phottix_odin_01

Review: Phottix Odin TTL flash triggers

 

Updated 2012/10/11  We did a quick test of the Odin with the newly released Nikon D600. From what we can see, everything seems to be working perfectly. All the basic controls, high speed sync…etc It’s good to see the Odin is working great with new cameras without the need  to wait for new firmware.

 

Nikon has a pretty decent camera flash system called CLS (Creative Lighting System) that allows you to trigger and control remote speedlights from your camera. It’s pretty easy to use and most of the Nikon DSLR can use it’s built-in flash as the commander to control the remote speedlights. Unfortunately because it’s an infra red based system, it requires direct line of sight and the working distance can be quite limited. While there are tricks and workarounds, a lot of photographers also use aftermarket radio based trigger system when the Nikon CLS is not the perfect solution.

There are two major types of radio based triggers: Non-TTL triggers and TTL triggers

Non-TTL triggers pretty much do only one thing, trigger the remote speedlight(s). The Non-TTL triggers are generally more simple, more reliable and cheaper.

TTL triggers on the other hand are more sophisticated. They don’t only allow you to trigger the remote speedlights, you can also adjust the power and some other speedlight settings remotely. TTL triggers doesn’t mean you have to fire the flash in TTL mode, you can control the power in the good old manual mode as well. The obvious advantage with the TTL triggers is that you can adjust the power of the remote speedlights quickly and easily. Imagine if you have mounted multiple speedlight(s) behind a softbox, up on a light stand. If you are using non-TTL trigger, you have to bring the speedlights down to adjust the power and put them back up when you are setting it up. Not only it takes time, and you may have changed the position or angle of your speedlights when you are adjusting the power. If you are using TTL triggers, you can just press a few buttons on your camera’s transmitter unit. Unfortunately, the TTL triggers are usually quite expensive and a lot of them are not that reliable as well.

Phottix has released their Odin TTL flash triggers for Canon system last year and just a while ago they have also released the Nikon version as well (They have just announced the Sony Alpha version recently too). After reading some positive feedbacks on our forum and some other websites, I have decided to try out the Phottix Odin TTL triggers and see how good or bad these TTL flash triggers are.

The Phottix Odin TTL Triggers

The Phottix Odin TTL Triggers consist of two main components, the Transmitter and Control Unit (we’ll just call it the TCU) and the receiver unit (we’ll just call it the receiver).

So this is the Phottix Odin “Flash Trigger” set:

And this is what you can find inside the box:

Phottix did a pretty good job and included most if not all the accessories you’ll need. My only complain is that the User manual is only a PDF file on the CD. It may have saved a little tree, but I personally always prefer a printed version that I can take and read anywhere easily.

The Odin TCU looks very similar to the Nikon SU800. It has a decent size LCD at the back and a group of buttons below the LCD.

The LCD displays all the important information, like the channel, flash mode, battery level indicator ..etc The LCD and buttons on the TCU are all backlight.

This is how the Odin TCU looks like when mounted on a camera: (Front View)

(Rear View)

The TCU doesn’t have any hotshoe mount so you cannot attach a speedlight on top of it. It is probably partially because of the shape of the TCU (which is quite tall). It is a bit of a shame as it means users can’t mount a on camera flash for a bit of fill flash, and you have to remove the TCU every time you want to use a on-camera flash. Personally I would prefer the TCU and the receiver to be a bit smaller but at least they all use AA batteries so it’s easy and cheap to replace them. I am using rechargable AAs on both the transmitter and receiver and they seem to work great.

The receiver doesn’t have any LCD screen, instead it has a small LED light, it will light up in different colour under different conditions. The receivers can also be powered by 5V power supply if you want.

If you have more than 1 speedlights, you will probably want to order some additional receivers:

The Odin triggers operates at 2.4GHz frequency so there is only 1 version for every country in the world and you don’t need a special radio license to use them. This is great for photographers who travel to different countries regularly.

