master control on camera. It never miss fires. Its so much better and cheaper than the pocket wizard in my opinion.

    • Very simple for me, I did not know (you can’t know everything) but now that I do I will feature them in an upcoming review.

  • Tod Colbert

    Is it possible to trigger the Sekonic L758 with ths system like you can with the PW TT?

  • Joekodak

    I have been using the Canon/Phottix Odin combination for almost a year. The Odin’s are extremely reliable and they are very easy to operate. I have no complaints.

  • I couldn’t get the A99 to work tethered with the DNA plugin. The problem turned out to be that I have the A99V version (with GPS) and the plugin had some difficulties with that. Not only did I get great support from DNA, but they also improved the plugin so that it could be active simultaneously with the old A900 plugin. I can now easily switch camera’s, kudo’s!

  • A question about the A99. I find that I can’t set (as I do with my A900) the shutter time to 1/250 (ISO 50). I need to go down to 1/160 or I will get black shutter bars in the photo. I use Elinchrom BXRI strobes in “speed” mode. Am I missing something?

  • Tim

    Great so i take it this system will work on the A700 also, even with using the hotshoe convertion

  • Anton

    I guess you still have a number of Canon speedlites. Coulld you trigger those from your Sony camera using the transmiter for Sony and receivers for Canon?

  • Raz

    Hi Frank,
    a little off topic here…does your CZ 24-70 have a slight wobble in the front element? If you shake the lens slightly, do you feel it moving? I found a used one in EX condition, seller insists this is normal for CZ, however I don’t have this problem with my other Sony lenses.
    Also, very interesting article about the Phottix system, I need one for my A99 as well, please keep us posted how it works. Thanks!

    • If you mean a little bit of movement yes that’s normal on most/all zooms. But nothing “weird”.

      • Raz

        yes, there is some free play, probably 1mm, maybe less. If I shake the lens slightly I can feel that part moving, which is why I am worried. My 70400G and 1650 do not feel this way. Thanks!

        • shandie

          i think it’s the common problem with 2470. i felt it too. but not to be concern of – (i hope – cross my fnger)

        • The same here, it’s normal.

  • Wayne

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for all your post. The information you provide is most valuable. I am now using the a99, but find I cannot use the X-sync port above 1/200s, even when wired directly to my flash, without getting black bars at the top of my image. The camera is rated at 1/250s, am I missing something? What is your experience?

    Thanks,

    • Hi,
      Every camera has the 1/125 and sometimes slightly higher limitation with studio strobes, the 1/200-1/250 is for their own strobes (system strobes) before HSS kicks in.

      • I experience the same black bars at 1/250. I did not have that limitation on the A900, though…

        • Weird, up until now I only know of a very old Canon digital body and one Nikon that can actually sync above 1/200 without black bars.

          It’s a simple matter of the shutter curtain and not something that can be fixed. With cable it’s often a bit faster than with radios but overall the limit is 1/125 to 1/160 but anyway it doesn’t really matter in the studio because you could even use 1/50 and it would still be perfect. Only outside it counts and the difference between 1/160 or 1/250 will not make a big difference.

          • I do not totally agree with you. Yes, normally 1/125 is enough, but with fast movement (like twirling skirts), 1/250 freezes the action better, especially if there is some ambient light spill in the studio. Jan Peter Mulder sent me the solution on Facebook. Apparently this is a known problem for Sony and they are said to be working on it. The problem seems to be in the new hot shoe. If you use the complimentary converter for older accessoires and an X-contact to Sony converter on top of that (sells at €15,- and users of older Sony camera’s will allready have it), everything works fine. It’s a bit of a christmas tree on your camera though…

            Just to be complete, you need the ‘speed’ edition of the Skyport triggers and both the triggers and flashers need to be in ‘speed’ mode (don’t know the key-combinations by heart, sorry).

            Just think about it, if shutter speed isn’t that important, why would Elinchrom release a ‘speed’ edition in the first place? And why are there very high end flashers that go up to 1/6000?

            Just my two cents worth…

          • Hi,
            The first thing we have to make clear is what is freezing action ?
            With 1/250 you will never freeze action, it’s way too slow, the only thing you will do is cut one stop more of the ambient light in the studio from 1/125.

            Now if a studio has ambient light at ISO100 1/125 on F11 it’s a pretty light studio I think, when we shoot here on f5.6 the frame is 100% black as it should be in a normal studio.

            The freezing is done with the speed duration, meaning you will need quick strobes, for example A heads with the Elinchrom system.

            The skyport speed is indeed released for cameras that can sync higher, according to their website from 1/125 (old) to 1/320 (speed) however I use them up to 1/4000 on the X10 it’s more that they changed the timings in the units to make sure that they are not too “slow” for the speedier cameras like MF.

            To complete the story, I’ve done jump shots on 1 second just to show people that shutter speed it 100% not important in a dark studio (make sure the modelling lights go out after the shot because on 1 sec they WILL register 😀

            There is a lot of confusion on this topic, but just test it for yourself, remove your trigger and shoot on 1/125 and 1/250 and you will see that both (I hope) will give you a dark frame, if NOT than in your case it will indeed matter because the 1/250 will cut one more stop of ambient.

          • Hi Frank,

            Thanks for the reply, I’ll wrap my brain around this… I like your tip on the modelling lights at 1s. I never thought of that… And yes, my small homestudio, a.k.a. my office, is probably too light. A white reflective bookcase doesn’t help… Shooting silhouettes is allways a challenge.

            Maybe that’s why I think my pictures are sharper at 1/250.

            But anyway, since you can expect all kinds of A99 questions, it is probably good for you to know that SHOULD you need speed mode (for better reasons than mine), it will work when you use two converters.

