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PocketWizard MiniTT1, FlexTT5 for Nikon head to dealers
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
 The long-awaited Nikon versions of LPA Design's PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 wireless radio remotes are now enroute from the factory to distributors and onto dealers in some countries, including Canada and various locales in Europe. The first units are expected to come available for sale in the latter half of this week in these countries.

U.S. availability will follow by roughly two weeks, which should translate to product on U.S. store shelves around the middle of December.

Update, December 20, 2010: LPA Design is now projecting that units will ship in the middle of January 2011 in the U.S., while Canadian dealers will see their first deliveries this week as the distributor starts shipments to them tomorrow. Most other countries began to receive their supply of MiniTT1s and FlexTT5s for Nikon earlier this month, as expected.

We have a rundown of the key features of the new i-TTL CLS-compatible triggering system for Nikon, which made its Canon debut back in February 2009.

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Nikon Friendly: The PocketWizard MiniTT1 for Nikon on a D3S, left, and FlexTT5 with Speedlite SB-900 attached. Click photos to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

The system is comprised of a MiniTT1 transmitter and FlexTT5 transceiver designed for newer Nikon digital SLRs. Together they offer wireless i-TTL and manual output control of three groups of remote Nikon Speedlights, support for Auto FP Sync up to the camera's top shutter speed, rear curtain sync and more. The PocketWizard units replace the optical flash control commands of Nikon's native wireless system with radio signals, for much longer range and greater flexibility regarding the placement of remote flashes.

The MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 for Nikon don't stop there, however. The new PocketWizards incorporate several features that are not part of Nikon's own system and extend its usefulness significantly. These features include HyperSync, which allows for higher flash sync speeds without sacrificing flash brightness, remote power control of certain brands of studio flash as well as Canon Speedlites mounted on Canon-version FlexTT5s, quicker Speedlight recycling at a given power level (particularly at Auto FP Sync shutter speeds) and flashes that keep up at faster frame rates when one or more remote Speedlights are deployed. Plus a handful of other capabilities you don't get from Nikon's optical triggering system or from competing radio products for that matter.

LPA Design calls their wireless TTL and remote power control technology ControlTL, and as of this writing no other remote triggering system delivers the same breadth of features and functionality.

The MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 can also trigger previous PocketWizards like the Plus II, though without most ControlTL features. The new PocketWizards offer 20 ControlTL channels and 32 Standard (ie previous PocketWizard) channels, and in fact transmit both a ControlTL Channel signal and a Standard Channel signal in the same signal burst, allowing for mixing of different PocketWizard remote models in the same scene.

Thanks to an extensive private beta testing program that has included over 100 photographers and several months of both hardware and firmware revisions, the Nikon MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 will launch in far more polished form than their Canon equivalents did last year. Overall, the out-of-the-box experience for Nikon PocketWizard purchasers is expected to be much smoother than at the time of the Canon version launch in the first quarter of 2009. It will still be important to keep up with firmware updates, however, to ensure a glitch-free experience. LPA Design has in fact posted an important update today, firmware v2.050, that buyers of Nikon-version PocketWizards will want to install right away.

Compatible Nikon cameras and Speedlights

The following cameras are officially compatible with Nikon versions of the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5.

  • Nikon D2X
  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D3
  • Nikon D3S
  • Nikon D3X
  • Nikon D80
  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon D200
  • Nikon D300
  • Nikon D300S

  • Nikon D40
  • Nikon D40X
  • Nikon D50
  • Nikon D3000
  • Nikon D3100 (more info below)
  • Nikon D5000
As of firmware v2.050 the D3100 is mostly compatible, while a near-term firmware update will correct some minor bugs that can crop up with this camera.

LPA Design has not yet qualified the D7000, but we've used it fairly extensively in the last couple of weeks with the Nikon MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 and have seen no deal-stopping quirks. Once they have a D7000 it will be tested and any needed compatibility changes will be rolled into a future firmware update. The D70 and D70S are partially compatible and likely to stay that way, as it's not a priority at LPA Design to tackle a handful of bugs related to the use of these older digital SLRs.

The D2H, D2HS and D2XS might be compatible, but these cameras have not been tested. The D1, D1X, D1H and D100 use an entirely different set of flash commands than newer Nikons and are therefore not likely to work at all with the new PocketWizards and their ControlTL protocol, or at least not without significant functionality limitations. LPA Design does not plan to add support for these Nikon digital SLRs. The company is investigating whether to support the F6 film camera, and will in the future if they discover it's practical to do so.

The following Speedlights can be used as remote flashes on FlexTT5 receivers for Nikon:
  • SB-400
  • SB-600
  • SB-800
  • SB-900
These Speedlights can be used as Master flashes on top of a Nikon MiniTT1 or FlexTT5 on the camera:
  • SU-800
  • SB-800
  • SB-900
Unlike the Canon versions, the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 for Nikon do not include a Force Master mode option, which means that only Speedlights that have an actual Master mode can act as Masters.

