Fstoppers Reviews: Is This The Pocket Wizard Killer? The Aputure Trigmaster Plus II

Fstoppers Reviews: Is This The Pocket Wizard Killer? The Aputure Trigmaster Plus II

As a Wedding Photographer, I have tons of radio triggers. I started out with the PocketWizard Plus II, and then after having all of my gear stolen, I switched to the relatively inexpensive PocketWizard Plus X, so needless to say, I’m fairly entrenched in the Pocket Wizard Brand. Could the Chinese company Aputure get me away from PocketWizard while simultaneously saving my wallet from shelling out $100 every time I need a new trigger?

As you have seen over the last few weeks, Fstoppers Reviews has been covering a lot of Chinese made and “off brand” materials. We began with the budget 7” Video Screen the V-Screen and last week we covered the superb Nikon D800 Battery Grip Copy from Aputure. This week however, we’re going to look at a product that has the potential to knock the king of the radio triggers from its pedestal, and all for only $80… for 2!

Trigmaster Plus II Charleston Wedding Photographer Nicholas Gore

So first, let's take a look at build quality and looks. The Aputure Trigmaster Plus II definitely does NOT borrow from the Pocket Wizard Plus III or Plus X in it’s styling. It’s a mess. It’s covered in knobs and buttons, an extra hotshoe and even has a weird retractable antenna. So if you’re looking for a reasonably attractive, minimally styled trigger (if looks even factor into your decision making paradigm) then it’s best to go with another trigger. That being said however, it's a well-built piece of machinery. The plastics are solid and it doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart on you. All of the switches feel well put-together and the rotating piece that puts the antenna up and down and the hotshoe is made of metal. My only real complaint is that the buttons are all made of slick plastic instead of a softer rubber. It just doesn't feel quite as nice, and it makes a not-so-pleasant click when you do anything with them.

There is one downside to this: all of this solid build quality means that it's going to be a bit heavy. While this isn't a huge issue, it's a few ounces heavier than the Pocket Wizard alternative. A few ounces really doesn't make a big difference, but it's just something to consider.

The trigger's ergonomics are a little hit or miss as well. The fact that all most of the options are switch or button based, instead of menu based, means that everything you need is available at the touch of a button or flick of a switch and you won't need to spend a few extra seconds going through menus. In fact, after spending a few hours with this trigger, I was able to make adjustments without looking at the device, simply because I had learned their location. The lack of a bright screen or lit-up buttons might be something of an issue though, if you constantly work in dark environments as this trigger has neither of those features, especially since the "test" button is not at all where you would expect it to be.

Trigmaster Plus II Charleston Wedding Photographer Nicholas GoreWhy is the test button on the side instead of in the center where it appears like it should be? Trigmaster106

In addition to this, there are two issues that might be somewhat troublesome for users of the Trigmaster Plus II with regards to its build. The first is that the battery cover on the back is difficult to open AND it's not attached. This may not be an issue for many of you, but I have a tendency to lose things and I just know that with any amount of luck, half of the battery covers will be gone in 3 months. The second is that when a flash is place on the trigger using its built-in hotshoe, it's nearly impossible for someone without toothpicks for fingers to change any of the settings on the trigger and the built in antenna cannot be extended. This could easily be fixed by turning the mount to face the opposite direction though which would save precious seconds for anyone who is a wedding photographer or working a job where seconds matter.

So while the ergonomics aren't nearly as good as it's more expensive competition, what about the features of the Trigmaster Plus II?

First, what's in the box? Well, the kit that I received came with two Trigmaster Plus II's, a myriad of cables, a convenient pouch for storing them and two batteries.

Trigmaster Plus II Charleston Wedding Photographer Nicholas Gore

Next up I got everything running and started testing them.  The range on this trigger is 500 Meters which works out to about 1600 feet. One of the most most useful features though, is that this can be doubled using the built-in relay mode. This means that if you have 3 triggers, you can place one of the triggers at 500 meters and another at 1000 meters and the center trigger will automatically relay its signal to the flash or device that is further away. The trigger also has the ports for Camera and Flash cables, which lets you trigger both the camera and a flash at the same time, and in case you were wondering, the Trigmaster Plus II comes with the cables for all of these.

The Trigmaster Plus II also has 6 channels, and each channel has 4 zones which allows you to set up numerous lights and fire them all together or selectively. This is an awesome feature if you photograph events frequently because it means that you won't have to bother with switching channels constantly. This isn't as good as other triggers, but when you consider that the signal is proprietary and you're only going to run into issues if 6 people around you are also shooting Trigmasters, which doesn't seem to be that big of an issue.

