Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Phottix Atlas (Update): Go For Launch!

Check out Post 1/3 (Introduction To Phottix Atlas)
Check out Post 2/3 (Product Showcase & Short Range Testing)
Check out Post 3/3 (Long Range Testing)

Firstly I need to thank a few of my inspirations....mainly on account of them opening my eyes to off camera flash techniques....
Joe McNally
The Strobist (aka David Hobby)
Zack 'One Light' Arias
Gulf Photo Plus (I am where I am because of you)!

I hope you all check out the links above.  Great source of inspiration, resources and instruction!

NOW...to move on....
As you know, I recently reviewed (part 1, part 2 & part 3) the Phottix Atlas & compared it to the PocketWizard Plus II.

In my second post, under 'CONS & QUIRKS', I mention:
"Random triggering of the speedlite (on its own) causing the flash to go off..."

Well, this was noted by the good folks at Phottix and informed me (shortly before the official launch) that this issue was rectified and the current product was shipping with this issue resolved.  I therefore purchased 4 units of the (new) Phottix Atlas.

The package arrived late June, 2010.

More....(pictures of the desert around Dubai if you want to see it)... POST JUMPUS .....
Excited by the fact that I had now a lot of wireless radio triggers, where, only last year, I had three, I quickly opened the boxes.  Here is a good point to remind my readers that I had purchased my first three without any packaging, as they were still in development phase!  In addition to the 4 triggers, I was also given some extra cables.

According to Pottix they are:
"3.5 mm to C8 shutter cable (that) has an on/off switch. When switched on it will keep the camera in a "half press" shutter with focus locked.  This will allow you to shoot faster if you're using an Atlas as a wireless remote.  On Canons you can leave the switch turned off - it needs to be one on many Nikon model" - Now since I didn't quite understand this...I did not try out this feature.  My Bad! I will communicate with Phottix to see what this is all about.

Checked with Phottix just prior to publishing this & this is what they came back with.
"The shutter button on Atlas units is a single-stage shutter - one press will focus and release the shutter (unlike a camera's two-stage shutter).

Our upgraded Atlas has WRS mode - Wireless Remote Sync. This allows the Atlas to be used a wireless shutter release and trigger remote flashes in sync. To accomplish this the 3.5 mm input/output port on the Atlas needed to be used. Hence, the new cables.  Previously we had used a 2.5 mm shutter release cable - with it's own dedicated port.

The cables have an on/off switch.  When switched on - the camera AF is locked (just like a half press of the camera's shutter button).  When the Atlas is used as a wireless remote, and the AF is locked via the cable, there is no AF lag when taking photos.  On Canon cameras this switch can be left turned off.  Many Nikon models will not operate with the Atlas as a wireless shutter release unless the shutter cable switch is set to on and the AF locked.

I tore through the boxes and did a quick setup of these triggers and gave it a whirl.  Worked flawlessly for me (and triggered 100% for me).  I was very happy.  Although I promised Phottix to review these new (updated) Atlas triggers, I got all too excited and started using them on ALL of my assignments.  To date....I have no problems on any of my jobs.  They functioned as specified.

I say "..on any of my jobs", because I did have an issue...when I did a field comparison test with the Plus II's.  Permit me to explain...

As I mentioned earlier, I promised Phottix to review the new triggers for the random triggering issue mentioned above.  This clearly was resolved, but I thought, why not RE-DO the long range field test that I had done in my third post....mainly because I didn't properly measure the distances when testing.

So, come the 1st of July, 2010, I actually went out and purchased one of those 'roll on the ground' distance measuring thingamajigs - I think this is the official name for it (preceeded by the words "Police Murder")!!

Next, I found a nice long stretch of open (& unused) road on the outskirts of Sharjah (adjacent to Dubai).  I scanned the location and chose to shoot it one afternoon after dropping my wife off at a nearby shopping mall!! (Please send donations to my paypal account!!!)

Since I had planned to do this (albeit later than I had promised Phottix as well as my readers), I had all my gear loaded into the car.  Now what I had not anticipated was the heat, since I was shooting in the middle of the desert (before the roads were built)...in the summer...at around midday!!!!  I can still feel the sizzle of my hair ringing in my ears.  Sweat dripped down my forehead as if someone was wringing a wet (not moist) towel over me.  Most of you folks hear, talk, wonder and envy us in Dubai - DURING THE WINTER, when it is absolutely wonderful here. Not so in July!

You may not be able to see it in this photo (ignore my warped features---it has nothing to do with the test)....
....mainly cuz this was taken the next day...as you will soon find out....

Anyways...I quickly set up the rig and prepared to shoot.  I started walking down the road to see where I would be shooting from/until and where I would need to place the flashes.  As I walked past the flashes on the tripod (& a camera I had set up on a tripod opposite to the flashes to record their triggering), they started going off.  Now, when I say 'they'....I mean both the Atlas & Plus II....ALONG with the remote camera.  I was NOT triggering them......

