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I want to add wireless control to my current flash system. I have a Yongnuo 560 (that I'm okay with not using) and a Canon 580exII that I'd really like to keep in the system. I've been using Cactus v5s for triggers for the last few years and I love them. I want to upgrade so I can change settings remotely. Is there a transmitter / receiver / transceiver setup available that will work with the 580exII?

I know I can buy a new system of Yongnuo flashes, new Canon flashes, or (maybe) Pocket Wizard triggers, but I don't want a flash I paid $600 for to sit on the shelf. I would also like to avoid spending any more than a few hundred dollars if it's possible (Pocket Wizards are crazy expensive compared to other very reliable trigger systems).

A bit of a background: I shoot weddings—about a dozen a year‐and being able to adjust settings remotely is becoming more and more important all the time. I just don't have the time to run back and forth to flashes to manually adjust them between test shots. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I would be very appreciative!

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There are a large number of options available to you all over the price/reliability spectrum. You basically just want TTL-capable triggers for Canon. The difference between using them and using manual-only triggers like the V5s, is that you may be limited on what lights or other triggers play nice together, and integrating studio strobes might be more of a pain.

There are triggering options from Yongnuo, Phottix, Pixel, Godox, RadioPopper, and PocketWizard, to name just a few, but you're very much NOT limited to only PocketWizard choices, and in the case of the 580EXII, you're probably better off not using PocketWizard, given the radio interference issues Canon 580EX and 580EXII shooters have had with them. All the other RF TTL triggers out there operate on 2.4GHz, though, and don't exhibit this problem.

Yongnuo

As a cheap hobbyist and 580EXII owner, my solution was to go for the YN-568EX, Yongnuo 622 transceivers, and a dedicated transmitter (YN-622-TX), and I recently added a YN-685 (built-in receiver) to my setup. But, while inexpensive, the drawbacks of this are that all my RF-602 triggers don't play well unless I stack a transmitter on a 622, so a 560III/IV wouldn't integrate well, and the MkI 430EX and 580EX I have can only be controlled via ratios. You also pretty much need a camera that's Digic 4 or later (has the flash control menus). Yongnuo is frustrating in that they have three separate triggering systems (603, 622, and RT) none of which plays with the others.

As you know, you also could get YN-560III/IV or (when it comes out) the YN-660, and use a YN-560-TX to remote power control them. Selling the 580EXII could get you multiple cheapie Yongnuos, but reliability/build quality may become an issue, especially under hard pro use.

Canon's RT system

There is also Canon's own RT system. The 600EX-RT not only has a number of third-party clones popping up, but also 3rd party triggers to integrate other lights (including a 580EXII) into the RT system. But, of course, without an RT unit to begin with, you can't take advantage of having triggers built in, and remote-controlling the power on studio strobes is not possible.

RadioPopper

Phottix and RadioPopper are at the higher end of the price scale for triggers, but they both make manual triggers that interoperate with their TTL ones. For expansion over time, or to have a lower-priced simpler trigger for non-TTL flashes, and for reliability, this can be more useful. In addition, RadioPopper now has modules for older Sekonic meters, as well as the Paul Buff Einstein, so if you think you'll expand to studio strobes and would like to remotely control the power level on one, that's one way.

Phottix

Phottix, otoh, has gone a different route and built a TTL studio strobe with a built-in Odin receiver, as well as their own Mitros+ TTL flashes with built-in RF receivers. And LumoPro now builds an all-manual but remote-power controllable LP180R--with a built-in Odin receiver. So, other ways to expand your system.

Godox

Godox's lights are now both manual-only with power control and TTL with appropriate triggers, but they're mostly interesting in that they offer bare-bulb flashes (Wistro AD line)--think of it as sort of halfway between a speedlight and a studio strobe. The head unit is only a bit bulkier than a speedlight (external battery pack required), but it's much more powerful than a speedlight, and because it's bare bulb, the character of the light (and the modifiers you can use) are more like a studio strobe.

Godox also uses Lithium battery packs in their barebulb flashes and speedlights, which makes battery management hecka easier than a huge pile of AAs, and better recycle times.

