Questions: Nissin 866ii & 3xCanon 430EX(II) - Trigger experiences / options?

pj1974

80D, M5, 7D, & lots of glass and accessories!
Oct 18, 2011
690
212
Adelaide, Australia
Hello everyone

I would like some advice on flash photography. Firstly, a quick introduction of myself and my current gear, for context. (Please bear with me, and thanks in advance for reading and your responses).

With over 20 years of photography experience, (the most recent 12 years with Canon DSLRs), I consider myself an advanced amateur level. I have taken photos from many genres, mainly concentrating on landscape, wildlife, nature macro and occasional ‘event’ (e.g. camps, celebrations, functions). I am a middle-aged married guy living in Australia.

I own a Canon 7D, 400D and 350D. I use the 7D for 98% of my current photography (the 350D was my main camera from 2005 till late 2009 – when I purchased the 7D). The 400D I purchased second hand a few weeks ago. My mainly used lenses include the Canon 15-85mm, 70-300mm L, 100mm macro, 50mm f/1.8 STM and Sigma 8-16mm. I regularly provide people with advice when it comes to photography: composition, techniques, what gear to buy, etc.

However I consider myself only at a ‘intermediate level’ when it comes to flash photography. I have owned a Nissin Di866mkii for about 5 years but have used it relatively infrequently. I learned all of its functions (it is a great flash – with a lot of bang for the buck – e.g. master functionality, sub-flash, high GN, etc). I bought the Nissin Di866mkii new online for about half the price that the 580EX II was selling for at that time.

I have recently decided to expand my skills in the area of flash & artificial lighting. In recent weeks I purchased three second hand Canon Flashes (2 x 430EXII and 1 x 430EX) from 3 sellers for great prices (around AUD$100 each). These 3 new Canon flashes are in great condition and work perfectly, both mounted on my 7D and 350D, as well as off camera. Each is controlled from my 7D flash menu and inbuilt flash being the ‘master optical trigger’. The 3 flashes also function as slaves with my Nissin 866ii as master.

Currently photography is ‘just’ a hobby (a very passionate one). I have a full time job working in middle management in the Australian Government. I often help out friends by taking photos at birthdays, celebrations, parties, weddings, church events, camps, etc. But mainly photography is for my own interest and enjoyment. Most times I have been given gifts or tokens of appreciation. I may look into setting up a part-time photography business.

Ok… so onto the ‘where from here’ and ‘how will flash photography’ fit into my photography.

I foresee there being advantages to using radio triggers, particularly in the bright Australian sun which impacts the operation of or, the effective range of optical triggers. As I understand, optical triggers are either pre-flash and/or infra-red signals from the master to the slave/s.

1) So my first question is, is this correct?
Or can someone explain to me in better detail, about pre-flash and/or infra-red signals? (Particularly in relation to the flashes that I have).
Or does it depend on my 7D’s flash vs having my Nissin as master?

I realise that by using radio triggers both greatly extends the effective range the slaves can operate from the master, as well as reduces issues of the slaves’ optical receivers needing to be in line of sight (and facing towards) the master flash. Although neither my Nissin 866ii nor any of the Canon 430EX/ii flashes can rotate 360 degrees around, the good thing is the Nissin can rotate 180 degrees on the other side that my Canon flashes can (so I sort of have that covered, in a way).

Both on my Canon 7D and via the Nissin menu, I can set and individually adjust 3 groups of slaves, which I find really handy and both a flexible arrangement. When using bounced and/or off-camera flash photography, I set all my flashes to manual mode and set my camera main dial to M (e.g. 1/200sec, f/8 at various low ISOs). I find this easier and more controlled than using the unpredictability of TTL or other settings.

On a few occasions I have used HSS – and I really want to use that more in the future. Thankfully all my flashes support HSS, which can be handy for fill lighting in brighter outdoor lighting. I also have dabbled a few times in strobe lighting / stroboscopic flash, and may use this in the future, but I expect very rarely.

