Overview and Test of the New Cactus V6II Wireless Flash Trigger for High-Speed Sync

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Cactus Image recently launched a new version of their radio trigger for speedlights and strobes, the Cactus V6II. In this review, I’ll go over the features of this trigger, how to use it, and do some example photo shoots to test it.

Features of the Cactus V6II Wireless Flash Transceiver

This is a 16 channel system with 4 groups. That means 16 systems can run concurrently, and each photographer could have four sets of flashes of which they can control the power (and zoom for the RF-60/TTL Flashes). It runs off two AA batteries, mini-USB 2.0, or a 5v DC input. Like most modern flash triggers, it runs at 2.4Ghz, which helps it work reliably up to 100 meters. It supports High-Speed Sync up to 1/8000 sec (if your camera goes that high).

The mini-USB port also allows you to update the firmware on the device, giving it a certain amount of future proofing. The main difference between the V6 and the V6II is that the latter allows you to use High-Speed Sync across a range of cameras and flashes, including that of the Fuji X series (which lacks the ability normally). The V6II HSS is based on the use of camera and flash profiles. This allows both Cactus and the photographer to make profiles for flashes they may not already have in the system.

Cactus Wireless Flash Transceiver V6 II - box

The Cactus V6II transceiver box.

This means there’s practically universal support for any flash you may have. The exception is flashes that have a high sync voltage. The units are cross compatible between systems, so you can use Pentax cameras with Olympus flashes, etc.

Camera and flash compatibility list for the v6II

Camera and flash compatibility list for the v6II

There are two High-Speed Sync modes; Normal and Power. Normal High-Speed Sync works up to 1/8000th of a second and uses a pulsing flash fire. Power Sync uses the full power flash as a normal fire, but allows you to exceed the normal sync-speed of the camera.

Getting started with the Cactus V6II

The trigger comes in a nicely designed box, containing the user manual, the trigger, and a hotshoe foot. Unlike other hotshoe feet, this one doesn’t have a screw thread for a lighting stand. It’s not an issue as I wasn’t expecting one anyway. The unit can be configured as either a transmitter or a receiver by selecting Tx or Rx from the power switch.

When it is on-camera as a transmitter, you have the four groups visible on the camera left-hand side. Marked A, B, C and D, pressing one toggles it on and off. This way you can select a specific group of flashes to change settings on. This works especially great with Cactus’ own flash, the RF60. Using the dial on the back you can change the power of the flashes on the group, or by pressing in the dial, swap to the lens zoom setting and change that instead.

The unboxed Cactus V6II

The unboxed Cactus V6II

On the right hand side at the front is the test button. You can press it to test that the signal is going to either the RF60, or to another V6II set to receiver mode. One other useful feature is that there’s a hotshoe on the trigger, where you can add your existing trigger system, or another flash. Using your current triggers will allow the High-Speed Sync signal to pass through the V6II and into your flash system.

Setting up

My main portable system is based around Godox v850 flashes (more precisely, the Neweer versions rebranded as the TT850 – it’s the same flash). I also have the more powerful AD360, which responds to the same trigger (the older FT-16), so I find it a really useful system. All of the flashes are High-Speed Sync capable and have profiles in the trigger. I don’t actually use the built-in profiles for High-Speed Sync with Fuji cameras.

The Gear Setup for HSS

Using the older triggers, I set up the flash as normal. Once it’s all working I take the trigger off the camera and put the Cactus V6II on instead (switched to Tx mode). Next I put the old (FT-16) transmitter on top of the hotshoe on the V6II. Finally I set the flash to HSS mode by pressing a two button combination on the back. Each system has its own way of turning on HSS. Yes, this does mean you only need one Cactus V6II trigger with this system to get HSS working.

To get started, press the Menu button on the back right of the V6II unit. Turn the dial to Camera and Flash Setup. Set Camera to Auto, then set Flash to the brand that you use. Next use the Auto Profile for your Flash. For Fuji, you have an additional step, where you make the trigger learn the HSS response of the flash. For the AD360, I set the Flash to Nikon and the Profile to Auto (Nikon).

