The Profoto Air Sync and Profoto Air Remote are basically the same as each other with both having 8 channels, 300 m range, 10 to 140 hours battery life transmit mode fast /slow, 30 hours battery life receive mode, 30 min auto power off, and integrated antenna.
The difference is that the Pro Air Sync will only trigger a flash i.e. just fire it like a sync lead but without the lead. Whereas the Pro Air Remote also lets you control the flash so you can change its power setting and modeling light function.
Just to slightly confuse you the Air Remote also comes in a TTL version for Canon and Nikon (TTL = Through the lens). This means that the remote will transmit TTL information to any Profoto flash with TTL Air Support and this will allow for fully automatic point-and-shoot shots. It can also be used in manual mode (without TTL) or Hybrid mode that allows for you to shoot first with TTL and then switch to Manual mode to make adjustments, and that’s good because TTL is often inaccurate.
All Profoto Air Remotes can be used with non Air equipped flash systems by using 2 units, one on camera and one connected to the sync socket of the flash, just like a pocket wizard system. However this will not allow for the control of flash power, modelling light, or TTL operation. It’s worth noting that you can mix Pro Air Sync and Pro Air Remote to achieve this.
Profoto equipment we have that supports Air and or AirTTL operation:
Profoto B1 Air & Air TTL
Profoto B2 Air & Air TTL
Profoto B3 Only the Air
Profoto B4 Only the Air
Profoto D1 Only the Air
Profoto 7A Neither is supported
Profoto 8A Only the Air
Profoto Acute 2 Neither is supported
Broncolor used to be simple, they had a RFS (Radio frequency Sender) that controlled power and synced the flash and that was about it. It was a bit fiddly as you had to alter a “trimpot” underneath the unit to change channel and double check that the pack was on the same channel, also the packs (Grafit etc) had a weak aerial that was either missing, forgotten, or broken. The Scorro packs we stock now have this aerial built into the handle.
Broncolor also did a little gizmo called an IRX (Infra Red Sender), an infra red sync trigger that came in surprisingly useful from time to time, particularly in areas with radio restrictions.
Broncolor has now upgraded the RFS to the RFS 2. It operates like the Profoto Air Remote and controls the power & more on any RFS equipped Broncolor Flash, like a Broncolor Scorro for example. An additional RFS 2 Receiver can be used to trigger non Broncolor equipment by attaching to the sync port with a short cable.
The Broncolor RFS 2 has 40 channels compared to the Profoto Air’s 8. I would think this is an advantage once or twice every millennium.
Pocket Wizards are a third party wireless sync trigger and either the Pocket Wizard 2 or Pocket Wizrd 3 system will trigger any flash from any camera provided you have the correct cables to connect.
Connect one pocket wizard on to the hot shoe of your camera (or connect it to the sync socket using a small lead) and attach another one onto the Flash (again connecting to the sync socket with a small lead). Check they are both on the same channel and away you go.
Easy, just be careful that the correct size leads are supplied for the flash.
Historically Profoto used the larger jack and Broncolour used the smaller one but they are both changing this around to keep us on our toes. Here at Pixipixel, we ensure you’re supplied with the correct cabling, even if it means providing both sets for your shoot.
Pocket wizards however also have a few tricks up their sleeves that you don’t find on the brand specific triggers from Broncoor and Profoto.
Firstly, the Pocket Wizard 3 units will automatically switch to transmit or receive depending on what they are being used for, a very clever feature. The Pocket wizard 2’s came as a transmitter, receiver, or a transceiver; they can do both but you need to select which.
The Pocket Wizards claim to have the longest range of 300m and that’s pretty impressive as I can’t even see a camera at that range. But it gets better, you can also use pocket wizard units as “repeaters” i.e. you could put one at a half way point 300m from the camera (transmitter unit) and a further 300 metres away from the flash (receiving unit) thus extending the range to 600 metres and this can be extended even further.
Based on rough calculations it then follows that, with the circumference of the world being approximately 400 thousand metres it would take approximately 133,333 pocket wizards to transmit a sync signal the long way round the globe from camera to flash, and lots of AA batteries too.
Ok I know that’s silly but I had a customer who used to put flashes up at the top of huge sporting stadiums and the like and use this “Repeater” facility to trigger them from his seat in the stands so it can come in very useful.
The same guy also used to make use of another function available on pocket wizards and that is the ability to be powered via a USB port on the unit. This is great if you have to set up the pocket wizards say 24 hours before you are going to use them, this can happen more often than you would think. During my years living in Melbourne, for “Carols By Candlelight”, lights had to be set up in the rigging and subsequently could not be accessed for a day so the pocket wizards would go flat by the time the sing-song got going. Attaching an external power source via the USB allowed for them to be left on and not go flat.
The other great use for pocket wizards is the ability to use them to remotely trigger a camera rather than a flash. A special cord is required to do this and it’s called a Trigger cable; it comes in Canon or Nikon. Useful when the camera has a high viewpoint up on a boom, for example. Another scenario could be when shooting two cameras at the same time.
A few motor sports guys will have a camera on the opposite side of the track to themselves and trigger it at the same time as the camera they are holding this enables them to shoot both sides of the can and also get some heroic selfies. The test button has a two stage action just like the shutter release button on the camera, so a 1/2 press wakes the camera and starts auto focus and more. A full press will release the shutter.
And don’t forget you can attach one to a light meter for remote triggering of the flash during that initial setup stage. This is particularly useful if you are setting up and doing the pre light on your own.
Pocket Wizard do a range of TTL units specific to Canon or Nikon, but we do not stock these.
Old school sync leads should not be forgotten. They are still a great way to trigger your flash from camera or light meter. They don’t run out of battery power, and they don’t interfere with the guy in the next studio. They are uncomplicated enough for your average photographer to understand.
In fact the only real problem with a sync lead is that they get trodden on and so get damaged quickly like an iPad lead.
We include sync leads with all flashes hired out to our clients, as they will save many a problem just by being there as a backup. I would hope that most photographers and good assistants would have a spare sync lead in their own kit.
As an aside if you ever want to test a sync lead just power up a flash and plug in the sync then “short out” the other end of the sync lead with a paperclip or your keys etc and if the synch is in good condition it will fire the flash, you won’t blow yourself up as the trigger circuit is separate from the flash circuit in modern flashes. Perhaps best not to do this if you can see “Balcar” written on the flash and you are stood in a puddle.
Also don’t forget that most packs or mono blocks have a slave cell so in a multiple pack shoot often you only need one pair of triggers and then use the slave cell on the other packs to trigger them to fire. As light travels at the speed or er..light, the tiny delay is not likely to cause any problems unless some serious high speed or short flash duration stuff is going on.
Written by Bruce Lindsay