FIRST LOOK : Cactus Laser Triggers

A few months ago, I noted the announcement of laser triggers from the folks at Cactus.  You may recall that I did a review on the Cactus Radio Triggers and was very impressed by the V5 release.  The idea behind a laser trigger is a "trip" event. Basically when the beam is broken, the shutter fires.  Cactus has a pretty innovative implementation that also allows you to set the shutter to fire if the beam is instated by removing some item that blocks the beam.  Quite cool and I'll explain more.

The system consists of a laser emitter and a receiver.  You position the emitter to fire into the receiver.  A hood is included to allow for limiting what the receiver can see.  The devices have shoe mount feet and are tapped 1/4-20 so you can mount on a tripod or light stand.  The foot is adjustable for angle.

Once the two components are aligned you can configure a number of settings.  Since the system uses the 2.4GHz shared band, there are 16 channels that can be selected, and the signalling defaults to 1KHz but can also run at 500Hz for the laser.  Working distance is 20m in bright sunlight and up to 150m in dark conditions.  The receiver is connected via a cable to your camera and herein is the one major gotcha.  The set comes with the cable to connect the devices to a Cactus Radio Wireless V5 system and also comes with a cable that connects to an X-Sync port.  What does not get included are the cables to connect to your camera.  These MUST be purchased separately, and I found a couple of situations where the reseller listed the kit but not the cables to connect to the camera, which makes the whole kit useless.  Buyer beware because I also found that most sales representatives did not know the product and were not aware of the need for the cables.

Once you are connected, the system works quite well but there is some latency so you may have issues with shutter speeds above 1/1000s.  Aiming the emitter to engage the receiver can be quite tricky and while the manual describes a back away process and there is an LED indicator to tell when the receiver is detecting the emitter, this step will take longer than anything else you do.

The trigger works on either a beam break or beam complete mode.  In beam break, if the beam is interrupted, the trigger trips the shutter.  This can be useful for where you are looking to capture an image when an event occurs, such as your local raccoon climbing on your trash can.  The beam complete mode is pretty cool as once you have the beam configured, you switch to beam complete mode after putting something in place to break the beam.  A good example is where you are putting out some type of treat in the hope of attracting some kind of wildlife and you don't want the shot to fire until the "model" seizes the bait.  Great for birds that may fly in to seize food and leave immediately.

Power is supplied by 4AAA batteries in each unit, although you can run each unit on 2AAA batteries for a shorter period and by inserting the batteries in a different orientation.  This seems overly complex to me, as batteries are not that expensive.  The kit comes with 4AAA batteries, two for each unit.

There are other laser tripwire systems out there.  The Cactus ones are very inexpensive comparatively and you can see and feel this in the construction.  To say that they feel cheap is an understatement.  I would peg durability of the units as very low, so if you need a laser trip system for hostile environs, this is not the kit.  There is no indication of weather sealing and given the construction, my guidance is that there is no weather protection.  In fairness though, what were you expecting for $100?

So it's a decent value for the investment, but don't expect mil-spec durability and DON'T forget to buy the right cables for your camera when you buy the kit.