Bernard Brand, a portrait and conceptual photographer and artist based in Pretoria, South Africa, reviews the Cactus V6 II Wireless Flash Trigger Transceiver with some telling before and after photos.
I currently use the previous version of the Cactus V6 triggers along with two Cactus RF60 (Nikon SB800 and Nikon SB80DX) flashes, but I really wanted to try out the High-Speed Sync (HSS) functionality of the new Cactus V6 Mark II for myself, so I cycled over to Outdoorphoto (which was quite the distance) to pick up the shiny new toys for this review.
I’m not going to go on about trigger specs too much because there are tonnes of reviews out there. I quite like this one on Fujilove, but for posterity, here are the technical specifications.
Two High-Speed Sync Modes
- Normal HSS: Supports shutter speed up to 1/8000 sec.
- Power Sync: Boosts flash contribution above camera’s x-sync speed, perfect for extreme conditions where Normal HSS is not powerful enough.
Cactus also extends HSS capabilities to Fujifilm cameras despite them not yet supporting high-speed sync at the time of writing.
Both the V6 II and IIs now has an automatic LED AF-assist light that makes autofocusing in dark environments possible – even in pitched-black! Besides the camera-mounted V6 II/IIs, off-camera units will also activate the AF-assist light, which helps to focus even when the camera is far from the subject.
V6 IIs for Sony
The dedicated Sony version – V6 IIs, embodies all the desirable functions of its sibling V6 II but with a Sony compatible hot shoe on the transceiver body, ensuring a seamless and secured connection with Sony cameras and flashes. Mounting the V6 IIs on a Sony Alpha camera allows the photographer to shoot above camera’s maximum x-sync speed and control power and zoom of Sony, including those with a Minolta/Sony hot shoe via an adapter, and other V6 II compatible flashes. It is the perfect wireless flash trigger for existing and new users of Sony Alpha cameras, especially those who may still have non-Sony system flashes in their camera bags.
V6 II and IIs can now auto-detect the on-camera portable flashes at device start-up by selecting the system the flash belongs to and assigning an Auto flash profile. Similarly, the V6 II will auto-detect the camera and selects the system accordingly. This simple plug-and-play makes the setting up extremely quick and easy that both amateurs and professionals appreciate.
Expands Flash Compatibility
Remote zoom control now applies to all compatible TTL flashes, gives the photographer much quicker controls. Better still, previously unsupported digital TTL flash models on the V6 are now being supported.
Features at a Glance
1. Cross-brand wireless manual power and zoom control with HSS support of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony flashes
2. Two cross-brand high-speed sync modes
- Normal HSS supports shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec
- Power Sync boosts flash contribution above camera’s x-sync speed
3. Multi-master supports up to 20 photographers firing the same set of flashes at their own power settings
4. AF-assist light assists focusing in low light environment
5. Flash profile customization ensures accurate power output
6. Work seamlessly with the RF60 series to support HSS and Power Sync
7. Other useful features inherited from the V6 including:
- Lo Power
- Absolute Power
- TTL Pass-through
- Group Sequence
- Sport Shutter
- Remote Shutter
- Relay Mode
- Delay Mode
- Firmware Update support
Without further ado, here are the images we made on that day…
With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. What I wanted to test is how they work in day to day use, so I texted my friend Cath, who is always game to be in front of the camera and is so comfortable with it. She came over to my place and we then ventured through my neighbourhood to do some testing. Please note that all the images were shot with two flashes in the Brolly.
EXIF – 1/2000th @ f2.5, ISO 100, 56mm, without flash
Shot without flash you can see that the image is very underexposed. Then with some processing done, it’s actually a pretty good looking image. It feels “flat” to me though in terms of lighting and contrast; overall not a bad looking image. Had I exposed correctly for Cath, I would’ve “nuked” the leaves up top, and completely blown out the trees in the background. HSS helped me with that.
EXIF – 1/2000th @ f2.5, ISO 100, 56mm, with flash
With HSS flash, you can already see the image on the left looks better than the above image without flash. Then with processing applied it has a nice contrast to it. Some nice shadows on the left of the face and not as “flat” as the image without flash.
EXIF – 1/250th @ f2.8, ISO 100, 56mm, no flash
This is shot at the camera’s native flash sync speed of 1/250 sec and you’ll see it’s incredibly overexposed and if I added flash to this, the highlights on Cath would be completely blown and unsalvageable. There is, however, enough information to still get a good image after processing.
EXIF – 1/2000th @ f2.8, ISO 100, 35mm, with flash
EXIF – 1/250th @ f2.8, ISO 100, 35mm, 3 stop ND filter,
The last image from the shoot. I remembered that Cath does ballet and I wanted to illustrate another great thing about HSS; freezing action, so I asked her to do a pirouette. In the image on the left, you’ll see that the image is sharp and the action is completely frozen. In the image on the right, you’ll notice her hair and arms are blurred, and even if I added flash to freeze the action you would still be able to see motion blur.
On a separate day…
I dragged my good friend Ett Venter into the CBD with me and he wanted to make a specific image where he was holding the Brolly. Here is the resulting image.
EXIF – 1/8000th @ f1.4, ISO 100, 35mm, with flash
That’s a Wrap
I hope you enjoyed the review. Just a last thought: I, unfortunately, did not have enough time to do extensive testing with my Nikon speedlights. However, I can say that from using them with my current V6s that the setup is simple to do and that they support several models and with new firmware updates they keep adding to that lineup.
One thing that I would change is the wheel on the back of the triggers. I keep bumping and adjusting the power with my forehead when I shoot, and that can get annoying, but other than that the triggers are great and do a great job.