Cactus V4 review

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Sherman Banks, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. Sherman Banks

    Sherman Banks TPF Noob!

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    First of all, they're found here.

    I haven't seen anyone do a write up on these here so I figured I'd take the time to do a quick review based on my experience with them over the past few weeks.

    I decided on the Cactus V4's mostly due to the cost being so much less than the Pocket Wizards or Cybersyncs, and also because they are the newest version of Cactus triggers following the V2's (no V3 for some reason) which I hoped they'd resolved the issues of the past version. In reading reviews of both models, the biggest and most consistent problem seemed to be the reliability rate at which they actually triggered the flash to fire. I had already ordered mine when I met a few people shooting V2's which proved to be both unreliable and cheaply made (no mods done, and one guys was missing some of the internals causing it to not work). Needless to say, I was worried I had made a bad buying decision. Plus, my intent was to use Nikon's CLS system with 2 Vivitar 285hv's on the V4's, which was flawed because the systems cannot work together due to the transmitter blocking the pop up flash on my body. I still knew I wanted to try them out to see if the V4's would be more reliable and I ordered two more receivers as a gamble (one for SB600 and an extra for the future) which I figured I could sell immediately afterwards if they sucked that bad.

    Upon receiving them, I was surprised they came with only a bubble lined envelope surrounding the box, but I assume this cuts down on the shipping cost from Hong Kong. The product boxes all have nice protective padding in them so I guess it's not a big deal they came in envelopes, but with many people complaining about them showing up DOA, they might want to look into alternate shipping materials. Anyways, after inspecting them, they all appeared to be fine and I loaded the packaged batteries into the units and gave them a go. The new design of the receivers makes it so they run off of AAA batteries which are an improvement from the V2's CR2 battery. The transmitter runs off of a 23A 12v battery which is also easily replaced. It's nice they give you these batteries to start, but they are crap, and you'll want to have fresh batteries in them as soon as you can (which I will explain below). The battery cover on the units is a bit flimsy and can have trouble staying on so a small bit of tape would ensure you don't lose it in a shoot.

    The plastic on all the units feels cheap because it is but these certainly look better than the V2's and they are more practical in terms of design. For example, the V2's receivers were set up vertically with a screw-tight tilt design, and the V4's are set up horizontally with the hotshoe mount sitting directly above the stand mounting threads (which is also a hotshoe that could be used for stands, etc). This means no more sagging flash, which was another complaint I often heard from the V2 users. The transmitter has an antenna built into it which can operate up or down, but I'm not sure how effective it actually is set vertically. Many people have complained that the misfire rate increases with the antenna set up, so I've just kept mine down, and it works fine that way. It does have a clean look to it though which should fit well with the design of most modern bodies.

    As for function, using them straight out of the box with the stock batteries produced expected results. I had a misfire rate of about 1 in 30-40. I hadn't really tested the distance, but they were definitely good for about 20 feet and the results were the same. After replacing the batteries with some fresh alkalines, the misfire rate was improved dramatically. I shot about 130 frames with two flashes the other night without a single misfire. I don't want to claim that with fresh batteries they are going to be as reliable as PW's, but I'm definitely not seeing the results I had when I first used them. Lately I've only been using them with 2 flashes due to breaking my 3rd, so I'll have to report back on the reliability when I'm running 3-4 flashes.

    All in all, for the small amount of money I spent on these (in comparison to the competition), I'm really quite impressed with them. I don't do any paid work with them, and nobody really recommends using them professionally, but for the person learning off camera flash as a hobby and on a budget, the money is would be well spent. One thing to keep in mind is that they are based out of Hong Kong so getting your product fast can mean spending a lot in shipping. It also means you'll have a lot of down time if you have to deal with replacement/warranty issues (which you may).

    Pros:
    Improved design on the receivers
    Quite reliable with new batteries
    Receivers use AA batteries
    16 channels
    Inexpensive

    Cons:
    Plastic is cheap
    Not as reliable as PW's or Cybersyncs
    Made and shipped from Hong Kong

    Anyways, hope this helps some of you out if you've been considering getting into off camera flash and need an inexpensive wireless trigger solution. Feel free to ask any questions or post comments with your own experience with them. I understand that the user results on these vary greatly and if you have had a different experience with these, please share.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2009
  2. Montana

    Montana TPF Noob!

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    Nice write up and thanks for your time involved in it.

    Derrick
     
  3. Sherman Banks

    Sherman Banks TPF Noob!

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    No problem, I'll try to keep it updated as well as I continue to use them. Hopefully everyone who gets these will have a similar experience so they don't want to kill me if they fail!
     
  4. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Can you mod these for greater distances like the V2's? Just curious, because a modded V2 is good for over 350 feet without misfires and is the same initial price as the V4.
     
  5. Sherman Banks

    Sherman Banks TPF Noob!

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    C'mon Jerry, you're asking me? :lol: I get most of my info from you! I haven't looked into it yet, but I also haven't tested distance beyond twenty feet with them. I'll have to do some research to see if anyone else has modded them, but I'm no electrical engineer so I don't plan trying to devise a modification either.
     
  6. Moe

    Moe TPF Noob!

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    I have the v4's and have had a great experience with them. I haven't kept count of how many times I've used them, but I have had basically zero misfires that couldn't be blamed on my flash being on standby. I have used them successfully over 20 feet also. It wasn't worth it for me to by the v2's and mod them, as I don't see me using a flash for something 350 feet away. Sorry, Jerry. That is a great mod, however, for people who would use it and I'm sure a lot of people appreciate it. I have gotten a lot of info from you, as well. Such as the Sigma 18-50 2.8. Thanks for that.
     
  7. Sherman Banks

    Sherman Banks TPF Noob!

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    Just an update: I've had these now for quite a few months, and with extensive use they're still holding up great. Still not many misfires, I've shot with a distance of 20-30 feet and still good. Even dropped a couple receivers here and there and nothing to report. Still a good buy if they haven't changed anything in the manufacturing process.
     
  8. bigtwinky

    bigtwinky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the update! I've been seriously considering doing more off camera flash and this would be a great tool to get started with!
     
  9. jnelson

    jnelson TPF Noob!

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    good write-up, i recently bought these and feel the same way about them as you. They are a great inexpensive way for the hobbyist to learn off camera flash. Im sure everyone is aware but ill throw it out there anyway, the Strobist website has a ton of great information regarding off camera flash. Also, i bought my cactus triggers from mpex.com and although the package got lost somewhere in translation, they were very helpful and i suspect that had things gone as planned, shipping would have been 3-4 days.
     
  10. SrBiscuit

    SrBiscuit TPF Noob!

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    sorry for bringing up an old topic, but this thread helped me today and thought some of our new users might be interested as well.

    thanks for the review sherman.
    i ordered a set of these today based on your review, and a couple others i saw around those intrawebs.
    cant wait to play!
     
  11. Clawed

    Clawed TPF Noob!

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    I am using the V4s (semi) professionally, and I love them. They have been 100% reliable thus far, and I recently ordered a second set.

    Highly recommended for the price :thumbup:
     
  12. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've got the competitor in the cheap controllers: the CTR-301P. So far no misfires or failure to fire, seems good build quality, allows optical or radio control of the flash.

    I've just used it "normally" though, I haven't tested maximum distance etc. yet.
     

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