So one of the limitations of the RF60 and the V6 system is there is no actual TTL signals going between the camera and the flash or the transceiver. The problem with this is not just that you can not do ttl. Its that you can not go into HSS without the camera thinking there is a HSS compatible flash on the camera. They way cactus came up with is interesting. Basically either the V6 optical slave or the RF60 optical slave sees the HSS ttl pre flash signal that comes before the shutter starts moving then the RF60 does a HSS pulse to cover the frame. This is fine and dandy except when you get in bright sunlight you have limited use.
My original work around for this was to put my YN622C on camera and have it going to TTL HSS in a soft box with RF60’s slaving of of them it worked. It added a nice extra kick to the light output. I thought to my self is this really the best way.
I then after thinking about it and talking with Elvis over email he reminded me of this post. flashhavoc.com/godox-v850-witstro-radio-trigger-alternati…
I had the idea might as well try this. So what I did was I basically piggy backed a YN622C on top of my Cactus V6 with TTL passthrough. Then I have the pc to 3.5mm sync cable between them. To my surprise I now have the HSS pre signal triggering at the exact correct time. I just set my RF60s off camera to HSS mode. For the heck of it turn off the optical sensor to isolate it to just radio and go for it.
I all the sudden became in heaven. More on this later down but first lets get to the technicalities of your options.
Note exposures not quite inline with each other.
Option 1: Best in my opinion. YN622C or any other trigger that will do HSS pre signal + Cactus V6 + multiple RF60’s
This will allow you to have a uniform HSS pulse over radio. However you will need a RF60 or a flash that will manually let you enable the HSS pulse without TTL not sure if with the Godox V850 you can do that but I would love to try. The Godox V860C can control the power from the V6 also.
Option 2: YN622C + Cactus V6 + TTL flashes on V6 off camera
Since the HSS signal is not passed over radio this would mean that these would end up in hyper sync mode. So the pulse will not be as even however you still can add it to other HSS mixes.
Option 3: YN622C+ Cactus V6 + TTL flashes off camera on V6’s with delay staggering.
This was actually a test out of a request of some one asking questions about the v6 and rf60. they wanted to try and get their older vivitar flashes where they could cover a bream with more light by using the delay. It works fine however not as even as I would like.
Combined all 3 flashes:
I mean it is useable however there is to much of a jump at the beginning of each pulse. So its noticeable. If this was adding to other HSS flashes I don’t think it would be much of a problem. However if this was your only source it would be borderline usable. Still a cool thing to test out.
I think really the two reasonably usable options are Option 1 and Option 2.
Here is where the real fun comes in so an RF60 Unit is 139.95 so lets just do some math. Now I know you won’t get TTL with this but you still will get full remote power. Lets do this biased on having 4 flashes on a Phottix multi boom for mid day sun photos. More on that later.
Note: I do own RF60s, YN622C’s and YN568EX flashes.
RF60 139.95 x 4 = 559.8 + 1x V6 54.95 + 1x YN622C 43.99 according to amazon. = 658.74
YN568EX 186.75 according to amazon x4 = 747$ + 5x YN622C set of 2 is 83.89 so 83.89×2= 167.78 + single YN622C 43.99 = 958.77
So we have about a 300$ difference. The only difference between the two would be the off camera flashes would be TTL. The RF60 in my tests at 24mm actually is 1/10th of a stop more powerful than the YN568EX at other zones it is much more powerful.
Now would some one go out and buy 4x HSS flashes to do what I’m doing. Probably not. I have them from my beta testing so I am trying all sorts of crazy things.
Now to the real world tests.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any one becoming blind by shooting directly into the sun. Also I am not responsible for any live view damage if you feel like thats safer. I highly do not suggest what we did. It was a stupid idea and I saw spots for days.
Setup: 4x Cactus RF60s on a Phottix Multiboom 16 inside a Phottix easy up 28 inch soft box. This is controlled by a Cactus V6 on camera with a YN622C on top providing the pre sync. The cool thing is you actually can add other HSS on YN622C transceivers off camera. We won’t get into that today.
So it is 5pm We have the sorta setting blinding sun. So I think hey lets blind our selves and take pictures of us in front of the sun. Not the best idea for our eye balls but was a good test I feel.
Setup: 4x RF60’s
Results at about 3 feet or so:
Strobist: F5.0 100ISO 1/8000 shutter speed.
Wow cool that was fun.. Now lets turn off HSS and just see what we can get with 4x RF60s with a V6 with no YN622 so non HSS.
Strobist: F32 1/250 100iso 4x RF60’s at full power.
Very cool but we see dust on the lens and so on because of the v32 I’m sure there is some sensor dust some where in there.
I would like to hear about you alls thoughts and ideas, or questions. The testing was fun and now I have a crazy hair brained setup for outside mid day.
What is the Cactus V6 and what can it do?
- The V6 is a transceiver, so it can act as a radio master or slave receiver in one single unit. So no need to order a specific receiver or transmitter.
- The Cactus V6 is a optical slave, S1 and S2.