Both the TCU and receiver are mostly made of plastic but feels reasonably solid (for a plastic device anyway), maybe just a little bit too light. When I placed the Odin TCU and receiver next to my Nikon SB900 speedlight, the build quality of the Odin is almost as good as that of the SB900. While I haven’t drop or tested how strong the hotshoe mounts are, it seems strong enough and doesn’t have too much play when the Odin units are mounted onto the camera/speedlights/lightstand.

 

Using the Odin

The Odin Triggers are quite easy to setup. When I received the Odin triggers, I haven’t actually read the manual (as it was a PDF file and I was not in front of a computer). Basically I just took them out from the box, insert the battery, mount the TCU on the camera, mount the receiver onto a flash. Turn everything on, set both to the same channel (and remember set the flash to normal TTL mode) and it just worked straight away! You don’t need to link/sync the pairs or do any other setup steps. If you have used a SB900 or SB910 before, you should know how to setup the Odin TCU as they have a very similar user interface. You should have everything working within a few minutes or even seconds.

While the big LCD makes the system quite easy to understand and use, I personally actually prefer the mechanical dials on Pocketwizrd’s AC3 control unit and believe it is faster than having to go through the menus on the LCD screen. But it’s a personal preference and the disadvantage of the smaller Pocketwizard AC3 unit is that it doesn’t have a LCD display which also displays a few other important information.

With the Odin triggers, you assign your remote speedlights in one of the three different groups. And then you can fire each group in either TTL mode or Manual mode. You can adjust the power in 1/3 stop steps (either in TTL or manual mode). Or you can set the power of your remote speedlights in A:B ratio if you want. You can adjust the speedlight’s zoom as well. Either set it to follow your len’s focal length or you can set the zoom manually between 20 – 200mm.

The remote speedlight’s focus assist light can also be switched on if you want. There is also a modeling light mode which flashes all the speedlights for 1 second. That helps you to preview the lighting setup or help you do the focusing under dark environment when the built-in AF assist light is not enough.

When you are changing the settings on the Odin TCU, the remote speedlight would update immediately, just like they are directly attached to the camera. For example, when I change my camera’s ISO setting from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. I can see my remote SB900’s display updated pretty much at the same time.

Phottix claims the Odin TTL triggers support high speed sync so you can shoot at maximum shutter speed of 1/8000s (but it depends on camera/speedlight). This is a very important feature and I will test it and see if it works a bit later in this review.

 

Working Range Test

Phottix claims the Odin’s working range is 100m+ which is quite a long distance. So I took my camera, SB900 speedlight and Odin triggers outdoor to see whether the claimed 100M+ range is true or not

I connect my SB900 to an Odin receiver. The TCU was mounted on my Nikon D800. And set the flash firing mode to MANUAL.
I started the test by standing at approximately 15m from my remote speedlight. 3 consecutive shots was fired and I reviewed each photo to see if the flash was triggered successfully in all of the 3 photos. If true, then I walk a bit further away and repeat the test. Although the radio base trigger like the Odin doesn’t require a direct line of sight to work, the trigger signal strength will be reduced if there is any object in between the TCU and the receiver. And the signal strength reduced will depend on the size, shape, material of the object in between. So to keep things simple and consistent, I made sure there is a direct line of sight with the receiver during the working range test.

So the flash got triggered successfully 100% at 15m, 30m, 45m (which the CLS would normally stop workng), then 60m, 75m, 90m.

Then at 105m, eveyrthing still worked perfectly. So the claimed 100m distance is true. I decided to conitnue the test and see how the Odin response.

So 120m, 135m, the flash was still triggered 100%

And this is the results at 150m:

In case the photo is too small to see, the remote SB900 150m away was triggered successfully in every one of the three test shots.
Unfortunataely I ran out of space and couldn’t really continue the test.

 

Working Range Test 2

In the previous test, I found out the triggers still working perfectly in an open area up to 150m away. I want to see how much further away can I go, so I went to another bigger outspace and retest the maximum working range.

