Here's my problem: I have a portrait job coming up at the end of the month that ideally requires a lighting set-up with five flashes organised into four groups:
- Group-1: key-light
- Group-2: fill-light
- Group-3: hair-light †
- Group-4: background-lights ††
† The hair-light will only be needed for subjects who have very dark hair or for those wearing very dark jackets. The brief requires that the subject's outline must not be close to black.
†† There'll be two-flashes in the background group to ensure even background illumination.
The flash power will be set manually; I'll not be using E-TTL. And, ideally, I'd like operate everything from the camera position as I'll only have a limited time to take each shot. Speed of operation is therefore important. I'm shooting with Canon gear.
To date, I've never required more than three flash groups. So, I've been happy to use three Canon 430EX IIs along with PocketWizard transceivers. This has worked well for me. And, has proved very reliable (provided I remember to turn on all the equipment in the prescribed order!).
The PocketWizard system I have — three Flex TT5s controlled by a MiniTT1 with an AC3 attached — only allows for three flash groups. Canon's native optical-wireless system is similarly limited to three groups. So neither of these will work to fire a forth group.
As far as I can see, I have two options:
Option 1) Stick with my PocketWizard system with its three groups and create a "forth group" by adding a cheap optical-trigger to one of the single flashes closest to my working position. Then adjusting the power manually on the unit as needed. It's not ideal as I would have two things to adjust to change the lighting, but, I figure, it would probably work as the closest flash would only be a few steps away. Also, I'd need to buy an additional Flex TT5. Manually adjusting the power of a 430EX II is too fiddly to contemplate. But I've just bought a fourth flash: the newer 430EX III; and the new design allows manual power adjustments via a little wheel. So, making changes to that unit on-the-fly should be easy enough.
Option 2) Make the switch to Canon's radio (RT) system, which allows up to five groups. Obviously this is an expensive proposition. I can't afford 600EX RTs, and even buying a further four second-hand 430EX IIIs is more than I wish to spend. And, of course, I'd need a controller: the Canon ST-E3-RT (or clone). However, I could afford a further one 430EX III and a ST-E3-RT, along with three third-party triggers (such as the Yongnuo YNE3-RX) that, I understand, would allow my older 430EX IIs to behave as if they were part of the Canon RT system. Whilst a bit of kludge, it's a step towards having a fully updated RT system: I can swop out the 430EX IIs for RT flashes as my budget allows over the coming years. Also, I'm slightly nervous about reports of the newer 430EX III overheating, so I'd like to retain my older units until I'm sure this won't be an issue.
My question (after an excessively long preamble!) is: Are there any other options that I've overlooked for adding a forth flash group?
I'd prefer to stick with native Canon gear as much as possible as reliability is a concern. Often I'm required to work under time pressure so I want the most reliable set up I can afford. For this reason, I've discounted replacing everything with a third-party clone system from, say, Yongnuo, or other manufacturers. (Having said that, I have used Yongnuo triggers before and, apart from the very occasional misfire, they worked surprisingly well.)