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Wireless radio trigger test

Cactus V4 & V5, YongNuo RF-602 & RF-603, PocketWizard II Plus
Published: 2011-03-17.

We have conducted testing on 4 different triggers: Cactus V4 and V5, YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603. For reference we've also included data from the web on PocketWizards II Plus units.

The Cactus V4 and YongNuo RF-602 have separate transmitters (Tx) and receivers (Rx) while the Cactus V5, YongNuo RF-603 and PocketWizard II Plus are transceivers which combine Tx and Rx functions into one unit.

Features

This section discusses all the features that may be found on these wireless triggers. If you just want a quick overview, there is a summary at the end

Range

Cactus V4: 30 meters claimed, 50 meters tested. This is enough for 98 % of users

Other units: 100 meters minimum, we saw 275 meters for the Cactus V5 and YongNuo RF-603, and 150 meters for YongNuo RF-602 in a busy urban environment.

PocketWizard claims 488 meters but this only applies to the Japan specific version. Other versions use different frequencies and power levels. Web reviews state from 100 to 250 meters. This is comparable to the other long range triggers.

Frequency

PocketWizard II Plus comes in three different versions. The US version uses the 344 Mhz band, the EU version uses the 433 MHz band, and the Japanese version uses the 315 MHz band.

Cactus V4 operates in the 433 MHz band. This band is only legal to use for unregulated devices in Europe, Australia, Africa, China, and India.

YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 and Cactus V5 operates in the 2.4 GHz band. This band is legal to use for unregulated devices world-wide.

Transmitter batteries

Cactus V4 Tx uses 23A batteries, which are not as handy as AAAs but are not too hard to find and inexpensive. Due to the low power design of the Cactus V4, these last well. Twelve months are common.

YongNuo RF-602 Tx uses an expensive disposable CR2 lithium battery. Since this is a 2.4 GHz trigger, it needs more power. Battery life is OK but not outstanding

The other units use AA or AAA batteries. Cactus V4 Rx require alkalines (they don't work well with rechargeable batteries due to their lower voltage). However these last a long time, usually 6-12 months so running costs are still low.

Flash sync connection

Cactus V4, V5 & PocketWizard II Plus use readily available 3.5 mm connections.

YongNuo RF-602 & RF-603 use the older style PC connector which is more fragile and less reliable.

Shutter cable connection

Cactus V5 and PocketWizard II Plus again provide 3.5 mm sockets. The Cactus V5 supports ½ press to focus and full press to fire the shutter, while the mono connector on the PocketWizard II Plus does not allow control over focus.

YongNuo RF-602 use a proprietary connector and the RF-603 an uncommon 2.5 mm size. These are much harder to find should you damage or lose a cable on location.

Cactus V4 don't support camera triggering.

Hot-shoe pass through on camera

Cactus V5 and YongNuo RF-603 have a hot-shoe connector top and bottom which allows a flash to be put on the Tx while the Tx is on camera. Both support flashes in manual mode only (disappointingly the extra connectors on the YongNuo RF-603 are not used in this mode). The Cactus V5 can even be used as a safe-sync, allowing old style flashes that put out up to 300V to be used on camera in this way.

Cactus V4 and YongNuo 602 don't provide a pass through hot-shoe, though it can be emulated by putting the flash on camera and connecting the trigger via cable. OK for occasional use.

PocketWizard II Plus don't have a hot-shoe on the Rx at all, instead relying on less reliable cables to trigger speedlights. They also then need to be mounted to the stand separately to the flash.

Transmitter hot-shoe lock

Cactus V4, V5 and PocketWizard II Plus lock positively onto the camera's hot-shoe. YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 don't.

This is an important issue for the YongNuo RF-603 in particular. If you use the hot-shoe pass through feature, the trigger then has to hold a flash on camera too. A slight bump is enough to knock the trigger out of alignment with the camera which stops the triggers working. A bigger bump may see the trigger and flash hit the ground.

Flash wake-up

YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 will wake up some Canon & Nikon flashes. The SB-600, some older models, and most non-Canon/Nikon flashes are not supported.

The other triggers don't provide this function, but most flashes can have “auto sleep” mode turned off via a menu so its not a major concern for most users.

Camera compatibility

Cactus V4, V5 and PocketWizard II Plus will work with pretty much any camera, even 100 year old models which don't have a hot-shoe, via the included cables. They can also be used with Sony cameras via the commonly available Sony → standard hot-shoe adaptor or PC-socket.

YongNuo RF-602 & RF-603 work well if bought for the correct brand. Canon DSLRs require Canon Tx units and Nikon DSLRs require Nikon Tx units. Rx units are the same for both. YongNuo RF-602 will usually work on other brands, but sync speed is limited to 1/125 making them less than ideal.

RF-603 simply don't work if mounted to other brands. Their “auto switching” function won't detect the camera so the triggers don't communicate at all.

Flash voltage compatibility

Cactus V4 & V5 tolerate 300 volts, PocketWizard II Plus 200 volts. This means they can be safely used with older monolights and camera flashes. The Cactus V5 can even be used as a safe-sync allowing old style flashes that put out up to 300 volts to be used on camera in this way.

YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 only tolerate 12 volts. Higher voltages will damage the Rx units

On/off-switch

Cactus V4 and YongNuo RF-602 have an off-switch on the Rx unit only. Unfortunately these are not easily accessible with a flash mounted. As the Tx has no off-switch it is possible for the Tx battery to run flat if something presses the “test” button in your camera bag, but normally the Tx uses no power if not in use.

