FlashQ Wireless Flash Trigger System
Last updated on January 18, 2015
- Options and Packaging
- FlashQ Hardware
- Feature Overview
- Testing the FlashQ
- Product Video
The particular setup we're reviewing is the FlashQ Kit F+ in Midnight Black, which sells for $55 USD and is pictured above. The cameras being tested include a Leica M9/MM, Fujifilm X-T1 and a Canon 1D Mark IIn. The lighting tested include a Leica SF-24D, two Canon 580EX Speedlites and two Paul C. Buff "Alien Bees" AB800 units.
While the flashes work with the hotshoe of the receivers, these strobes ultimately required a mini-sub (3.5mm) plug for triggering (in at least one strobe; the rest can slave on their own). As shipped, the FlashQ system only includes a micro-USB to PC sync cable, so we had to order alternative adapter cables separately at a very reasonable cost ($6 USD each). The other option is to use a pair of Paramount PW-MPCF adapters. But since PC sync connections are notoriously finicky, the fewer connections overall, the better.
The contacts of the Speedlite 580EX were a little tough to slide on and off of the transmitter. The Leica SF-24D had no such issues.
- Size: 25 x 25 x 15mm
- 2.4GHz low-power digital radio
- 160 radio channels
- 10m (33') operating range
- No TTL, up to 1/250 sync speed*
- Max. 900us X-sync latency (by FlashQ system)
- Tolerate Max. 300V port sync voltage (on FlashQ receiver)
- 3V voltage present on male hot shoe centre pin (on FlashQ transmitter)
- PC Sync cable (via Func. port) for studio strobes
- More than 100K fires for a battery life
- 6 months battery standby time
- LED indication: Green – operating; Red – triggering; Blue - pairing
* On compatible cameras and flashes
Options and Packaging
The few options available are as simple as the FlashQ itself, and that's not a bad thing. The biggest decision is what color to get. They come in Midnight Black, Snow White, Knight Blue and Macaron Pink. The standard kits, ranging in price from $39 to $42 - come with one transmitter, one receiver and a Micro-USB to PC sync (male) cable. The "F+" kits, ranging from $55 to $59 - come with an additional receiver and cable. You can also purchase receivers individually for $20-22 and finally, and depending on what you're connecting your receivers up to, you can select from three other cable versions at $6 each. The options include a 1/4" (6.35mm), the aforementioned male PC sync, a 3.5mm Mini-Sub (pictured below, respectively) and 2.5mm Mini-Sub plugs.
The packaging, as seen at the top of the review, is simple and to the point... A printed cardboard box that's roughly 7.5 x 12.5 x 4cm (3 x 5 x 1.5") which just seems too small to be true! It contains an instruction sheet - plus another - indicating how to turn the units on and off (a late addition?). In this case, the "Kit F+" comes with two receivers (over the other option of one) as well as the obligatory trigger. In the back of the box, under the folded cardboard are the Micro-USB to PC sync adapter cable(s).
The pictures don't quite tell the whole story as far as how small the transmitter/receivers really are. When you see them in person for the first time, it's a little astonishing actually. They're the smallest we've ever seen; obviously smaller than the industry standard PocketWizard (they're in a totally different league anyway) - but also smaller than the bevy of eBay-sourced third-party triggers. The former represents the high-end, ultra-configurable and professional market whereas the latter, for the most part - are crap.
WIth cheap triggers, the batteries are often hard (or even impossible) to replace and don't seem to last very long. Replacing the batteries in the FlashQ units is a snap, and they're of the very common CR2032 variety. The battery life is (supposedly) also rather incredible at six months of standby time and 100k pops. We'll update the review down the road if and when we reach either of these milestones.
Cheap triggers also often require setting dip switches to set the trigger channel. This can be a time-consuming, manual process and is often limited to only a few channels (typical eBay triggers offer four, for example). The FlashQ units on the other hand, offer 160 channels operating at 2.4GHz (an admittedly popular frequency, covering cordless phones to WiFi routers). The FlashQ units automatically pick a channel and pair up when a free one is found - done. You can use up to eight receivers with your transmitter.
When it comes to flash operation with the FlashQ units, one needs to remember that they do not pass any TTL information whatsoever - they're simple remote triggers. Why no TTL? Basically cost, size and the need to support many vendors. Therefore, if you're expecting setting up multiple slaves with different power levels and use TTL metering... Forget about it. Flashes need to be in an A (Auto) or manual mode. This is a non-issue with studio strobes. So who is the FlashQ for? Photographers with basic flash requirements - street, studio, etc. Any time you want to use an off-camera flash but are put off by cords and don't require advanced flash configurations. For obvious reasons, they won't work with non-powered flashes - such as the one included with the Fujifilm X-T1.
We're using FlashQ primarily in the studio and they're perfect for that. Reliable, close range and simple operation is all that's required. And their miniscule size is perfect for Leica M (film or digital) or other mirrorless cameras. You barely notice they're fitted - unlike pretty much every other remote trigger out there.
