Tag: Product Review


A review of Phottix's new ODIN TTL trigger system for Nikon

Phottix has been putting out some great stuff lately, specifically the Odin system recently released for Nikon. Last year I picked up a set of their (yet to be released at the time) triggers and receivers.  Four office moves, three new apartments, a move to a new country, and having a child delayed me from  reviewing the Odin system for many months.  But on a positive note,  this did give me six more months to use the units before reviewing them.


ABOUT THE SYSTEM (straight from Phottix)

Top Features:

  • Wireless 2.4GHz. TTL and Manual Flash Triggering
  • Remote power control of groups in TTL with +/- EV adjustments (3 stops in 1/3 stop increments  – 18 different levels.)
  • Remote manual mode flash power control with 1/3 stop adjustments
  • Remote flash head zoom adjustments – auto or manual
  • Mix TTL and Manual flash – fire some groups in TTL, others as manual
  • Remote power control in A:B ratio modes with +/- EV adjustments
  • High speed sync – shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec.
  • Second curtain sync functions
  • Compatible with Phottix Strato 4-in-1 and Phottix Strato II Multi 5-in-1 Wireless Triggers
  • Upgradeable firmware via built-in USB port.

The Look – Black plastic.  Matches well with all Nikon camera bodies.  Looks solid with no weird angles or parts sticking out that can break off.  See pictures below.

Menu System  The menu system is very straight forward.  You can learn how to use most of the functions in less than 5 minutes.  There are three groups that you can cycle through as well as four channels.  You do the math on what the options are as far as light groups and individual controls.  Switching between manual and TTL is very easy.  Adjustments are easily made with the huge forward/backward button layouts.

Features – Listed below are the BEST features of the Odin system, as I see them:

High Speed SyncThe HSS works exactly like it’s supposed to.  See the images below.  You can hide quite a bit of light shooting at 1/8000th of a second.

A:B Ratio Mode This is nice, but I haven’t used it nearly as much as I thought I would outside of adjusting hair lights.  All this does is increase the intensity of one light set and reduce the other.  It’s nice for product photography work.  One other really nice thing about it is that it works perfectly with high-speed sync.  Check out the images below, they were fired using both A:B ratio and HSS.

Wireless TTL – It works.  It’s nice.  On the SB-900’s it even was enough to ‘focus’ the distance of the flash head remotely.  It’s remote TTL, what else do I need to say?

Range – The range is great.  I’ve used them at a distance of over 100 feet.  In fact, during a studio session last year I accidentally fired my flashes from two stories above my studio while outside.

Updateability – Simply put, it’s a good thing to have a set of triggers that will receive new firmware from time to time.  This means that the ODIN’s will more than likely become more and more compatible.

DurabilityI’m really hard on my gear.  If you read my other reviews, you’ll see that.  Heck, if you look at my gear you’ll see that.  I’ve thrown both the receivers and the transmitter around quite a bit and nothing has broken or chipped off.  All are working just fine.  One thing I did notice specifically about the Odin’s is that there aren’t any weird angles or antennae that would easily snap apart.  I’ve broken both a set of CyberSyncs and also a set of Pocket Wizards.

Nonetheless, these triggers are plastic minus the hot shoe on the transmitter.  Plastic things will eventually crack or break.

The not-so-good – Just a few things that stood out to me:

Compatibility – With TTL being that made attraction for these triggers, it would be nice to see them work with more lights.  I tested these with SB-600’s, SB-800’s, SB-900’s, Alien Bees and also Phottix’s own PPL-400 strobes.  While everything could fire, only the 600 ,800, and 900’s would do so with a TTL signal.  Sadly, there is no compatibility with the Alien Bees or the PPL-400s.  It would be a nice feature and one I was surprised to not see (radio poppers) in such a feature-rich package.  Nonetheless,  it wasn’t a big deal for me because I manually control just about everything.  I like to be in control of the amount of light I’m using.

I also found the the focus assist lights, test, and AF-ILL were sporadic from light to light, the SB-900’s being the only units with perfect compatibility.  Again, this will probably be fixed and improved upon with firmware patches.

Ready ButtonSimply put, the ‘ready’ button didn’t do a thing.  The only way I knew my flashes were recharged was by listening.  

Random Firing Issues – I’ve noticed that the triggers will randomly fire on the set that I have.  This will probably be fixed with a future firmware update.  This has little to no effect on the reliability of the units and it could be indicative of just my copy.  However, it is worth mentioning.

