Finally! A TTL Radio Flash System for Canon That Actually Works!

Review: Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Canon

 

A couple of months ago I read an article on the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger system for Canon. The article was followed by some very glowing personal reviews from photographers already using this system. But before I start talking about the Odins, I need to let off some steam; let me rant…

On the Dark Side

Prior to this, I had spent several years wrestling on and off with the PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 wireless system for Canon, trying to make them work (yes, several years. I know I’m crazy). I say “on and off” because when I found the time and energy, I set up several strobes on stands (580EX or EX II’s) to try to make the PocketWizard radios work consistently so that I could trust them on a job. What was consistent was the large number of misfires from these radios. Even with the radio interference sock (AC5 RF Soft Shield) covering each Speedlite, which is supposed to minimize the rf interference created by Canon’s flash, they hardly ever worked properly. By the way, stuffing your flash into a sock is a messy kluge and a total pain in the neck.

After an hour or so of fiddling, and making adjustments with the very confusing PocketWizard Utility, I gave up and with great disappointment and disgust tossed the radios in a drawer. From time to time when PocketWizard released a new firmware upgrade, I would get excited hoping that maybe, just maybe, they had fixed something and that these things would finally work. Again, I set up a couple of strobes and went through the same frustrating process all over again, only to throw the PocketWizards back in the drawer. I went through this process three or four times over a couple of years and never once used them on a job. I just couldn’t understand how a company like LPA Designs with such a great track record could release a product that simply doesn’t work. I invested a considerable amount of money and time into a piece of technology that I could not trust. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have bad feelings for LPA – I’ve used their other products for years, but now they have lost my trust. – OK, now that I have gotten that off my chest…

Let the Sun Shine In

With all the frustration after my experiences with PocketWizard, it was with great enthusiasm that I began reading everything I could about the Phottix Odin radios for Canon (the Nikon version is in testing phase). The consistent “thumbs-up” given by every user who posted a review encouraged me to plunk down a couple of hundred bucks to try them out. I’m so glad that I did! Not only do the Odins work as you would expect, the system has some unexpected features and a high level of ease of use that simply kicks ass.

The Phottix system is made up of two primary components, a transmitter/control unit that connects to the hot-shoe on your Canon and a receiver that is attached to the hot-shoe of your flash (surprise, surprise). An unlimited number of receivers can be configured and controlled to create whatever kind of lighting set-up you want. The transmitter provides numerous settings for controlling ETTL flash compensation and Manual flash power.

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Phottix Odin Receiver

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Phottix Odin Transmitter

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The Odin transmitter on top of my camera. The illuminated LCD and buttons make working in low light conditions easy.

Setting this system up is very straight forward and easy. Attach the transmitter to your camera – it’s slightly larger than a PocketWizard Plus transceiver. Pressing the “SEL” button multiple times cycles through the major settings. Stopping on the Channel setting while it is blinking and pressing the “+” or “-” button makes it easy to select one of four transmission channels. Setting the corresponding Channel button on the receiver to the same channel will ensure that the receiver will catch the transmitted flash signal.

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On/Off switch and Group setting switch on the Odin Receiver

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Channel setting switch, USB port for upgrading firmware, and a DC port for a power adapter.

 

The Odin system supports three Groups, A, B, and C, for segmenting flash power. These can be set as TTL or Manual, or turned off altogether. Groups can also be set as a mix of TTL and Manual. The TTL flash compensation can be set to +/- 3 stops in ⅓ stop increments. This is accomplished by selecting a group with the “SEL” button and while it is flashing pressing the “+” or “-” button – which is really simple and fast. In Manual mode, power can be set from 1/1 down to 1/128. Unfortunately, the manual settings are in full stop increments. (It is my hope that this will change with a future firmware upgrade.) The Odin transmitter can also be set to control power in A:B ratio mode with +/- EV of 3 stops. If you like working with High Speed Sync, the Odin supports shutter speeds up to 1/8000 sec. There is also a setting for Second Curtain Sync.

One of the unique settings that I was surprised to discover is control of the flash zoom right from the transmitter. This can be set at Auto or Manual from 24mm to 105mm just as if you were making the setting directly on your Speedlite. If set on Auto, the flash will zoom right along with your lens exactly the way it would if the flash was attached directly to the camera. Zoom settings are applied to a group so if you have several flashes in a group they will all be set to the same zoom.

