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LPA Design announces PocketWizard Plus III transceiver  
Monday, February 20, 2012 | by Rob Galbraith
LPA Design has announced the PocketWizard Plus III, a feature-rich update of its most basic wireless radio transceiver that melds the 32 Standard channels and Quad-Zone triggering of the PocketWizard MultiMAX, as well as several key MultiMAX staples such as its Long Range and Repeater modes, with new two-stage remote camera triggering that enables the transmitter unit's test button to simulate both the half-press and the full-press of the remote camera's shutter button, continuous operation at up to 14.5fps and a sleek body design and interface that incorporates a new multi-button keypad and illuminated LCD.

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Curvy: Views of the PocketWizard Plus III. Click photos to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

PocketWizard Plus III

Features of the new PocketWizard include:

Improved industrial design Hold it in your hand and you'll immediately notice that the Plus III has the best build quality of any PocketWizard radio to date. Seams are tight, the coverings look like they're a better grade of plastic than previous models, the buttons work well and the battery door opens and closes easily. Only the LCD has a slightly home-grown feel to it, though the on-screen lettering is crisp and the orangey backlighting keeps the screen readable in the dark.

The first time you slide the Plus III into the hot shoe, you'll notice something else that's new: it has been made to ride sideways in the shoe, relative to the Plus II. This puts the interface facing to your left as you operate the camera. This was a deliberate design change meant to reduce the profile of the unit from the photographer's viewpoint, so that the view forward would be less obstructed.

32 Standard channels and Quad-Zone triggering The PocketWizard Plus III offers 32 channels, corresponding to channels 1-32 found in the MultiMAX. Channels 1-4 are compatible with the Plus II and earlier four-channel PocketWizards, while channels 1-16 are compatible with "Classic" PocketWizards from the 90s. Quad Zone selection (any A-B-C-D combo) and triggering is possible when the Plus III is set to channels 17-32.

The Plus III is not compatible with the ControlTL channels used by the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 (though it can interoperate with these units when they're set to operate on Standard channels). Also, Custom IDs are not planned for the Plus III; this remains exclusive to the MultiMAX for now.

Revised antenna design Gone is the whip-style antenna of the Plus II. In its place on the Plus III is a stubby, more-internal antenna configuration. While we've not done any range testing of the Plus III, it's reasonable to expect that Plus II-to-Plus II range will slightly exceed Plus III-to-Plus III range, when the Plus II units have their antennas each oriented vertically. But, the Plus III's range will be less affected by different transmitter and receiver antenna orientations, and will likely exceed the Plus II pairing when the Plus II antennas are not in a matched orientation. The result should be generally similar or better range for the Plus IIIs in typical use where precise transmitter-to-receiver antenna orientation is rarely achievable.

The Plus III's official range specification is 1600ft/500m.

Auto-Sensing transceiver When set to TxRx, the Plus III, like the Plus II, can instantly switch itself from receive to transmit mode, to enable it to receive a signal and then immediately be ready to send a signal. The Plus III can be set to transmit (Tx) only or receive (Rx) only as well.

Two-stage remote camera triggering The test button on the Plus III is designed to simulate the half-press and full-press functionality of a camera shutter button. Press the test button halfway and the remote camera responds as if its shutter button is being half-pressed, waking it up, taking a meter reading and, if set to autofocus with the shutter button, focusing as well. Pressing the test button the rest of the way down triggers the camera, while keeping the test button fully pressed will fire the camera continuously. Releasing the test button allows the remote camera to enter its power conservation mode (based on how the camera itself is configured), to extend the runtime of the camera's battery.

You can also configure things so that the remote camera wakes/meters/focuses and then fires in step with the camera in your hand.

The two-stage remote camera triggering feature requires newer, PocketWizard ACC-type remote camera trigger cables (ACC-series cables have a stereo rather than mono miniphone plug and no sleep/wake switch within the cable).