One of the coolest features is the addition of a hotshoe mount right on the trigger. This is paired with a 1/8th inch screw on the bottom of the camera meaning that you can mount the flash directly on the trigger and then screw the trigger  directly into your light stand. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but coming from someone who has assisted for years, holding a light with an unsecured trigger dangling off of it is both annoying and makes me paranoid that one might somehow fall. This setup means it's quieter because the pocket wizard isn't bouncing around, and means you won't have to come up with some other tricky way of keeping your trigger attached to the camera.

Next up is the price and this is a really big deal. At less than $50, this is less than a third of the price of most of it's rivals. For someone just getting into the game, or wanting to experiment with off camera flash, I can't think of a better way to start. In terms of whether or not this trigger is worth getting over its more expensive counterparts, let's take a look below.

Trigmaster Plus II Charleston Wedding Photographer Nicholas Gore

  • Range: Both the Trigmaster Plus II and the PocketWizard Plus III claim to have a 500m range that can be doubled using its version of a relay mode. When testing, I found that the PocketWizard was slightly more reliable at super long range, but up to 150 feet, which is most than enough for most applications, they were nearly identical.
  • Speed: Here the PocketWizard blows the Trigmaster Plus II out of the water. The PocketWizard can keep up with the burst mode on a Nikon D4, while the Trigmaster simply can't. It's quick, but it's not PocketWizard fast. If you're constantly shooting at full tilt and need your triggers to keep up, this might not be the trigger for you. The PocketWizard can sync up to 1/250th of a second on SLRs and 1/500th of a second on leaf shutters, the Trigmaster Plus II has a maximum sync speed of 1/350th across the board.
  • Ergonomics and Looks: The PocketWizard wins, hands-down. It's not the prettiest thing on the planet but it's 10 times better than the Trigmaster Plus II for looks and button placement. The Aputure Trigger is kind of a mess of buttons and switches that don't always seem to make that much sense.
  • Build: The plastics are a little nicer on the PocketWizard, but the overall quality seems to be about the same between the two units.
  • Price: The PocketWizard Plus III sells for $180, while the Trigmaster sells for less than $50.
  • Features: The PocketWizard has 32 channels as opposed to the Trigmaster's 6. They both have the option to have 4 separate groups per channel and they both automatically switch between transceive and receive depending on the situation.

The bottom line is that while the Trigmaster is at an amazing price point, the PocketWizard just does everything a little bit better. Whether or not that difference is worth nearly three times the price is completely up to you.

For all of you of the tl;dr disposition, here's a quick summary of what we've covered below:

What I liked:

  • Price (less than $50!)
  • Pro Features
  • Additional Hotshoe Port for direct mounting of flash
  • Range (500m extendable to 1000m)
  • Build Quality

What needs improvement: 

  • Ergonomics
  • Speed

 

Overall, if you're just getting into off camera flash, you're looking for a trigger with plenty of features at an awesome price point, or you just need a TON of them (I'm talking to you wedding photographers), the Trigmaster Plus II is definitely something worth looking at. What it lacks in Ergonomics and Speed are easily made up for by the fact that it's reliable, has a handy hotshoe port built-in, and only costs less than a third of its main competition.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this article: No, this won't kill the PocketWizard, but it's a solid product, and is definitely worth looking into.

If you're looking for more information on this trigger, check out the Aputure website or buy them Here!

 

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61 Comments

The reason I stick with Pocket Wizards is compatibility. An old original Pocket Wizard can talk to a Plus, Plus II, MultiMax, TT1, TT5, Plus III, Plus X, etc.

Agreed. That being said though, all versions of the Aputure Trigmaster talk to each other.

The other reason for wizards that I think is over looked is that it is the industry standard. What that means is any rental house that rents strobes rents pocket wizards...

so ? you can't rent these yet i presume, but a handful of these should also do the job, and this article is about buying not renting

nice article!

Thanks Akeem. I really like to hear positive comments from readers!

It is the best reviews I have ever seen about Aputure Trigmaster Plus II,
PW is very expensive and this one is great.

Then there's the Yongnuo 622 - $90 for 2, and they're phenomenal.

