Since switching from Canon cameras to Fuji cameras I have been looking for a flash solution that will allow me to use my Canon flashguns while transitioning to a new flash system.
I tend to use my flash in manual mode, off camera. Main uses are photographing interiors and model/clothing shoots. For an interior shoot the flash guns are placed (hidden) around the interior and then I trigger the Speedlites from the camera using the Canon IR trigger. But using the Canon transmitter on the Fuji only works a one thirtieth of a second or slower synch. I need faster shutter speeds when working with people, who tend to move.
My Canon flash system has dropped to two Speedlites, a 550ex and a 530ex so I need to add some more flashguns for use with my new Fuji system. I would like to control the power output of the flashguns from the camera position saving the back and forth time when setting the flash power settings on the flash itself and get faster shutter synch.
This did seem a big ask but after much research I discovered the Cactus system consisting of Cactus flash guns and transceivers. Amazingly the transceivers can control the two Canon speedlites including their power output. The Cactus RF60 flashgun can also control the V6 transceivers and vice a versa. This would give just what I needed.
As an initial batch I ordered two V6 transceivers and one RF60 flash gun to test the feasibility of the system. The experience of setting up the flash units and transceivers was easy for my Canon 430 EX as the V6 has a built in profile for it already built in.
When placing the The 430EX on the V6 all that I needed to do was select the profile for the flash, set it to group A and it was ready to receive.
For my 550EX the process was a bit longer as the V6 did not have a profile for it. But Cactus have a very useful system for this called the” learning mode”.
Simply put the Canon 550EX on to the V6 and then select “learning” from the menu and follow the prompts. The Cactus will then fire the flash at different powers and then create a profile for the 550EX which it will use from then on. To make this easy to use system even easier to use the V6 can send the profile to other V6s wirelessly.
It would be easy to miss how important this is, it means any of my old flash guns could be put back to use using the learning mode. For me however the Cactus RF60 flash gun which does all that the V6 can do as well as being a flashgun and being great value means that I will add more RF60s rather than V6s.
My first commission with the Cactus equipment was for a property agent who asked me to photograph a property built around the 1700s, which means quaint but often difficult to work in. The budget for this type of shoot means that I have approx one and a half hours to make all the photographs interiors, exteriors and in this case also a separate office.
The first image below shows the room exposed for the exterior highlights with no flash, note the detail of the garden in the conservatory door. This leaves a lot of the main room too dark.
I used the two Canon Speedlites in the room to brighten the shadows, the Cactus RF60 I used zoomed to pick out the fireplace at the camera. Note the exposure has not changed I have just added flash. Given more time I could have worked on the shadow from the main beam but for this type of work it would have been overkill.
So how did the Cactus kit work out in the wild?
Very well is the answer, I cannot over emphasise how useful it is to be able to adjust the power of the flash units from the camera position saving endless trips into the room to balance the light between the flashes. It also means I am not moving the camera and tripod to get into the room. The V6s are just as happy on the foot or on a lighting stand, moving them around is fast and easy and the tiny size means that they are easy to hide in shot. I had no miss-fires. The signal range seems to be ridiculously long I have tested it at 150ft with no drop in reliability.
An unexpected bonus is how low the power of the Canon Speedlites can be turned down. My 430EX can be set at one sixty forth but the cactus can take it down another stop to a one twenty eighth which is very useful.
Remote Power and Zoom Control of Cactus RF60 Wireless Flash
The V6 can directly control a Cactus RF60 set to Slave mode using RF60’s built-in radio transceiver. Besides controlling power remotely in single and multiple groups, the V6 can also adjust the zoom level of the RF60 easily by pressing the adjustment wheel and swap control between power and zoom.
I will be very happy to add more Cactus RF60s to my kit and using the V6s to trigger and control them.
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