So, as you can probably gather I am looking at what are suitable triggers to get. I have spent several hours for the past few weeks looking at the various options with their pros and cons. At this stage I’m leaning to getting up to 4x Cactus v6 triggers, as they offer the mix of features and functions I am looking for. These include build quality, ease of use, compatibility with a wide range of cameras and flashes (even different brands, if I understand well) – and operating range. I came across this interesting article which hints the Cactus v6mkii is around the corner (so I may wait for that!) http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/latest/photo-news/sony-users-soon-able-to-shoot-any-brand-of-flash-cactus-v6-mk-ii-72595

However in the meantime, I have some additional questions that will help me be best informed.

2) Do current users of the Cactus v6 have any compatibility issues or functionality limitations with any of my current gear?

3) I may buy a Canon 80D in the future… are there any users who have used Cactus triggers on this body yet – and can share their experiences? Particularly in relation to using the in-camera menu vs the Cactus menu. Do I understand correctly that with the Cactus a user can have more groups than in the 80D (which is limited to ‘just’ groups A:B)?

4) Can full manual control be maintained no matter the combination of flashes and camera with Cactus v6 triggers?

5) How does the ‘benchmarking process work’? Is it genuinely useful or just a marketing ‘gimmick’? (To my mind, this could be very useful when someone has flashes with varying power outlets).
For what it’s worth, I have found my Nissin 866ii to be very similar in power output to my 430EX(ii) flashes, i.e. 1/1 (full) flash on all is very close… whereas having the Nissin on 1/2 power is noticeably less bright than having my 430EX(ii) flashes at 1/1. Some people reports third-party flashes are somewhat optimistic in their guide number (GN) rating.

6) In terms of multi-purpose light diffusers, what would you recommend, particularly if it can be kept relatively small / light / portable?

7) Any other advice you can give me? (Would be really appreciated!)

Again, many thanks in advance!

Paul 8)
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Mar 25, 2011
16,694
1,650
You can buy radio triggers, cables, etc and find that you are still frustrated when you get a new camera and find that it takes 6 months for non canon hardware to get firmware updates. Consider getting some 600RT's and sell the others. No more of the pre-flash business or other triggering issues. The money you get from selling the old equipment and save from buying triggers will put you a long way towards buying two or three 600RT units.

I seldom use flashes, and finally sold two of my 580EX II flashes. I have several vintage flashes and slave triggers, they would do a good job indoors, but I have never considered using them. I may charge them up and give them a try, I had them all out and working a few months ago, planning to sell them. I am setting up continuous CFL lighting in my small room that I have setup over the past year. This is in addition to a home made light table which I would like to replace with a rolling cart in the new studio, I need bright lights. I have a mixture of lights right now, 85 watt CFL's, two 35 watt LED's and 4 ft fluorescents. New softboxes are coming. I have at least a dozen lightstands, backdrop holders, reflectors, etc that do not get used. I can light up the world with my two Tota lights, 750 or 1000w bulbs that have to be put on separate circuit breakers and heat up a room in no time. They were left over from my doing video many years ago. I have some large Smith Victor reflector type flood lamps, 500w light up things nicely too. (too hot). As part of my remodel of the photo room, I am going to get rid of those surplus items. I have much more.
 

Hillsilly

EOS R
Oct 16, 2010
1,100
2
I use flash a lot, but only in really simple configurations, so I can only really comment on a couple of things.

I've got a Di866ii as well. Unfortunately, I've only got the one and have never played with its wireless abilities. Mine usually acts as slave and is triggered by a camera mounted flash.

But optical triggers are problematic outside during day time, as the slave has to be in front of the trigger. Whereas, indoors, you can place the slave almost anywhere and reflections from walls and the ceiling will usually trigger it. (Actually, there is more to this. If your on-camera flash can rotate, then you can point it in any direction. Let's just say you have to think about it a bit more and will have a higher percentage of times that the flash won't trigger).

To get things to work consistently outside, I have a pair of Cactus V5's. I've had them for a few years and they're still working fine. The newer V6's are even more feature packed and great value. If my V5's break, or I start getting more creative, I'll be looking at the V6's, too.

In relation to other advice, I've only shot with portable, studio type lights (eg Elinchrom Ranger) on a few occasions, but every time....wow!! In the last couple of years, some more affordable options have come to market. I often wonder why I continue with little, puny, handheld flashes.

pj1974 said:
...relatively small / light / portable...

