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PowerMC2 module for Einstein 640 progressing towards December-January release  
Friday, October 22, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
In the Saddle: The PocketWizard PowerMC2 in the top slot of an Einstein 640 v2. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
We first showed LPA Design's upcoming PocketWizard PowerMC2 in early prototype form back in June. The remote power control module for the Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 monolight has come a long way since then and in fact is nearly complete. Here's an update to our earlier story.

PowerMC2 overview

The PocketWizard PowerMC2 is the latest in a series of remote power control modules for studio flash that LPA Design has announced this year.

Like the PowerST4 for Elinca Elinchrom RX and the AC9 AlienBees Adapter for Paul C. Buff AlienBees, White Lightning and Zeus, the PowerMC2 enables the Einstein 640's flash output level and modeling light state to be controlled from a ControlTL-capable PocketWizard at the camera position.

The PowerMC2 doesn't stop there, however. It features tighter integration with the flash it's controlling, relative to other PocketWizard module + studio flash pairings, thanks to a cooperative effort between LPA Design and Paul C. Buff.

powermc2_screenshot_anim.gif
Channel Surfing: The Einstein 640's rear LCD showing PocketWizard channels and zones
This includes the setting of the PowerMC2's channel and zone on the Einstein's rear LCD panel. In the animation at right you can see it's possible to choose either a ControlTL channel and zone or a Standard channel and zone. All 52 PocketWizard channels are selectable.

Plus, you can also turn on the Einstein remotely. The CPU and power to the wireless module slot remain active when the Einstein 640 is switched off but left plugged in, which makes it possible to fire up the flash from the camera position.

(The PowerMC2 module also supports turning the flash off remotely, but LPA Design has not yet decided if this specific capability will be enabled at the time the PowerMC2 launches or later through a user-installable firmware update, though the latter is more likely.)

PowerMC2 feature summary

  At launch, the PowerMC2 will support the following:
  • ControlTL channel (1-20) and ControlTL zone (A, B, C) selection directly on the Einstein 640

  • Standard channel (1-32) and Standard zone (A, B, C, D for channels 17-32) selection directly on the Einstein 640

  • Remote power control in 1/3 stop increments, from one of several PocketWizard transmitter combos including a Canon/Nikon MiniTT1 or FlexTT5 with AC3 ZoneController attached

  • Modeling light control with automatic on, dimming and tracking options, plus the ability to turn the modeling light off and on with a button press on the camera (which button on which cameras is still being worked out)

  • Forcing the ready beeper and/or slave eye on or off

  • Switching the Einstein 640 on remotely (as discussed, the option to turn the unit off will most likely come in a future firmware update)

  • Test firing the Einstein 640 by pressing the LED/test button on the top of the PowerMC2

  • Upgrading of PowerMC2 firmware and adjusting of modeling light, ready beeper, slave eye and other settings using PocketWizard Utility for Mac and Windows. Like other recent PocketWizards, the PowerMC2 has a USB port for connection to the computer and PocketWizard Utility

  • HyperSync triggering on both Standard and ControlTL channels
About the only Einstein 640 option that can't be chosen remotely is Action or Color mode; this setting is adjusted manually on the flash itself. Also, most of the features described require the advanced capabilities of PocketWizard ControlTL transmitters like the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5. But, the PowerMC2 can also be triggered by a Standard channel-only PocketWizard like the Plus II, albeit without any ControlTL fanciness, just triggering.

There are several PocketWizard transmitter configurations that will allow for three zones of ControlTL remote power control. In addition to the MiniT1/FlexTT5 + AC3 ZoneController combo already mentioned, these are also likely to be popular:
  • Canon MiniTT1/FlexTT5 + Canon Master mode Speedlite (such as the 580EX II)
  • Nikon MiniTT1/FlexTT5 + Nikon Master mode Speedlight (such as the SB-800 or SB-900)
  • Nikon MiniTT1/FlexTT5 + Nikon SU-800 (full stop increments only unless using the automatic power tracking features of ControlTL)
  • A MultiMAX in remote power control mode (this requires a MultiMAX firmware update that is not yet complete and for which a release date has not been set)
Observations

We've had a set of beta PowerMC2 modules for some time, but it's only since the arrival of the Einstein 640 v2 late last week that we've been able to start giving them a proper workout (fierce levels of RF noise at PocketWizard frequencies by early Einstein 640 v1s had ruled out any real world use before now). Here are some observations:
  • The PowerMC2 can be inserted or removed from the wireless module slot of the Einstein 640 at any time, the flash doesn't need to be off or unplugged.

  • When the PowerMC2 is inserted, the two fields at the bottom of the rear LCD switch from saying "No RF" to displaying a PocketWizard channel and zone. (An Einstein 640 firmware update is required for the flash to recognize the PowerMC2. When released to the public it will be free and user-installable, plus future Einstein 640s will be loaded with this firmware at the factory.)

  • The Einstein 640 remembers the channel and zone selection, so even if you don't insert the same PowerMC2 next time as you did last time, the channel and zone will still be the same as what you set before on that particular flash unit.

  • Range is shaping up to be solid. Despite the fact the beta PowerMC2 modules here do not have final-design antennas, we're already seeing several hundred feet of reliable triggering range. LPA Design's Jim Clark is cautiously optimistic that full production PowerMC2s will give even longer range than what we're seeing now.

  • Output power level and modeling light status changes, made from a D3S with a beta Nikon MiniTT1 + beta AC3 ZoneController attached, are arriving at the PowerMC2 and registering on the Einstein 640 immediately and dependably.

  • The PowerMC2 will ship with an end cap to protect the connector pins during transport.
Conclusion

Wide Receivers: The Paul C. Buff CyberSync CSXCV and PocketWizard PowerMC2 modules for the Einstein 640. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
Going forward, Einstein 640 v2 owners are going to have two strong remote power control and triggering systems to choose from: PocketWizard ControlTL and Paul C. Buff's own CyberSync.

While a full comparison is premature, it's fair to say that the differences between the two in features, range, interface, compatibility with lights other than Einstein, the number of lighting groups supported, price and more means that photographers not already invested in one wireless system or the other will have to carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of each before deciding which way to go.

Once available, the PowerMC2 will be sold exclusively by Paul C. Buff through its direct sales operations in the U.S., Europe and Australia. LPA Design is aiming for a December 2010-January 2011 release, at a price of under US$100 in the U.S. (the equivalent price in Europe and Australia may be somewhat higher).

Both the PowerST4 for Elinca Elinchrom RX and the AC9 AlienBees Adapter for Paul C. Buff AlienBees, White Lightning and Zeus will be shipping to distributors and dealers beginning next week, and should start to appear on store shelves the first week of November in the U.S. and perhaps other countries too.

The street price for the PowerST4 in the U.S. is expected to be about US$120. The street price for the AC9 in the U.S. is to be just over US$60. Note that the AC9 is not a standalone module and must be piggybacked onto a FlexTT5 to operate. Also, the AC9 shipping next week is for the Canon version of the FlexTT5 exclusively. A Nikon FlexTT5 version of the AC9 is planned but no release date has been set.

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