If you are spending money on kit for photography, you know by now that there is a ton of stuff coming out of China to help you do what you want, often at a significantly lower price than you might expect. Sometimes, this stuff is utter junk, but the folks building products under the Aputure brand have been pretty consistent in delivering good value for your money for simple products done well. That's also true for the Aputure Trigmaster Plus II.Thanks to Chris Atkinson of Henry's Newmarket for making a kit available to test. The kit has two units, a belt case, batteries (in paired carry sleeves) and sync cables in a single box that sells for $129.99
That's a bit more than the Cactus V5 trigger set that I've written about in the past, but this kit brings so additional value that makes the difference more than worth it. The cables alone, would cost more than that bought separately, and the packaging even includes the adapters needed to fire off studio heads like a Bowens. Considering that this kit of two is less than a single Bowens Pulsar receiver, this might be a good deal for some users.
The Plus II name is a nudge to Pocket Wizard because at a glance, the units look like the old Pocket Wizard Plus II triggers. Like a PW Plus II they stand vertically in your camera's hotshoe and like a PW Plus II these are completely manual triggers, meaning you set your own shutter speed and aperture and control power of your flash head manually. Unlike the PW Plus II, each unit also has a standard hotshoe to trigger your mounted speedlite. There is a ¼-20 mount on each unit which also acts as a cold foot. Each unit requires 2 AA batteries to operate.
Each unit can be set for TX/RX (transmit/receive) or RX (receive only). The three position power switch offers off, on and Super. Off and On are obvious, Super is a special mode that is purported to extend the range of the radios to 500m. I had no ability to test that range but in non-super mode, I can confirm that the units work through multiple walls, multiple floor levels and through metallic lined softboxes without any fail to trigger events. Super mode supposedly is much harder on batteries. It may also make your head glow, but as I said, I had no need to try it out at length because normal mode worked great every time.
The units each have a folding antenna and a simple channel selector. They are limited to 7 channels, vs the competitors 16 and 32 but this probably won't be a big deal for most photographers. Setting the channel is easy. There is also a Relay mode if you really need to reach far out and need to relay your trigger signal to another receiver.
What is very nice about the system is that like the Cactus V6 transceivers, the Aputure can be set to transmit in up to four separate zones, and you can then configure the receiver to be in the zone you want. While there is no remote power control as in the Cactus V6, there is value in zone management, and the ability to send signals to only selected zones. This is very handy when you have multiple flashes and are trying to check the exposure for each zone independently.
Like most of this type of radio flash trigger, the Aputure unit can also be used as a wireless radio trigger for a remote camera, but as usual, you need to order the cable for your camera.
The manual is easy to understand, with plenty of diagrams but if your eyes get challenged by micro-print, a set of magnifier glasses will be handy to have. That the units are made in China is plain from all the Chinese characters on the box and in the documentation, but in the end the units do what they say that they will do and you can get to work quickly without having to study complex instructions.
I think that the Aputure Trigmaster Plus II kit is a good value for what it does. Note that there is no TTL support, so flash exposure either becomes a series of experiments or a flash meter will need to enter the picture at some point. They will get your flash off camera, but all your amazing automation will be gone. If you're good with going all manual, then this kit is a pretty decent choice. However, if you want TTL and automatic exposure control and you want radio triggering instead of the somewhat challenging line of sight infrared, get yourself a set of Phottix ODINs, or Hahnel TUFF TTLs or even <chokes> Pocket Wizard TT1/FlexTT5s.
Recommended so long as manual flash management is ok. Image courtesy of Aputure