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Wireless Flash: RadioPoppers vs. PocketWizards vs. Nikon & Canon

Over on the Strobist blog, David Hobby discusses his first impressions of the RadioPopper. Like Nikon's SU-800 with Nikon SB800 & SB600 flashes or Canon's ST-E2 and Canon 580EX II & 430EX flashes, the RadioPopper offers full TTL control. Like PocketWizard systems, the RadioPopper uses radio signals for all of its communication between the transmitter and the receivers. What you get is a beautiful marriage of TTL over radio signals. Why is this important?

This is a very impressive break-through for Nikon and Canon shooters. Both companies offer wireless TTL when using their own brand of flashes and wireless controllers. The limitation is that they rely on infrared light to send all of their command signals to the slave flashes. That requires an open line-of-sight between the controller and the slave flash units. It also imposes a significant limitation on distance between the controller and slave flash units. Nikon and Canon wireless flash control systems are limited to approximately 50 feet. The RadioPopper offers a working range up to 300 feet. While clearly not the 1600 feet of the PocketWizard system, the RadioPopper offers significant capabilities within its range limitations that PocketWizard does not.

Two things that PocketWizard users love about the PW system is that they do not have the line-of-sight or the distance limitation that Nikon and Canon brand systems impose. One limitation of the PW system is that it does not support TTL. When you are under very controlled lighting situations, that isn't a problem. When you are moving from place to place and the lighting is unpredictable, TTL is irreplaceable. The PW system cannot utilize TTL exposure information provided by the camera to control the power output of each of the slave flash units it controls. It requires that the photographer have a firm grasp of manual flash output control.

I have read the literature on the RadioPoppers. From the product literature and illustrations on their website, it appears you still need the Nikon SU-800 or Canon ST-E2 infrared wireless transmitters (or their flash models that have the infrared wireless transmitter built into them). The RadioPopper mounted on the camera uses an electromagnetic sensor to pick up the Nikon or Canon transmitter signals, translates them into radio waves, and sends them over a radio transmitter antenna. A RadioPopper mounted on each slave flash reads the radio signals, translates them into infrared light, and sends them to an optical infrared light emitter placed in front of the slave flash's infrared light sensor.

The RadioPopper breaks the limitations of distance and line-of-sight imposed by the Nikon and Canon brand systems, and breaks the lack of TTL that the PocketWizard system imposes. You can now have full TTL flash over hundreds of feet, controlled entirely from your camera's flash control system. Make sure you head over to David Hobby's Strobist article on RadioPoppers and read his initial review. Also check out the RadioPopper website to learn more about the three models they offer. You will want some of these units in your camera bag. I know I do.

Special thanks to our own member David Bergman for first bringing these beauties to my attention over in our forums.

Guides & Tutorials: 


Over on David Hobby's Strobist blog, he posts an article showing some experiments from last Friday night using his new RadioPopper P1 radio TTL flash controllers. He also links to several other RadioPopper customers who now have their P1s and show off some of the creative uses they found for these devices.

Founder, MusicPhotographers.net
Columbia, Maryland - USA