Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers

I picked up a set of Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers from Gadget Infinity many months back, and never got to review them. Now seems like a good time…

The first thing to know is that they are cheap. This is the good part, and the bad part, depending on how you look at it. In the photo studio at work we use Pocket Wizards. They are high quality wireless flash triggers that work properly every time. They’re also about 10 times the cost of the Cactus triggers. If you are a professional photographer who wants close to 100% reliable operation, Pocket Wizards are the choice. (At least, that’s what every review tells me, as well as my limited experience using them.)

Of course for the Strobist on a budget, you’ve got to get started somewhere. I did a lot of reading in the Strobist group on Flickr (and elsewhere) on the Cactus triggers, and finally decided that for under $35 I should find out for myself. I ended up ordering the V2s (version 2) triggers as the v4 (version 4) triggers were not available at the time. (These triggers are also often called “ebay triggers” as you can get cheap, wireless triggers on ebay quite easily, but I did order directly from Gadget Infinity.)

My first tests involved putting in the batteries and pressing the “test” button on the transmitter. I’d press the button maybe 50 times, and it would make the LED on the receiver light up maybe 30 times. Not exactly great. These were all at close range too, so distance was not a factor in these tests. I then connected the receiver to an old Sunpak auto 433 D and took some real photos. Again, the results were good but not great. It would fire most of the time, but on occasion it would go maybe 4 or 5 times in a row without firing. The distance for these tests was maybe 25 feet.

Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers

Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers V2s with a new Panasonic CR2 battery. Inset shows a rubber band to help keep the battery cover in place.

I did a bit more reading of reviews and comments around the web (there’s a great one here, by the way) and one comment I found mentioned that replacing the batteries would help with the reliability. I ended up getting some new batteries from DealExtreme, a 5 pack of Panasonic CR2s for under $7.

A new battery in the receiver made all the difference for me. I’ve been shooting with a Sunpak auto 144 D and a Sunpak auto 433 AF with good results. Again, keep in mind that I’m not a pro doing half-day photo shoots with models, but just a guy who wants to learn more about off-camera lighting techniques on a tight budget. (I’ve tested the triggers with our studio strobes via a sync cable plugged into the receiver, and that works great as well.)

Just for fun I tried the “test” button again to light up the LED on the receiver, and out of 200+ tests, I only saw the LED not light up twice. Much better results than before the new battery was installed.

Keep in mind, these are the V2s models, not the newer V4 models. I’m actually pretty satisfied with the v2s for now and see no need to upgrade to the V4s. With everything right in the world, the V4s should be an improvement on the V2s’ but things are not always right in the world.

If I had to sum up it, I’d say the Cactus Triggers are “good but not great.” They’re definitely a good value, and a great way to get started in off-camera lighting. Heck, even if you do have Pocket Wizards or another well-known name in wireless triggers, these Cactus triggers might make a cheap backup solution in case of an emergency.

(Just a note, I actually have the V2s model, not the V2. I believe the V2s is a newer version of the V2.)


A Motionary Tale

It’s been a busy summer… it’s already the end of July, what up? Well, we moved… We’re no longer in Oconomowoc, but now find ourselves in Delafield. It’s only been two weeks, but we’re much happier with our living/work situation here.

Oh yes it’s been busy… I’ve not got to do many of the things I’ve wanted to do lately, as work is taking priority, nothing new there… but honestly, we’re pretty happy to be busy right now. With the economy the way it is, and unemployment at its current level, we’ll take being overworked to being underemployed.

Also… I got a new monitor.

New Display

I’ve also got a speedlight now… replacing the one that died at PhotoCamp, though I will be missing the July 2009 Strobist Meetup.

I’ve said nothing valuable in this post, so I will end it here. I hope you’re having a good summer… Your Pal, Pete.


Milwaukee Strobist Meetup (Time-Lapse)

The Milwaukee Strobist group on Flickr met at Z2 Photo on June, 23rd 2009… Here’s a time-lapse video of the event.

(This video is also available at and at Vimeo and is published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.)


Milwaukee Strobist Meetup

I’ve been interested in the strobist technique of photography for a while now, but just haven’t found the time to really get into it… and the fact that my flash died at PhotoCamp certainly didn’t help things…

So when I heard about the Milwaukee Strobist group on Flickr I had this cunning idea… Invite them all out to Z2 Photo for the meetup! This was one way to ensure I’d be able to make it. :)

And come they did! We had at least one guy from Chicago, and I think a few from Madison… We had RSVP’s for about 15, and I’d guess we had about 30+ photographers there, as well as 5 models. (Here’s a group shot we did quickly at the end, some people had already left, but we got a good majority of the group.)

Milwaukee Strobist Meet up 06.23.09

And hey, I even got a few shots that I was happy with… (Thanks to everyone who loaned me equipment. Someone gave me a SB-600 to use, and at least once there was a lens on my camera that weighed 3 times as the body itself, and probably cost 4 times what my camera did!)

Milwaukee Strobist June 2009


I sort of felt like “well done lighting” plus “experienced models” made it easy to get above average shots… I know that when I’ve been left alone with lights and someone who needs a portrait, it’s a lot tougher, and good product photographer can be even more difficult. Walking into a situation where it’s all set and you just snap the shutter takes about 90% of the work out of it. :) (But hey, I’m not complaining, this was still a great experience, even if all you did was watch how other photographers do things, and I did ask a number of questions, and get some really good information in the process.)

I’m hoping at the next meetup there’s a bit more talk of “why” the lights are set up a specific way, and the many factors involved in getting a good portrait shot. Still, this was a really good experience, and a lot of fun.