The Future is Here: 5 TTL Flashes with RF Wireless Operation

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Over the last few years, we have seen releases from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Profoto, and many others that have slowly but surely spread the use of built-in radio transmission to nearly all TTL flash systems. These speedlights are ideal for those who regularly use several flashes off the camera, working seamlessly with connected units up to 90' away and even farther, in some cases. Walls and objects blocking your way? Not a problem, because radio frequencies pass through obstacles and do not require a direct line of sight the way optical systems do.

In short, forget about fumbling with cables: radio-equipped flashes are the best lighting solution for compact photography kits, and are here to stay.

Profoto A1

While the giants of the camera world were releasing their first-party options earlier this year and in 2016, Profoto was quietly working on a competing light within its wireless system. And finally, the plan has come to fruition. The Profoto A1, available for Canon and Nikon systems and soon to be available for Sony, distinguishes itself from other flashes in several departments. It has a powerful wireless system that allows for normal sync and remote control up to 1,000' away, with AirTTL and high-speed sync capabilities up to 330' away. This range and power make a big difference for those working in large outdoor sets or events and when many obstacles are present.

Profoto A1 AirTTL-C Studio Light for Canon

On the practical side, the A1 can communicate seamlessly with most existing Profoto lights such as the B2, D2, B1 and B1X without additional accessories. And when paired with the Air Remote TTL, you can adjust settings such as power level and TTL wirelessly and assign channels and groups directly from the camera position. The A1 even has a switch that allows you to set the main light to TTL, so you can switch to manual mode to control the ratio of your secondary light and then return to TTL and use the original settings that were stored. These features and other unique details such as the rounded head, the inclusion of a modeling light, and a rechargeable battery, all reinforce the feeling that the A1 is less of a flash and more of a studio light that just happens to fit into a hot shoe.

Profoto Air Remote TTL-C for Canon

Sony HVL-F45RM

For those using Sony cameras with ADI / P-TTL exposure control, the most robust choice for radio communication is the HVL-F45RM. This flash offers a 2.4 GHz built-in transceiver with 98.4' range and can work with up to 15 units in 5 groups. It also boasts complete compatibility with optical systems, both as a commander and slave, so you can still sync and trigger your older speedlights.

Sony HVL-F45RM Wireless Radio Flash

The main attraction, however, is not the light itself but the gadgets that surround it. By connecting the optional FA-WRR1 receiver to any compatible off-camera or studio flash, you can then use the HVL-F45RM to control those lights via radio. And if the FA-WRC1M radio commander is added, you can communicate with any RM-series radio-enabled flash and receivers, for up to 15 units. The FA-WRC1M can be used to remotely define settings such as power, exposure compensation, zoom, and more. Finally, using the commander on one camera and a receiver with an optional multi-terminal cable on another camera, you can release their shutters simultaneously for multi-angle setups.

Sony FA-WRR1 Wireless Radio Receiver

Nikon SB-5000 AF

Nikon’s new flagship TTL speedlight, the SB-5000, is the first for the company to include built-in radio control. Its RF capabilities are truly unleashed when used with a compatible DSLR paired with the WR-A10 Wireless Remote Adapter and the WR-R10 Wireless Remote Controller. At that point, you can control up to six groups of lights wirelessly from 98' away, without having to worry about obstacles. The SB-5000 retains complete compatibility with optical triggering methods, and can even mix optical and radio control so you can use old and new flashes simultaneously. As an interesting aside, the flash features a built-in cooling system that allows it to handle more than 100 full-power firings without overheating, useful for demanding shooters such as wedding or event photographers.

Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Canon’s current flagship in its line of flashes, the 600EX II-RT, is the updated version of its first RF-capable light with E-TTL / E-TTL II called 600EX-RT. With its 2.4 GHz wireless radio system that works at distances of 98.43', it is capable of triggering up to 16 flash and camera units for customizable illumination, as well as easy multi-angle photography setups. The 600EX II-RT is also completely compatible with optical systems, so it can still communicate wirelessly with older flashes as either a commander or slave. And for those looking for something more affordable, the 430EX III-RT packs essentially the same wireless features in a smaller package, with one small caveat: it can only act as a slave within optical systems, not as a commander.

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Nissin i60A

Nissin is another brand that seems to be popular and has the added advantage of being able to deliver TTL compatibility for a wider range of systems. The outstanding i60A Flash is one of the company’s best and can be found for Nikon, Canon, Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm, and Sony cameras. Relatively powerful for its size, the i60A has a guide number of 197' at ISO 100 and 200mm with a zoom range of 24-200mm. This is a fully featured unit. It even has a front LED light for video. The reason it makes it on the list, however, is its use of the 2.4GHz Nissan Air System (NAS). This gives it a range of 98' and full compatibility with other NAS-compatible units and controllers. You can even mix and match brands this way, permitting Nissin flashes designed for Nikon to function as radio slaves for a Canon master.

