Friday, 7 May 2010

Clash Of The Titans - Phottix Atlas vs PocketWizard Plus II (Product Showcase & Short Range Testing) - Part 2 of 3)

This is Part 2/3 of my review of the Phottix Atlas and it's comparison to the PocketWizard Plus II...

Check out Post 1/3 (Introduction To Phottix Atlas)
Check out Post 3/3 (Long Range Testing)
Check out Post On The Update (Random Triggering Fixed)

OK! So folks settle in for a product description (the best that I can come up with anyway) and a demo of the short range wireless triggering capabilities of this device. I compare it with the PocketWizard Plus II since it is the closest in comparison.

I think that this is a product that deserves it's day in the sun.


I had swapped out my not so good Tetra set for the (soon to be released) Phottix Atlas transceivers. Now, don't think I'm cutting down the Tetra's. It's just that I was so impressed with the Atlas, that all else faded by visual comparison (Plus II included !!). The Atlas seemed (not sure that it is) heavier. The first time I put this wireless trigger in my hand, it felt felt solid, and had a proper finish to it.
It didn't seem like the Tetra I had purchased earlier which had a cheap & 'plastic'y feel to it. Had I not known, I would have thought that the Atlas was designed and manufactured in the US. There was attention to detail and had a smoother design.

The Phottix Atlas (right) along with the PocketWizard MultiMax (left) & the Plus II (middle)
The Phottix Atlas (right) along with the PocketWizard MultiMax (left) & the Plus II (middle)

The Atlas has a very similar footprint to the PocketWizard Plus II & MultiMax. However, unlike the MultiMax it has no LCD screen. It shares/has the following features like the Plus II:
  • Can send & receive signals
  • Almost similar dimensions
  • 4-Channel changer
  • Standby/Trigger/Status light
  • Hot-Shoe mounting
  • On/Off power swtich
  • Flexible radio antenna
  • Strap/Lanyard eyelet
  • Strap/Lanyard
  • 2 AA battery compartment and cover
  • Test/Fire button
  • Trigger frequency is compatible with PocketWizard's MiniTT1, FlexTT5, MultiMax, Plus II (& probably the original/old PocketWizards) for both sending and receiving
  • 1/4-20 female thread mount on the back face
What is different in the Atlas?
  • The biggest one is the Hot-Shoe attached to the front face of the radio!!!..on which you can mount a standard flash
  • The bottom hot-shoe (with which you can mount on the camera) is made of solid metal with 4 screws to secure it in place (& it seems to be very very slightly thicker - which I think is good)
  • The screw lock for the bottom hot-shoe mount is larger in diameter and seems to be smoother to operate. I actually felt that it held to the camera more securely than the PocketWizards
  • It has only 1 standby/trigger/status light (as opposed to PocketWizard's 2) on the front face of the device
  • It does not have the Plus II's 'Transmit Mode' set of switches (Local/Both/Remote)
  • The buttons & switches are all off-white with the square trigger/test button being smoother to the touch
  • The lanyard/strap eyelet is inset into the body as opposed to PocketWizard's jutting out a little
  • The 1/4-20 thread mount is inset into the frame of the device which also seems to be thicker (external) diameter and is placed above the battery compartment
  • The battery compartment slides open to the right and accomodates 2 AA batteries
  • There is a 5V DC connector which I presume is for connecting an external power source
  • On the top you have 2 3.5mm (1/8”) mono miniphone jacks and one smaller (diameter) jack that is dedicated to remote camera triggering (cable sold separately)
  • Currently the Atlas is only compatible with the CE (European) models with the American (FCC) radios coming out in about 2 months
I do not have the detailed tech specs on this as Phottix is still preparing and finalizing the product for market. I suppose, it will be publicly available when they do.

  • The strap/lanyard is very hard to thread through the eyelet & I eventually resorted to using my Swiss Army Knife plastic toothpick (which has a little hook at the end of it) to get it done
  • What is this little rectangle thingy just beside the On/Off (Power) switch? Is it a cover or an infrared window? Can't really make it out. What is it's significance?
  • Random triggering of the speedlite (on its own) causing the flash to go off (I explain below)
I do need to mention something strange I noticed, just as I started writing part 1 of this review. After taking the photos, I started working on my computer and had left both the speedlites on along with the radios. Every minute (or somewhere thereabouts), the Atlas caused the flash to trigger. I didn't check the consistency of this triggering in terms of times. But I did swap the Atlas out with another piece and it did the same thing. Then I swapped it out with Plus II and the self firing stopped. Now that I mention this I recall that while I was moving the two speedlites from the first position to the second, it did self trigger a couple of times. I had dismissed it as being accidentally triggered by me. Maybe it was this glitch that I mentioned above.

Since I had set my power on both speedlites to 1/64, it wasn't a big deal. But I think that if this is the case, and on assignment I am using higher power settings, this would mean a loss of battery power while I'm not shooting!!!

Hmmm....Steve Peer (CEO of Phottix), Do you have an answer for this issue?


I use Canon equipment with the exception of 1 Nikon SB800 flash. So, all of my testing has been done on Canon. I cannot verify or comment on the functionality and/or compatibility with other brands of cameras or flashes/strobes. But I think that they should be no different in terms of usage.