Considerations

As a pro, you want to consider not just what you need now, but what kind of upgrade path you may eventually want, because the triggering system you purchase can determine a lot of other choices down the line.

A really good website to research all the options that are out there, and to keep up with the high-speed churn of new products arriving on the scene, is the Flash Havoc blog. Their (not 100% up-to-date) guide on TTL triggers is here: http://flashhavoc.com/flash-trigger-guide-ttl/

  • Wow. Thank you inkista. I didn't expect such a thorough reply, especially not so quickly! – Hurst Gannon Jan 22 '16 at 17:56
  • @HurstGannon You're welcome! I type 100 wpm and I'm a professional techwriter. Don't try this at home! :D Also, consider accepting the answer. You may want to wait and see what others have to say first, though. – inkista Jan 22 '16 at 18:21
  • You could also get a few Canon 420EX or 430EX used flashes, and use your 580EXII to control them via the 580EX support as master controller in Canon's IR/preflash control system. Or get an ST-E2 used, and control your 580EX. 430EX or ST-E2 can be found used for less than $100. – cmason Jan 22 '16 at 18:41
  • Like @inkista, I also have the same 622 setup. I have a Canon 420, 430 and 580 along with a YN 568 and I find it all works great together. It is a very capable speedlight based system. – Robin Jan 22 '16 at 19:17
  • @cmason, just my opinion, but if someone's already moved to radio triggers, they're unlikely to want to use optical for reliability/line of sight issues. And the ST-E2 only controls by ratios (not manual power levels) which can be a serious PITA--it's 550EX-era gear, and costs more than a pair of YN-622x, which allow for manual power, groups control, mixed group modes, group C, zoom control, tail sync, 2nd-curtain sync, and custom settings adjustments all over radio [along with eTTL and HSS]. – inkista Jan 22 '16 at 19:17
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For anyone who reads this, wondering what solution worked for me, I can answer it with two words: Cactus v6.

I mentioned that I have a few (4) Cactus v5 transceivers as well as a 580ex II and a Yongnuo 560. I didn't know this when I posted, but Cactus now makes a v6 transceiver that is 100% backwards compatible with the v5.

How do they work? The v5 is a trigger, nothing more, nothing less. It works on up to 15 channels plus 1 master (16 total). I shoot about 15 weddings a year and the v5s always work. They're simple. And they work. I really can't complain.

The v6 is a pretty similar device, but it works with TTL flashes. It doesn't actually do wireless TTL from the camera, but it works by using the flash's TTL capabilities. In other words, the v6 will allow me to manually adjust flash settings from the transmitting unit and the receiving unit feeds those settings to the flash using TTL to communicate. It's really a brilliant system.

Because the v6 is backwards compatible, I can still manually set the Yongnuo, put it on the hotshoe of a v5, and use it the same way I have been all along (prior to the new transceivers). Furthermore, once I set the power using my v6, I can keep a v5 on my second body and one with my second shooter and both of those cameras will also trigger the wireless strobes. It's awesome.

I shot a wedding a few weeks ago using one v6 on camera, one on the 580exII, and manual setups for the other bodies and speedlight. It worked. Period. I didn't have any misfire issues and I was able to manually adjust the 580 from the other side of the room. It was exactly what I wanted.

The next step is a Cactus RF60 - a flash with a built in radio receiver to replace the Yonguo - it will work with the system I have (allowing manual remote adjustments) without having to buy an additional transceiver.

If you were starting with a completely new system, the Yonguo 685 is probably a great way to go - it's a big company and speedlights, triggers, reviews, etc. are all readily available. But where I started with Cactus radio triggers, keeping with gear I already own only makes sense. Also, for me, having only one transceiver control light output is probably wise - multiple inputs could really mess things up!

  • I have now spent two years using this setup, including an additional Cactus RF60 flash. I had one of the V6 transceivers break and (after a bit of hassle), Cactus replaced it under warranty - I had a new one in around two weeks. Other than that, I have nothing but good things to say about the Cactus setup. It's reliable, it's simple, it works remotely, and.. IT WORKS. If I buy more lights, I will likely purchase another RF60 - it seems to work just as well as the 580ex ii, it is a fraction of the price, and it works without any additional gear. – Hurst Gannon May 31 '18 at 15:51

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