Aside from having all of the settings you would expect and then some, this system is really easy to use. There is no hassling with complicated  settings or syncing the transmitter to the receiver. When the system first arrived, I put the transmitter on my camera and a receiver on one of my 580EX IIs, fooled around with the buttons on the transmitter for a couple of minutes until I had it figured out, and then started shooting. Right from the start, this system was doing what it was supposed to do. If ever there was a misfire, it was because I was not giving my flash time to recycle. I made numerous tests using multiple Speedlites, running the TTL exposure compensation up and down, changing the flash zoom, putting the A Group in TTL and the B in Manual, running my shutter speed up to 1/8000 sec, and firing a flash outside my house from inside. All this just works. Since then I have taken my “small strobe” kit out on a number of jobs, and have gotten to the point now that I feel very confident that the Odins will perform reliably. Having complete control of your lights without ever having to touch a strobe provides tremendous flexibility. Fine tuning light output quickly on the fly is a wonderful thing.

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Sync cables included in the box with the receiver.

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The port for attaching the 3.5mm end of a sync cable.

Included with the receiver is a 3.5mm to 3.5mm sync cable with a 6.3mm adapter (looks like a phono jack). The Odin receiver has a 3.5mm output jack for connecting to different light systems. With the 6.3mm adapter on one end of the cable, I plugged the Odin receiver into one of my Profoto monolights and another into a Profoto pack. I was able to trigger these studio lights without a problem. Of course I couldn’t control the output from the transmitter, but the lights fired as expected. This is advantageous for anyone who likes to work in a mixed lighting environment. The receiver also comes with 3.5mm to PC cable for wiring from the receiver to the PC input jack on a 580EX II Speedlite or other strobe.

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Testing the system from 250 meters - the flash fired as expected.

To get a real world feel for the Odin’s distance capabilities, my buddy, Jake, and I took a camera and a flash outside for some tests. I started at about 75 meters down the street from Jake, who was holding the Speedlite, and adjusted the zoom and took a shot. I repeated this process several times until I was about 250 meters away. At this point I could barely see Jake down the street, but I had no problem seeing the flash fire when I took a picture. I could have gone further, but figured why bother. This was quite far enough. Also, I love it that Phottix humbly lists the distance in their specs at 100 meters +. They aren’t trying to impress anyone with a trumped up spec since every environment is different and results will vary. One thing is for certain, the system has no problem responding at a considerable distance.

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The little pin-prick of light in the middle of the frame is Jake holding a 580EX II connected to an Odin receiver 250 meters away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have stuffed a Speedlite attached to an Odin receiver into a Photek Softlighter where the receiver is completely out of view. You can’t do this if you are shooting with Canon’s line-of-site master/slave controls, at least you can’t do it reliably. Clearly this is one of the advantages of working with a radio system. You can put your flash on the other side of a wall or behind you and still fire the Speedlite.

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Flash with Odin receiver stuffed into a Photek Softlighter

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The flash is hidden in the Softlighter and would not fire using Canon's remote flash system which requires line-of-site with the master transmitter. Radios don't require line-of-sight.

All told, Phottix has delivered a product that is reliable and easy to use. For anyone who relies on TTL in their work and wants to get the flash off of their camera (who doesn’t?), this is a great solution that provides enough control options to make it very flexible. And, did I mention that both transmitter and receiver run on two standard AA batteries – no need to purchase a set of funky backup batteries. Just use your AAs.

Specs

  • 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.)
  • 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
  • Remote manual mode flash power control
  • Remote flash head zoom adjustments – auto or manual
  • Compatible with Phottix Strato 4-in-1 and Phottix Strato II Multi 5-in-1 Wireless Triggers
  • Upgradeable via built-in USB ports.

Pricing

The Odin transmitter and one receiver are available as a package for about $350. An additional receiver runs about $140. They can be purchased directly from Phottix or from a major camera retailer like Adorama.

Conclusion

The Phottix Odin for Canon is a well thought out and highly recommended solution for any small flash photographer who wants to reliably control wireless TTL or manual flash transmission from his/her camera. The Nikon versions will be coming soon.

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14 comments on “Finally! A TTL Radio Flash System for Canon That Actually Works!

  1. Awesome, good to hear you like the Odin. I use the Strato II Multi system which I really like as well. Phottix puts out a good product that is just as reliable as the original Pocket Wizard (not the mini) with many additional features.