I started at around 150m distance. Just like the previous test, the trigger worked perfectly at that distance:

So I continue walk further and further away from my remote SB900. And repeated the test every 15-20m. Very soon, i couldn’t see my speedlight anymore (partly because it was quite dark already) while the trigger was still working 100%.

And this is the last photo I took before i ran out of space again!

The distance from my speedlight at that point? 350m !!!!

Yes I was 350m away,and the trigger was still firing the remote speedlight perfectly at that distance!

I don’t know how much futher I can go before the trigger will stop working, but to be honest, at 350m away, I can’t even see my remote speedlight anymore and the output from the speedlight was really pretty weak even I was shooting at ISO3200 and f/1.4 already. So yes I’ll probably have to come to the conclusion that the Odin’s working range is more than anyone ever needed!

 

Hi Speed Sync

Phottix claims the Odin TTL flash triggers support hi speed sync and the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000s. This is a very important feature if you are a wedding photographer  as it’s very difficult to keep the shutter speed before your normal sync speed (e.g. 1/250s) when shooting outdoor at daytime at large aperture.  So I want to test and see if it really works. I’ve assigned my speedlights to 3 remote groups. And I shot a number of different photos at very high shutter speed (up to 1/8000s) to see if the hi speed sync really works.

The result?

Yes it works.

I’ve took around 50 photos, most of them at 1/8000s, with my speedlights at different distance and position. And every single photo the speedlights light up the scene sucessfully from one corner to the opposite.

1/8000s? Not a problem for the Phottix Odin!

 

TTL Mode

To see if the TTL mode really works, I’ve assigned my speedlights to different remote groups, all in TTL mode. And then I placed the speedlights in different position and I shot a number of different photos and at different TTL power settings.
So does TTL works? Yes it works, even at hi speed sync mode. But my testing seems to suggest the Odin fires the remote speedlights at different power than the Nikon CLS would do. Usually I got a brighter image with the Odin. But at least the result is fairly consistent so it’s still very usable.

 

Apart from the testings I didabove, I’ve also used the Odins at a dozen of weddings and portrait sessions. Overall my result is very positive. My remote speedlights (that is triggered by Odin) fire and at correct power 99% of the time. I did have some occasional issues with one of my receiver. But apart from that, the Odins are very reliable.

 

Conclusions

When I first heard Phottix has released the Odin TTL triggers, I was a bit skeptical. I was skeptical because even the TTL flash triggers from some big name companies are not reliable and have many issues. So i told myself no way Phottix could just release a good and reliable TTL flash trigger. Turned out i was wrong. The Odin TTL triggers have lots of features, easy to use but most importantly, they are very reliable! The 350m+ working range is unbelivable, shooting at 1/8000s works perfectly and the TTL mode also works quite well. Apart from a few minor complains, the Odin flash trigger is almost perfect! So if you want some good and reliable TTL flash triggers, you definitely need to have a look at the Phottix Odin!

 

Pros

It works! And it works consistently!
Very long working distance, works perfectly at 350m+
Use AA batteries on both the TCU and receiver
Decent Build Quality
Firmware upgradable by USB
High Speed sync up to 1/8000s
Lots of features, e.g. modelling light, remote AF assist lamp, flash zoom adjustement
Works perfectly with the latest cameras like the Nikon D800 straight out of box

 

Cons

The size of the transmitter and receiver can be a bit smaller
TCU doesn’t have a hotshoe mount so you can’t attach any on camera flash when using the Odin system
TTL mode seems to fire the remote speedlights at different power compare to the Nikon CLS
While it’s not the most expensive TTL triggers, buying a set of Odins with multiple receivers can still be quite expensive.

 

Welcome to  add your comments, experience and discuss about the Phottix Odin trigger on our forum:

http://www.nikonjin.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=1801&pid=13555#pid13555

 

 

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

 

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