Thursday, 30 April 2009
The Strato is sold in a number of flavours, I bought the canon version because the Sony version wasn't available and I wasn't sure if the reciever would have a Sony Style Shoe. I contacted Phottix and they were able to tell me that the Strato units are all identical and that only the remote release cables are different. The set costs around £25 on ebay and in it you get a trigger, a receiver and a cable to trigger your camera. If you don't want to buy from ebay, you can get them from www.phottix.net for a little extra money, they also sell replacement cables. They didn't have a contact email address so I phoned them, and they were very helpful. They even phoned me back when I asked them to.
What attracted me to this system was the reciever. The reciever has a hot shoe on top for mounting the flash and a cold shoe with tripod mount underneath for mounting to either a camera or a tripod. There are 4 micro switches for changing channels and a big power button that you push once for on and hold down for a few seconds to turn the unit off. The obvious advantage of the design is that you can connect the reciever to the flash without cables. Cables have always been a point of failure for me so eliminating then is a big benefit. The whole thing is sturdy enough that I am happy to leave it connected together in my bag, which reduces my setup time. The power button is another potential problem area as it could get pressed by accident. Though keeping the receiver connected to the flashgun may mitigate that risk somewhat. No doubt it would be easy enough to rig up something to stop the button being pressed. The receiver is powered with a CRV2 battery, which isn't exactly ideal. AA's would have been better.
The trigger is a perplexing piece of design it is long and thin with a telescopic antenna, which can make it unweildy especially if you turn the camera on its side. The battery in the trigger can't be changed without unscrewing it and its one of those weird 12volt jobbies again not ideal. The trigger button can be used to test fire the flash or if you are remote triggering a camera, a half-press will trigger focus and a full press will trip the shutter. There is no other sync socket on the trigger, so if you shoot Hasselblads you'll need something to connect it to the trigger. An unmodified Kaiser Hotshoe with PC cable ought to do the trick nicely. Again the trigger button could be pressed accidentally, so it would be wise to rig up something to protect it from accidental presses.
The range seems plenty good to me. During the strobist meet I thought I was getting misfires, but it turned out that someone else in another room at the other side of the nightclub was using the same trigger system and we were on the same frequency. I had no problems with flash synchronisation, it synced at 1/250s without fail. As well as my SB28s they flash works with my SB24 and Sunpak 383. It doesn't work with the Jessops AF360D but that's no big surprise as the Jessops flash is very fussy about which shoes it will fit on.
I've ordered another two units and will be shooting with them exclusively. If I have any problems with them I'll let you know. However, before you buy it might be worth checking this thread on flickr as there is more information about compatibility, if you are a London Strobist you can always ask to try mine out with your flash at the next meet.
update: This flash trigger is also available from DealExtreme for considerably less than you can get it on Ebay