Hands-on with the Hähnel Tuff TTL flash trigger

We review the Tuff TTL wireless flash trigger for Canon E-TTL, test it on location and compare it with the Pixel King.

Hahnel Tuff TTL

 On assignment

Aspiring chef, Angus Scott, asked me to help him experiment capturing some photographs for an upcoming cookery publication. It was a good opportunity to try out the Tuff TTL in a real life situation. With the trigger I used a Canon EOS 500D, 18-55mm lens, the new Canon Speedlite 600EX, a MeiKe MK-951 and a Hylow umbrella octabox. Lighting setup with Tuff TTL and Canon 600EX Once mounted to the light stand using the tripod socket, the Tuff receiver could be closed up inside the softbox and everything further controlled from the camera position. Canon Speedlite 600EX in an umbrella softbox Our first pictures, meant to demonstrate chopping technique, had the 600EX in the softbox to the left of the camera position. The 500D was mounted on a tripod looking down on the work surface. Lighting setupEven with the Speedlite 600EX buried inside the softbox, the Tuffs fired every time. It could keep up perfectly, even with the camera in continuous shooting mode. Indeed, the weakest point of the setup were the batteries inside the Speedlite. To avoid frustration, don’t neglect your AAs like I do!

Chopping celery

It was often the case that the first shot in a sequence, after having changed some camera settings or a lighting position, would be over or under exposed. I can only assume this was some sort of “calibration” shot, since every following frame would be lit correctly. Bolognese ingredients With the flash in E-TTL mode and the camera in manual, every shot (except for the calibration frames just mentioned) turned out spot-on for illumination. Not one of these example photos has been edited in post-processing, except for resizing. Our second lighting setup had the softbox up on the counter so we could light up the pans on the hob. Lighting setupAgain, exposure turned out perfectly, despite dramatic changes in the colour, lightness and texture of the ingredients in front of the camera.

Frying onions

Steam from the frying pan didn’t faze the exposure calculator one bit. Mushrooms & mince Bolognese sauce I spontaneously stepped back for a portrait, without changing the lighting setup, and everything clicked into place seamlessly. Portrait of Angus the cook Bolognese sauce The freedom of automatic mode meant that I could change the lighting modifier without having to take a meter reading or do complex mental calculations. We decided that a bare speedlight wasn’t the look we wanted, but still, it was nice to experiment. When we introduced another speedlight into the setup, using both receivers, the overall exposure was very even. Try not to place the flashes symmetrically though, or your image might turn out “flat” and boring; you can’t set lighting ratios from the camera. Bare Speedlite 600EX Success! Epic teatime achieved. This was all indoors, but the company claim the Tuff TTL has a range of up to 200 metres in open spaces. Pasta bologneseRead on for an in-depth look at the Tuff’s advanced capabilities, including a comparison with rival TTL trigger, the Pixel King.

  1. Introduction
  2. What’s in the box?
  3. On assignment
  4. Comparison with the Pixel King
  5. Conclusion

David Selby
David is a keen photographer and has been editor of Lighting Rumours since 2010. When not writing about lighting, he works as a data scientist at the University of Manchester, UK.