RX Battery Drain –  This seems intermintant, but kind of a big deal because I’m forgetful.  If you leave the receivers on they will drain quite quickly without any ‘rest’ mode.  The transmitter doesn’t have this issue, which is a huge plus.  The transmitter will actually go into a ‘rest’ mode where there is little to no battery drain.  I rarely replace the transmitters batteries, which is nice.

This is normal since you don’t want your triggers shutting down while in the middle of a long shoot.  But seven hours later they are still going to be on.   

The Conclusion – For under $400 you can get the transmitter and two sets of receivers.  That’s a good deal considering the same functionality is well over $600 from other brands.  They are a decent looking and highly functional set of triggers with some great updatability.  The system, despite a some obvious flaws, has worked very well for what I’ve needed over the last 1.5 years.



Photographers Standing Desk

A simple pipe-based standing desk

September of last year my wife and I moved back from China (here, here). During the first few weeks of transition (read: no office, no studio) I found myself working in some interesting spaces. The most surprising space was on top of an old dresser my wife had from childhood. It was a stand up solution and since I’d been wanting to try a standing desk for quite a while it this was close enough.

After two weeks of standing my wife had two comments.

1.)   You’re  focused and productive standing up.
2.)  Get your crap off my dresser.

Fast forward five months later and a few office changes, I decided to build my own based off an idea that had been rattling around in my head for a long time.


  • The desk is 80″ x 32″ and about 50″ high. (I’m 6’5″+)
  • All of these parts are the pre cut standards at Lowe’s because I was short on time
  • 2x  – 80″ x 32″ hollow doors
  • 1x – 10″ x 6″ x 1″ board
  • Full piece of plywood
  • Full piece of trim, any wood that looks nice
  • All pipes are 3/4″ Black Pipe (with sections of galvanized)
  • 4x – Floor Flanges
  • 4x – Unions
  • 9x – 4.5″ nipples
  • 14x – 10″ threaded pipes
  • 4x – 5″ inch nipples
  • 11x – T-joints
  • 1x – close nipple
  • 13x -couplings
  • 3x – 72″ threaded pipes
  • 2x – 36″ threaded pipes
  • 2x – cross joints

Because about a dozen people emailed, instagrammed, and tweeted me for more details, I decided to write up an abbreviated form of how I did it.  If someone wants more information about the details of the build I will be happy to add information to this post or I can add a specific picture of a section you want.  But for now I think creative and critical minds can put the pieces together as to how it was built (and on how to improve it!).

If you are interested, see my build notes in the expandable section below.


  • The actual table top is built out of two Lowe’s stock hollow doors with cross cut 2″ x 6″s in between the two between the 32″ in length like a sandwich.  This creates a hallow space that allows me to store cables actually inside of the table top itself. I can run a cable anywhere under the table surface I want and only have a few chords showing.
  • The top is just nice trim board I bought (80″ x 32″).  I glued and nailed it to the doors on the top to add extra strength and also a surface I’d be comfortable working on.
  • Under the table I added a cheap piece of plywood to screw the floor flanges into.  This is important because the tables two hollow stock door surfaces won’t take the wood screws and if there is any torque applied to the desk you don’t want the floor flanges separating from the table top.
  • I recommend using four cross beams under the table because it gives you the ability to stack things under the desk.  With the size of the desk and using a thinner pipe, this was important.
  • The unions are needed because any plumber will tell you that if you are building ‘circles’ or closed loops, you will end up with two lengths of pipe facing each other and no way to really connect them tightly.
  • One of the bottom cross beams is two 36″ pipes connected with a T-joint in the middle (with a supporting section going to the ground).  Because of this the second cross beam needs a coupling + the short nipple on it to make of the for the length added to the length of the table.
  • If you’ve ever worked with black pipe, you know it’s greasy.  Make sure you clean it all off or use gloves.
  • Make sure you add couplings to the bottom of each leg.  This does three things.  1) You can add height if you want/or need by adding another length of pipe.  2) It helps not scratch the floor 3) You can tighten or loosen the couplings in order to level the table.
  • Don’t use hollow doors.  If you have the time there are better solutions out there (like solid wood!).  This was a project I had to finish quickly in order to get back to work, so I made due with what I could buy at the hardware store.  Again, be different.  Improve on what I did.  You won’t have to add the plywood or trim top if you don’t do it the way I did it.
  • Go to a local, smaller hardware store.  They are cheaper and generally more interested in your project
  • I would have built a platform on top of the desk for the monitor stands vs. stacking lumber
  • Buy your floor flanges online.  Lowe’s or Home Depot will cost you about $8+ per flange.  You can get them for ~$4 online.