What I did for the test was to mount 2 Canon 430 EX speedlites on the manfrotto nano stands with standard screw-in hot-shoe mounts and regular pc-sync cables. On one stand I used the PocketWizard Plus II radio, while the other was attached to the Phottix Atlas. Both were powered by a freshly charged set of NiMH rechargeable batteries. Two were placed in the Atlas and the other two in the Plus II. I then started taking images of the 2 speedlites in about 3 meter intervals. I went all the way to about 17 or 18 meters. They both fired consistently for the first set of tests. I used the Phottix Atlas mounted on the hot-shoe my Canon 5D to trigger the remotes. I do need to mention that the lens I was using has started giving me aperture locks (Err 1) errors and therefore the numbers are not sequential.

This first set included me shooting from the outside (looking in on the living room) through a glass window.

The second set, I went the opposite. Starting from the outside, I ended up shooting from the inside of my office also through a glass window, somewhat obstructed by a light curtain. Here is where things got surprising for me. I was getting the Atlas to fire but not the PocketWizard!!! I thought maybe it was the Atlas trigger on my camera. So I took another PocketWizard and fired it hand held. While the Atlas consistently fired, the Plus II was intermittent in its response. Wow!

So, is this all I have to say? Well, no. I plan on taking the radios out to do a long-range field test sometime over this coming week and will try to give you a report on that as soon as possible.

Based on what i have seen, I feel that the Phottix Atlas, so far has been at least at par with the PocketWizard Plus II. I think the Atlas is definitely a contender. Zues, the reigning Olympian deity is going to be looking over his shoulder!!

Stay Tuned for the conclusion (part 3) of this mighty Clash Of The Titans!

Check out Post 1/3 (Introduction To Phottix Atlas)
Check out Post 3/3 (Long Range Testing)
Check out Post On The Update (Random Triggering Fixed)


  1. Wow, great article, these are really going to give ole pocket wizard a hard time! And it's about time really, those things are stupid over priced... I am looking forward to Atlas here in the US. What will the price be? For the 3rd post can you try the atlas mounted to the camera and a flash in the atlas hotshoe? This seems awesome and yet crazy to me. I'd like to see how its pulled off. Can you only use the attached strobe as a bounce? Anyway, cool!

  2. WOW this is great

    Thanks for your review

    waiting for availability and pricing

  3. you maybe know when will they be available? Because I really want some :D PW are just to expensive for playing around... :S

  4. Hi All!

    Thanks for visiting this review and posting your comments.

    I am not sure of the release date (both globally & in the US - US version) and the suggested retail price. However, I can say that I purchased 3 Atlas (European version) triggers for around the same (little bit more) price as a Plus II PocketWizard!

    If I remember right, I remember being told that they were expecting to launch the Atlas around July 2010...but please do not quote me on that as I have a bad memory.

    I have been using the Atlases as my primary radio triggers for all of my recent jobs and have not had any issues with them.

    I hope to post the last article on the range pretty soon....just have been extremely busy with work and a little sprinkle of lazyness.


  5. thanks so much for putting in the time to do all this. i'm excited about this one. i'm curious, did the intermittent firing of the flashes continue while you were on location shooting? hopefully its something that will be fixed by the release. i have tt1 and tt5's. on a job tonight my flash was self triggering with one of the receivers as well. so pocket wizzards aren't immune to it either.

  6. Great review, thank you. Did you say you were shooting with the 5D or the 5d Mk II? I know that some of the "ebay triggers" caused banding on the top of some exposures due to RF interference. Have you noticed this at all with the Atlas?

  7. @moonie - Yes they did have the intermittent firing..but as I mention in part3, I have been notified by Phottix that this has been sorted out

    @McCarthyink - I used the 5D Mk I as the primary camera & the 1D Mk IIn was on the tripod to capture. I didn't notice any banding. The images on post 3 are direct from camera

  8. Great review! Thank you.
    Man, 3 for around the price of one Plus II with a metal foot and hotshoe...suh-weet!

    I'll be keeping an eyeball out for those!

  9. Charles,

    Thanks for your review, I am expecting this product and was checking their website and realized that the "little rectangle thingy" on your pre-production model is a cover for a new switch: "Fire All Channels ON/OFF".

    Best Regards.

  10. Nice review!

    I have one question, and it is probably already answered but I just want to be sure about this… By compatible with pocketwizard, does that mean that E-TTL II is fully functional? Or is this just a “dumb” radiotrigger with very good reach?

  11. Mårten

    The Atlas is a "dumb" trigger, ie has no TTL functionality that is just like the PocketWizard PlusII. The Atlas will fire any PocketWizard wireless radio that is capable of receiving. The reverse is true as well.


  12. Hi Charles,
    Could I ask whats the max sync speed with the Phottix Atlas + 5Dmk2 ?

  13. @Paul,

    The Canon 5D & the 5D MKII both have a maximum sync speed of 1/250th of a second. Both the PocketWizard & Phottix wireless triggers will sync at these speeds.

    It is a limitation of the camera and not of the radio triggers.

  14. Enjoyed reading your article. Perhaps you have an earlier version. I just got my Phottix Atlas and on the side where the On/off switch is, there is another switch marked "WRS MODE -". According to the manual, its Wireless Remote Sync, which when turned on enables you to use one of the Atlas as a wireless remote trigger for the shutter as well as flash.

  15. Quote: "What is this little rectangle thingy just beside the On/Off (Power) switch? Is it a cover or an infrared window? Can't really make it out. What is it's significance?"

    Yesterday I got my Atlas and on that place there is a WRS mode switch.

    WRS mode works using two channels - one channel for the wireless remote and the on-camera Atlas, another channel for remote flashes or strobes.