Nissin i60A Flash for Fujifilm Cameras

In a sea of lighting choices, radio-controlled flashes are making a splash due to their ease of use and long wireless range. Those who regularly use off-camera flashes will be pleased with their capability to work around walls and objects, their support of optical triggering systems, and dedicated accessories that offer improved control. Regardless of your camera model, chances are there is an option available that can suit your needs for a professional wireless triggering system.

Which of these models piqued your interest the most? What are your favorite off-camera flash options? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments section, below.

7 Comments

Aren't there any flash units for Olympus, Panasonic or Pentax cameras? I currently have a Panasonic DMC FZ-150 and am thinking of moving upward to a Panasonic DMC FZ-300 or a Pentax K-70 (both of which are weather-resistant). 

Hello Joel,

Good question. Godox and Nission both make several flashes that offer built-in radio transmission and TTL for Olympus and Panasonic cameras. If you go to our page for on-camera flashes (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/On-Camera-Flashes/ci/647/N/4168864822), you can use the filter options on the left hand side to make your life easier. Just choose the TTL system you want and then select "Wireless TTL (Radio and Optical)" under features to see your options.

Thanks for reading the article!

If you are referring to TTL automatic exposure off-camera wireless radio flash, unfortunately, there are no wireless radio flashes that are compatible with the Pentax flash system.  If you own already own Pentax TTL hot shoe speedlight flashes, one option that you have would be to purchase the Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6 II, B&H # CALAWFTV6II, for your usage needs.  You would need one for your camera, and one for each off-camera flash.  For the Micro Four Thirds system (Panasonic/Olympus), there are quite a bit more options for your usage needs.  As Fernando stated, the main options would be from Godox, Nissin, and Quantum Instruments.  The benefit with the Godox options is they have a wide range of flashes that work with their X-system, from the standard hot shoe flashes, to their Godox AD200 TTL Pocket Flash Kit, to their Godox DP and QT moonlight studio strobes.  These would allow you to use much more flash output power while still retaining TTL automatic flash exposure and wireless radio triggering.  For additional studio strobe options, the Profoto Air Remote TTL-O for Olympus, B&H # PR901046, would work with Profoto TTL studio strobes for wireless TTL triggering with their Air Remote.  The links to the various options I listed above are listed below.

Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6 II

https://bhpho.to/2pj0PpU

Hot Shoe Flashes for Micro Four Thirds (Godox/Nissin/Quantum Instruments)

https://bhpho.to/2zFVdOW

Godox AD200 TTL Pocket Flash Kit for Olympus/Panasonic

https://bhpho.to/2k0BFhh

Godox Monolight Studio Strobes

https://bhpho.to/2k2YG33

Profoto Air Remote TTL-O for Olympus (Micro Four Thirds)

https://bhpho.to/2pkuhPC

Profoto TTL Studio Monolight Strobes

https://bhpho.to/2jon636

What? No mention of Nissin? The D700 and i60, which I use on my macro rig, are worthy competitors in this arena.  

Hi Matthew,

That is a great suggestion. I must confess I haven't used the Nissin flashes much, they seem like very good products, though I would image the Nikon's cooling system might give it a slight edge in super demanding situations. Unfortunately we tend to keep articles on the short side, so I couldn't include all the models for a full comparison. But thanks for reading!

Fernando Ferraz

A little bit more info. for your readers, then.  I use the Nissin D700 for a fill-flash and the i60 for the main flash, with Nissin's Air controller on the Nikon D610 body with Nikon 200mm micro-Nikkor.  I have found the Nissins to be more reliable in practice than the Nikon 700's I used to have, for two reasons:  A.  No more struggling with alignment of the IR sensors when adjusting flash positions (they are mounted on Novoflex gooseneck arms).  B. The Nissin mechanical construction is better, specifically the switches and battery compartment doors (one failure each type with the Nikons, none with the Nissins).  That's based on some thousands of shots in the field.  

I've also used a big Metz, but the i60 replaced it as the Metz was too bulky/heavy and kept making unwanted "adjustments" to the little ball-heads used at the end of the Novoflex arms.  The i60 isn't quite as powerful as the Metz (about 90%), but is much smaller and lighter.  I do miss that Metz guide number, though (...sigh...), but you can't have everything.

Nice Matthew, that seems like a great setup! I am glad you are happy with your Nissin.

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