Hands-On Review of the PocketWizard Plus III

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The PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver is a camera and flash trigger and receiver that represents a marked improvement and refinement over the earlier Plus II and it accomplishes the same tasks with equal efficiency. Based on the same principles as its predecessor, the Plus III is a combination radio transmitter and receiver in one unit.  This dual-function device allows the greatest amount of flexibility and customizing of your remote setup depending on your needs at any given time.

Let’s begin with the design. An updated profile with an internal antenna and a side-view LCD give this transceiver a distinct look, compared to past models. The internal antenna gives this device a more durable appearance and it cuts down on the fragility of a soft antenna. The side-view LCD is especially helpful while shooting handheld, as it integrates with your natural movements when you bring the camera to and from your face. Instead of employing switches and hard buttons only, the PocketWizard Plus III features an LCD screen for navigation, controlled with only a few soft keys. While I miss the physical slider switches and solid feel of clicking into a channel, this new display interface makes it instantly clear which channel and mode you’re operating.

In addition to providing streamlined navigation through modes and other options, the soft-touch keys also make room for the huge increase in available channels you can use. Now featuring 32 channels, up from 4, the Plus III makes it easy to find an open channel to use in busy situations where many other photographers are present. Channels 1-16 are standard channels, while 17-32 make use of the Selective Quad-Zone Triggering feature. This feature allows you to remotely control up to four groups of flashes or cameras from one location. That way you can remain in one location instead of running back and forth, turning on and off flashes or cameras when you need to alter your setup for different shots. This comes in handy when your lights are distanced from each other on location, such as when you’re trying to light a background that’s 50 feet or more away from your subject and key lights.

Other features ideal for photographing from a distance are the new Long Range and Repeater Modes. In standard mode the Plus III is already capable of remotely triggering and receiving signals from 500 meters, but when set to Long Range Mode, this range is nearly doubled. Repeater Mode is the perfect choice for photographing in obstacle-laden situations, where there might be increased interference from large, dense structures or other objects that could create a disruption in the signal. By repeating the transmission from the transceiver, there is an increased likelihood that the receiver will accept it quickly.

When the Plus III is used to trigger a camera remotely, the two-stage TEST button mimics a camera’s shutter release and provides you with the opportunity to half-press the button for autofocusing and exposure, and when it’s depressed fully, the shutter is released. This half-press is also used to wake the camera from its standby mode; however, if you pair the transceiver with a pre-trigger, your camera is kept awake and the transmission occurs instantly as if you were pressing the camera’s shutter release yourself. In some distance situations, you might be waiting for the perfect moment, only to see it pass because you are waiting for your camera to wake up. With a pre-trigger, there’s no lag time, which is crucial for catching fleeting moments. Another speed-related function to be aware of is the new High Speed Receive mode, which is capable of triggering lights or cameras at up to 14.5 frames per second, above the standard 12.

The PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver can attach directly to your camera via the hot shoe, with no cables required. For connection to flashes and cameras without a hot shoe, it comes bundled with a standard 3.5mm mini-to-mini connector, a 3.5mm mini-to-PC sync cable and a ¼-inch phono adapter for use with most modern flash packs. Two standard AA batteries will provide enough power for about 50 hours of usage; external power is also possible through the mini USB port. The transceiver is compatible with all PocketWizard transmitters and receivers of the same frequency, so integrating this with your existing PocketWizard workflow is a completely seamless function.

Frequency FCC/IC model: 340 - 354 MHz
Channels 32 Channels, 1-16 standard, 17-32 selective Quad-Zone
Zones A - B - C - D, compatible with other Quad-Zone PocketWizard radios
Antenna Precision tuned internal coil
Display Backlit 1.0" (2.5 cm) LCD
Range Up to 1,640 feet (500 meters)
Sync Speed Up to 1/250 for focal plane shutters, up to 1/500 for leaf shutters
Triggering Speed Up to 14.5 fps
Contact Time 62 milliseconds in normal operation, 2 milliseconds in HSR Mode
Status Indicator LED: green, amber, red status indicator
Transmit Output Power Less than 1 milliwatt (0.001 watt)
Power 2 x AA batteries (alkaline recommended), USB
Battery Life Up to 50 hours (with alkaline)
Max. Port Sync Voltage 300 Volts (camera/flash port)
Max. Current Handling 1.0 A peak, 0.2 A (1/5 amp or 200 milliamp) continuous current limited
Voltage Present  3 volts, safe for use with all digital and film cameras
USB USB 2.0 Mini-B connector
Housing High-impact plastic with captive battery door
Operating Temperature Above 5 degrees F (-15 C), below 120 degrees F (50 C)
Storage Temperature Above -22 F (-30 C), below 185 F (85 C)
Input/Output 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo miniphone jack, hot shoe
Mounting Hot shoe, lanyard/D-Ring loop, 1/4"-20 thread
Dimensions (H x W x D) 5.25 x 2 x 1.25" (13.3 x 5.1 x 3.2 cm)
Weight (with batteries) 4 oz (120 g)

