I have been using SMDV Flash Wave II radio triggers for the longest time, and have been really happy with them. Despite their shortfalls, I really had no reason to invest in new triggers. SMDV is a local company based in Busan, South Korea. This year, I partnered with them for my Flash Light Photography Expeditions workshops in Seoul and Busan, and needed to get used to the new line of triggers as they would be prizes at our workshops. The kind folks at SMDV provided me with a set for testing, but I think they knew I’d end up buying a whole lot more… sneaky. Although not being a revolutionary new product, the Flash Wave IIIs have subtle, yet substantial improvements over the Flash Wave II series. What follows is a personal rundown on my thoughts about these triggers.
The units have been completely redesigned, and a few things really stand out. First is that the size and shape of both the receiver and transmitter have changed. The transmitter is significantly smaller now and the aerial protrudes from the unit, giving it a more omnidirectional broadcast and a little more range. It also sits vertically on the camera now.
The receivers now look like some sort of futuristic warship. They have increased in size to accommodate the change to AA batteries rather than the AAAs used in the Flash Wave IIs. The screw mount has also moved to the middle of the receiver which if you asked me before I got them, would be just asking for trouble when mounting small flashes on lightstands. I was worried the screw mount would simply break out of the receiver, but so far so good. It seems to be fairly sturdy.
Side by side: Flash Wave II (left) and Flash Wave III (right)
Although they look a little more sleek, I believe that the design changes could have all been directed at functionality rather than outward appearance. Things that would make a large difference to me would have been using AAA batteries all around. The receivers would decrease in size, and the transmitter would increase. However, this would be perfect as there would only be one set of batteries to worry about, and they would be available in a pinch at any supermarket on the planet. Not a deal breaker, but it does mean I have to carry yet another type of replacement batteries. The plus side of the new battery design is that the receivers can now use NiMH batteries, although SMDV still recommends using standard alkalines.
There are now on/off switches on both the trigger and the receiver, which is a nice touch. Before we had to switch channels or take the transmitter off the camera to stop firing the flashes, but now simply switching off the transmitter does the trick. The switches are a touch flimsy, but I don’t think they’ll go anywhere any time soon.
There are a few main reasons why I feel the Flash Wave IIIs have it over the Flash Wave IIs.
First is that they trigger on the ground now. So if you have a flash sitting down on the ground, it will reliably fire! Great news. Not being able to place them really low before was frustrating at times.
Next is that the signal makes it inside my Westcott Apollo boxes now. Before, especially at distances more than a few metres, I would have trouble getting the triggers to reliably fire. So, I used to have receivers dangling out of these boxes at every shoot, and countless dead sync cords gave me headache day after day. Being able to mount the flash on the receiver and put it inside the box is a huge improvement for me.
Thirdly, the new method for changing channels is the toggle switches on the top. These are probably the only true design flaw in the units, in my opinion. They are tiny, and my big fat Western fingers just can’t get to them easily, especially when a hotshoe flash is mounted as they get covered by the flash. SMDV provide a small tool to change the switches, but I lost that on my first shoot out with them. I much prefer the old dial switch from the Flash Wave IIs.
Next up is the ability to use the Flash Waves as a remote shutter release. Cool. I guess it would be useful if you did a lot of self portraits, group shots, or maybe shooting children from a tripod, but I can’t foresee myself ever using it.
Finally is the range. Although you’ll never really need them to go 180 metres in practice, what it really means is that they’re more reliable at the distances you do use them. But, since we were testing them, we decided to test their mettle. I went down to the Han River in Seoul to test the firing range between two bridges over the river.
The first test would be over land, and the second over water. Why? Just to see if it would make a difference. The distance between the two bridges is calculated at 190 metres from a map. Over land, the flash fired each and every time. However, once we moved out over the water, we had trouble getting it to fire even once. Not a common situation to be in, but who knows. This may have been a result of the slight increase in distance between the bridges (about 5 metres), or the water below.
The whole scene at 85mm
A crop on the flash firing at 190 metres
Not working over water
In another test, I was able to place a flash behind a 3-metre-thick concrete pole and still have it fire reliably from about 20 metres away. The Flash Wave IIs wouldn’t do this at all. Great news if you like to hide your flashes all around the place.
All in all, they’re great triggers. They go off every time (big bonus), and they’re available on the cheap compared to other big brands. Head on over to the SMDV website for more info. I’ll finish up with a couple of images I’ve made while testing the new triggers.