When getting into flash photography, it’s easy to look at camera manufacturers' flagship flashes and assume they are the best you can get. When I first started out, I made this exact assumption. But I always wondered how some of the cheaper hotshoe flashes would hold up against these higher priced competitors. So I ordered a few Phottix Mitros+ flashes and put them to work.
The overall build of the flash is very similar to other high-end brands. It feels sturdy in my hand and I have dropped them from decent heights on more than one occasion without any problems (not that I recommend it, but it's nice to know they can handle an accident or two). Overall the flash has a lot of similarities to other brands. The head swivels up and down and rotates side to side, there is an AF assist light, built in wide panel diffuser and bounce card, backlit display panel, and most other features that you would expect in a hotshoe flash.
One of the main build features that I haven't seen on other flashes is with the locking mechanism on the hotshoe. Most flashes have a switch or a lever that drops down a pin in order to lock the flash into place on your camera. This flash has the same feature, but in addition, it has a rubber gasket that also drops down that creates a more sturdy lock. This really comes into play when mounting the flash onto a cold shoe for off-camera lighting. Before, when using flashes with just a dropdown pin, the flashes would be locked into place but would still feel loose and wobbly. With this rubber dropdown, the flash feels very sturdy and there is zero play between the flash and the cold shoe.
Another cool feature of the build is with the battery layout. Most flashes have you insert the batteries by alternating them between the positive and negative sides. The problem is that it’s hard to remember what one goes first. Do I place the positive in first, then negative? Or the other way around? What always ends up happening is you have you look inside the compartment to figure it out. Not a huge deal until you need to change batteries in the dark. The way the Mitros+ has the batteries laid out is that the top has positive facing out and the bottom is negative facing out. To make this more apparent, they have also made the positive out batteries lay in the horizontal position while the negative out batteries lay in the vertical position. I realize this is a small feature and not something you make a purchasing decision based on, but I found it really helpful in real-world use.
Taking a look at some of the internal features, there are a lot of things you would expect to see. Things like TTL, manual, multi-strobe, zoom control (24-105mm), etc. But one of the main standout features is the built-in wireless receivers and transmitters. What this means is that with the use of a Phottix transmitter (Odin II, Odin, or Strato), you can trigger this flash off camera without needing to attach any type of radio receiver.
Not only that, but each flash also doubles as an Odin transmitter. What this means is that you can trigger an off-camera flash with any of the Phottix radio transmitters, or you can attach a second Mitros+ to your camera and use that to trigger the off-camera flash instead. While the flash is attached to your camera and being used as a transmitter, you also have the ability to control each off-camera flash the exact same way you would as if you were using an Odin transmitter. The on-camera flash can also be used as a flash and transmitter at the same time. I really love this feature because not only does it eliminate all the hassles of carrying, charging, and setting up radio receivers, it also means that I now have multiple transmitter backups. No more wasting money on a backup transmitter that will end up spending most its time locked in a bag. Instead I can use that money to buy another flash that I can actually use and then that flash also doubles as a backup transmitter.
Another cool standout feature of this flash is the ability to save and load a set of three different settings. With this feature, I can have the flash set to my ideal settings for shooting weddings and save that to slot one (something like silent operation, TTL, AF assist light ON, etc.). Then I can have a studio setup saved to slot two (something like manual, beep confirmation, AF assist OFF, etc.). Now when I go from shooting weddings to studio, I don't need to change each individual setting anymore. I just pull up the menu, load the settings I want, and it’s good to go for what I want to shoot.
Power and Recycle Times
One of the biggest arguments for going with higher-end flashes normally boils down to the power and recycle times. The first thing I tested was the flash power. To do this, I placed the Mitros+ and a Nikon SB-910 on a light stand and put them side by side at 10 feet from a wall. I set each flash to full power and 35mm zoom. The camera was set to 1/200 of a second, f/16, ISO 100. As you can see below, the resulting images are pretty much identical.
For the recycle test, I placed the flashes on full power and pressed the test button and waited to see when each was ready to fire again (each flash has a light that will illuminate when fully recycled). The two flashes were very close, with the Phottix flash being ready just a fraction of a second sooner than the Nikon and both remained consistent for a series of five or so flashes. The real difference was when testing each light over a series of flashes. Setting both flashes to 1/8 power and pressing the test button on each flash at a consistent rate, I was able to get through about 10 flashes with no issue on each flash. After that, the Phottix flash would miss a flash, then keep up for a few flashes, then miss another flash. The SB-910 though maintained flashing until I stopped (about 20 flashes). I know these are not the most scientific of tests, but for me it’s enough to be able to distinguish the differences between the two.
What I Liked
- Integrated receivers and transmitters
- Cheaper than camera manufacturers' flagship models
- Build quality and features
What I Didn't Like
- Recycle times not as fast as camera manufacturers flagship models
- Not as much zoom range as camera manufacturers flagship models
The build and feature set of the Phottix Mitros+ flash are enough to compete with camera manufactures flagship models. Add to this fact that for the price of two SB-910s you can get two Mitros+ flashes and the Odin II trigger with money left over. You also get the added bonus of not having to buy receivers and backup transmitter with the Mitros+. While the Mitros+ may not have as fast of a recycle time, in real-world use I never saw an issue with this. By the time I was having to deal with slow recycle times, I was already having to deal with the filled up buffer on my camera. By the time my camera was ready to shoot, my flash was ready as well. If you are a shooter that is constantly popping your flash at high rates of speed and have a camera that can also keep up, then the flagship models may be worth the added expense. But I think for most shooters, the Mitros+ is a very capable and cost-effective product.
Reviewing a hotshoe flash doesn't really require example images, because light from a hotshoe flash is going to look pretty much the same no matter what the brand. But a lot of people still want to see them anyway. So all the below images were shot with the Phottix Mitros+ either bare flash or with some type of modifier. If you’re curious about the specific setup for a particular image, just ask in the comments.