The Nikon version of the AC3 ZoneController, a fantastic accessory for the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 that enables up to three groups of remote flashes to be controlled without the aid of a Master Speedlight, is slated to ship in the second half of January 2011. For those who don't require a flash on the camera this will be a must-have accessory, as it makes quick work of turning off/on and adjusting the output of three separate groups of flashes.

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Masters: (Left to right) The Speedlight SU-800, Speedlight SB-900 and PocketWizard AC3 ZoneController for Nikon. Click photos to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

The SB-700 has not yet been tested by LPA Design as either a remote or Master flash. Official support will be part of a future MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 firmware update, once LPA has this flash in-house and can begin the qualification process.

Range

One of the principal benefits of PocketWizard's radio-based ControlTL system is longer triggering range than Nikon's own optical pulse system. The shoot that produced the photo below is an example. Three Speedlight SB-900s on FlexTT5s were positioned on lightstands, and a MiniTT1 + beta AC3 ZoneController on a Nikon D3S was responsible for triggering. The distance to the flashes varied as I moved around, at times exceeding about 75ft/22.9m to the furthest one, but at no point did the SB-900s misfire.

Folk Dancers: Nikon D3S + AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR at 240mm, ISO 640, 1/320, f/5.6. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

On Stage: Three SB-900s light the performers. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

We've been using MiniTT1s to trigger MultiMAX receivers as well, at distances of up to about 150ft, without any reliability problems. In line of sight testing between a MiniTT1 on a D700 and a FlexTT5 with either an SB-800 or SB-900 attached, the maximum distance at which we were able to achieve 20 successful firings in a row was about 600ft/182.9m. Overall, triggering range and reliability has been solid.

LPA Design's Jim Clark indicates that Nikon's Speedlights do not emit the same high levels of range-reducing RF noise across a broad range of PocketWizard frequencies that certain Canon Speedlites do. Nikon Speedlights, however, do emit low to moderate levels of RF noise at isolated frequencies that are near to certain PocketWizard channels within the 340-354MHz band used by U.S./Canada PocketWizard models (CE model 433-434MHz units are not impacted at all, he says).

While the range reduction is only going to be slight on affected channels, says Clark, for those who want to avoid any potential drop in range, the workaround is simple: switch the operating channel or channels programmed into your Nikon MiniTT1s and FlexTT5s to ones that are unlikely to be affected.

Clark emphasizes that LPA Design has received no range-related complaints from beta testers, and our experience backs that up: wireless TTL triggering over long distances has been reliable on several different channels. Still, if you want to be sure that you're getting maximum range and triggering dependability from your U.S./Canada MiniTT1s and FlexTT5s for Nikon, consider steering clear of the following ControlTL channels:
  • SB-900: ControlTL Channel 4 (346MHz)
  • SB-800: ControlTL Channels 16 (341.5MHz), 20 (345.5MHz) and 11 (349.5MHz)
  • SB-600: ControlTL Channel 5 (346.5)
This data is derived from testing a small number of units of each Speedlight, plus the flash's internal temperature can cause a drift in the affected frequency, so this list of channels to avoid shouldn't be taken as gospel. It does serve to emphasize two points:
  • Nikon's Speedlights do emit low levels of RF noise within specific, narrow portions of the frequency range used by U.S./Canada PocketWizards.

  • While you aren't likely to notice the range reduction in most common shooting situations, if what you shoot and how you shoot pushes the range limits of the new PocketWizards and is leading to misfires, try changing the channel. It's probably safe to assume that if you're well away (ie 1-1.5MHz or more) from the frequencies listed above for your Speedlight(s) that you'll be in the clear. But the key notion is this: when in doubt, change the channel.
(A complete list of U.S./Canada PocketWizard channels and frequencies is on page 23 towards the end of this PDF.)

Squelched optical communication

The Master and remote flashes in a stock Nikon wireless i-TTL CLS setup normally communicate via light pulses. Prior to each photo, particularly when there are two or three groups of remote flashes in the scene, the sheer volume of flashing can become distracting.

The new PocketWizards don't require the Master unit's light pulse to determine what commands need to be sent by radio, since they're grabbing this information directly from the flash and/or camera through the hot shoe connection. The MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 in turn command the flash not to issue light pulse sequences, which means that all light pulse communication is squelched before it happens. The benefit is reduced pre-exposure flashing, other than the pre-flash required to determine the TTL flash exposure. In fact, if the Master unit or AC3 on the PocketWizard on the camera is set so that all groups of remote Speedlights will output at a manual power level, the flashes fire only once, during the actual exposure.
Next Page: HyperSync, efficiency and remote power control
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