Monday, July 29, 2013
There is a new kid in town, the Phottix Mitros TTL flash and if you're in the market for a good, TTL flash for your Nikon (or Canon) camera and don't want pay the equivalent of a high-end car payment, then this is definitely an option to consider.
Ever since Phottix released the Mitros for Canon, I've been frothing at the mouth to try the Nikon version out which is now on the market. Why? Because (as many of you may know) I'm a die hard Nikon fan, especially their flashes and CLS system, so when another flash came out on the market claiming to work seamlessly with the CLS system for considerably less cash, I'll admit my curiosity peaked. The good folks at Outdoor Photo Gear got a few in and gave me one to run through the ringer, so below is my review...
Also, I tested the Mitros against a Nikon SB-910 and noticed a little difference in power, the SB-910 being slightly more powerful but the Mitros was more powerful than the Nikon SB-800. I didn't use a light meter to test this, it was simply a matter of taking a portrait with the camera settings the exact same and the flash to subject distance the exact same. Then I simply swapped the three flashes in and out, and adjusted the power as necessary to get a good exposure on my subject. The Mitros is also in the same ballpark size-wise as the SB-910, which pretty much makes it appear to dwarf the old, reliable SB-800 flashes. In the lineup below, from left to right, is the Nikon SB-800, the Phottix Mitros and the Nikon SB-910. As always, you can click on any image for a larger view.
The first tests I did were to see how it handled in TTL mode on and off camera. There are a few other excellent manual flashes out there but since this one has TTL capabilities, I thought this should be where the hard hitting testing should go. For my first test, I simply set the flash to TTL mode and popped it on my camera, and in a nutshell, it worked every single time. Once or twice I had to adjust the flash exposure compensation (FEC) up a tad to get a good exposure, but that is a fairly simple and quick adjustment done on the flash. I shot several different types of situations with the Mitros on camera in TTL mode and it simply did what its supposed to do, or what you would expect it to do.
Anyone who is familiar with the CLS system knows that triggering a flash outside in broad daylight can be a challenge. Mostly though, this is simply because the eye on the off camera flash has to see the signal from the on camera triggering flash or it can't fire. Also, sometimes, using the pop-up flash outside doesn't create a strong enough pulse of light for the off camera flash to see. This is a simple fix though by using another flash on camera as the master. In any case, using this system outside is always more of a challenge than using it indoors so I thought this would be a good test to do.
Auto FP High Speed Sync feature engaged on the camera. I placed the Mitros (again) camera right in a shoot thru umbrella and used a Nikon SB-910 on my camera as the master flash. The settings for this shot were f/2.8 at 1/2000 second at ISO 200. I was using matrix metering on the camera and shooting in manual. I actually could have shot this at many different shutter speeds depending on how bright or dark I wanted the background to look but I just chose one that I felt would stress the flash to create a good image. I think for this shot I had to dial in +1 FEC to get my model lit appropriately. Lexi (my model) was actually standing in the shade of a tree in our front yard... I didn't want to push the flash too hard... just yet. I shot several of these, and the Mitros went off every single time.
Something I have noticed by now with the Mitros is that when it fires, it does make an audible chirp that lets you know that it fired, however its very low in volume so its hard to notice. I researched the manual quite thoroughly to see if this is something that can be changed but the only available option was to turn the sound off. With the Nikon flashes you get a beep that tells you the flash has fired and then you get another beep that tells you that the flash has recycled and is ready to fire again. This is a feature that I dearly love about the Nikon flashes that the Mitros doesn't quite have yet. However, the Mitros does have a USB input so maybe this is something that could be fixed with a firmware upgrade somewhere down the road. Phottix are you guys listening? :) In any case, its not a deal breaker.
On to the next test. So I got Lexi out of the comfortable shade and in to the searing sun. It was right around 4PM EST so the sun was still pretty high over head and although there were a few clouds about, there were none that were shading us... my poor model. ;) I used the same setup as the previous shot except I went to 1/4000 sec on the shutter speed (still f/2.8) to see if could get a little more saturation in the sky. Again, I was using an on camera Nikon SB-910 as the master, and the Mitros was off camera right in a shoot thru umbrella. For the first portrait I took the Mitros triggered with no issues, but on the second photo, I got a little further away from my model and noticed that the Mitros wasn't firing. This is because on the Mitros, the flash "eye" is actually on the front of the flash whereas on the Nikon models its on the side. After using the Mitros for a bit, I think I actually prefer that the eye of the flash be on one of the sides as opposed to directly in front of the flash. So, to get the Mitros to fire at the distance I was working at from my subject, I simply spun the body of the flash around towards me and angled the head back in to the umbrella, and it fired. Every. Single. Time. I even got back about 20 feet and was still able to get the Mitros to fire.