...Oh yes, that's why. So if you want your photos to look good, you're probably considering the right sort of questions. If you want your photos to look really, really good and you've got a helper /wife to help carry gear, maybe a bigger paradigm shift is called for.
 

pj1974

80D, M5, 7D, & lots of glass and accessories!
Oct 18, 2011
690
212
Adelaide, Australia
Mt Spokane Photography said:
You can buy radio triggers, cables, etc and find that you are still frustrated when you get a new camera and find that it takes 6 months for non canon hardware to get firmware updates. Consider getting some 600RT's and sell the others. No more of the pre-flash business or other triggering issues. The money you get from selling the old equipment and save from buying triggers will put you a long way towards buying two or three 600RT units.

I seldom use flashes, and finally sold two of my 580EX II flashes. I have several vintage flashes and slave triggers

....

As part of my remodel of the photo room, I am going to get rid of those surplus items. I have much more.

Thanks for your reply, Mt Spokane. I do appreciate what you have written that having Canon gear is going to bring most compatibility to the table for future proofing.

At this stage I am not aiming to get so serious into flash photography, that I want to spend nearly AUD $2000 for 3 x 600RT Canon flashes (The flashes are not cheap, at least not here).

For around AUD$350 I can get 4x Cactus v6 triggers, which will give me quite a lot of flexibility... though I plan to wait till after the next Cactus triggers are released (Cactus v6 ii?) to see whether I want to go with them. HSS via remote would be cool!

You certainly have a lot of lighting gear... and as you wrote, not using everything - so selling what you don't use makes sense (and 'cents'... lol).

In the last few days I did some optical triggering from my 7D with my Nissin Di866ii and 2 x 430EX and 1x430EX flashes, and came up with some cool results. My wife and step children really liked the results!

Thanks again for your time in replying. Have a great day.

Paul 8)
 

pj1974

80D, M5, 7D, & lots of glass and accessories!
Oct 18, 2011
690
212
Adelaide, Australia
Hillsilly said:
I use flash a lot, but only in really simple configurations, so I can only really comment on a couple of things.

I've got a Di866ii as well. Unfortunately, I've only got the one and have never played with its wireless abilities. Mine usually acts as slave and is triggered by a camera mounted flash.

But optical triggers are problematic outside during day time, as the slave has to be in front of the trigger. Whereas, indoors, you can place the slave almost anywhere and reflections from walls and the ceiling will usually trigger it. (Actually, there is more to this. If your on-camera flash can rotate, then you can point it in any direction. Let's just say you have to think about it a bit more and will have a higher percentage of times that the flash won't trigger).

To get things to work consistently outside, I have a pair of Cactus V5's. I've had them for a few years and they're still working fine. The newer V6's are even more feature packed and great value. If my V5's break, or I start getting more creative, I'll be looking at the V6's, too.

In relation to other advice, I've only shot with portable, studio type lights (eg Elinchrom Ranger) on a few occasions, but every time....wow!! In the last couple of years, some more affordable options have come to market. I often wonder why I continue with little, puny, handheld flashes.

pj1974 said:
...relatively small / light / portable...

...Oh yes, that's why. So if you want your photos to look good, you're probably considering the right sort of questions. If you want your photos to look really, really good and you've got a helper /wife to help carry gear, maybe a bigger paradigm shift is called for.

Thanks for writing Hillsilly.

I have really enjoyed using my Nissin both as master (on my older DSLR bodies) – or as part of my (4 slave) configuration when triggered from my 7D. It allows quite a bit of creative lighting.

The Cactus v6’s have some great features (e.g. 1) being able to adjust lighting in absolute power, and 2) having profiles, all my flashes are in pre-defined presets). So they are what I’m leaning too (or the next Cactus triggers, due in June 2016.

Thanks for what you shared about your experiences with the v5’s. The ease and control of radio (particularly being able to adjust at the Cactus on the camera) is important to me. That’s what I like about being able to adjust on my 7D in camera menu, the level of any of my slaves, or by having my Nissin on my 350D / 400D.

I want to keep my lighting / flashes very portable at this stage… so I won’t go for ‘continuous lighting’ at this stage… but try to be clever in the way I use my “Speedlite” style flashes.

In the future, however, I may get more professional / bigger gear! I will keep an eye on what people recommend, and as you wrote, with affordable options now being available, that’s a good sign.

Cheers

Paul 8)