YongNuo RF-603 switches are similar – all units have an on/off-switch but its not accessible with a flash mounted.

Cactus V5 have a side-mounted RX/off/TX-slider that is easy to use at all times.

PocketWizard II Plus have a front mounted switch, also very easy to use.

No of units needed to trigger one camera and one flash wirelessly

YongNuo RF-603 and PocketWizard II Plus have a special channel used exclusively for camera triggering, and this works separately to the flash triggering system. Shutters and flashes need to be triggered at slightly different times as the mechanical shutter doesn't work as quickly as electronic flash. YongNuo RF-603 and PocketWizard II Plus require only 3 units to perform both functions: One on camera, one in hand to trigger the camera, and one under the flash.

YongNuo RF-602 and Cactus V5 require two sets of units set on different channels. The first set should be used to trigger the camera – one unit in hand and the other attached to the camera's shutter trigger port. The second set should be on a different channel, with a Tx unit on the camera's hot-shoe and a Rx attached to the flash.

Cactus V4 do not support camera shutter triggering.

Bulb/intervalometer function

Cactus V5 have a special function which allows easy use of bulb mode. In camera trigger mode holding the Tx button for two seconds puts the Rx into a mode where it signals the camera to shoot continuously i.e. bulb mode. Pressing the Rx button again cancels this mode. This can also be used as a simple intervalometer function, the camera will take images continuously as if the shutter button was being held down.

None of the other triggers here have this function.

Conclusion

Cactus V4 (the first reliable inexpensive trigger):
+ Standard 3.5mm connections.
+ Excellent battery life, which is good as Rx uses Alkaline AAAs & Tx uses 23As.
+ Compatible with old high voltage flashes.
- No shutter triggering.
- Range “only” 30 meters but this is enough for 98 % of uses.
Good, basic flash triggers, connectors & Rx batteries standard sizes.
YongNuo RF-602 (the first 2.4 GHz, 100 meters range affordable trigger):
+ Good triggers for 100 % Canon or 100 % Nikon users.
+ Shutter triggering works well.
+ Support for multi channel triggering, but tiny dip switches (tool needed) to change channels.
- Poor compatibility (slow sync) with Pentax, Olympus, Sony or mixing Nikon & Canon.
- Not suited for high voltage flashes.
- PC & proprietary connectors, no 3.5mm sockets.
Good for Nikon & Canon users, underperforms with other brands.
YongNuo RF-603 (transceiver design sounds good …)
+ Separates shutter & flash triggering allowing one unit to perform both functions.
- Pass through flash mode a good idea, but poorly implemented as the Tx lacks a locking shoe risking the flash & TX hitting the ground. Disappointingly, TTL signals are not passed through.
- Nikon Tx must be mounted on a Nikon DSLR to work, Canon version on Canon DSLR.
- not compatible with Pentax, Olympus, Sony etc.
- lacks multichannel triggering, a downgrade from RF-602.
- channel dip switches are located under batteries and require use of a sharp object.
For most users YongNuo RF-602 is a better choice.
Cactus V5 (fully featured transceiver):
+ Standard 3.5mm jacks for both flash & camera triggering.
+ Uses AAA batteries, rechargeables OK too.
+ Compatible with old high voltage flashes.
+ Multi channel triggering via well placed dial on side.
+ Flash pass through with locking hot-shoe and safe-sync support.
+ Unique bulb/intervalometer mode.
- requires 4 units to trigger flash & camera… but all 4 cost less than one PocketWizard II Plus set.
Outstanding design, all controls easily accessible, uses standard size batteries and connectors. The overall winner here.
PocketWizard II Plus (the industry standard):
+ Standard 3.5mm jacks for both flash & camera triggering.
+ Uses AA batteries, rechargeables OK.
+ Compatible with old high voltage flashes.
- No hot-shoe so flash pass through not supported and cables/adaptors needed for speedlights.
- Some reliability issues with Canon 580EX2.
- Only 4 channels.
- No multi channel triggering.
- Expensive.
Good older studio style transceiver but expensive, not really designed for speedlight use.

Scoring

Zero points – feature OK but not outstanding – text in black.
+1 point – best in class – text in green.
-1 point – missing feature or badly implemented – text in red.
½ points – mixed positives and negatives – text in black and green, or black and red.

For most users the Cactus V5 represents great value. It includes all the features of the other triggers in a very easy to use package, without the pricetag of the PocketWizard II Plus.

Disclaimer: We stock both Cactus and YongNuo products… however this gives us a great insight into what a wide variety of users want from their triggers.

Copyright © 2011 Leo at www.imagemelbourne.com.au. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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2 responses:

Price difference

All of us know that we find alternate route to PW/RP for their high price. This comparison should have given more emphasis on pricing, because almost different league are compared here. Pricing will probably change over time. At this point in time, if I compare how 4 units of YongNuo RF-603 (~70usd) are priced against 4 units of Cactus V5 (~120usd) on eBay, I would say that Cactus V5 is almost double the cost. I feel that the Cactus V5 doesn't justify that much of a higher price.

This review definitely gave a good overview of these triggers. However Cactus V5 and YongNuo RF-603 are at completely different price points.

Cheapest most reliable triggers are indeed the YongNuo RF-602. In the checklist, it appears as if equal weight is given for every bullet point, whereas in reality we should not.

avatar
High voltage

Having smoked a couple of Yongnuos due to my high voltage Vivitar flash, I can appreciate the fact that you've listed voltage ranges for these units. The Cactus V5 is a bit more expensive, but seems to be well worth it.

Thanks for the work!

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