Pixel TR-331 Wireless Flash Trigger For Nikon TTL
The Tao of Wireless Flash Continued…
In conflict, be fair and generous.
I have now taken many, many photographs with the Pixel TR-331 Wireless Flash Trigger set. At least I would have if the transmitter and receiver were doing what they are supposed to do. Rather than bore you with two days worth of trial and error results, I’ll just say that I have come to the conclusion that my transmitter (TX) and or receiver (RX) are either defective or were damaged in transit. My best guess is that there is a short in the TX between the circuit board and the hot shoe. Of course this all chafes, bites and stings but it is not the world’s worst problem and can be easily resolved. It is very frustrating when something works, then sort of works, then stops working, starts working briefly and then finally stops working again. I’m going to set those issues aside for the moment and tell you what I have learned about these triggers. What follows is my personal opinion, probably flawed and about the best I can do.
I like these triggers. They seem to mimic the iPod TouchÔ design theme with flat, glossy black (plastic) tops. The digital display and function buttons make setting the modes and channels on the TX and RX units a breeze compared with the tiny switches found on many of the other Chinese wireless triggers. The Pixel TR-331 triggers add the ability to transmit the camera flash menu settings to the off camera flash. Any changes made in the flash mode menu on the camera are sent to the off-camera flash and appear on the flash menu display as though it were sitting on the camera hot shoe. You can control functions like red-eye-reduction, slow sync, rear sync and any available combinations of those options that are included in the camera menu. The TX and RX also recognize when the camera is set to FP HSS mode. You can sync the flash up to the camera’s maximum shutter speed, which is useful for taking flash photos in bright sunlight at low apertures.
A lot of people were hoping that the advertised TTL function meant that the TR-331 would also allow access to the Nikon CLS flash features or at least permit some sort of hybrid arrangement that might combine radio frequency signals to a Nikon commander flash at increased ranges and then enable the commander to send CLS information to several groups of slaves. The Pixel TR-331 has Master and Slave settings on the RX units but this only applies to TTL functions. Pixel has confirmed that there is no communication between RX units and that the Pixel master and slave RX functions are both controlled by the TX unit on the camera hot shoe. The current asking price of the TR-331 combined with the lack of CLS compatibility may be a deal-breaker for many photographers looking for low cost, acceptably reliable flash triggers. For the cost of one Pixel TR-331 transmitter and receiver set; you may be able to purchase four or more sets of the Yongnuo RF-602 triggers or similar units from Cactus. When it comes to low cost flash triggers, emergency spares and backups seem to be the name of the game especially when replacements can take several weeks to arrive in the mail.
It seems as though there is no free lunch when it comes to wireless flash solutions. You have to learn to decipher the advertised features and then decide if these types of products will fill your needs. For instance, I don’t think that wireless flash triggers offer much of an advantage for wedding photographers who use mostly on-camera flash or flash mounted on a bracket to shoot TTL and bounce flash along with the ability to move quickly around a venue. I’m not sure that TTL is extremely useful in general for off-camera flash, where you need to set groups of flashes to different power ratios for customized lighting setups. The ability to remotely control power level adjustments seems much more useful to photographers working alone and don’t want to waste time walking back and forth between flash units to make minor power level adjustments.
I feel like going for a drive and taking some photographs today. I’m thinking of making a bumper sticker that says:
MY OTHER TRIGGERS
ARE POCKET WIZARDS
Pixel TR-331 Wireless TTL Flash Triggers
- Replaces dedicated TTL cable with wireless radio transmitter and receiver
- Supports Nikon flash menu functions (slow, rear sync, red-eye-reduction, ect.)
- Auto zoom mode on flash head with compatible flashes
- Controls off camera Master flash output from camera flash compensation menu
- Digital channel & mode selection through two simple function buttons
- TTL and Manual transmitter modes
- Master and Slave modes on RX units
- Supports Nikon FP HSS high-speed sync mode
- Locking wheel on TX and RX hot shoe foot
- Backlight on TX and RX display
- Programmable ROM may allow extra functions in the future? See jack on TX unit
- Low battery / power indicator on TX and RX display
- Advertised long battery life in standby mode
- Uses 2.4 GHz frequency for increased range
- No communication between Master RX and Slave RX
- Does not support Nikon CLS Commander mode or groups (may be modified by future firmware updates)
- RX display is difficult to see with the flash connected to the hot shoe
- Nikon flash units obstruct function buttons when connected to RX
- Possible quality control issues
- Uses relatively expensive CR2 batteries
- In-use TX battery life likely to be substantially reduced from stated standby times
- No test button on TX unit, requires multiple shutter releases to test lighting levels
- Feature set versus cost
- Price per unit versus the competition
The Pixel TR-331 is a bit of a tease. It promises some very cool things and appears to be able to accomplish them. That leads people to believe that it can do other things that it can’t currently deliver and does not claim to. I don’t think any deception is intended. We simply seem to be the victims of our own high expectations, endlessly searching for the best of everything at the lowest possible cost.
I think the addition of factory programmable memory is a big step forward from previous simple wireless triggers used as replacements for pc sync cables. It shows what can be done even if all of our needs and wants are not included in the current feature set
After getting two defective (or damaged) transmitters in a row from two different companies, I am fairly frustrated by the whole world of wireless flash triggers.
For many photographers who want to experiment with off-camera lighting the Nikon Creative Lighting System is still the best and most reliable choice but only if you can afford the cost of Nikon flashes. If you currently have a Nikon camera with an on-board flash that can serve as a remote flash commander, you can buy one very nice Nikon SB600 for just slightly more than the current price of a set of the Pixel TR-331 wireless remotes.
Nothing is foolproof but if I had to make a recommendation at this point, I would be leaning towards Nikon CLS, especially if you are working at relatively short distances or indoors. Nikon CLS works as intended and Nikon flashes are here now. There is no waiting period required while the manufacturer works out the kinks in the product or delivery.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the future when I get my replacement triggers.