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PocketWizard PowerST4, AC9 modules coming to dealers in early November  
Sunday, October 24, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
Both the PocketWizard 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 in the next several days, and should start to appear on store shelves the first week of November in the U.S. and perhaps other countries too.

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Control Freaks: The PocketWizard PowerST4 attached to an Elinchrom Style 300RX, left, and an AC9 AlienBees Adapter connected to a Paul C. Buff AlienBees B1600 (The AC9 requires the Canon version of the FlexTT5). Click photos to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

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. The AC9 that's about to ship 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.

Tips

If you're planning to purchase one of these modules, you'll want to make sure your collection of MiniTT1 and/or FlexTT5 units have the latest firmware loaded. LPA Design has implemented numerous PowerST4 and AC9 compatibility improvements and feature tweaks in recent firmware releases. As of this writing, public beta 5.188 for the Canon MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 is the most up-to-date version available, and there may yet be another firmware release issued prior to the PowerST4 and AC9 going on sale.

At the launch of these modules, the bulk of the planned remote power control features will be implemented and functioning well in our experience, including the remote setting of flash output levels and optional automatic tracking and dimming of the modeling light. There are two things that LPA Design probably won't get working quite as intended until a firmware update that will follow the release of the PowerST4 and AC9 to stores. Neither is mission critical, but are worth noting:
  • As we've written before, the PocketWizard remote power control system is designed so that a studio flash's modeling light can be turned on and off with a press of the depth of field button on compatible Canon digital SLRs. Current firmware handles only the turning on part; pressing the depth of field button a second time, to turn the modeling light off, does nothing.

  • Settings adjustments made with an AC3 ZoneController on top of the MiniTT1 are propagated to remote PowerST4 and AC9 + FlexTT5 modules only while the attached Canon digital SLR's meter is on. With all current Canons we've tested, the meter goes to sleep four to six seconds after you take your finger off the shutter button. The workaround with any compatible camera is to keep the shutter button half-pressed while you work the dials and switches on the AC3 ZoneController. With 1-series Canons you have an additional option: set the 6 second timer ( part of C.Fn IV-13 in the EOS-1D Mark IV, for example), which is the meter's sleep timer, to something like 30 seconds or so.

    You only need to keep this in mind if the on-camera transmitter is a MiniTT1. If your AC3 ZoneController is attached to a FlexTT5 on top of the camera, the transmitting of signals to the PowerST4 and AC9 + FlexTT5 modules is not linked to the wake/sleep state of the camera's meter.

    Also note that, even with the MiniTT1, settings changes that weren't transmitted while the camera's meter was asleep will usually be sent when the shutter button is next half-pressed. But, because most studio flash units requires time to adjust to a new power level, it's possible in this instance that you might take a picture before the flash is ready.

    With an Elinchrom RX unit, this usually means the flash won't fire; with an AC9-compatible Paul C. Buff flash, this usually means that it will fire at the incorrect power level. So, your best bet is to ensure the camera's meter is awake any time you make an AC3 ZoneController change to a studio flash with a remote power control module connected to it.

    (Note that if you're only controlling remote Speedlites with a MiniTT1 and AC3 ZoneController then you generally don't have to worry about any of this, for reasons that are a bit too lengthy to go into here.)
In a firmware update, LPA Design will be adding the ability to turn the modeling light off using a Canon camera's depth of field button as well as partially decoupling the linkage between the camera's metering timer and the sending of adjustment signals by the MiniTT1, such that it should no longer be necessary to pay close attention to whether the meter is awake or asleep. As mentioned, that firmware update will most likely emerge at some point after the PowerST4 and AC9 are at dealers. When it's available we'll publish a story saying so.
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