The Beta Test

So I set it all up, and with my trusty Godox 120cm Octabox on the Ad360, I sweet-talked my son into posing on his bike. That’s roughly three minutes of attention span before boredom hits. I’ve included some behind the scenes shots as well. The exposure was 1/4000th, f/2.8, ISO 200 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens. Even the nearby trees are out of focus. I absolutely love the bokeh in my first shoot with the trigger.

Cactus image v6ii review matt

Test Shoot #1

Testing means dragging out a range of people to shoot with. It also means working around their schedule. So this next shoot happened a little later than I would’ve liked, but I still got some good shots.

Once the trigger is set up, your main issue is dealing with power. Normally with manual flash, only the aperture has an effect on the apparent power of the flash. Below sync-speed, you can change the shutter speed to your heart’s content, and it won’t affect the flash. Not so with High-Speed Sync. Any change of shutter speed changes the flash power. The faster the shutter speed, the more flash power you need. It’s a new experience if you’ve gotten used to normal manual flash. Each stop increase in shutter speed requires about a stop of increase in the flash power.

Here’s the first setup and the resulting image.

Cactus image v6ii review sunset 1

Behind the scenes shot showing the Godox AD360 flash with Godox 120cm Octabox. Taken by Ola.

The shot with HSS. The background is beautifully out of focus. ISO200 f1.8 1/4000sec 35mm on Fuji X-T10

The shot with HSS. The background is beautifully out of focus. ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/4000th, 35mm on Fuji X-T10.

I still managed to blow out the sun slightly, but the flash was at full power, so I couldn’t change the aperture to compensate. The octabox was just out of frame too. Normally, I shoot vertical portraits but for articles, horizontal looks better, so I just recovered this highlights in Lightroom.

Test Shoot #2

For the second shoot, I had more time, better planning, and less wind! Due to the model’s availability, it was later than I’d have like, but still had enough light to get shots using HSS (out of want rather than need!).

Here I’ve used my typical short lit Godox Octa setup for this using the Fujifilm X-T10 with a 35mm f/1.4 lens. I wanted to create tension and go for a cinematic feel to the image. The grass at the bottom is well out of focus and gives a slightly ethereal feel to the shot. The black clothes and the model peering out of frame seem to reference things in the past as if a loved one has passed.

cactus-v6ii-review-emma-1

ISO 200, f/1.4, 1/1600

For the second shot, I wanted to bring in an additional element – a back light. I could’ve used one of the 850’s, but instead, I opted for the Cactus RF-60 flash. This has the receiver built-in and communicates directly with the Cactus V6II receiver. I set this to Group B and zoomed the flash to 105mm to allow it to throw the light further. Once in HSS mode, it triggered every time along with the AD360. I also went for the 50-140mm lens to get further back and compress the background more.

ISO200 f2.8 1/500sec. Shot with the 50-1400 f2.8 lens

ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500th. Shot with the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens.

Here’s how the gear looked behind the scenes:

Cactus image v6ii review emma 3

Headshot variation

For the final look, I went for a headshot, so the Octa was moved to give her a soft loop light. I got the model to hold a reflector (in this case a California Sunbounce silver-white mini, using the silver side for contrast). It’s very similar to the last setup with the Cactus RF-60 acting as a kicker.

cactus-image-v6ii-review-emma-3

ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500th.

Here’s the setup shot:

Cactus image v6ii review emma 5

By swapping the side the Octa is on, so the kicker and the key are on the same side, you get a very different look for only a few minutes work.

cactus-image-v6ii-review-emma-5

Cross Platform Test: Fuji Camera – Canon Flashes

Using a second Cactus V6II trigger, I added a Canon 580EXII Speedlite to the setup to use with the Fuji camera. In this case, I set the flash up as Canon with an Auto Canon Flash Profile. Again with the flash set to HSS, I went through the learning process for HSS, and the flash worked perfectly with the Fujifilm in HSS mode. The 580EXII was set to ETTL, and I could control both the flash power and the flash from the V6II transceiver on the camera.

I still have my Canon 5D MarkIII (not for much longer), so I did a quick test with that as a system check. Again I used the Canon 580EXII Speedlite on ETTL, set to HSS. Because both transceivers were set to Auto, switching the units off and back on began a new detection cycle, successfully recognizing both flash and camera as Canon. After one or two test fires, it all worked perfectly. No pretty models for this demo, but something close to my heart instead.