- It is a Wireless remote shutter trigger.
- It is a safe-sync hotshoe adapter for high-voltage flashes
- It is a trigger delay.
- Wireless manual power control of a list of current and previous Canon, Nikon, and Pentax compatible flashes. Over 30 built-in flash profiles more will be added in firmware updates
- Users flash profile learning to add additional user analogue-TTL flash profiles.
- Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 and 1EV steps
- Adds 0.1EV adjustment to RF60 and ttl flashes that do not have that refined of adjustments.
- Lo Power mode fires the flash for extremely short lengths of time. e.g. high speed photography
- Absolute Power Mode benchmarks the power output of different flash models to the same light intensity.
- TTL pass-through with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, and Fuji film via one single unit.
- Built-in optical trigger enables pre-flash triggering.
- Group control allows you to control up to four groups.
- User selectable dial direction
- Shutter release with bulb mode
- Relay mode triggers the camera shutter and flash in sync.
- Delay timer is configurable from 1 millisecond to 10 seconds.
- Ability to be controlled by RF60 Master
- 100+M range with automatic temperature adaptation for reliability in changing temps
- Compatible with old flashes voltage range 0-300v
- Compatible with low-voltage flashes
- Low battery indicator
- All settings saved on power off including power levels, and settings.
- Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware updates.
- Uses standard AA, including rechargeable’s
- Working radio frequency: 2.4 GHz
- Number of channels: 16
- Number of groups: 4
- Support sync speed up to 1/1,000 second (subject to camera’s sync speed
- Maximum effective distance: 100 meters. ** Note: Very conservative. I never lost signal even at 467meters
- Operating temperature: -20°C to +50°C
- Camera voltage handling: up to 6V
- Flash voltage handling: up to 300V
- Dimensions: 72mm (L) x 72mm (W) x 42 mm (H)
- Weight: 68g
- Power input: Two AA batteries; mini USB 2.0, DC input 5V, 500mA~1A
Cactus has built in over 30 flash profiles. Theses span Canon, Nikon, and Pentax compatible models.
Current built in profiles are:
Cactus AF 45P, AF 50P
Metz 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2
Pentax AF360FGZ, AF540FGZ
Canon: 320EX, 430EX, 540EZ, 580EX2, 600EX (Note: 580Ex works with the 580EXII profile. )
Cactus: AF 45C, AF 50C
Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 52AF-1, 58AF-1, 58AF-2
Nisson Di866, MG8000
Youngnuo 568EX2 (568EX works also with this I tested with mine.)
Nikon i-TTL Profiles:
Nikon :SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB900, SB910
Cactus: AF-45N AF-50N
Metz: 36AF-5, 44AF-1, 50AF-1, 58AF-2
Nisson: Di700, Di866
Nikon A-TTL Profiles:
Nikon: SB-24, SB28
The V6 comes in a nice package. The V6 is securely paced in the box with a molded cardboard insert. You get the V6 transceiver, stand, sample book, and a manual. The manual is well thought out and easy to read. The sample book has some nice examples of what you can do with off camera flashes and radio triggers. Most are from photos taken with Cactus V5’s and LV5’s.
To use remote power you need at least 2 transceivers or 1 transceiver, and one RF60 for the flash. To use its quite simple.
1. Put one transceiver on camera set to TX mode.
2. Put other transceiver off camera with a compatible TTL flash slide to RX. Select via menu the flash brand and model. Set group the group you want it on.
3. From the camera make sure the group’s you want to control are active, Now you can adjust power remotely and take pictures. To adjust individual groups you hold down the group button while turning the dial. To adjust all at the same time just turn the dial. More on that later:
The Cactus V6 works with a wider variety of flashes. I was able to test the v6 with the following flashes. Canon 580EXII, YN568EX, Nikon SB800, Nikon SB900 Nikon SB24. It worked great with the flashes. The cactus v6 allows you to remotely control power levels across Pentax , Canon, and Nikon flashes. There is absolute and relative power modes. More on that later. You have 4 groups you can change power levels on. With Cactus RF60 flashes you can actually also adjust zoom.
As you know lighting is done in layers. Different components adding to each other. What can be challenging is getting the components to all be at the levels you want easily. Most of the time you have to go to each flash and manually adjust the power setting traditionally or use a TTL solution. TTL has its positives and negatives. It becomes additionally difficult if the light is up higher or in a soft box to change settings. This is where the Cactus V6 comes into play. From the on camera unit you can quickly change power settings individually in groups or adjust and keep the ratios across all 4 of the groups. This is handy when just changing one setting like the aperture, ISO, or moving the subject distance.
You can have multiple flashes in a single group of one flash. If you have multiple flashes it is good for things like faster recycle time for key and so on.
The switch is used to switch between tx “transmitter” and rx “receiver” mode and off. It is much better of a switch than with the V5.
|Test/Shutter release button and Optical sensor
This button is used for shutter release mechanism, and relay mode along with a test button. Also you can see the frosted window where the optical sensor is located.
|Quick lock lever
Cactus has really improved there way to tightened down the trigger to the camera with this lever. It also has a locking pin for a more secure connection.
