Voeloon RT810 Transciever

I was recently asked to test and review a new wireless transciever for Nikon, the Voeloon RT810.
(images from the Voeloon website)


Voeloon RT810 for Nikon: tested with Nikon D4, D810, SB600, SB800, AD360

 

The RT810 is a bit different in that every unit is a transciever. In my opinion that makes it a bit oversized and "redundant" when used as simply a slave reciever. On the other hand, if you have multiple RT's the "redundancy" could come in handy should the one you are using as a transmitter misbehave. So the question is, "is the price worth the redundancy?" I can't answer that question as the price is yet to be determined.... I was only told that the price will be "very very low."

"Very very low" is of course relative to what you get for the money. So, what do you get with the Voeloon RT810?

One feature unique to the RT810 is autofocus assist. That may not seem like much of a benefit, but some cameras like my D4 do not have autofocus assist on the body. And it sure beats having to mount a speedlight to the camera just for the AF assist. The emitted pattern is a simple set of horizontal lines as opposed to the cross pattern Nikon speedlights emit. But it worked well in my testing.

The other functions you get are:
*TTL and TTL passthru; if there is a function that works with the speedlight attached to the camera, it will work when attached to these in TTL mode. Things like curtain sync and FV lock.
*True TTL "Flash Pulse" High Speed Sync (HSS)
*DT mode; Tail Sync with adjustable sync timing for high shutter speeds w/ manual lights. 
*Manual mode with remote power/zoom control
*Manual triggering by PC cable connection... Tail sync (DT mode) and RPT works here as well.
*Long transmitter range at 2.4GHz RF; as much as 250 meters
*High X-sync speeds; it even worked at 1/320 on the D810. This is a pretty big plus as many transmitters/recievers have a communication delay that results in an effective 1/160 X-sync limit
*31 channels, 3 groups, with independent control to include zoom head position. I found no cross-talk issues while running three groups simultaneously.
*Backlit LCD and button text 
*Wireless shutter release (with optional cable)
*USB updateable 

THE MANUAL and SETUP

Sounds pretty impressive doesn't it? Well, it is. But not everything is roses. The first thing I do when I get a new piece of equipment is read (skim) through the manual; and I suggest you do as well. But don't worry, it won't take much time at all; this manual is particularly thin on information. It does tell you the very basics of *most* things such as initial setup.
And you do need to set up the transcievers before use. In the "Super Menu" there are three speedlight compatibility modes. Two are for Voeloon models and then there is "others." "Others" means Nikon Speedlights and other compatable models such as Yongnuo; and the manual doesn't tell you that. The rest of the settings don't need changed. The LCD contrast setting made no appreciable difference (so I set it to 0 for a possible increase of battery life).
The manual does not say anything about the "DT mode" other than to say it stands for "Delay Time Area." When I enquired about DT mode I was told it was HSS and TTL compatible. Well, it's not. DT mode is actually Tail Sync with the sync timing adjustable forward by up to 5ms. The adjustable timing allows you to optimize the exposure brightness and sync. The timing offset is even generous enough to allow you to record *just* the flash tail for a more even exposure across the frame (w/ significant loss of flash brightness). And just like every other form of Tail Sync there is (Super/Hyper/whatever), the best performance will be with the light in manual at full power (for IGBT controlled lights). The manual doesn't tell you that either.
In fact, the manual doesn't tell you much of anything about any of the modes. But TTL and Manual modes should already be familiar to a speedlight user.

The manual also has plenty of "translation errors" in it, but nothing that is really confusing. 

CONSTRUCTION/ BUILD QUALITY

Next I checked out the construction, and I have to say it's pretty nice. It has a nice metal/spring loaded battery door which is better than most. On the opposite side there is a cover over the PC jack for wired (non TTL) connections, and a USB port for firmware updates. I would prefer a mini or micro jack over the PC style. Of note here is that the PC jack is the threaded type which is better, but it is so close to the edges of the recess it's almost impossible to actually screw one in all the way.


