Features and controls
Push the button
On top of each transceiver you will find the hotshoe, a test button and an indicator light. The button and the indicator are the same size and shape which I personally find infuriating, as I keep pushing the indicator by mistake. Unlike the Pixel Soldier where the LED is on the end of the unit, you have to make sure the top of the Cactus V5 is facing you to see the indicator.
The button allows you to test fire your lights or trip a remote camera. Press half-way to autofocus and all units light up orange. Push all the way down to release the shutter, and the LEDs glow green. Unfortunately the two stages feel indistinct if you don’t press the button in exactly the right position. The company said they will examine this issue.
In receiver mode, the indicator lights don’t blink at intervals, and the test button doesn’t do anything. Unless you are sure to look carefully at the TX/Off/RX switch, you can leave a receiver on and run the batteries down (at which point the receiver will start blinking red). In the dark when you can’t see the switch, this is a pain.
As the Cactus V5s are transceivers, they couldn’t put the tripod socket on the receiver foot. Instead they’ve put it about an inch away, which is fine for some people and a nightmare for others. With certain brackets and spigots the locking wheel will get in the way. In the image on the right, the V5 is mounted on a cheap swivel bracket and just fits. However, it won’t fit on my tripod quick release, nor on some umbrella brackets which have removable spigots.
How have other brands dealt with this challenge? The Yongnuo RF-603 has dispensed with a tripod socket altogether, while the Pixel King units are just massive, giving plenty of connecting space for your light stand spigot but rather less storage space in your camera bag. Making a hotshoe trigger into a transceiver brings with it compromises. Are transceivers the logical next step for cheap flash triggering, or just another gimmick to cram into a features list?
One feature I would like to have seen in these transceivers is something like Interlink mode in the Aputure Trigmaster Plus, where a single receiver can release a remote camera shutter and then automatically switch to transmit mode to synchronise flashes with the remote camera. Currently, you need at least two transceivers on different channels to achieve the same task – one to trip the camera and one to synchronise the flashes with that camera.
I found the V5’s female hotshoe on the transmitter underwhelming at best. Unlike the Phottix Strato and Pixel Bishop there is no TTL pass-through, so you can’t combine radio triggering with an infrared master or TTL fill flash. If a manual pass-through hotshoe is all you want, the Skina WS series and Yongnuo YN-04 II already offer it for less than the V5 (although they are inferior in other areas).
The channels wheel is a novel idea, and makes it more convenient to remember and change channels than using binary Dip switches. If the dial was more prominent or somehow lit up then it would be easier to read the current setting. I don’t think much of Cactus’ multi-channel mode, which isn’t very intuitive. While other remotes have a “trigger all” mode, the V5 only has “trigger channels 1-5 out of 16”. I find the Pixel Soldier’s wireless flash grouping much easier.
The battery holder pops in and out like an SD card in a camera. I like this mechanism and it feels secure enough. There’s always the chance you might lose a battery drawer, but Gadget Infinity say they will sell spares.
The V5 uses a 3.5mm stereo socket, which is the same as that used by some other types of triggers. A 3.5mm-3.5mm cable, PC-3.5mm cable and 3.5mm-6.35mm adapter are all included in the box. Shutter release cables are sold separately. Alternatively you can cannibalise an audio cable and come up with your own synchronisation cords.
The 300V maximum triggering voltage of the V5s allows photographers to use older legacy flashes which might fry triggers from other brands. The Yongnuo RF-602, for example, can only trigger flashes with sync voltages up to 12V or so. I don’t have any high voltage flashes to test this. Modern flashes tend to have triggering voltages of 6V or below.
Seeing the Cactus V5 in pictures, it’s easy to forget how big they are. Compared to a Yongnuo RF-602RX, the V5 is about the same length but twice as broad.