I’d never heard of the Hong Kong manufacturer Cactus until I attended this years Societies Convention at the Hilton Metropole, Edgware Road in London. Not only was their UK distributor at the trade show demonstrating the product but they were also mentioned favorably by a couple of photographers whose talks I attended including Damien Lovegrove. The Cactus system consists of a Wireless Flash (RF60) as well as a Wireless Flash Transceiver V6) and a few other items which you can see on their website.
The flash and transceiver have a number of nifty features that really make off-camera flash very easy and straight forward. In particular:
- The Cactus V6 is the first wireless flash trigger that works on any camera that has a standard hot shoe or PC Sync port to control power output wirelessly. If you have a V6 on your camera and a V6 on each flash it could work with any combination of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus or Panasonic flashes all at the same time.
- If a flash model is not listed as being supported the V6 may even learn its flash profile and then be able to control the power output of the flash.
- The V6 can directly control a Cactus RF60 using the RF60’s built-in radio transceiver. Besides controlling power remotely in single and multiple groups, the V6 can also adjust the zoom level of the RF60.
- The V6 can benchmark the power output of flash models with different guide numbers to specify an absolute light intensity, independent of the maximum power output of a flash model.
- The V6 and VF60 operate across four channels (2.4GHz) at a distance of up to 100m
- Up to four groups are available meaning you can independently control the power and zoom (for the VF60 only) of four flashes (or more if you assign multiple flashes to the same group). What is really neat is that you can rename the groups so you can have, for example, groups called KEY, FILL, SPOT, RIM, HAIR etc to make controlling the different lights in a studio setting a whole lot easier.
- The VF60 Wireless Flash has a very respectable maximum guide number of 56 (meters) and can also act as a transmitter meaning if you place it on the camera hot shoe it can remotely fire other VF60’s without the need for a separate trigger.
- Finally the displays on both the V6 and VF60 are clear and intuitive and the controls are easy to use and not too fiddly as can be the case with some flashes and triggers.
Like many photographers I suspect, I own a number of different makes of flash but the Cactus is the first off-camera flash system that I’ve come across that makes it possible to use, and control the power remotely, across multiple manufacturers flashes. For now I have invested in one V6 and two VF60’s. I will be trying them out over the next few weeks on some upcoming portrait shoots at which point I may invest in a further V6 to remotely operate an old Canon 430 EX II speedlight I’ve hung on to (my last remaining bit of Canon kit since moving to Olympus).
The thing I really like about the full Cactus system however (i.e. with the VF60) is that you don’t have to bother attaching receivers to the flashes which makes the whole business of setting up off-camera flash so much easier and quicker. If they prove to be as usable as I think then I might instead invest in a third VF60.
The only downside to the Cactus system is that the transceiver is quite bulky in comparison to some other triggers I have used and when it sits on top of a micro-four thirds camera such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 it does look a bit over powering. I figure this is a relatively small hindrance however given the functionality (and price) of the system.