For the longest time, photographers who wanted to take their TTL flash triggers off-camera only had a few real options. On one hand, you have Pocket Wizards, the industry standard for wireless flash - rock-solid reliability, great range, and a 'great' price tag of over S$500. On the other hand, you have TTL cords that let you 'tether' your flash - reliable, relatively cheap (typically less than S$100), but with a working range limited to that of the length of the cable. Now we have a new contender: the Phottix Odin. A wireless TTL flash trigger with a feature set to rival Pocket Wizards, the Odins are even compatible with the Phottix Strato II flash triggers, allowing existing Phottix users to expand the capabilities of their setups without retiring older equipment.
How does the Phottix Odin fare? Read on to find out.
Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Channels: 4 channels
Groups: 3 groups; A, B, C
Batteries: 2x AA each for transmitter and receiver, 5V DC on receiver (external power port)
Max sync speed: 1/8000s
Output: Hot shoe, 3.5mm port (receiver)
Input: USB port (transmitter and receiver)
Attachment: 1/4 tripod lug, cold shoe (receiver)
Input voltage: 2.4-3.2V
Flash port voltage handling: 6v (transmitter), <300V (receiver)
Body dimentions: 94 x 55 x 35mm (transmitter), 90 x 45 x 40mm (receiver)
Weight: 105g (transmitter), 66g (receiver); without batteries
Operating temperature: -15 - 65 deg C
Storage temperature: -30 to 85 deg C
Compatibility: Canon EOS digital cameras and flashes. Some third party TTL flashes may function, but are not tested/supported by Phottix. Nikon version in the works.
The Phottix Odin is the top-of-the-line offering from Phottix, and it's build quality reflects that. Well-constructed from tough plastics, the Odin looks and feels like it can take quite a beating. Buttons depress with a satisfying click, and switches are stiff enough that you don't change channels or groups accidentally. A metal hot shoe on the transmitter adds to the feeling of quality.
The Phottix Odin takes 4 AA batteries in total, two each in the transmitter and receiver. We applaud Phottix's choice of AA batteries instead of the more compact AAA batteries, as AA batteries are far more likely to be in a photographer's kit than the latter.
Operation is incredibly simple due to the graphically-driven interface. Anyone who has used any of Canon or Nikon's flashes should quickly adjust to the interface on the Odin. Flash exposure compensation is very straightforward to adjust, along with other settings such as flash zoom, flash power in manual mode, and flash modes.
To put it simply, the Phottix Odin is the most streamlined way to control an off-camera flash that we have ever experienced.
The effectiveness of TTL metering on the Phottix Odin is difficult to quantify; it can (and will sometimes be) fooled, just like the on-camera metering when using P/A/S modes. TTL flash is designed to 'just work'.
For those unfamiliar with TTL flash, here's a basic rundown. When the shutter is triggered, a pre-flash is fired; light from the pre-flash is reflected into and through the lens into the camera's metering system, which uses that information to tell the flash how much power is required. The flash then fires the meter-appropriate flash, which should obtain a correct exposure. The difficulty is when the scene one is photographing has a lot of white or black in it, which fools the camera meter into underexposing and overexposing respectively.
While it's difficult to quantify the Odin's TTL performance, it's simple enough to qualify it. The Odin was tested with a Canon EOS 5D and a Canon Speedlite 580 EX II, and in our experience using it, wireless TTL with the Odin behaved very similarly to TTL flash with the 580 EX II attached to the camera's hotshoe. It worked well with balanced scenes, producing mostly correct exposures that only rarely needed a slight bump of flash compensation. TTL flash metering was also very consistent within the same circumstances; exposure-to-exposure variation was minor, if present at all. The following three photos illustrate this well; all were shot in succession, and the flash metering across them is very consistent.
Like on-camera TTL flash, the Odin was fooled by scenes with large amounts of white or black. However, with the direct controls available on the Odin's transmitter, it was very easy to adjust flash exposure compensation, even from long working distances tens of meters away. The interface also allowed us to see, at any given point in time, the settings toggled for all three (A, B, and C) groups of flashes.
The Phottix Odin is rated to work at 100m or more, and in our testing we found that to be true. It's important to note, though, that the Odin uses the 2.4 GHz band, which is an extremely crowded frequency - many household devices, including wireless routers and microwaves, use this frequency. In densely populated areas with lots of signal noise, a reduction in working distance can be expected.
The series of photos above (click the thumbnail for full size) shows us using the Odin to trigger a flash at increasing distances. After a point, being that far away from the flash while still needing to trigger it becomes a rather niche application. For most uses, a working distance of 100m+ is purely academic.
The Phottix Odin truly is an impressive product, offering the rock-solid reliability expected of a high-end product married with ease of use and simplicity of use. It even has non-features that photographers will appreciate, such as its use of AA batteries instead of the smaller AAA ones. Despite its price tag, we believe that the Phottix Odin achives a great balance of performance per dollar, and will make a worthwhile addition to any strobist kit.