The V6 comes with a nice lanyard loop. This is very handy when using studio strobes were no hot shoe is in use.
|Multi-System Hot Shoe
Now this is the cool innovative thing. This is hot shoe will allow for “Pentax, Canon, and Nikon” remote power control, and will allow for ttl pass through by “Canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax” Systems. I dont know of any other trigger that has such a feature or flexibility.
|USB port and 3.5mm sync jack
The nice thing about the cactus V6 is that you can upgrade firmware with ease. In addition you also have a 3.5mm sync port for shutter release, relay mode, or flash and studio strobe sync.
The group buttons are very easily accessible and lit up so you can see them at night or in low light conditions. When a given group is not active the corresponding button is not lit.
This time we now have more universal AA’s than the AAA’s of the LV5, V5 and V4. This is nice because most of the time theses are already in my bag. The door closes securely and snug.
|Main buttons and LCD:
The majority of your interaction with the V6 will be through the control buttons and what is on the lcd screen. They have been set up with that in mind
|LED status light
The led status light notifies you when there is a trigger signal, bulb mode, low battery, firmware upgrade and so on.
The V6 transceiver has some intuitive ways to control it. A great deal of hard work went into refining this by the testers and cactus over the past few months. The main control buttons that you mainly will be working with are menu, the ok button, the dial, push-in on dial, and the group buttons.
Navigating menus have become intuitive. When you go into menus now you have 2 options for ok. You can push in the scroll wheel where you don’t ever have to move your finger, or you can use the ok button. As for changing power on each individual group all you have to do is hold down the group button while turning the dial. If you want to adjust all groups together you just turn the dial. If you want to lock in one group. You just hold the group tell it is highlighted. You also can adjust the direction of the scroll wheel, the functionality of the push in scroll in the sub menu.
One of the most important things for me was to have the power adjustment as quick as possible. This is where the all important scroll wheel is taken into use. The cool thing is you can individual adjust each group by either holding down a group button while scrolling. You can do a global adjustment by not touching any group buttons and it will adjust and keep the ratios tell their max and min limits. You also can hold down one of the group buttons for a few seconds to lock adjustment to just that group only.
You can see in the following video showing quick adjust. You cant see it but there is a v6 on the foot of the YN568EX flash. Also Note the triggers in the video are alpha models So the door is different along with the finish.
Quick power adjustment mode:
One cool thing is so the V6 has 1/10, 1/5, and 1/3 adjustment levels if you are at 1/10 you will be scrolling a while say from going to 1/128-1/1. So all you do is you push in the scroll button it switches to full stop power changes, then you push it again and it switches back to your previous finer adjustment level. I actual sort of happened across this by accident, it was a very pleasant surprise.
Relative Power Mode:
The v6 has two different modes the first one is Relative mode. This is the traditional power settings in regards to the power levels in off of the full power of the flash. So for example 1/2 is half the strength of full power. Levels that do not coincide to full stops theses are shown in the + so for example 1/16 +0.3 is 16th power with on third of a stop of power added to that.
So in the below image you can see that Group A is 1/4 Group B is 1/4+3, and C and D are 1/2. The 1/4+3 is Quarter power + 1/3 of a stop.
Absolute Power Mode:
Absolute power is a little different. It uses ev values. The cool thing with this feature, is by using flash profiles either pre defined or user created we know the flash output of each flash at the different settings. This means that a mix of different flashes we can keep a matched power output at each ev even if they are different powered flashes. For this feature to work the V6 transmitter needs to know all the power levels of the flashes it controls. When enabling absolute mode, the V6 transceiver will go out ant talk to all the other transceivers and get the information on the flash and report back to the tx v6 what they are so it can keep the same output per flash. Many people have a mixed bag of flashes with different power outputs so this is quite useful.
Creating flash profile’s:
One very interesting and unique feature with the Cactus v6 is you are able to create your own flash profiles with most analog ttl flashes. Some newer digital only TTL flashes would need a profile created if possible by cactus via firmware update. Cactus plans on doing this for customers if possibly.
Note: the video was created with the alpha trigger. The finish and battery door spacing has been changed.
The Cactus V6 can also be used as a shutter release. This allows you to use the radio trigger as a release for triggering the camera or bulb mode for long exposures. You do however need to get a separate shutter release cable. you can use any 3.5 to your shutter port cables. Cactus sells some relatively cheep.
I like strobist self portraits and one way I had to do this in the past is when useing the v5 for example as the remote shutter, it would not trigger the flashes correctly also. So what you needed to do is have one radio set for triggering the camera and another radio set to trigger the flashes.
With relay mode, now you only need 1 transceiver on the camera instead of 2. Then you need one hand held transceiver, and your off camera flash receivers. So now with only one transceiver on camera it will trigger the shutter and the flashes in sync.