Shooting the X-T2 using a Canon 5DIII. The 580EXII flash was set up off camera, with the trigger set to auto detect camera, and the receiver set to auto detect flash. Set to ETTL mode, both power and zoom can be controlled from the trigger. The flash was bounced into the ceiling. ISO200 1/500sec f1.8.

Shooting the Fuji X-T2 using a Canon 5D MarkIII. The Canon 580EXII flash was set up off-camera, with the trigger set to auto-detect the camera, and the receiver set to auto-detect the flash. Set to ETTL mode, both the power and zoom of the flash can be controlled from the trigger. The flash was bounced into the ceiling. ISO 200, 1/500th, f/1.8.

Firmware Updates for the V6II

Another feature of this trigger is you can update the firmware as new features and profiles are added. During my testing period, two firmware updates became available. I also had the chance to test a beta version of the new Fuji X-T2, another testament to Cactus’ support for their product. For the public updates, I simply downloaded the updater app, ran it, and followed the instructions.

Cactus Firmware Updater

Cactus Firmware Updater

Pros of the Cactus V6II Triggers

  • Gives you High-Speed Sync ability across a range of camera systems and flashes.
  • Firmware upgradeable.
  • Works directly with the Cactus RF-60 flash.
  • Good range of channels and groups.
  • Power Sync allows additional sync speed options for non-HSS flashes.
  • Can work with only one transmitter and your existing triggers.

Cons of the Cactus V6II Triggers

  • Clunky – the shape isn’t as elegant as many others with a hotshoe passthrough.
  • One of the units I had suffered from a really tight battery clip. It’s more an annoyance than a real con as the batteries last a really long time. The clip on the other unit was perfect.
  • For Fuji users, there’s more work to get it going. For everyone else, no problem.

Verdict

I’m delighted with the Cactus V6II wireless flash trigger. It really works.

During the short time I’ve had the trigger, I’ve used it on a few magazine shoots, as well as the fun shoots I did to test it. It’s been great. Their support has been fabulous, and there’s a lot of information on their community page.

Would I recommend these triggers? Absolutely. They bring a new dimension to shooting portraits outdoors that can change your style completely.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Cactus V6II Wireless Flash Transceiver
Author Rating
4

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Sean McCormack is a Fuji X Photographer and author based in the Galway in the west of Ireland. He's the author of The Indispensable Guide to Lightroom CC. When he's not writing or creating YouTube content, he shoots people, places and even things.

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  • Gary Goldberg

    Hey Sean! I’ve got a set of these and no matter what I try I cannot get my Fuji X-T2 to fire the transmitter. When the transmitter is on the hot shoe, I can press the Cactus test button and it fires the receiver no problem, but as soon as I press the shutter button nothing happens. Do you have any special settings you did with your X-T2? As soon as I put Fujis included flash unit back in the hot shoe it fires no problem.

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Gary,
    I’ll be doing a personal post on this shortly as it’s a little too focused for DPS. The key thing is you have to have the beta firmware from Cactus Image’s Community forums. http://www.cactus-image.com/community/discussion/1005/fujifilm-x-t2-compatibility-with-cactus-v6-ii-to-support-hss/p1

  • Dwight Roberts

    I shot with Canon for years and now (for the last three wedding seasons) shoot with Fuji, and the only kicker has been the lack of flash. I just sent my 2nd Nissin i60 back as they both died on me, one right out of the box. So, this Cactus V6 II will allow us to use the Canon speedlight with E-TTL AND HSS? If so, this is great news as I have three Canon speedlights. What exactly is the extra step? Thanks!!!

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Dwight, while the Canon is set to ETTL, that’s just for communication. The trigger sends manual information to the flash, so you’re not using the ETTL information. The V6II is a manual only trigger. Offhand the only TTL trigger I know is the RoboSHOOT, which works with Fuji and Nikon flashes only.

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  • Marius Packevicius

    Hi Guys i need your advise on haw to trigger Bowens gimini studio lights with HSS. My camera is Olympus OMD EM1. So far i believe that Cactus V6 II is only one option for me. I am new to the photography. Thanks

  • Hi Sean, is the Cactus RF-60 TTL with the Fuji?

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Marius,
    The flash needs to support HSS as well. There’s a Power Sync mode that can get you higher shutter speeds, but it uses the normal flash setting.

