Product Preview – Alien Bees Radio Flash Trigger

Now and then we get great product feedback from our readers who own studio lighting equipment of various brands. Recently, reader John Urbanski submitted this great preview of the Alien Bees Radio Flash Trigger system. We plan to conduct a full review of this system in the near future, but for now John’s thoughts are a great place to start for those shopping for a wireless solution.

John writes:

The Radio Flash Trigger One System (RFT1) from AlienBees

I was very excited to hear about this new system and could hardly wait to try it out.

The system works by attaching the transmitter (RFT1TX) to your camera’s hot shoe and the receiver (RFT1RX) to your mono lights, then you are able to fire all your AlienBees or White Lightning flash units wirelessly from your camera.

When unpacking the transmitter, the first thing I noticed was its relatively small size. I have used Pocket Wizards in the past, but the RFT1TX is much smaller and looks much sleeker on my Canon 30D. There were detailed instructions in the box showing how to set the control channel on the transmitter and receiver before using the set. I chose to attach everything and see what happened. I was using three B800s with just one receiver so my other two strobes were operating in slave mode. Everything worked great right out of the box!

I have used the RFT1 setup on three shoots to date using various lighting setups ranging from one to five lights, multiple photographers, and various Canon cameras including the Rebel XT. I was using a sync speed of 1/125 to 1/160 for all the shoots. On the latest shoot we had two photographers with a camera and transmitter each. Both transmitters were set to the same channel (factory default) and we were syncing to just one receiver. The beauty of this setup was that we could alternate shots with the greatest of ease. No swapping of sync cables or equipment, it was just shoot, shoot, shoot. After firing over 1000 shots using the RFT1 system it only failed to fire once, very impressive!

A welcomed surprise of the RFT1 system is that it works on Photogenic mono lights too. After a colleague of mine was interested to know if this system would work with his lights he made the call to Alien Bees customer support, got the answer, we tested it out, it worked, and he placed his order the next day.

There are two things that I felt would have been a nice addition to the RFT1 system. First, a locking mechanism on the transmitter to keep it secured to the hot shoe, and second, a low battery indicator for the transmitter. But, with that said the RFT1 system is still a great, reliable, easy to use product and at a reasonable price! I would definitely recommend the RFT1 to anyone wanting to go wireless.

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4 thoughts on “Product Preview – Alien Bees Radio Flash Trigger

  1. James

    I’ve used these remotes with two to four light set ups and have been very pleased with the results. Easy to set up, easy to use, and reliable. I’ve used them in large halls and churches and haven’t had problems with the firing range. I’m using them with Alien Bees, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t work with any monolight, with the proper sync port adaptor. I was shooting with a D200 at 1/125th, and had no sync problems.

    In the past I’ve used similar-looking, battery powered remotes that I picked up on eBay. These worked well, but suffered from a couple of problems: When the reciever batteries lost a bit of power, synch speeds dropped below 1/60th (I started changing the batteries every other session), and you needed to tape the transmitter to the light or your light stand to avoid having it move or fall out and damage your sync port. The in-line design of the AB unit eliminates this problem.

    These battery remotes worked great with my vVvitar 283, SB-28 and SB-800 flashes -just connect the receiver unit to the flash sync port with the appropriate adaptor. With the SB-800, I love using Nikon’s CLS system to remotely trigger flashes, but the CLS does introduce some lag time that’s not present with the radio remote set up.

  2. Lawrence Kusan

    The new remotes work very well most of the time, but we’ve found that the receiver fails to fire the driven strobe if it’s been left attached overnight. We’ve found that the problem is not with the receiver itself since the red LED flashes each time the transmitter is fired, but the flash trigger doesn’t pass thru the 1/4″ phoneplug-to-miniphone-plug adapter that plugs into the Alien Bee connector. We couldn’t afford so many frequent misses so we cut the big phone plug off and soldered a storebought miniphone plug. Now, flawless performance day in and day out, never had a miss for the last 3 months. Alien Bees needs to give AB owners a miniplug version and White Lightning owners the standard phone plug. If you don’t want to void the warranty on the receiver, then twist the receiver adapter every time you begin a shooting session (aggravating if you have more than one receiver). I prefer the replacement approach since it works flawlessly.

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