One cool thing with the Cactus V6 and the RF60 is that a delay is built in. You can set a delay between 1 ms and 10 seconds. You can either set this on the transmitter or each receiver. You have the option of flat out turning off and when turning it back on it saves the delay. On the receiver the delay and delay value is displayed on the screen if set from there. Which is the optimal method. Because of the lack of space in the LCD on TX mode it is not displayed as set of done from the TX so just be aware. This could however change of course.
What can you do with delay?
- Adjust hyper sync delay when triggered optically from a HSS flash. “A additional post will come that will go over how to mix TTL radio triggers to add HSS pre flash radio capabilities. “
- Emulate second curtain sync. Since the v6 is a universal trigger no actual ttl signals from the camera are sent. However via the delay you can set a second curtain sync. It may take some playing round but it works.
- You can achieve multiple exposure from different flashes at different angles. Sort of like multi mode but at multiple angles.
The cactus V6 comes with a s1 and s2 optical trigger. Meaning it can either fire the flash on the first pules, or ignore ttl pre flash. You may be thinking really do I need to fire a flash on the initial pulse. The cool thing by having this option we now can do high speed sync. When doing high speed sync with a TTL HSS flash on camera. The camera first has to detect a HSS capable flash on it. Once it has it goes into high speed sync mode. This means you will get a HSS pre signal that will fire before the curtain even starts moving. This is needed for any triggering past your x-syn range. You can either use a manual HSS capable flash that you can set into HSS mode, or you can use flashes with flash durations long enough to fill the frame. Some companies call this hyper sync so lets just use that word.
RF60: Non HSS hyper sync can be done with studio strobes and manual flashes with long durations. *Note you can see the peak and fall off
RF60: Manual HSS mode triggered by V6 from TTL pre signal: *Note more even.
On camera Power Adjustment:
The nice thing about the Cactus V6 is that you can use flashes on camera while still controlling the flash’s off camera. The V6 has ttl pass through for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, and Fuji film flashes. For Canon Nikon and Pentax just make sure to set the appropriate profile for the flash that is on camera. When you put the V6 on camera it actual will also become a safe sync like the “Wein Safe-Sync” for high high voltage flashes.
You can use the on camera flash as a regular ttl flash like at wedding receptions, then you could have other flashes staged through the reception hall and adjust the power of each group from the on camera V6. It is a setup that photographers have been using for years however now you can remotely adjust those flashes staged around the reception hall saving time.
If you own a Cactus RF60. You now from the Cactus V6 to control zoom levels although it is either or you either have zoom levels as a quick adjust or power acceleration. Unfortunately this is not available for any other flash besides the RF60 because of technical limitations.
Lo Power mode:
This allows for a option for analog ttl flashes to have power go lower than the minimum 1/128 power setting. This allows for very short pules of light that is helpful when doing things like High speed photography to reverse the blurring side effect.
This example is NOT with Lo Power you can see how the water further out in the splash can blur some because of the speed it is moving Lo Power helps reduce this. Another users calculated it to be about 1/256 power level. This means the flash duration is very very quick.
The nice thing about the Cactus V6 and the RF60 both have the ability of firmware upgrades. This allows for bug fixes, Compatibility issues, built-in flash profiles, and the possibility for future new features.
Currently the firmware program is only for windows. There are plans to make it available for OSX. Currently you can create a virtual machine or use boot camp to upgrade the firmware if you ahve a MAC or even linux. The virtual machine just needs to have usb pass-through support.
The mini usb cable you can get extra, however it is pretty much a universal cable that you can use. One even came with most Canon camera kits. Also the cable can be used to power the v6 in studio setups without the need for AA’s.
LCD Backlight and Sleep mode:
With the Cactus V6 is you are able to adjust the timeouts for sleep and back light. For back light you can select always on or always off, or have it turn off in 5s or 15s.
Sleep mode can also be off or turn its self off at 15min or 60Min. Note: the V6 will not wake up from radio signal also that would defeat the purpose to power save.
There is a battery symbol on the lcd that would show the battery level. If it gets real low the LED will start blinking every 3 seconds indicating the batteries are very low.
Reliability and Range:
One thing about cactus is the reliability of their triggers. The V5 was really reliable, and I had no issues really with the V4 except when the batteries were low. The V6 is no exception. I have not had a single misfire with any of my units.
One way I test reliability is through walls and by distance to measure strength. The V6 triggered without issues outside of a building a teach my classes in so about 3 dry wall walls and one brick wall over about 20M. The second way I test the signal is by distance. With the V5 it was rated at 100M and I was able to get 200M easily I actualy ran out of room to test. The v6 is rated at 100M again however my tests show this to be quite a bit longer. I again walked tell I ran out of room. *Note: this picture is at 200mm an a 1.6 crop. So 320mm in full frame equivalent. So really I am much bigger than I was. I was able to walk as far as we could line of sight which was 467.48 meters. Almost 5 US football fields.
I found out that cactus went as far as ~800 meters before the signal became unstable. This shows me that the signal strength is strong enough to over come interference. The official range is 100M although that is very very very conservative. This was a V6 to an RF60. Which both have the same transceiver in them. However the RF60 has an thicker case so it supposedly should reduce the range but it did not seem to.
