Whenever Paul C. Buff, Inc. releases a new product, the industry always pays immediate attention. After all, Buff gear is beloved far and wide for being, hands down, the best "bang for buck" lighting option in studio strobes for photographers, myself included.
That's not to say that Buff equipment is bargain barrel level (not even close), as the resilient and affordable AlienBees and more recently, DigiBees, have been seen for years outfitting an endless list of studios in every state of the U.S., not to mention countless photographers' gear cases. Easy to use, quick to set up, and never overpriced, Buff strobes and accessories are usually the answer to the question, "What strobes should I buy?" when I get asked at my workshops, especially since the introduction of their Einstein.
Enter the Paul C. Buff, Inc. CyberSense. No, not a new strobe, but a wireless control unit for the entire line of Buff strobes and trigger systems. While existing users may be aware of the famed Cyber Commander unit, the company's flagship wireless remote and the CyberSync Transmitter, Buff's straightforward trigger, it should should be stated upfront that the new CyberSense is neither.
So What Is It?
Sized to match your average smartphone, the CyberSense is a wireless controller for up to 4 Buff strobes (16 frequencies to choose from) with a simplified interface for super quick governing of your strobe and modeling lamp output in a comfortably shaped device. I admit freely I was a touch skeptical about the size of the device when I first learned of it. After a few minutes of actively using it recently in St. Augustine, Florida, however, I realized how satisfying it was. No tiny dials or impossibly microscopic buttons to try to navigate and overall dimensions I am, of course, very accustomed to as a longtime smartphone user.
Initial inspection of the CyberSense finds a digital display, three rectangular buttons and four touch sliders. While I couldn't get my DigiBees connected to the CyberSense by my tried-and-true method known as "push random buttons until it works," a 15-second peek into the instruction manual got me up and running smoothly. The touch sliders work similar to a smartphone touchscreen, wherein a light touch and slide is all that is required to adjust strobe and modeling lamp output either up or down on the fly.
Once wirelessly connected to your Buff strobes, the CyberSense does not forget said connections until you intentionally override them. That is to say you can turn your strobes off, let the CyberSense go to sleep mode, and change everything around on set without having to reconnect it. I discovered this simply by chance after doing exactly that, changing my setup in the studio and then firing up the strobes again. The CyberSense unit kept working smoothly as if nothing had been unplugged, something I found of huge importance when I am working quickly.
What I Liked
- Super easy to connect to strobes
- Doesn't forget the connections or settings of your strobes even if you power them down
- Adjusting the four intuitive sliders to change the different strobes on the fly could not be easier
- Feels great in your hand, but light enough so it is not bulky in your pocket
- Instant access to modeling lamp output is incredibly useful
- Far simpler to set up and use than the Cyber Commander but more useful than the CyberSync trigger
- Great price
What Could Be Better:
- Control of more strobes would be nice, perhaps via the same interface but with different banks in groups of four
- Lanyard clip or hook, as the CyberSense is light enough for hanging around your neck as another option
As is their usual, the company engineered the CyberSense to be very cost-effective without being junky, and the $79.99 price tag clearly reflects that initiative. The device has a great tactile feel without being heavy and simply works. There is no need for a complicated, overly analytical review on the CyberSense in my mind, because it works quickly, easily, and smoothly and does exactly as it's advertised.
Full disclosure: while the company did send me a CyberSense unit to keep, I am happy to report that its performance in Florida has convinced me that it is now a permanent part of my gear list.
Buff themselves have a very useful 4 minute video on how to set up and use the CyberSense, so I'll let them take you through it:
The CyberSense controller can be purchased on Paul C. Buff, Inc's website.