Since this test worked out so well, I decided to swap my flashes out. This time I used the Mitros on camera as a Master Flash and used the Nikon SB-910 off camera as the slaved flash. The menu on the Mitros for the master setting took a little fiddling with to get everything set, but once I figured it out, it was a breeze to make adjustments. The Mitros as a master works just like the Nikon flashes in that it gives you full control over type of output (Manual/TTL/Off) and power settings for the master and three more groups: A, B & C. Be sure to read the Mitros' manual though as out of the box the controls can be a little puzzling, but with a quick skim of the manual, and a little practice, it becomes fairly intuitive to use.
For my last test I wanted to see how well it would work with my radio triggers. I've been using Cybersyncs for several years now and while they are a "no-frills" set of triggers, they have worked flawlessly for me. They only trigger the flash which is all I need most of the time since I tend to use CLS about 90% of the time. So I put the CST Transmitter on the camera and the CSRB receiver on the Mitros flash. Another cool thing about the Mitros is that it does not incorporate a PC sync jack, I hate those things! They have to be the worst method out there for connecting a receiver to your flash. Instead of the PC port the Mitros have a 3.5mm sync jack and it also comes with a 3.5 to 3.5 sync cable, Suh-Weet!
Editor's note: we decided to go with something a little more lively for this shot.
After getting everything connected, we found a different spot to shoot in (other than our yard) and took a few test shots. Using the radio triggers, I simply set the Mitros to manual mode and dialed in the power that I thought would work. For these shots I believe I had the power set to full or 1/1. It was pretty darn bright out and rather than using High Speed Sync I decided to use my native flash sync speed of 1/250 sec which meant stopping my aperture down to f/18 to get the desired look I wanted in the background. I also had to keep the flash in reasonably close to my model (I think it was about 4 feet away) but since it was unmodified, it still had enough power to illuminate my subject.
Oh and another note, after all the frames we shot today, including many full power pops with the Mitros, the battery indicator on the LCD showed that we were still at full charge! That's sexy.
So lets close this up. After playing with the Mitros all day I can safely say that if you are looking for a new flash that is TTL capable and CLS compliant then I would be hard pressed to not recommend this flash to anyone and I am a diehard Nikon fanboy. This flash does seem to be an excellent Nikon flash replacement and you know what's even better?
Nikon SB-910: $546.95
Phottix Mitros: $299.99
Yikes! That is a HUGE difference for a very similar flash unit. Lets look at the Pros and Cons of the Phottix Mitros.
- $299.99 ...that may be the best bargaining chip out of the bunch
- CLS and TTL capable
- Sturdy build and rock solid reliability
- 3.5mm sync port
- I love the On/Off switch
- High Speed Sync capable
- Optical slave option
- Use as a Master Flash
- Battery meter
- ...many more, including a huge customizable functions menu (which I didn't even get in to)
- Eye placement, I really don't like that the eye of the flash is located on the front, but since the flash rotates in every direction, its not a big issue
- Beep notifications are low volume and non existent for recycle status
- TTL mode tends to underexpose about a stop when compared to using the SB-910, but since its easy to make a FEC adjustment, that's really no issue either.
- No built in gel holder (didn't get in to that in the post)
- Zoom only goes to 105 mm
In summary, this is one awesome flash! It has all the capabilities of the big boys for about $250 less than what the flagship flashes cost. Also, I don't believe there is another non-major label flash on the market that can compare with this and as a Nikon fanboy, I hope Nikon is paying attention because this puppy is a new serious contender!
Would I recommend this to someone looking for a Nikon flash but not sure about spending the money? Yes, I most definitely would! Matter of fact, I think I will be adding one or two of these to my Nikon flash family.
Outdoor Photo Gear has a few of these in stock, so if you're interested, I'd jump on them now because I suspect once word gets out, these guys are going to go fast.
The Strobist also did an excellent review on his blog so you might want to check that out for his thoughts as well.
If anyone has any questions that I didn't address, please sound off in the comments!
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Today in the U.S. is when we celebrate our Independence as a free nation and when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Most of us celebrate by having cookouts, spending time with family, enjoying a few tasty beverages and watching fireworks.
If you're a photographer, chances are you'll be trying to photograph some (or all) of these events. Below is a list of awesome links to help you get the most out of your fireworks photography!
Hope everyone has a happy 4th and you get some good pics!
Joe McNally - Prepping for the 4th
Scott Kelby - How to Shoot Fireworks
Outdoor Photo Gear - Tips to Make Your Fireworks Photos Stand Out