The Cactus V6 will trigger on cameras any cameras with standard universal hot shoe that has at least a single pin fire, or a camera with a sync port. Some propitiatory hot shoes like the propitiatory sony hot shoes you will need an adapter. TTL pass through works on the following cameras “Canon, fuji-film, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax”. You are able to remote control the power of supported “Canon, Nikon and Pentax” flashes.
The Cactus V6 is directly wireless computable with Cactus V5, Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger, RF60 radio flash, and Other Cactus V6’s. Of course you can add any flash, or any strobe through the sync port.
When I first saw the specs for the Cactus V6 it was pleasantly surprising. I was not expecting Cactus to come up with this level of functionality while still keeping as universal as possible. The usability and quickness of adjustment is very well done. The Multi-system Hot Shoe is very innovative and unique. The ability to mix and match systems together is in my opinion is awesome. I do a great deal of shooting with second shooters at weddings with other brand cameras and flashes. We now can share the same triggers and mix and match equipment. I also own flashes from Nikon and Canon that I now can use together. The reliability of theses triggers is awesome. Not a single miss fire even at almost 5 US football fields. The ability to expand and learn additional flashes and features makes it where this trigger will keep changing and growing over the years. The extra features like relay, ttl passthrough, delay and so on are icing on the cake.
Pros & Cons
- Being able to manual remote control power across four groups
- Brand agnostic triggers, able to control many different brand flashes together.
- Reliability – even at long distance
- Transceiver – do not need a separate transmitter and receivers
- sold build quality
- USB for firmware upgrade.
- TTL pass-trhoughRelay mode, Absolute power mode, and time delay
- Fully compatible with Cactus RF60 flash, including zoom control.
- Backwards compatible with the Cactus v5 , LV5 laser trigger and Cactus RF60 radio flash.
- Locking pin and locking quick lever
- Some what large size
- 1/4-20 thread a little close to the hot-shoe causing some umbrella swivels to not work with the tread, and the need for them to use cold shoe mounts.
- No wireless ttl only pass-through on camera.
- No included cables
The Cactus V6 transmitter is being released today 5/17 for release at Gadget infinity. They will release to other distributors hopefully next month. http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/cactus-wireless-flash-transceiver-v6.html
54.95$ USD each transceiver.
Note: Header image, and diagrams provided by cactus by product images and manual.
A year ago. I needed a backup flash so I started looking into flashes and I found the YN568EX. It supported basically the majority of the features that my Canon 580EXII had except for master IR and auto thyroister mode. Which I could care less about. I have since bought a second YN568EX for use.
The first issue I ran into was on my first YN568EX that I got. There was an issue that existed in the 2012 models of the flash but has since been fixed since I believe May 2013. This means that if on a Canon 60D you tried to take a picture before the flash had a fully charged capacitor it would lock the camera up and thrown an err20… I about had a heart attack when this first happened. I thought my camera was dead. A simple reboot of the camera will fix the issue. The work around was I would just listen for the ready beep before firing the flash again. Issue would come into play at weddings or events where the beep would be very distracting. The second issue I ran into was the door on the newer version of the flash. There is a documented issue with the newer YN568EXII. It seems in the newer date YN568EX it may suffer from the same issue. From a small fall the door broke on the new YN568EX. I easily got the door replaced for 5$ a door from china.
The YN568EX was the first flash from China with HSS. it can sync up to 1/8000. although remember this will significantly cut the flash power so really it is not that useful at that fast. If you add this in combination with the YN622C you get a useful combination in fast moving off camera environments like weddings. Also you are able to do HSS to knock the sun some. However to really make this useful I feel you need at least 2 flashes. I put them on a phottix multibom 16′ when outside. It works quite well.
You have all the normal features you would have with a canon flash. Like full E-TTL communication. You can adjust the FEC from camera with a quick nudge of the arrow left and right. Left for a lower power , right for a higher power. Normally when bouncing flash I need to be at about +1 fec to get the proper exposure. This is not much different than the Canon 580EXII which I have to do the same some.
The main feature the flash is missing is an external battery pack port. This is not a deal killer for me but some people it is. Also they decided to use a 2.5mm sync port instead of a 3.5mm or PC. This sort of makes it tough for those who have widely used PC cables, or the main new way of 3.5mm mono plug.
One of the positive features is also the IR and popup commander slaves. That accepts both Canon E-TTL and Nikon i-TTL signals. This is very useful because on weddings my other photographer normally shoots Nikon so when we needed an extra flash I was able to do an i-TTL slave for them.
In practice the flash performs really well. I have actually used it the same if not more than my Canon 580EXII. I really like the beep in non sound sensitive locations. The main settings are quick to change like FEC and zoom. It sorta is tricky remembering how to switch the channels and the group in i-TTL or E-TTL slave. The interface in regards to changing settings could be clearer. Also the custom function names are cryptic.