"Aha", I thought, "...a flaw!"

Just to make sure, I thought I'd switch off the Atlas that was mounted on my hand held camera and then swap it with a Plus II.....SAME THING.....they wouldn't stop firing.  WIERD!!

Anyways...since I was not doing too well in the comfort department, on account of the heat + I felt that I would not get proper results in this heat....I decided to pack up and {GASP!!!} join my wife at the mall where it was cooler.... A LOT COOLER!

SHEESH...the things I do to test my equipment.... (Again, please send donations to my paypal account!!!)

I put off doing this test till the next day...AND....wait for it....in the (much milder) evening time! Would I still have the same problem/s???

THE TEST.......

THE NEXT DAY (2nd July, 2010).....


So...having learnt my lesson...with strange burning sensations...I decided to go out the next day much later in the day.  I did my usual set up and did the test.  The only differences were the location, use of the measuring wheel thingy and I decided not to use the second camera (on a tripod) to record the flashes.

To make a long story short...everything went to plan!  NO random trigerring from either the Phottix Atlas or the Plus II.  So, I will chalk the above mentioned errors to "Wireless Radio Trigger Heat Exhaustion"!!!  Can't explain it.  I leave this open to Phottix & PocketWizard to explain.

The Atlas does have a range of 100 meters and does in fact have a slightly longer range than the Plus II.

Please stay tuned to this post as I will be adding pictures of my long range testing (with distances this time).  In the meanwhile, do sound off your comments. I will get to them as soon as I am able.

UPDATE (25th July, 2010):
OK...So here are the pictures....
Picture of the Atlas & Plus II. In the image (and all following images), the Phottix Atlas is on the left and the PocketWizard Plus II is on the right! Please keep this in mind when viewing the pictures.

Oh...and BTW, that image was (a little !) overexposed. I didn't do any post production to the images. I wanted them (almost) right out of camera. The 'almost' part is because I 'jpged' them while reducing size. No cropping was done either. Here are some more shout around the same time...

10.00 meters
20.00 meters
30.00 meters
40.00 meters
50.00 meters
60.00 meters
70.00 meters
80.00 meters
90.00 meters
100.00 meters
110.00 meters
120.00 meters
130.00 meters
Missing pictures because I had zoomed out to capture a plane coming in to land at the Sharjah International Airport. The images shot at 70mm (70-200). When I realized this, I zoomed back in to 200mm.
140 meters
150 meters

Wide Angle Shot From 150.00 Meters Away
Back At My Vehicle - Round Trip 300 Meters!


Check out Post 1/3 (Introduction To Phottix Atlas)
Check out Post 2/3 (Product Showcase & Short Range Testing)
Check out Post 3/3 (Long Range Testing)


  1. Interesting! Wonder what the variable was.

    And more important, you live in Dubai ALL YEAR? I thought all you guys were rich enough to have a summer home somewhere in the comfy part of the planet!


  2. Well....Mr. Hobby...some of us have to pretend to work for a living...so we can build castles in the sky!

    BTW - Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Hi Charles. Nice post.

    I am also looking at the Strato 4-in-1 with the TTL pass-through feature. It claims the same working distance as the Atlas but I doubt it is unlikely without the external antenna, but the TTL pass through feature sold me.

    Therefore I am thinking of ways to use this Atlas with a TTL flash still attached to the camera's hotshoe. My camera has a PC cord terminal as well. I've manage to get this working successfully with the cactus trigger attached to the PC terminal and a speedlight on the camera's hotshoe.

    Would you mind testing this for me using the Atlas? First try to use it as a trigger by attaching it on the camera's PC terminal (no speedlight on the hotshoe). If this works, then proceed to attach a speedlight on the hotshoe and see if both units still work.

  4. Hi,
    it is very usefully review.Phottix Atlas does support that adjust power of flash from remote trigger ? Like as pocket wizard Flex TT5 and AC3


  5. Hi Tolga,

    No, the Phottix Atlas is simply a 'dumb trigger' (like the PocketWizard Plus II) and not a 'smart trigger' like the ETTL/iTTL capable PocketWizard Flex & Mini.

    Hope that answers your question.


  6. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for the review! I trashed my whole set of PWs and am contemplating on these. On your distance tests, what did you use to trigger the flashes? Was it a PW or Atlas on your camera?


  7. Hi Diego,

    I triggered them with a Phottix Atlas. I had 2 receivers. One was a PocketWizard PlusII and the other was the Atlas.


  8. I see! Many thanks, I'll save up for these unless PW brings something new to the table.


  9. Hi again Charles,

    I'm thinking of using a Canon PW MiniTT1 as a trigger with Atlas as receivers. Would you know if:

    1. I can do Hypersync?
    2. I can do rear-curtain shooting?

    Also, how is shooting in burst mode with the Atlas? Can it keep up with a 5-7fps shooting?