ThinkTank April 2012 Deals

Think Tank Photo's April 2012 Special Offers


Think Tank is one of the best companies around, and one that I’m extremely happy to be partnered with on all of our workshops.  I’m absolutely in love with their products.  My friend Brian (best name ever) over at Think Tank HQ let me know about a pretty fantastic deal they have going on through the end of April.  This deal is for the padded Pro Speed Belt that you can get for a limited time while buying the StreetWalker® Pro or StreetWalker® HardDrive (Check out my review here).

You can read the whole press release below:

Think Tank Photo announces a special offer on their popular StreetWalker™ backpacks.  When you buy one of Think Tank’s spacious and comfortableStreetWalker® Pro or StreetWalker® HardDrive backpacks by April 30, 2012, you will receive a padded Pro Speed Belt™ for free!

The Pro Speed Belt makes the StreetWalker backpacks even more comfortable and provides greater support for the weight on your back.   This padded belt also allows you to attach Think Tank’s modular bags to the belt line.  In doing so, you will have quick access to your lenses or accessories instead of having to take the backpack off to retrieve your camera gear.

With Think Tank’s StreetWalker backpacks’ slim vertical profile, you can navigate crowded places while still being able to access professional photographic equipment.  The backpacks include a monopod/tripod mounting system, a contoured harness and air channel, and lots of pockets and organizers.  Women in particular will appreciate the StreetWalker’s very narrow and vertical profile, especially when combined with the shoulder harness design.

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Review: ThinkTank Airport Airstream

Review of the ThinkTank Airport Airstream rolling camera bag

*For information about Think Tank’s huge Modular Set and Skin Set sale as well as information about the contest associated with this review, please see the very bottom of this post.

Think Tank is in the business of saving my back.  Over the last three years my gear that I carry with me in the field has only increased and the chronic lower back pain I have has also only increased to the point where I needed an alternative to my ThinkTank Streetwalker HardDrive (here). Post back pain, I had been looking for a good roller camera bag- one that was small enough to satiate the non-standardized and often nonsensical requirements for carry on luggage that many of the local airliners here in Asia have.  I finally landed on the Think Tank Airport Airstream The Airport Airstream has turned out to be quite the bag for me.  This is a bag that I have taken on business trips and one that I have carried out to the nomad grasslands of Western China all the same.


The perfect small roller for traveling with a selected amount of gear; meets international carry-on size limits.

Top Features:

  • INTERNATIONAL carry on size.
  • TSA combination locks.
  • Front cable & lock secures laptops.
  • Back cable & lock secures to fixed object.

Gear Profile:

  • Holds up to a 400mm lens

Photographer Profile:

  • All photographers, from pros to serious enthusiasts.

Technical Specifications:

  • ID: 13” W x 6.5-7.5” D x 15.5” H (33 x 16.5 x 39.5 cm)
    ED: 14” W x 8” D x 17.5” H (36 x 20.5 x 44.5 cm)
  • 9 – 10.5 lbs (4.1 – 4.8 kg)
  • Lifetime Warranty

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Review: 3 Legged Thing Brian X1

Review of 3 Legged Thing's new X1 Brian carbon-fibre travel tripod

Before using the 3LT Brian X1, I used to think their were two kinds of photographers in the world:  those who absolutely loved tripods and then those who simply thought that they were a necessary evil and lugged one along anyways.  For year’s I fell into the second camp of people who thought tripods were “a necessary evil”, heavy, cumbersome, heavy, often annoying, heavy, heavy.  I’d never really been a “Tripod Guy.”  You know, the “Tripod Guy”, the offshoot of the “Camera Bag Guy” who collects tripods as prizes and has trouble deciding which one to use.  I’ve used a fair amount of tripods but never fell in love with any of them. I always hated carrying a tripod and when I needed to make a decision between taking one and not taking one, I’d almost always choose not to carry one with me.   Then came the Brian X1.  After using the 3 Legged Thing Brian X1 for the last three months I’ve had quite a change of heart and the Brian X1 makes the decision to carry a tripod with me a very easy one.  I’ve been converted and now don’t even think twice about taking it along.

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