Over all it is a good flash for the price. The build quality is ok but not extravagant. It performs well in use. I would suggest it to any one who is looking for an entry level TTL flash with HSS. The big negatives I found is that enough bugs were not worked out, causing one of my flashes to fail on my Canon 60D. Instead of shipping it back which would of cost a ton I ended up waiting for the bug to be fixed and buying a new one.
I got the opportunity to again beta test a product from Hong Kong company Cactus Imaging. When I first heard I was going to be testing the flash way back in September I was extremely excited in seeing what cactus came up with this time. They did not disappoint. I had a list of features in my head that was a must have and they hit almost all of them, and included some I did not even think about.
No this is not a TTL flash, however it is a flash that is cross vendor complaint. The flash itself is a single pin however you can control all the power and zoom settings from the master flash to all the slave flashes. This is important for non Nikon and Canon users who are left out of a large majority of new technology. One thing about cactus has been that they try and stay as compatible as they can across vendors. This is one of the principles that Cactus has held over the years.
One exciting thing about the RF60 is that it is the first piece to a new system. I can now share images that include the future Cactus v6. The V6 will tie everything together and allow you to bring your other ttl and non ttl flashes and studio strobes into the new system. Power adjustment with the V6 will be compatible with the RF60 and different brand ttl flashes.
– Power GN56m (100iso)
– Power levels 1/1-1/128 and 1/3 stops
– Built-in 2.4GHz wireless commander and receiver
– Wireless 100M effective distance.
– Optical slave S1, S2 with delay feature
– Modes Local (L), Master (M) and Slave (S)
– Remote control of power and zoom levels (24-105mm)
– Group control up to four groups with configurable Group Alias
– Compatible with Cactus V6 Wireless Flash Transceiver, V5 Transceiver and LV5 Laser trigger
– Multi-flash feature
– HSS Sympathy mode provides HSS support when working with TTL flashes.
– USB for firmware upgrades.
– 1/4-20 mount thread on the side
– 3.5mm sync port
– Hot shoe locking pin
– Canon external power connector
Cactus V6 Preliminary features: *This may change*
-Wireless Manual Power Control to a list of current and previous Canon, Pentax, and Nikon compatible flashes. Flash profiles are included for some of the most popular flashes on the market. More can be added later via updates.
-Full manipulation of power levels to 1/10, 1/3, 1/2 EV stops.
-LoPower Mode fires flash for extremely short duration of time.
-Absolute Power Mode benchmarks power output of different flash models to same light intensity.
-TTL pass-through with Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Fujifilm via one single unit.
-Built-in Optical Trigger enabling pre-flash triggering.
-Group Control up to 4 groups
-Relay Mode triggers camera shutter and flash in sync
-Delay Timer configurable from 1ms to 10 seconds
-Mini-USB port for optional power supply and firmware update
More to come on this in the V6 review in the next few months.
Note: the images of the v6 are from a Alpha build, and physical features will change like finish and possible other physical features.
Now back to the RF60 review from “Aww ooohh wow” land from the Cactus V6 Preview.
RF60 Backwards Compatibility:
The RF60 is backwards compatible with V5 products like the LV5 laser trigger and the V5 transceiver.
The flash has 3 modes.
-L “Local”: This is where you use the flash on camera or on a single pin trigger where you manually set all of the settings zoom, power and so on for on camera and single pin off camera receivers. So if you have a set of say YN602’s or YN603’s, or Cactus V4’s you can still use the flash and later on possibly add a Cactus V6 future transceiver into the mix.
-S “Slave”: This is radio enabled slave, You also can use an optical slave in this mode. This means you can trigger the RF60 from a Cactus V5, LV5, future V6, and a Master RF60.
-M “Master”: This mode sets the flash to master. You can control all of the power and zoom settings of the off camera RF60 units and V6 Units.
To access the custom functions, use the menu button and then use next to cycle through the different options.
-RF Channel – (1-16)
-Delay Timer – (0-999 ms)
-Optical Slave – (S1: Straight Triggering S2: Pre-flash Ignored)
-Quick Flash – (off, on)
-Beep Feedback – (off, Fn1: Quick Flash, Fn2: Full Charge, Fn3: Insufficient Power Warning)
-Sleep Timer – (off , 3 min , 5 min, 15 min , 30 min, 60 min)
-LCD Back light (off , 5 sec , 15 sec, Continuous)
One cool thing with the RF60 is that instead of just keeping Groups A, B, C, D. You can set Aliases per group. So you have the options of using the following KEY, FILL, SPOT, RIM, HAIR, LEFT, RIGHT, BACK, FRONT. This makes it handy when switching between groups and/or changing power settings so you can quickly know what light you are changing without having to remember what group it is.
When I first took the flash out of the box my initial reaction was wow this is a beefy flash. The flash is solid, more solid than my LP160. I don’t know if it is more solid than the LP180. Another tester opened the flash up and said its is solid and well constructed on the inside also. Inside the flash, proper cable connectors are used, screws go into metal female screws and he indicated everything looks very solid and neat.