PC and USB jacks


I opened one RT up and found the hotfoot mounting to be sturdy with plenty of solid plastic supporting it. The TTL pass-thru shoe seemed well secured as well although I couldn't get a really good look at it.
Electronically, everything looked fine. It has clean solder connections and neat wiring of more than sufficient gauge. Not that I can tell if a particular electronic component is problematic from looking at it. They probably weren't expecting me to look inside; but hey, if I can I will. And I didn't see any obvious signs of cheapness/shortcuts.
They also include those little hotfoot stands which are often kind of cheesy. It has a brass 1/4-20 thead insert so I tried to pull one out using a screw and pliers. I gave up, it seems you would have to break the plastic off around it before it would pull out and I applied quite a bit of force without that happening. Still, a proper cold shoe/flash head is the better choice for use on a stand.
In terms of durability and long term use I couldn't find anything of obvious concern. 

INTERFACE AND CONTROLS

Next I checked out the user interface. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. It operates with six simple buttons that do exactly what you might think they would do.

Each time you hit the zoom button it selects a group and the +/- buttons change the zoom position.
Each time you press the group button it selects the next group, the mode button cycles thru the mode for that group, and the +/- changes the exposure compensation. If you press and hold the group button it selects the radio channel so you can change that if you need. It has an "auto" channel that worked fine for me with no fuss.
If you press and hold the mode button the transciever goes into slave (reciever) mode. Next to the hotshoe there is an LED that glows red when in slave mode, and it glows orange when the transciever is communicating with it. That's pretty nice.
It's that simple to use! 


Backlit Slave Mode

The OK button acknowledges the setting changes. It's not entirely necessary to "OK" every change, they are held and they do not time out. And if you make multiple changes you do not need to "OK" each change along the way; it just gets you out of "edit mode" so you don't inadvertantly change something else. Holding the OK button gets you into the "Super Menu" for the initial setup previously mentioned.

I found the LCD to be of fairly low resolution and some of the LCD text a bit small for my eyes... particularly if I wasn't wearing my reading glasses. And I also found the white LCD backlighting a bit harsh in very dark environments.


Backlit Master Mode

IN USE

At first I was concerned after reading the manual because of the cameras and lights I had to test them with only the SB800 was listed as being compatible. I tested these units over a period of several days and I've been using them for about a month so far now. In use everything works as it should without a problem; even if it wasn't listed as compatible... But there are a few minor quirks.
In HSS the flash gives about 1/2 stop more light than if it is attached to the camera. I checked this several times to ensure it wasn't a difference in position and light falloff. I don't know *why* I see the increase in exposure, but I've seen no negative side effect even at 1/8000 shutter speed. So I'll call that a bonus.
I was not fond of the fact that exposure compensation set by the RT is not shown on the speedlight. The exposure compensation that *is* set in the speedlight will also be applied. I guess you could look at that as having an extra three stops of potential exposue compensation. But I don't see any need for it and there's a potential for the settings to negate each other, so I see it as a negative. But to be fair, my other TTL triggers behave the same.
It has the odd behavior of the flash zoom heads changing positions if the camera's metering went to standby before the flash did. And then zooming back when the metering was activated again. Setting the flash's standby to "auto" or "off" fixes this. The RT in reciever mode does not go to standby.
Another minor annoyance to me is that the transciever must be mounted to the camera, and the camera must not be in standby for the settings to be transmitted. That means you can't just handhold it to set/verify settings as you carry it around the room.

Of note, I do have one speedlight out of four that has too much lateral play when mounted. And this caused intermittent TTL communication errors. I'll have to blame that on the speedlight for now even thought I could not find a cause for it.

CONCLUSION

All things considered, I like the RT810 quite a lot. It combines a lot of features with generally good build quality and a user interface/controls that are easier to use than most.
In fact, for me the ease of use is the shining star of these units. With some other TTL triggers I fumble around and feel like I need to pull out a manual if I haven't used them in a while. So I use manual triggers instead if there is no particular need for TTL/HSS. I would be just as happy to use the RT810's as my only set of triggers.
If the price comes in at around the price of Pixel King Pro's and similar I would say Voeloon has a winner here.

They did say that they would be addressing my concerns in order to improve the product prior to release. If they improve the screen's resolution, font size, and backlighting I would probably put these up there with the best of them.

 


 

 

 

FaceBook  Twitter