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Phottix Odin for Nikon is available

If you wanted to use radio transmission in combination with multi-group control, the PocketWizard PocketWizard ControlTL, RadioPopper PX or Quantum FreeXWire used to be the only games in town. They are all very expensive.

However, back in October 2010, two innovative Asian manufacturers, Phottix and Pixel, both announced that they were working on new radio triggers compatible with some manufacturers dedicated TTL systems for flash control.

On August 26, 2011, the Pixel King became available, followed on September 9, 2011, the Phottix Odin for Canon, and on June 19, 2012, the Phottix Odin for Nikon arrived. (Search eBay for Phottix Odin.) The price seems to be USD 325 for a kit consisting of a TCU + RX.

The Phottix unit is now called Odin (some early press-releases used the name Helios). The basic kit consists of an on-camera transmitter and control unit (TCU) and receiver units (RX) for compatible hot shoe flashes.

It is obviously designed to compete with the PocketWizard ControlTL system. However, the design seems to be better thought out. With PocketWizard, you need to buy an additional gadget (the AC-3 zone controller) and put in on top of the transmitter unit. Phottix has done the only logical thing, they've integrated the controls with the transmitter, making it an Transmitter Control Unit (TCU). The TCU has a very intuitive user interface, allowing you to control three Nikon style groups all displayed on the LCD at once.

The best deal I've found on a kit consiting of a PocketWizard MiniTT1, FlexTT5 and AC-3 is USD 469. While not exactly cheap, you can get the the Phottix TCU and one RX for USD 325. That is USD 144 less. The saving are even greater when you buy more receivers. The PocketWizard FlexTT5 costs USD 219, the Phottix Odin RX only 169, that is a saving of USD 50 for each receiver you need.

The TCU and two RX units.
Phottix Odin (one TCU and one receiver). Photo: Phottix.

The Phottix TCU unit has a backlit LCD and a full set of buttons, and looks like a stand-alone radio-based replacement for Nikon's SU-800 or Canon's ST-E2 wireless transmitters.

Both the transmitter and receiver can be powered by either AAA batteries or externally through each unit's 5V USB Mini-B power input port.

The feature set is fairly impressive:

Features:

  • Wireless, four channels, 2.4GHz.
  • Range: more than 100 meters.
  • TTL and Manual Flash Triggering.
  • High speed sync shutter speeds up to 1/8000 second.
  • Rear / second curtain sync functions.
  • Remote power control with A:B ratio, or A, B, and C mode with +/- 1 EV adjustments
  • Remote power control of groups in TTL mode with +/- 1/3 EV adjustments.
  • Remote manual mode flash power control.
  • Remote flash head zoom adjustments – auto or manual.
  • Firmware can be updates using the built-in USB port.
  • Batteries: AAA.

Disappointingly, the TCU does not provide a focus assist light, and does not let you configure stroboscopic flash (multi or RPT) from the TCU. Also, unlike the Phottix Strato, and PocketWizard FlexTT5, the Odin don't let you mount a flash on top of the transmitter. Another missing feature is a remote shutter release function.

Note that unlike Canon's and Nikon's light-based systems, the Odin works by making the camera think remote flash units are mounted in the hot-shoe. Since Canon uses distance information from the lens to compute the aperture in evaluative or metering, this metering mode is not reliable with the Odin, and center-weighted average is recommended. The Nikon version may have a similar quirk.

The system communicates on the 2.4 GHz frequency (unregulated worldwide).

The Odin TCU is compatible with the Phottix Strato manual radio receivers. This is very useful, because for triggering manual studio flashes, you can get the USD 60 Phottix Strato II instead of having to use an USD 169 Odin RX.

Early user reports say that the system works as advertised, and is reliable, as long as you do not use evaluative metering with E-TTL II exposure control.

Mixed reports about compatibility with third party units. Nissin Di866 II and Di622 II are reported to work, while the the original Nissin Di866 and Di622 do not. Also, poor compatibility with most Sigma and YongNuo dedicated flashes.

The Canon version of the Phottix Odin needs to be mounted in the hot-shoe of an E-TTL II compatible body to work. E-TTL II was introduced in 2004. The following Canon cameras are known to be incompatible: EOS 1D, 1Ds, D30, D60, 10D, 300D and 1Dx, Powershot G1-6, G12, and G1x.

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