Review: Alien Bees / White Lightning Strobes - Remote Control. RadioOne Remote versus the PocketWizard
Q: How can I trigger my White Lightning - Alien Bee strobes out of the box?
A: Out of the box you can trigger either the Alien Bee or White Lightning strobes with the built in photo sensor or the supplied PC Sync cable. If your camera does not have a PC Sync output (example: the rebel series of Cameras), you can readily purchase a hotshoe to PC Sync adapter on the internet. This may not work with some strobes but seems to work fine with Alien Bees. (WARNING: consult with Alien Bees / White Lightning and your camera manufacturer before using any particular adapter as output voltages may vary and may cause damage to either the camera or the strobes). Please look in the 'Alien Bee/White Lightning with Canon EOS Cameras' article on some considerations of using the strobes with a photo sensor.
Q: What are my options for wireless control of the Alien Bees?
A: A lot of people want to trigger their Alien Bees/White Lightning lights remotely. As described above the simplest option is the built in photo sensor. The photo sensor is a great option for simple setups. However, if you are going to have the lights set up in a large venue, or worse yet, in a multi room venue, the photo sensor option stops working. At this point you need to consider other ways of controlling your strobes. The most popular remote control device on the market is the Pocket Wizard. Alien Bees/White Lightning have their own offering to compete with the Pocket Wizard, the RadioRemote One Wireless Transmitter/Receiver package. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The PocketWizard Transmitter mounts directly onto the Flash Hot Shoe. The RadioRemote One Wireless Transmitter links up to the camera's PC Sync output with the use of a PC Sync Cord. In this aspect the PocketWiard is much more convenient. With the RadioRemote you're always struggling to mount the transmitter somewhere, stick it in your pocket or on your belt. Recently White Lightning/Alien Bees came out with a convenient Transmitter case to fix this annoying problem, however you're still stuck with a PC sync cord running from your camera to your Transmitter. Another thing to note, is that on most cameras the PC sync outputs are fairly fragile and prone to breaking if you pull the cable, which in turn can cause sporadic performance. The Hot Shoes are in general pretty sturdy. Also, the pocket wizard has a host of other functions that the RadioRemote one does not have, such as compatibility with industry standard Sekonic light meters, dual receiver/transmitter function, etc.. The RadioRemote one, has one MAJOR advantage though. The ability to control light output strength remotely!! This is a HUGE advantage, as it enables you to control your light output from any location without the need to run back and forth and adjust output power of individual lights. It does this also by allowing you to assign multiple lights into banks (up to 16 lights per bank), controlling the output of each bank separately (with up to 16 banks), for up to 256 lights total. Working this way is WONDERFUL! The only 'Wish' we would like to see implemented into the RadioOne Transmitter is a memory function to remember bank setups, such that one would be able to quickly switch between some earlier pre-sets. For all the great functionality of the PocketWizard we have chosen to work with the RadioRemote One Transmitter/Receiver combo due to this 'remote light control' functionality. Ultimately though, the choice is up to you! If integration with a light meter is important to you, the PocketWizard might be the way to go.
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