Saturday, March 14, 2009

CyberSyncs Review!

CyberSyncs always, click on any photo for a larger view
My awesome girlfriend (photographer and artist)Jenn, bought me a set of CyberSyncs!! I got a CyberSync CST transmitter and two CyberSync CSRB receivers. These are made by Paul C. Buff, the same company that manufactures White Lighting and Alien Bees flash/strobe units. Since receiving these, I decided to do an in-depth review for people who are interested in purchasing a quality set of radio triggers.

I shoot with Nikon digital SLRs and Nikon speedlights so all of my tests are (equipment wise) relative to Nikon stuff. However, the CyberSyncs will work with any system out there!

The first thing I noticed when receiving my CyberSyncs was the build quality. These are much nicer than my old Cactus Wireless flash triggers. They feel much more durable, not too much bigger and have easy access to the buttons and battery compartments. The receivers use standard AA batteries and the transmitter uses a lithium coin cell type battery that you can find at just about any drug store. The receivers and transmitter came with all of the cables you will need to connect these to your speedlights.

However, my Nikon SB-600's do not have a PC connector so I had to purchase a PC to Flash hotshoe adapter to connect my CyberSync receivers to my flashes. I went with the brand Flash Zebra as that is what is recommended on the Alien Bees website. To the right is a setup showing how I connect the receivers to my Nikon SB-800 and SB-600 speedlights.

I use a "double" method for attaching the receivers to the speedlights. I just simply use velcro and lanyards. I picked up the lanyards at a local camera store and simply placed the small end of the lanyard into the battery compartment door. Using both methods, just assures that they will stay firmly attached ....and I like security! Check out this guy's photo on flickr, its exactly what I did.

After attaching the receivers to the flashes (the transmitter simply mounts on the hotshoe of your camera), I was ready to test them out. The first thing I tried was to see how well the signals would work down a long hall and through other rooms.

So, I mounted a Nikon SB-800 on a light stand with a shoot through umbrella and one of the CSRB receivers. I placed the light in my girlfriend's bedroom so that the camera couldn't see it, then had Jenn, my girlfriend, sit in the doorway as a test model ---she helps me out more than you could possibly know! I then went down to the end of the hall and fired a test shot ...BINGO worked like a charm, every single time! Awesome!

Ok, so we have the "shooting through rooms" tested, now its time to try a little distance.

With the same rig as above (except the umbrella), I went outside and placed the light at one end of the parking lot, walked about 25 feet and fired a test shot. Perfect! So I then walked another 25 feet out to 50 feet away, and fired another test shot. Perfect! Off to the end of the parking lot it was!

Finally, after running out of parking lot space, at 240 feet away from my flash, I fired yet another test shot. Perfect! At this point I can barely see my flash anyway, and I can hardly imagine wanting to shoot further from my subject than this. The Alien Bees website says that these will fire at 600 feet so I guess if want to shoot someone on top of a building, I will have that range. =)

One last little goody about the CyberSyncs. I shoot with a Nikon D300 as my primary body, and a Nikon D70 as my backup body. Unfortunately, the D300 will only sync with the CyberSyncs at 1/320 before you start to catch the shutter plane creeping across the frame. However, I have successfully synced the D70 at 1/2000 of a second which makes for some very cool high speed syncing fun! If you're a Nikon shooter and don't have a D70 or a D70s ...get one, they are loads of fun!

So, overall, I am very happy with with the CyberSyncs. I have used these with as many as 6 speedlights and not had a single misfire. The only issue I have noticed is that Nikon Speedlights go in to standby mode (which you can turn off) after a little while, so you need to hit the "test" button on the transmitter to 'wake them up' before firing off a few shots.

My only real complaints of the CyberSyncs are:

1. They REALLY need to put an On/Off switch on these (I hope you're listening, Paul C. Buff company) because once you turn these on, they will stay on for an hour before powering down. The only thing you can do is take a battery out of them to prevent them from staying on. I haven't had them long enough to test the battery life. Also, the buttons on the CST and CSRB are now flush with the body, so they don't accidentally turn on while in your bag and run the batteries down. The older models had buttons that stuck out a little bit from the body ---nice improvement!

2. They could have put some sort of lanyard on there so you don't have to come up with a way to mount these to your speedlights. However, considering the quality of these, that is in my opinion, a slight annoyance and not really a problem.

Would I recommend these to anyone wanting to use radio triggers for off camera flash? ABSOLUTELY INDEEDY I would! They simply rock!

...and just so you other Nikon shooters know, I am not giving up my sweet, built-in Creative Lighting System that Nikon has so graciously supplied me with, I just want something to use when that system won't get it done ....which honestly, isn't too often. That being said, the CyberSyncs are a load of fun, and I'm sure I will be using these more frequently.


To read up more on the CyberSyncs check out this link...

Alien Bees CyberSyncs


Nathan Griffin said...

Great review - thanks for taking the time, especially on the distance test. I'm a big fan of the CyberSync product; they have worked out well for me so far.

John said...

You're welcome Nathan! I need to get the photos back in the blog post, had a mishap using Google+!

Still using mine though and they work as well as day 1. Have changed the transmitter battery twice now and the receivers once each.

Nancy said...

Thanks for your post, John! I've been a Pocket Wizard user for years in my studio, but I wanted a smaller, less expensive alternative to use with speedlights when I'm on the go. I just received my new CyberSyncs today, & thought, "What???"...when I couldn't figure out how to turn them off, after I turned them on. Thanks to your post, I know they'll eventually go to sleep... & thankfully, I can now do the same since I won't be lying awake worrying that my batteries will be draining before I have a chance to test them out. :)

John said...

Nancy - you're welcome, hope you get a lot of use out of them!

For what its worth, its been 4 years, since I wrote this post, and I'm still using my original set. I've only changed the battery in the transmitter twice, and only swapped out the batteries in the receivers a few times.