This is the third and final installment of my Pixel TR-331 Wireless Flash Trigger review. In parts one and two I talked about the features and benefits of these triggers along with a few issues I had with the particular units I initially tested.
I recently received a nice email from PIxel telling me that the TR-331 for Nikon had been updated so I decided to take another look at them. I was pleased to find that the new units fired consistently and synced the flash (SB800) and camera (D300) reliably. The user’s manual has also been improved considerably over the original and I think it describes the functions and features of this trigger much better than the first version.
The big question on everyone’s mind when these triggers first appeared was if they would allow you to use Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) to control the light output of one or more remote flash units from the camera.
This is cleared up right away in the new product manual on page 2 under “Cautions before use:”
1) Knight TR-331 product will not support the creative CLS system of Nikon wireless flashgun.
That’s as far as most people will care to read but the TR-331 does have other benefits to offer the serious photographer. You can adjust flash output remotely through the flash exposure compensation menu on the camera from +1 to -3. That’s not a huge range but it does come in very handy when your flash is mounted on a boom arm two feet above your head.
The other feature that sets the TR-331 apart from the crowd of flash triggers is the ability to work in High Speed Sync mode (HSS) or Auto FP Flash in Nikon terms. This allows you to shoot flash exposures at shutter speeds well beyond the normal sync speed of the camera, usually around 1/200 or 1/250th of a second. This is a useful tool for shooting in bright ambient light where you want to use large apertures to blur the background of the image behind your main subject and to freeze action. The TR-331 can sync at speeds at or near the maximum shutter speed of your camera. I won’t go into the details other than to say that what you gain in speed you loose in power so you may have to figure out a way to double up on your flashes or use them at fairly close range depending on the working conditions.
The photos below were taken in HSS mode (Nikon FP Flash) at ISO 200, f/2.8 shutter speed 1/1600 & 1/1250. Without flash the foreground was completely dark. The initial auto iTTL exposure is on the left and the +1 compensation (made from the camera) changed the shutter speed to brighten the part of the image illuminated by the SB800 flash unit.
The Pixel TR-331 is supposed to work with the cameras through the lens (TTL) metering system and while this may be true, I and quite a few other photographers feel there is more control and the ability for consistent and repeatable results by using the camera and flash units in manual mode. This is because we are often shooting (and directing) cooperative models in front of a static backdrop where we are able to control a lot of what is going on in front of the lens. Documentary photography, wedding photography, photographing children, pets and racing photography are a different story completely. In those scenes the light changes from moment to moment and with every tilt and pan of the camera. On many assignments using intelligent metering is a essential part of the process. Within certain restrictions the Nikon Creative Lighting System works exceptionally well at this and it’s already built in to the Nikon camera and flash units. That’s the rub, it works great but most often it requires line of sight to do so. The Pixel TR-331 can be a useful addition to your kit for the times when CLS will not work as well as a radio triggering system.
I don’t believe that there is any single solution for all photographers or all types of photography but the TR-331 has earned a place in the camera bag. If the sun ever comes out again I will be using the TR-331 for High Speed Sync work or in those places where I need a way to adjust my flash output from a distance. Remember that tools are just a means to express yourself and should not get in the way of your personal vision. Consider all options carefully when selection any equipment.