This nifty new remote camera capability should be a boon for studio shooters and others who would find it useful for the Plus III to behave like a wireless two-stage cable release. For sports remote camera installations, however, the MultiMAX still reigns supreme. That's because a 2007 or newer MultiMAX is able to remotely wake up and then keep awake a remote camera, without the need to hold down the test button perpetually, as the Plus III requires. If you've found the remote wake up/let sleep function of the MultiMAX to be invaluable for sports remotes, the Plus III can't perform quite the same trick. (More on this MultiMAX capability is in an earlier article.)

Also note that the Plus III has a single 3.5mm mono/stereo miniphone sync port, compared to the Plus II's twin mono ports.

Auto-Relay The Plus III's receive/transmit autoswitching ability enables you to trigger a remote camera in sync with PocketWizard-connected flashes using only one Plus III at the remote camera position.

Long Range mode When set to Long Range (LR) mode, the Plus III's maximum reliable triggering distance, as well as its ability to overcome interference at moderate distances, improves considerably. When triggering a remote camera in this mode, there is no perceptible difference in triggering time, but if the LR signal is being sent instead to PocketWizard-connected flashes, the maximum usable sync speed drops by up to 1 full step (from 1/250 to 1/125, for example).

Repeater mode A Plus III can be set to pass on, or "repeat," a signal from a transmitter to a receiver, roughly doubling the effective signaling distance. This increases the total time it takes for the signal to reach its destination, so as with LR mode the maximum usable sync speed will be slightly slower.

High Speed Receive mode Normally, the Plus III is capable of triggering flashes or cameras at a sustained rate of up to 12fps. Set the Plus III to High Speed Receive (HSR) and the maximum sustained rate jumps to 14.5fps, which should allow it to keep up to even a Canon EOS-1D X firing at 14fps.

Sync speed Plus III maximum sync speed is expected to be comparable to the Plus II.

Power The Plus III is powered by two AAs, or via its USB Mini-B port.

Firmware updateable As is common across almost all PocketWizard radios now, the firmware in the Plus III can be updated by the user, through a USB connection to PocketWizard Utility for Mac and Windows.

Included cables The Plus III comes with three cables:
  • 3.5mm mono miniphone-to-3.5mm mono miniphone
  • 3.5mm mono miniphone-to-6.3mm mono phono
  • 3.5mm mono miniphone-to-PC sync (locking type)
Conclusion

The Plus III is a great addition to the PocketWizard lineup, one that's made even more enticing by the fact the Plus III is expected to sell for about US$139 in the U.S., which is roughly US$30 less than the going rate for its predecessor.

If you need PocketWizards for sports remotes, or indeed any remote situation in which the camera needs to be kept awake for long periods of time but also allowed to sleep, the MultiMAX remains the best choice. The same holds true if you need to fine-tune the trigger contact time value (to fire a camera for a precise interval, for example), employ several advanced functions like Speedcycler and Intervalometer, measure ambient RF noise to find the clearest channel or have Custom IDs installed. The Plus III has been given some of the MultiMAX's most useful abilities, but the MultiMAX remains the most flexible and capable Standard-channel PocketWizard.

The LPA Design PocketWizard Plus III is to go on sale towards the end of March in the U.S. The first public opportunity to touch and try the Plus III will be at the PocketWizard booth at the WPPI 2012 show kicking off today in Las Vegas. The Plus III will also be at the JP Distribution booth at the Focus on Imaging Show in Birmingham, UK, from March 4-7.

A video showcasing the Plus III's new features is here. As with previous PocketWizards, the Plus III will come in U.S./Canada 340-354MHz and 433-434MHz CE versions.
Related articles  
Related coverage of this topic includes:
  • LPA Design sets PocketWizard Plus III delivery schedule (March 20, 2012)
  • LPA Design, Phottix settle patent infringement lawsuit related to Atlas transceiver (updated) (January 19, 2012)
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