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PocketWizard firmware, software release pushed into next week  
Saturday, March 14, 2009 | by Rob Galbraith
Release of the first firmware updates for the Canon versions of the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5, plus an associated update to PocketWizard Utility, has been pushed into next week as LPA Design makes some last minute additions to each based on feedback gleaned during private beta testing.

The firmware updates for the new wireless radio remote devices, and the Mac/Windows configuration software, will introduce three key changes:
  • The ability to choose between HyperSync and camera maker High Speed Sync at shutter speeds above 1/500.

  • A basic trigger mode option, intended primarily to allow the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 to be used as transmitters on cameras other than Canon and Nikon.

  • Allow the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 to fire any flash sitting in their hot shoes, not just ones they detect to be compatible with ControlTL.
In Your Pocket: A beta version of PocketWizard Utility showing the new Basic Trigger Mode option

More on these changes are in a previous article: Firmware, software updates coming for MiniTT1, FlexTT5.

Several bugs are fixed too, including:
  • Certain combinations of Speedlite Custom Functions could prevent the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 from detecting that a compatible flash was attached. This has been corrected.

  • With a flash in the hot shoe of a FlexTT5, it wasn't always possible to fire another flash connected via cable to one of the same FlexTT5's miniphone ports. This has been fixed.
In addition, LPA Design has expanded the list of ControlTL-capable Canon Speedlites to include the 420EX and 550EX. Both will work in the hot shoe of a FlexTT5 configured as a receiver. With the FlexTT5 set to be a transmitter, LPA Design has certified the 420EX as compatible, while the 550EX is not.

They've also tested the 220EX, and have determined that it's not compatible with the MiniTT1, and not compatible with the FlexTT5 acting as a transmitter. It's sort of compatible with the FlexTT5 set to be a receiver, but with two limitations that will probably make it not worthwhile to attempt using this low-powered flash in a remote setup:
  • First, in an extended shooting session, the FlexTT5 may begin malfunctioning until turned off an on. Linking the 220EX to the FlexTT5 with an Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3 eliminates this problem.

  • Second, its power can't be adjusted properly from a Master 580EX II set to control the remote flash's output manually.
For most shooter, these limitations will mean the 220EX is effectively not usable with the new PocketWizards.

LPA Design has not yet qualified flashes that emulate Canon Speedlites but are made by other companies, such as Metz. Some may work with the MiniTT1 or FlexTT5; as of this moment, however, LPA Design has not done comprehensive testing to determine if this is true.

The list of compatible Canon Speedlites is now comprised of the following (degree of compatibility is listed in parentheses):
  • 220EX (not compatible; see above for details)
  • 420EX (FlexTT5 as receiver/transmitter, not MiniTT1)
  • 430EX (FlexTT5 as receiver/transmitter, MiniTT1)
  • 430EX II (FlexTT5 as receiver/transmitter, MiniTT1)
  • 550EX (FlexTT5 as receiver, not FlexTT5 as transmitter, not MiniTT1)
  • 580EX (FlexTT5 as receiver/transmitter, MiniTT1)
  • 580EX II (FlexTT5 as receiver/transmitter, MiniTT1)
A word on range

As we noted in Casting light on the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5, certain Speedlites are ControlTL compatible but produce range-reducing RF noise across some or all of the frequencies used by PocketWizards. The table below, produced from data supplied by LPA Design, will give you an idea of how this RF noise impacts range with different flash models.

Note that the official range specification for ControlTL is about 800ft (about 240m), and was derived from actual line of sight field testing by LPA Design, using a 430EX II on a FlexTT5 as a receiver. The numbers below are derived from testing in a lab, applying a formula that takes into account how a given amount of noise impacts working wireless distances. Though these numbers are derived synthetically, the 850ft value for the 430EX II is nearly equal to the real-world 800ft range that LPA Design achieved with this flash while developing the new PocketWizards' range specs.

Also note there are many things that impact wireless range other than the RF noise produced by the flashes themselves. Placing the PocketWizard close to the ground - a strong RF absorber - will reduce range dramatically, while mounting the PocketWizard on a metal bar can sometimes introduce interference that's equal to or even greater than Speedlite RF noise. Therefore, the distance ranges shown below are, generally speaking, achievable only under optimum wireless conditions.

With one exception. Speedlites that produce considerable RF noise across PocketWizard frequencies, and therefore show short working distances below, can be made to work better by taking some simple steps to mitigate the RF problem. Mounting the FlexTT5+Speedlite combo on its side, swiveling the flash head backward and turning the FlexTT5's antenna upward will increase the working range because it gets the antenna that much further away from the RF noise source. (All testing by LPA Design, in generating the table data, was done with the FlexTT5 sitting upright with its antenna positioned vertically and the flash head pointed forward.)

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Upright: A Canon Speedlite 580EX II on a PocketWizard FlexTT5. All table data below was generated with the flash and PocketWizard oriented as shown. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media) Sideways: The same 580EX II and FlexTT5, oriented to slightly reduce the amount of flash RF noise interfering with the wireless link. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Extending the distance between the flash and the FlexTT5 using a Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3, particularly if you attach a clamp-on ferrite core to the cable (near the flash), also improves things.

And finally, the numbers below are for the FlexTT5 only, and then only when configured to act as a receiver. Flash RF noise has no impact on the transmit side of the PocketWizard wireless link. This means that any of the compatible flashes below, even the RF noisiest of them, can be used atop a MiniTT1 or a FlexTT5 acting as a transmitter without concern that wireless range is being reduced.

Without further ado, the numbers. The results are separated into US/Canada and Europe models, as each operates on different frequencies. The maximum and minimum range values are for the US/Canada versions only, as are the comments about the conditions contributing to the minimum range value. Because the upcoming European versions operate within a much narrower frequency band, any RF noise produced by a given flash affects all European PocketWizard channels. Therefore, separate maximum and minimum range values for Europe don't apply: any RF noise from the flash affects the range about equally on all channels.


As you can see, of current Canon Speedlites, the 430EX II offers the longest range, but the older 550EX is actually the best of the bunch, owing to the lack of RF noise on either US/Canada or Europe PocketWizard frequencies. Bringing up the rear is the 430EX, which as the table shows - and our own frustrating experience confirms - is a PocketWizard range killer.

Revision History
March 30, 2009: Updated the Speedlite compatibility section with new info from LPA Design.

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