The flash does not flex or bow in when squeezing like some lower end flashes. The build quality seems a little more solid than my YN568EX flashes, and my LP160. The flash sort of reminds me of my Nikon SB24 in solidness. I was pleasantly surprised when the flash arrived.
I already did the drop test on accident although it was onto a wooden chair then bounced onto the floor in my house and not concrete. My flash dropped but the flash wasn’t even damaged and did not skip a beat from the decent fall.
USB firmware upgrades:
One feature I was excited about was the ability to upgrade the flash via usb. This has been very handy with testing. We have been able to make changes we wanted to be included or refined via firmware prior to the release of the flash. Most things can be adjusted or fixed through firmware upgrades. Now we are using the beta updater, however it seemed relatively simple to get the rf60 to work. In some instances we had to point windows to the driver in the install directory. I will make a upgrade guide in another post later on.
Being able to update the firmware definitely gave me more confidence in the product considering when I bought my first YN568EX it had a bug in it with the Canon 60D. If you fired before the capacitor was fully charged it would hang the camera. If a USB port was on the flash a simple upgrade would have fixed the issue. Instead, I had to buy a second YN568EX once the bug was fixed to use on the 60D. It was just to expensive to send back to yongnuo.
You can see the 1/4-20 thread mount, along with the usb port and 3.5mm sync port.
For attaching the flash to stands you have two options.
Attach to flash stand bracket cold shoe, or attach directly to 1/4-20 thread. I like the idea of using the 1/4-20 thread on the stands. The only down side to that is, it feels sorta weird now having your lcd screen sideways. On the upside, it now lessons the chance of the flash falling off.
The hot-shoe has added an additional feature to help for locking on camera and for third party triggers. A locking pin has now been included unlike previous cactus products.
1/4-20 mount in use.
Hot-shoe with locking pin:
External power source:
The RF60 has the option to be able to add canon type battery pack’s. Cactus is releasing their own version, however, this should also be comparable with any canon style third party external canon battery pack.
I decided to test the flash against my other flashes in my arsenal with a polaris light meter. I had each flash at the same exact spot and stand, pointed where the center of the light pattern was at the meter. I did the test a few times to make sure my readings were accurate because I was surprised by a couple of them.
I tested the flash at about 11 feet away from the light meter. I tested the Cactus RF60, Canon 580EXII, Youngnuo YN568EX, Lomopro LP160, and the Nikon SB24. Normally when I have tested flash power in the past, I have mainly stuck with a 24mm or 28mm zoom. This is what I normally use when using off camera flash with modifiers. However, this time I decided to test all the zoom levels. As you can tell at 24mm and 28mm the RF60 matches the 580EXII however at the other zoom settings it is 1/10th to 2/10th of a stop less powerful. I was highly surprised at the results of the YN568EX actually because it is marked as equivalent as the Canon 580EX II, also the LP160 claimed this also. However they are not equivalent. So the RF60 is closer to on par with the Canon 580EXII in some aspects in regards to power.
Over Heat Protection:
One point that I wanted to test is over heat protection so I decided to abuse my flashes and blind my self at the same time. The moment the ready beep sounded in full power I would take a picture on fresh batteries. I found the following numbers. Once you hit past theses values the flash will slow the recycle time down. If you keep going constant the flash may shut its self off to cool. If you pause for 30+ seconds during this series. The counter will reset because it has been given time to cool down. Some may think this is a tad on the conservative side however it also helps protect the flash life. Lowering the flash power a tad can increase the count. Theses values test to be similar to the Godox v850.
20 shots at 1/1 power
30 shots at 1/2 + 0.7
40 shots at 1/2 + 0.3
60 shots at 1/2
The recycle time seems close to or on par with the YN568EX about 2.5 seconds or so at full power with fresh enloop rechargeable batteries. It seems the YN568EX is very close in time. I charged both sets of batteries fresh and only used them for this test. This was just a quick test so results may vary. It seems to stay about even with other flashes.
Note: Since the video the beep has changed on the flash from short to longer.
The following is an over view of the four radio trigger methods for the internal transceiver.
1. Second RF60 (on camera) – Remote Power Adjustment, Zoom
2. Cactus V6 transceiver (TTL passthrough) – Power Adjustment
3. Cactus V5 transceiver (Single pin passtrough)- Triggering only
4. Cactus LV5 Laster trigger – Triggering only
In addition you have a 3.5mm sync port, hot shoe pin, and S1 and S2 optical slave options.
So this gives you a total of 8 possibilities for methods of triggering the flash. Shown below are RF options:
RF60 triggering and controlling slave RF60’s:
Future Cactus V6:
Note: this is alpha – physical features and finish are going to change
Cactus LV5 Laser trigger:
Group and Power adjustment:
By default the master is enabled so you have a total of 4 off camera groups, and a master flash on camera. To disable a given group, you just hit the group button until the group you want to disable is shown and hold down next. The group or master will become disabled. In the same way you can use the group button to go through the different groups and adjust the individual groups. If a specific group is not selected you can go into All group mode. It will then change the power settings across all the groups incrementally.
