If Mamiya America's Lorenzo Gasperini had his way, PocketWizard radio modules would be in everything. Already in certain Sekonic light meters, Profoto strobe packs and Mamiya medium format bodies, the remote camera and flash triggering system is poised to now take up residence inside Nikon D1-series cameras.
Starting on December 1, 2002, Mamiya America, which distributes LPA Design's PocketWizard Plus, MultiMAX and other products, will take the next step in its march towards complete dominance of the wireless radio remote segment. On this day, the company will begin to accept Nikon D1, D1H and D1X cameras from owners who would like the near-equivalent of a PocketWizard Max to reside right inside the camera itself.
The modification, which is tentatively priced at US$300, sees a small module installed into a deep, narrow crevice in the internal circuitry of the camera body. Once installed, a custom-designed antenna is mated to the PC socket of the camera. If you need to connect a wired strobe, the antenna unscrews to expose the camera's PC socket, which functions as a standard-issue PC socket with the antenna removed.
PocketWizard functionality, such as channel selection or the enabling of pre-triggering (no external pre-trigger cable is required to keep the camera awake with this PocketWizard installed) is done by holding down the flash button and adjusting a control not already used by Nikon for one of the camera's native settings. For instance, pre-triggering is engaged by holding down the flash and shutter buttons simultaneously for 2 seconds (PocketWizard settings are not accessed through the rear LCD monitor's menus).
Unlike the discontinued PocketWizard Max, which split the receiving and transmitting duties between separate units, the module for D1-series cameras is a transceiver. That means the camera can trigger other PocketWizard-connected devices, such as strobes, or be triggered itself in a remote camera configuration, from up to 1000 feet away. Quad Triggering, a PocketWizard Max and MultiMAX feature that enables the selective firing of up to four groups of strobes, is possible with the internal PocketWizard too, but it's configured to trigger in a specific AB-CD pattern that is not adjustable (though it should be workable for most setups).
As a PocketWizard fan, seeing the technology evolve to this level is way cool. Colour me excited at the thought of having a fairly full-featured PocketWizard radio in the camera at all times. One that comes complete with pre-triggering capability which, among other things, negates the need to purchase a pricey external pre-trigger cable (pre-trigger capability is a must for most remote camera configurations).
PocketWizard module for Nikon D1-series cameras
But, both the coolness and the utility of the internal PocketWizard is weighed against the fact that Nikon has not officially blessed this camera modification. This introduces a serious wrinkle when it comes time to bring your camera to Nikon for service since, says Gasperini, Nikon USA will not repair a camera if they receive it with the module in place (note: I have not confirmed this with Nikon USA as I write this).
If true, then a D1, D1H or D1X in need of repair will need to have all traces of its PocketWizard module removed prior to its arrival on Nikon's doorstep. Mamiya has pledged to handle the removal of the radio, as well as the shipping of the camera to Nikon, through Mamiya America's Elmsford, NY facility (the same location that will be performing module installations). Once Nikon completes the repair and ships the camera back to Mamiya, the PocketWizard module would then be reinstalled prior to the camera being returned to its owner. Even if handled in an expedited fashion by Mamiya, this process sounds cumbersome at best.
No official Nikon support or involvement means the internal PocketWizard, which could otherwise be a slam dunk for serious radio remote users, loses some of its lustre. As a demonstration of what's possible, this extension of the PocketWizard family is really exciting. But until Nikon officially embraces it, or it's adopted wholeheartedly by another first-tier digital SLR manufacturer, the rate of adoption of the internal PocketWizard will probably not be in step with how cool a product it actually is.
Closer to the December 1 start date, Gasperini indicates that detailed information on the internal PocketWizard module, including instructions on shipping a D1-series camera to Mamiya for installation, will be posted at www.pocketwizard.com.