The "user interface" of the FlashQ transmitter/receiver is identical - and composed of exactly two buttons and an LED. No more, no less. One button is for power, the other for test (pop). Unfortunately, the buttons are both round, the same size and only have a tiny symbol to denote their function, which can be hard to see (we might apply a dollop of paint to one on our units). We might suggest making one a different shape, dimpling or color-coding it. To power the units on/off, you simply hold down the power button for three seconds. The LED will flash green and then go out. To test/pop your flash(es) you simply depress the test button.
More on the LED itself; it's of the tri-color variety, indicating in red, green or blue - on, off or flashing - depending on what the unit is trying to tell you. We won't list all the possibilities here, as they're clearly (!) illustrated on the instruction sheet. But in a nutshell, you could summarize with red = triggering, green = operating and blue = pairing. Suffice it to say that the LED is bright, easy enough to see and the colors easily discernible.
Both units are of a similar, tiny size. The receiver is a bit larger as it offers a hot shoe up top. On the side is a Micro-USB port for one of the four adapter cables, depending on what you plan to trigger. The default is a male PC sync cable, which should work for the majority of flashes out there, or can be adapted further. If you use strobes, you'll likely need one of the other three options (as we did). There's no lock on either unit, which is a little unfortunate - but they fit nice and snug.
While there's a Micro-USB port on the transmitter... It's marked on the instruction sheet as "reserved." So cameras lacking a hotshoe (like the Hasselblad 501CWD V-system camera that we also use in the studio) are out of luck, right? Well, we had to try - and it didn't work. Thinking it might be because of the mechanical (non-powered) nature of the camera, we also tried it with the X-T1 which also offers a PC sync port. No love there, either. Oh well. This would make a nice feature in the future.
On the other side and underneath the receiver is a flash foot with a 1/4-20" tripod thread. This way, you can use a flash base (included with some flashes or available third-party) or tripod to hold your remote flash. A neat feature is that it unlocks from the receiver by pushing out on the (somewhat flimsy) quick release! This way you don't have to deal with either the flash or the tripod, should you want to release your flash quickly. It's also useful if you plan to fire a flash in one hand, from the camera in the other - by making a smaller, lighter receiver that's also more comfortable to grab.
Testing the FlashQ
What can we say? Initial tests worked out-of-the-box without any effort on our part. We slid the transmitter into a camera's hotshoe, hooked the receiver up to a flash and powered both of them on. They instantly paired themselves without issue. Both the test button and shutter actuations on the camera fired the flash reliably - which is more than we can say for some eBay triggers we've used in the past!
The beauty of not being TTL-based means that you can really mix and match things. We fired the Canon Speedlites with the Leica M9 and M Monochrom, the Leica flash with the Fujifilm X-T1 and the strobes with the Canon 1D Mark IIn as well as the other three cameras. Every combination we threw at it produced a satisfying pop! Our studio, which is a large size (but not huge) contains multiple computers, other electronic equipment, even multiple walls here and there. The FlashQ system fired from one end of the studio to the other, no problem. So we started putting more distance, walls and things like metal filing cabinets between the two units. Within reason, the strobes continued to pop. We did eventually reach a limit of reliability, but considering we weren't anywhere near the strobes, hardly seems to be limiting. If you plan to use flashes for interior/architecture lighting, the FlashQ system should work plenty well.
So how far can they really go? They're rated for 10m (33') but since when do these things live up to ratings, you ask? Well, we got them to reliably trigger to at least 30m (98') - that's over three times the distance they're rated for! Of course, we have to say that this test was outside in the open and line-of-sight. There were no walls, objects or household/studio electronic signals in the way. We didn't test extensively, but noticed that positioning the units so "all four buttons were visible" (pointing in the same direction) worked best. Turning the transmitter more than 80-90º to either side or 45º up/down seemed to cut down the range (but not too much). This may have been the signal bouncing off of the road or other obstacles to the sides. In any event, this is just an extreme case under the best of circumstances, and thus highly unusual. Even the folks at FlashQ were a little surprised. Suffice it to say, they should work at the rated range without fail.
One thing to remember; unlike optical triggers, such as those employed by Canon Speedlites - these are actual radio triggers - just like PocketWizards. This means that as long as you're in range and there isn't too much metal in between the two units - you're good to go! You're not limited to line-of-sight either. This is a beautiful thing, if you've never used radio triggers before.
The FlashQ wireless flash triggers are a mini-sized tour de force at an excellent price that's bound to please those looking for a no-nonsense, no-frills flash trigger system. Street shooters looking to cut the cord, macro shooters looking for a highly portable setup or studio shooters looking to pop their strobes... These little units are awesome. As you know, getting the flash off the camera is a great, easy way to improve your flash photos - and that's where these units really shine (no pun intended).
The only real negatives we noted were the similarity between the power and test buttons, which also happened to be reversed between trigger and receiver units - and induced some mild annoyance. The other being the inert Micro-USB port on the trigger. We'd have loved to see this port active, and able to function with the included cable so that older cameras could also trigger the FlashQ receivers.