    • Do you know if the Odin tirggers the pre-flash with Canon felshas even when the flash is set for manual mode? I recently purchased the Odin triggers after reading your review and tried to use my light meter with the felshas set to manual mode. The photos were always way over exposed. I’m wondering if the pre-flash was being triggered, throwing off the light meter reading.If this is the case, do you know a way to prevent the pre-flash? I sent this question to Phottix a few weeks ago, but never received a response. Thanks for all your great tips and training videos!Vic Lewchenko

      • PhilGreat blog and very informative tltiroaus. Quick question 1) with these transmitters they WILL transmit TTL if I’m using 2 Canon lenses? In my case I have a 430EXII and was plan on just getting an ole Vivitar 285HV for a second remote flash. 2) Is there an advantage to having your second or third flash TTL capable if your already using your on camera flash TTL?

        • Fabio, I’m not sure I have a solid answer to your question, but this would be my guess. If you use a Vivitar flash, you may be able to trigger the flash, but I am certain that you will not be able to control the flash via TTL. I have used the Odins with receivers attached to studio moonlights and packs and have had success firing the studio strobes, but all output settings had to be adjusted manually.

  2. I would like to buy them this weekend, but before I do I wanted to ask a question. When the flash is connected to the camera eg via a cord in manual mode you can see the distance scale on the speedlite thus helping to gauge where to place the flash and power up and down changing flash distance. Does the same happen in manual mode with the phottix odin transmitter. This is important feature for me and would not want to buy it otherwise.

    Thanks for the great article.

    Do send me an email if you need to.

    • Started with the Phottix Strato I and then got a set of the II’s. Now just bought the Odin. Used Pocket Wizards for years and they were great but hated the annenta and how they stuck up on top of the camera. Very annoying. Tried the Flex ETTL Canon version, man did Pocket Wizard mess that up. Totally unrealiable. Sent them all back for a refund. Since I have had the Phottix units, no misfires, excellent construction and they work great for a lot less than the price of the Pocket Wizards. Sold all my PW’s and am so happy I found these. Pocket Wizard needs to take a lesson from these guys!

      • James, in theory miuntong the ST-E2 would work, but in practice I often find that trying to combine manual and TTL triggers together gives weird and unpredictable results. There’s a lot of complicated signaling going on. I haven’t tried the particular setup you are asking about, but my rule of thumb with all combinations like this is that you just have to try it and see if it works

  3. Phil,This really does sound good but I have a qsotuien about them. (I didn’t ask at the factory because they might not want to find out.)Can you test if it works without a problem when a wireless home phone, that uses a similar frequency, is being used at the same time and close to the transmitter and/or the recievers.I have some real old Phottix units that seemed like they messed up in the basic transmission department. Maybe they were just bad units but a phone close by was being used at the time. I chalked them off as a lesson learned not to buy cheap stuff and haven’t used them ever again.

    • Don’t let the TTL pass-through confuse you. These tgirgers do not transmit any TTL data via radio. They are basically sync-only tgirgers requiring manual flash power settings. The only exception is that a flash mounted on-camera on the transmitter will behave in TTL mode (as if the transmitter were not there between the flash and the camera). There are some potential advantages to having 2nd and 3rd flashes use TTL, but frankly it becomes pretty complicated to set up. I’m usually using 2nd and 3rd flashes as background lights or rim lights, in which case it’s better to set them manually anyway.Phil

      • I’m not sure which triggers you are talking about, but the Phottix Odin system most definitely passes TTL data via radio. You couldn’t be talking about the Odins because you cannot mount a flash on the transmitter. Can you clarify what you are saying and what system you are referring to? Regarding the use of TTL on 2nd and 3rd flashes, it couldn’t be easier to set up. However, if you are finding the TTL settings are not meeting your lighting needs, you can always switch to manual or work in a mix of TTL and manual output.

    • Mary, that’s a good question. I just chekced with the CEO of Phottix, and he tells me they are in the process of converting over to US dollar pricing (which is probably no easy task for a company based in the UK and Hong Kong) and they hope to have dollar pricing on the website next week. Also, they plan US retail distribution in stores within a year. However, if I were really eager to get these, I would probably not wait, because I know what next week means in the world of web development

  4. I have an Odin set and I really like the way it performs in studio. Consistant flash! BUT when using it with my Canon 580EXII flash it chokes. I do alot of outdoor shooting and when I try set the flash to manual and adjust the power settings (from Odin) its like there is no change in the flash power at all. When you look on the back of the flash nothing ever changes either. The flash will say its in TTL mode and the Odin will say its in manual mode?!?!?!?! I really like the price and reliablility but am I doing something wrong? I just want to chang the power.

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