The main reason i switched to PW, was not only b/c of industry standard compatibility, but also one major feature that no other trigger has....pocketwizard TRANSMITTERS will handle flash voltage flowing INTO the transmitter......(notice i said TRANSMITTER, not RECEIVER...most all good triggers will handle a decent amount of trigger voltage into the receiver)

I had some cheap chinese ones that i fried, and i called Paul C Buff to find out if Cybersyncs would, and they said they wouldn't. Some of us like to hook up our transmitters to the PC sync on the SIDE of our on camera flash (nikon sb-800, 900, 910, etc)....this is useful if you're shooting with a D90 or D7000, that doesn't have a PC port.....well you get about 3-5v coming out of that PC connector, going into the transmitter. PW will handle that voltage no problem, other triggers won't. I used to shoot with a D7000, so that was a big reason for me. Now i shoot with other bodies that have PC ports on them, but i still connect my on camera flash/PW the same way....a lot cleaner, personally.

Jason Vinson's picture

not sure i understand? i use Cybersyncs from PCB and have my transmitter plugged in through the PC port on my A900 all the time with no problem? are you saying that shouldn't work? or am i misunderstanding?

i'm talking about the PC port on the side of the FLASH, not the side of the camera...The camera PC port outputs 0.0vdc.....the FLASH PC port puts out about 5vdc.....which will fry the chinese transmitters

Spy Black's picture

Unless it's a high-amperage output, 5 volts shouldn't fry any unit. It's like in the old days when you had 30+ volts feeding into a unit.

Trust me, it fried 2 transmitters i had....both were hooked up to the side of an SB-28, so the off camera lights would trigger when the on camera flash did.....i had one, it quit working, then i contacted the hong kong ebay seller, they sent me a new one, and it worked fine on camera by itself, then hooked it up to the SB-28, and it stopped working completely....

i started doing research, b/c i had heard about older flashes with 300v trigger voltages harming digital cameras.....my research let me to PW, which states that the transmitters can take 250v into a transmitter OR receiver....so i got PW's, everything worked fine after that...the CyberSync PDF that's on the website states for the CST (transmitter)::: CST Sync Voltage: 3VDC at camera.

The CSR (receiver) says: CSR/CSR+/CSRB/CSRB+ Sync Voltage: Withstands up to 300VDC from connected flash unit

Please, proof reading is a good thing:

"The fact that all most of the options are switch" makes non sens to me. "Almost all of the options" you surely meant

"when a flash is place on the trigger" ---- "placed"

On the issue about the flash on the hot shoe...it shouldn't be used there. In fact it is a stupid Idea to have a trigger 90 degree to the flash. You'll just end up with your transmitter pointing upwards (on camera) and the receiver on the flash being horizontal... Not ideal for radio transmitting.

This to me is a major design flaw. Only work around would be an LP180 flash mounted on its 1/4" threads, then the body of the flash is pointed upwards to have the receiver in the optimal position.

I realize it could cause nothing at all but still.... not optimal.

You do realize that the antenna can be rotated to be 90 degrees to the body of the receiver....so if you mount it to a light stand, and have the flash mounted to the hotshoe, the antenna will still be vertical....

Good point completely missed that part (I don't know how... haha).

Art Dickinson's picture

PocketWizard Plus III is only $149 @ B&H ... not $180

And you need a pair at least...

But that's besides the point. The author states that each Trigmaster Plus II is about $50 and lists the item price for the PW Plus III wrong. So you're both right.

yes,I agree with you

I bought 4pcs Aputure Trigmaster Plus II ,it is only $184.

I'll stick to my pocket wizards. I like the integration between my Sekonic 758-DR and pocket wizard triggers.

1 big reason I'm eventually going to upgrade to to Pocket Wizards.

I've been using a set (3) of Aputure triggers for about a year. They've been flawless and kept a few hundred dollars in my pocket.

One thing I'm interested in knowing. On the back of every Pocketwizard you will notice that it's approved by the FCC, since it is a radio device. Is the Aputure devices FCC compliant, what does it say on the back of the units?

The FCC compliant logo and CE logo's are clearly visible in the image at the top of this page.

Remy Musser's picture

I switched to the Phottix Odin two years ago and never looked back.

Trevor Dayley's picture

If I mounted this on my 5D Mark III to fire some AlienBee lights would I still be able to mount my Canon Speedlite 600 flash to the top of it and use the 600 to speed with other 600's set up as well. In other words will the flash still communicate normally with the camera even mounted on top of the trigger?

Yes Trevor, if you have a flash in the built in hotshoe, it doesn't cut off it's ability to fire using a cable. Technically you could fire a camera and two flashes with a single trigger at the same time.

Thanks for the answer. I was wondering too.

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