Items discussed in article

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When is this product going to be sold?! Pocketwizards website says different than BH's website.

Hello,

Our buyer's expected availability is March 30, 2012.  We are currently accepting pre-orders as Pocket Wizard has assured us product will begin shipping as promised.

Still waiting on the Plus iii's. Can we have an update?

Hello,

According to our buyer, we should begin seeing shipments as early as mid week. The distributor has assured us that shipments thereafter will be steady. Back orders of course will be shipped first in the order they were placed.

Hello,

Have order begun coming in for this product yet? I just ordered some today so I'm probably low on the list.

Thanks,

Matt

Any updates on the availability of these? Its now the 15th of April and no new info seems to be around. Any ideas?

Hello,

According to our buyer, we should begin seeing shipments as early as mid week. The distributor has assured us that shipments thereafter will be steady. Back orders of course will be shipped first in the order they were placed.

Hello -

Is there any further shipping information on this product?  Website says shipping to distributors started last week- is it going to  be delayed?  Thanks.

Hello,

According to our buyer, we should begin seeing shipments as early as mid week. The distributor has assured us that shipments thereafter will be steady. Back orders of course will be shipped first in the order they were placed.

This new Plus III says it syncs to 1/250s with focal plane shutters, but in use can they actually go to that speed without part of the shutter blade appearing at the bottom of my photos? I shoot with a Nikon D3 and Plus II, and I can not shoot at 1/250s with an Alienbee B1600 without seeing a dark band at the bottom of my images - to fix that I shoot at 1/200s. Are the Plus III better in this respect?

Unfortunately, we do not test the remotes with all cameras (we also are not an Authorized Paul C. Buff/AlienBees Dealer, as they only sell factory direct), and I have not located any information concerning issues with the two aforementioned items being used together.  However, the Nikon D3 the PocketWizard Plus II, and the PocketWizard Plus III all list in their specifications1/250 sec to be the maximum focal plane shutter sync speed.  As such, if you are not obtaining full syncronization at 1/250 sec, my recommendation would be to first connect your monolight directly to your camera to see if the camera fully syncs correctly at 1/250 sec with the monolight when physically connected to the camera via the PC sync cable.  If it does, then you can deduct the issue is most likely with the radio remote.  If it does not, then at that point, the link would be either the monolight or the camera.  I would then recommend either contact Nikon to inquire if they can check the timing of your shutter to ensure it is fully open for syncronization at 1/250 sec, or to PocketWizard to inquire if the transmitting delay would have any affect on obtaining maximum sync speed syncronization, of if there are any known issues when using the aforementioned items together.

I shoot with a D700 and the plus III has the same problem. fastest it will sync is 1/200. If I would have known this i would not have bought them.

Ok, this sounds like a great product - but what is needed on the FLASH units to receive and use the triggering signal?  

Also - can a adjust the power of the connected flash units using this remote or just turn them on and off?

And - I was given a Canon 580EXII Speedlite.  Can I use it along with a Nikon camera and flashes with the PocketWizard Plus III?

I plan to build a Nikon system w/3 flashes to light residential interiors for real estate brokers.  

These units are “Transceivers”.  A transceiver unit can be assigned either to serve as the transmitter, or a receiver.  You’d need one unit connected to your camera to serve as the transmitter, and one unit for each flash/strobe which you wish to trigger.

This is a manual/non-TTL type system, and power cannot be adjust remotely.  Flashes can be selectively turned/on or off (rather, the receivers could be commanded to not recognize the signal if for some reason you wanted not to utilize a specific flash for a shot.

Since this is a manual/non-TTL type system, you could use a flash such as the Canon 580EX II speedlite which features a manual function to it.

Based on your system you indicated wanting to set up, you’d need 4 total units.  One for the camera, and three for the flashes to serve as their receivers.