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Peter,
    The RF-60 is a manual flash. The V6II trigger uses TTL to talk to other flashes, but only to give manual control. The only Fuji TTL radio trigger out there is the RoboSHOOT-or at least the only one I’ve come across. The flash needs to be a TTL flash-which I believe the Metz is. http://seanmcfoto.com/2016/03/radio-fuji-roboshoot-ttl-triggers-for-fuji/

  • Marius Packevicius

    Hi Sean
    Thanks for replying to me.
    I want to over power the ambient light outside and capture the stunning photos that you did. Currently i have two Bowens Gemini pro studio lights and Olympus FL-600R speed light. I lucking to buy two Cactus V6II Wireless Transceiver to trigger my studio lights outside and power pack to power those lights. I am new to photography and not 100% shore that this all system will work with my Olympus camera.
    Regards
    Marius

  • Tx very much Sean! Perfect answer for me.

  • Sean McCormack
  • Mark

    Hey Sean,
    Thanks for the article. Great images as well.
    I’m torn for flashes with the Fuji system.
    What I love about the Godox system is that the XT32 trigger works with their whole range of flashes. However it doesn’t support HSS for Fuji.
    What I love about Cactus is the simplicity and it supports HSS with Fuji.
    Is there a way of triggering the higher Godox 600 in HSS without mounting a Cactus trigger AND a Godox trigger on the camera?
    If Cactus would expand their flash model lineup to include higher power flashes that would be incredible.
    Thanks in advance.
    Mark

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Mark,
    I’m still on the old 433Mhz trigger. I put the FT-16s on the the V6II (which is on the camera hotshoe) and that then triggers the AD360 or V850 (with the flash set to HSS of course). It should work for the new triggers too. Right now, that’s the only way I know to get it working.

  • Gibi85

    Hi sean. I need only one cactus v6ii to control hss And second for flash v6?

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Gibi85, if you’ve a system like I already have with the Godox (I’ve since upgraded to the new 2.4Ghz XT-16) then you only need 1 V6II. If you don’t you’ll need a V6II on camera and a V6II for each flash you use. If you get an RF-60 flash, the V6II is built into the flash.

  • Sean McCormack

    Just as I’m replying to another post Mark, I upgraded to the XT-16. I got the Godox 850II as well. I also got the upgraded trigger for the AD360 and everything works smoothly.

  • I am having problems with Panasonic GX7 about transmitting HSS and TTL to canon flashes…
    Perhaps it is the camera’s hot shoe…
    Any tip ?
    Thank you. I liked your overview and test ! 🙂

  • Sean McCormack

    Hi Antonio,
    Are you on the newest firmware? TTL support for cross camera systems are only in the middle of implementation right now.

  • Thank you Sean.
    I just (30 seconds ago) “discovered” what the problem is.
    Indeed it is the hot shoe !
    I installed the transmitter on the old Canon 5D and it works nicely. I shot some pics with 1/8.000s commanding separately the two flashes,of course.
    I have quickly tried TTL with no conclusions so far. I am pretty interested in HSS !
    The final conclusion so far, is:
    I have to get a hot shoe adapter/converter from the Panasonic GX7 to the Canon hot shoes.
    BTW: the 3 V6IIs involved were reset with the update of the firmware before experiences.
    Thank you Sean ! 🙂

  • Sean McCormack

    The hotshoes should be the same Antonio, but sometimes the placement of the trigger is critical. I know for Olympus, Cactus say to remove the hotshoe spring-it’s a piece of thin metal that covers the hotshoe except the pins. It may be that one of your pins is shortly against it. I had to do it when I first used the cactus with the Fuji X-T10, but it was fine with the X-T2.

  • Thank you Sean. In fact, I have seen a video about it… using Olympus camera but I thought it would not apply to Panasonic ones.
    I can even remember that there was “something” in the hotshoe which was removed with a simple toothpick !
    I have contacted Cactus about this https://www.cactus-image.com/community/discussion/1650/v6-ii-setting-up-hss-in-panasonic-gx-7-with-canon-flashes#latest
    I will let them know about my efforts.
    Thank you Sean ! 🙂

  • Yes I am Sean. Thank you.
    hope to be able to make some experiments soon. 🙂

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