            Best,
            Peter

          • Thanks.
            Also a good tip for people that are not able to use HSS on the Sony strobes…. make sure the head is not tilted (don’t ask me why because I think it’s weird) but HSS only works with a “level” strobe.

  • shandie

    hi frank, nice to read your post. currently i am using pixel king for strobist and recently upgraded my a900 to a99. i have to ask, with the change of hotshoe in a99 (now they use universal shoe), would it be okay to use phottix odin (for can/nik) right away on my a99 and hvl 60 or should we wait for the sony version and use it with a shoe adapter??
    then my next question, should i ditch pixel king?
    thx

    • I think you need the Sony version because it also “talks” to the strobes.

      At the moment I’m still waiting for a version to test, so I can’t say much at the moment.

  • David Liang

    While discussing this issue on another forum I did find a semi-solution to the sync issue. I had 2 different pairs of wireless triggers that both only synced to 1/200th and had bars at 1/250th.
    What I’ve been noticing is the Sony’s flashes like the HVL-F58AM when used with the adapter on the a99, can sync perfectly at 1/250.

    So what I did was bounce the flash head behind me in studio, and it was able to trigger my studio strobes with the optical slave at 1/250th.

    It’s far from a perfect solution as the flash from the Sony F58AM does get in the shot some what, but I am a bit relieved I can get to 1/250th now in a way.

    • Ok and whats the added benefit to shoot at 1/250 instead of 1/125 or 1/200 in the studio ?

      Unless you have a lot of ambient it doesn’t matter. Freezing of motion is done by flash duration of the studio strobes not by shutter speed.

  • Robert

    Hi Frank,

    do you have the same delay as discussed here? This would be a reason not to buy the odin at this moment.

    Weird delay in wireless flash with ttl.

    Groeten,

    Robert

    • Well not noticable, but I’ll have to check.
      Anyway I mostly shoot people so a small delay is not a problem, but seeing that video it looks like he’s shooting on second curtain with a slow shutterspeed, but it could be me.

      As far as I experience it, the Odin system with the Sony strobe is not slow.

      • Sorry missed this one.
        There is a very SLIGHT delay with the Odins but not like you see on the video, I would say it’s a fraction of a second.

        I will upload a few videos with the small flash soon so you can check.

  • Arend

    Frank:
    Any news on the Phottix Onin for the new Sony flash shoe?
    Arend

    • not yet, but it works flawless with the convertor

      • Arend

        Dank je wel!

  • dany SIMON

    Hi Franck, I love what you do, and ai want to thanks you for the sharing stuff. I’m living in Paris France and am a second photographer mainly for wedding, I have an a900 and A HVL-F58AM . I was looking for a wireless TTL solution for Sony, and this seems a great solution. Where did you bought the Photix Odin for Sony ? I did not find any french distributor … Do you know someone using it in France ?

    • I got it straight from Phottix. Mail them and maybe they can point you towards the right dealer ?

      I know the flash centre in the UK sell them.

  • IM

    This is all very nice but the pictures are not of an A99. For the A99 and the new flash for this camera, the new Multi-interface shoe is used. It looks like a regular shoe but has additional contacts hidden away at the front. To use Phottix for Sony you need an adapter to fit the Phottix Sony transmitter to the A99 camera shoe, and you need an adapter to fit the new flash to the Phottix Sony receiver. The camera shoe adapter is included in the box when you buy the A99h the body and can also be purchased seperately. The flash shoe adapter comes in the box with the new flash and can also be purchased seperately. It all works but it is like building Lego.

    • Correct you need the convertors, not my idea of perfect but it does work.

  • Antoine Violleau

    Hi Franck. Very interesting article. Could you tell me what kind of strobes or flash do you use? I already have a Sony RX1 and intend to buy an A7 (I don’t know which one yet) for wedding pictures or portraits of company executives. What flash and lens would you advise me? Thanks a lot for you help.

    • Lens depends on what you want to shoot, I always say get a 24-200 range, so often the 24-70 and 70-200.
      Flashes, everything from Sony/Minolta should work.

  • RVN

    hi frank, can you use this phottix odin with elincrom ranger quadra on sony camera (a99/A7/r) to get high sync speed until 1/8000? i really want to know because i consider to buy elinchrome ranger quadra for my strobt sony A7 but don’t know the best radio trigger, because some people had said pocket wizzard TTL 5 and mini TT1 had a very limited max sync speed when it use with sony camera a7/r, RX1 or a99. really need help from you >.< many thanks frank 😀

    • Hi,
      1/8000 with Rangers is almost impossible unless you have S heads and I believe even then it only works with one or two cameras, also the need to have 1/8000 is totally irrelevant, the flash duration of the strobe is 1/3000-1/3500 on average meaning everything over that will cut the power immensely, plus there is a raise of the strobe which also is cut so you might be lucky to end up with maybe a fraction of the power IF you would pull it off, the only camera that can sync higher is a real mirror less or a camera with leaf shutter lenses. And even then the max flash duration is the limitation of the power you will get.

      If you want to fight the sun it’s often better to use for example ND filters in combination with powerful strobes or modifiers like for example the maxi light.

  • RVN

    sorry, i mean is hypersync from the combination elinchrom ranger quadra and pocket wizzard flex TTL5/mini TT1..

  • Nina Rosa

    Hi Franck,

    Can I use the
    Phottix SY10M-S Atlas ll Twin Pack Wireless Trigger with my camera sony99 and with strobe lights?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ninarosah/

  • Christopher Lott

    Frank, do you happen to know if these units will work with my new Panasonic FZ1000? I love it with it’s 4K video, RAW capability and built in 400 mm zoom.

    • If they have a panasonic version it should work, if not… I’m afraid not, sorry