August 2nd, 2011
When I was researching Radio Poppers it was not easy for me to understand exactly how they worked and what it’s like to use them. So now I’ve put together this Radio Popper guide detailing the ins and outs of the Radio Popper PX system.
1 Radio Poppers are contactless. That means the camera and Speedlight have no idea that the Radio Poppers are there. The camera and flash act in just the same way as they do when using the inbuilt infra red system. Every function available using infra red is also available using Radio Poppers including Full ETTL or manual firing and 1/8000th second flash synchronisation.
2. Radio Poppers need a master or commander controller to piggyback onto:
a) Nikon users can use a pop up flash, an SU-800, or a Speedlite capable of being used as a CLS commander. These include the SB-800 or SB-900 etc. Where a pop up flash is used as the commander we can supply a handy bracket that sits in the hot shoe of the camera and places the RP transmitter in exactly the right place to pick up the signals.
b) The Canon system of using Radio Poppers needs an ST-E2 controller or a Speedlight capable of being a master. I’ve not tried the third party ST-E2 clones from China yet. All the functions including ratios and flash exposure compensation are controlled as normal from either the master unit or camera body.
3. Radio Popper transmitters work by picking up the electro magnetic pulses given off by the camera systems commander and rebroadcasting these as a radio signal. The electro magnetic pick ups on the RPs are so sensitive that they still work with an air gap distance of over 20mm.
4) Radio Popper receivers pick up the radio pulses broadcast by the transmitter up to a very long way away (further than an olympic stones throw away). The receivers then convert the radio signal into infra red pulses. This process happens so fast that there is no discernible delay. These pulses are picked up by the Speedlights optical receiver and it sees the identical signal that the camera transmitted.
5) The Speedlights require the nifty brackets that Radio Popper provide because these ensure the infra red transmitter of the Radio Popper receiver is perfectly aligned with the Speedlights eye. They also ensure the Speedlight cannot see the original IR signal being sent. We have a stock of extra brackets for Nikon or Canon Speedlights should you require a spare or replacement. It is worth noting that the Radio Popper Speedlight brackets have various slots to use when they are user assembled to cater for the different mechanical differences of the Speedlight models – clever stuff!
6) The menu system looks complicated but is actually quite straightforward. It doesn’t really matter anyway because once it is set up you will just switch the RPs on or off. They just work! No firmware issues, no timings to set, no fiddly switches to break, no switch on order, no delicate hot shoes or feet to break.
7) Radio Poppers are not clever. They just relay messages, they don’t mess with flash timings they just deliver the results that Canon or Nikon intended. All the settings in camera and on flash are identical to those set when just the infra red system is being used.
8) Radio Poppers are completely compatible with the camera’s infra red system and can be used simultaneously with infra red triggered Speedlights. For example 2 Speedlights with Radio Popper receivers can be used as distant backlights while another more local Speedlight can be triggered by infra red. Or you can use a Speedlight with a Radio Popper in a soft box and use infrared for all line of sight units. Most users may well only need one transmitter and one receiver unit even in multi flash set ups.
9) The Canon ‘master’ and Nikon ‘commander’ units that are used with Radio Poppers have inbuilt focus aid illuminators and this means the system can be used in low light situations. This is one the biggest plus points of the Radio Popper system.
10) Forwards and cross brand compatibility is built into the Radio Popper system. The hardware is switchable (via a menu) to either Canon or Nikon compatibility. This can be done within seconds in the field, so if you change your camera system you can keep your Radio Poppers. You will of course need the inexpensive brackets for your new Speedlights. Because of the international limitations of radio transmitters camera manufacturers are unlikely to build radio flash syncing into the camera body. If they did, it would mean a camera bought in Europe could be confiscated at US customs as the radio frequency it transmits on would be illegal in that country and the reverse is true too.
11) Radio Popper Tx and Rx units use AAA batteries. At last a bit of common sense. However if you use a Canon ST-E2 or a Nikon SU-800 you will still need the often hard to find Lithium cells for those units.
12) We have opted for the right angled antennas for UK transmitter units because they don’t get in the way so much. Federal law in the US won’t allow the angled antenna on the FCC transmitter but here in the UK there is no restriction. The orientation does not alter the range of the units and when taking upright pictures with this antenna it just happens to be in the upright position.
What Radio Poppers can’t do:
1) Radio Poppers can not shift the flash timing at high sync speeds to optimise for the camera shutter. The camera manufacturers high speed sync timing is the one that Radio Poppers use.
2) Radio Poppers have no cable inputs or outputs so they can’t be used to trigger studio flashes, remote cameras or other brand flashes.