So for example. If you are using group A, B, and C. Group A is set to 1/2 , B is set to 1/4 and C is set to 1/8th power. You then need to change your aperture on your camera from f5.6 to f8 going up a stop. You can then adjust all groups by a stop and Group A will be set to 1/1, group B will be set to 1/2, and group C will be set to 1/4.
The only issue that you need to be aware of is if you go up say in this example 2 stops from the original settings. If a single group is maxed out or at lowest power it will stay at that value and the others will adjust. So for example we go to f11. Group A will be 1/1 power staying the same, Group B will be at 1/1 power because it had room to go up, and group C will now be at 1/2 power. This is because the flashes are limited at their max and min power levels. If you leave the all group mode while beyond the extremes it will then keep the ratio your at the current ratios. So if you want to keep your ratios if accidentally passing the max or min, you need to make sure not to leave all group in that state.
HSS Sympathy mode:
Not quite traditional HSS mode because there is not actual hss ttl communication between the camera and the flash via radio however. It is a HSS slave that is triggered optically by a standard TTL HSS flash. I know, not exactly what I was hoping for but still cool considering this flash is not a ttl flash. Because the lack of ttl signals being sent to the RF60 the RF60 needs a TTL flash to enable HSS. The optical slave on the RF60 needs to see the HSS flash fire in HSS mode to trigger a HSS pulse to match.
If there was a TTL transceiver I could see it being done via radio. Because cactus try’s to stay brand agnostic, they most likely will not refine a product to one brand. There have been discussions of other possibilities for the future. I will continue to throw out ideas and see if it’s possible. It would be cool if there were a way to do multi vendor universal ttl signals to trigger HSS. However, I don’t know if the RF packet is large enough to carry that additional data without totally throwing out the v5 compatibility.
The reason that manual flashes like the v850 can do HSS via radio is because the FT-16 is a brand specific transmitter with ttl pins that sense the HSS signal and passes it to the off camera flash.
The master just has to see the HSS signal. It will then pass the hss signal to the other flashes via radio.
My usage: I am using this in combination with my YN622C’s I have already tested and it works great as long as the master rf60 can see ttl flash on the YN622C. It then will work and add the extra stops of light I may need outside. To keep it able to handle different brands if you want to use TTL flash power you will need to set a delay. The RF60 allows you to set any delays by ms. Cactus provided a table to go by. However, I find it much easier to leave the delay at 0ms and just set the camera up to manual flash power with high speed sync. That way you don’t have to adjust the delay for the ttl hss pre flash.
Some quick HSS testing:
Setup YN622C on camera RF60 bare off camera about 4 feet. YN568EX at 1/128 power to trigger the rf60 “The reason I did this was because I did not want the flash from the YN568EX to effect the RF60 output.
F5.0 , ISO 250, 1/4000, flash set 1/1
F5.0 , ISO 250, 1/8000, flash set 1/1
Update: Cactus RF60 HSS over radio
With the simple addition of a Cactus V6 and a hss ttl transceiver with a sync port for pre signal we can now get hss over radio to the Cactus RF60. See how with the following post.
Multi Flash mode:
In Multi Flash mode you can control the number of pulses and the flash frequency. This is very handy if you are doing things like trying to capture an object multiple times at different points in a frame. If you tie this into the Cactus LV5 laser radio trigger you have some additional possibilities to capture some cool things like a dart being thrown or cards or whatever else you want.
Testing this flash I find it is a solid flash in both construction, reliability, and power. In most cases it is closer than other flashes or on par with the power of Canon 580EXII flashes. It seems that it is spot on the same power as the 580EXII at 28mm and 24mm.
The ability to be able to control other RF60 flashes from the master flash is nice. Having 4 groups and aliases is helpful. Changing settings is relatively fast. Although you need to get use to it to get your speed up. Using the Cactus v6 in combination is much quicker.
Users of the V5 flash triggers or LV5 laser flash triggers can go ahead and add this to their kit and it will work right off the bat. With the V5 or LV5 you can do basic triggering. With the RF60 master, and future Cactus V6 you can do group and power control. If you are looking for a new system this may also be something to look at.
The ability to use the flash in combination with my existing TTL HSS flashes is an added bonus.
-High power output
-External batter pack port
-remote power, zoom, and group control
-long range 100M 2.4Ghz
-3.5mm sync port
-s1 and s2 optical slaves
-1/4-20 side thread mount
-No lithium ion battery “A few new flashes are now just including this”
-Need for high speed compatible ttl flash for hss
-No AF light – not that important off camera. However on camera it may be helpful, however because a single pin flash, would need to be manual on and off operation because of lack of ttl communication.
Disclaimer: I do not work for nor am I paid by Cactus. I am not a distributor and I do not make any money off of my review. Cactus sent me the test units to test out, find bugs and give our feedback to make a better product for every one in the community. The opinions in this review are my own from my own experiences with the products and real world testing.
Class A has a little more technically detailed review here. http://www.pentaxforums.com/reviews/cactus-rf60-review/introduction.html