RoboSHOOT+ TTL (Fuji specific wireless triggers) Observations
I will state up front, I like this little company called Serene Automation, maker of these TTL triggers. I have had the chance to talk with John Poremba, the brains behind this effort, about his triggers and his knowledge of flash protocol seems endless. That he is more than willing to share it and never tires of my questions speaks volumes. In short, the product, which is really the only one out there like it for Fuji cameras, is well designed and well made but the kicker is it really works. That may seem to be an odd statement but in the TTL wireless triggering game where you need to trigger your flash lighting wirelessly from the camera over a distance and around corners or simply across a studio with lots and lots of signal interfering fluorescent lighting, doing this reliably is rare. Like Jurassic Park animal rare. TTL is shorthand for through-the-lens exposure calculation. With TTL a camera meters the scene at the sensor through the camera lens then provides exposure, and other data via a native protocol, so if you use multiple cameras, as I do, it is pretty complicated as each camera is different; even among the same manufacturer. The master trigger atop your camera has to be able to interpret it all and send those data to each receiving unit and flash in the system's native protocol. The metering, translation, sending, receiving and decoding of instructions also has to be done in a very small window of only a few milliseconds. Did I mention how these master and receiver units need to be sync'ed too via an electronic handshake and it has to be durable, lasting the life of the shoot or at least the period its being used. Thats separate from TTL. Different animal. There is a lot going on.
I've tried a number of TTL triggering products from big and small names across the industry and reliable, repeatable consistent results are hard to come by. All sorts of things conspire to mess with the signal. Other electronics, earth elements, poor design, just to name a few. Any wireless triggering unit worth a cent can trigger manually using the almost standard single pin configuration on most cameras and flash units. Thats pretty simple. Now. TTL though uses all those other pins built into the hot shoe. It tells the flash how much light is needed, what the distance to the subject is, what the camera settings are, etc. Pretty sweet during a wedding or press event. As cool as that sounds, TTL is not the pinnacle of flash exposure. It has a few nuances that are painful, one being its really not repeatable since it re-meters a scene every time. New data each and every time. While that can be good for instance when outdoors and the light changes, it hurts if you are after a certain effect or doing multiple shots for a photo shoot and need them to all be lit the same. Manual control will always be the preferred way for most of us and TTL support can actually help there. A programmer can insert new commands in the TTL data stream telling the flash to go to manual and what power levels are needed. So if you have a TTL capable flash unit, you can set power adjustment remotely. From the camera. And in the case of Fuji cameras, using the in camera control and display on the LCD.
The RoboSHOOT+ products further differ from other TTL triggers because they not only translate Fuji TTL but Nikon TTL as well. Yeah, you can use a Nikon flash with your Fuji camera and Fuji TTL. Thats really what caught my attention when I decided to go all Fujifilm, switching from Nikon and still owning Nikon TTL flash units - which I like. It works really well too but only for the latest i-TTL Nikon instructions. Older Nikon TTL is different. The firmware and hardware are different. John is working on it and can offer solid manual control of older units (SB-800 and it's ilk) but full TTL and the SB-800 is a work in progress. With the newer SB-900/910 family and beyond, it works VERY well. It even works well with third party SB-900/910 knockoffs! RoboSHOOT has a beta firmware release which works with Profoto TTL( Nikon) capable lights, has support for Godox Nikon based flash units with hot shoes (AD360, V860ii-N, etc) AND if you mount the Godox X1-N controller on the hot shoe of the master (MX) unit, it will work with the built in receivers in those units. Thats the way he offers Profoto support. I slid the Profoto TTL-N Air Remote into the hot shoe, fired up a Profoto B1 and can shoot in TTL or manual mode and I can do high speed sync in manual with the B1! Using my Fuji camera! High speed sync support is supported across the board with all the speed lights. I can do HSS on the SB-800 in manual mode. I can stay in TTL when using the Nikon or Fuji speedlights. Just like its on camera.
I am going to standardize on the RoboSHOOT units for now. And as support for my lighting systems grows, I may keep it that way. Right now, Profoto is working on supporting Fuji TTL for the B1/B2 and D2 TTL lights. Godox is working on a controller for Fuji TTL just like they offer for Nikon, Canon and Sony products. But the Godox is only useful for their flash units, just like Nissan offers. There are a few closed systems with Fuji TTL support but Serene Automation offers the only support for Fuji TTL wireless triggering which works with many lights from many manufacturers. Thats why they have my support. I know that in studio, I will stick with the Profoto Air Remote and run my lights manually. I like manual in studio. On location its good to be able to mix things up but I figure to still work manually when its possible or needed. Right now, I'm so impressed with the results of speedlights and TTL metering I may just use it that way. The RoboSHOOT+ triggers let me use the in camera flash functions too, so changes in exposure comp or features such as HSS (Auto FP) can be set on the camera. There is a price for all this wonder. These are not the cheapest triggers out there, but they are the only ones right now. You will fork over $379 for a MX-20/RX-20+ set. A cheaper option is the MX-15/RX20 set. Oh yeah, there is a RoboSHOOT app for your mobile device. You can fully control things from there but that only works with the MX-20 master trigger. Updates to firmware are also available using the app so you need a MX-20. I will buy a MX-15 for a backup. The RX receiving units are updated with firmware automatically when they sync with a MX-20 unit. Yeah, even more wonder and goodness but again, you do pay for it.
I'm really only scratching the surface on functions of these triggers. Go to the site and look at the feature set. Ports are built on the MX unit to offer upcoming alternate triggering methods for instance. TTL exposure lock is another cool feature. Check out the web site but if you are own a Fuji camera and are in need of a wireless trigger - especially if you switched from Nikon and have a few SB-910's laying around - you can't really go wrong. Support is first rate, product is ultra reliable, it just the price thats tough to swallow. Still, this product get 5 stars from me.